Animal rights campaigners took over Brighton-based alternative supermarket HISBE this month for a second time in protest at what they call the retailer’s ‘false advertising’.
HISBE (standing for ‘how it should be’) opened in 2013, positioning itself as an ethical supermarket and pledging to ‘shine a light on the food industry’. Over the past five years, the partly crowd-funded social enterprise has earned itself a reputation for championing a range of ethical values – from local sourcing to social justice, animal welfare to combatting waste.
HISBE took a decision right at the start that it would stock meat and dairy products, with an emphasis on sourcing from local, small-scale producers, partly because it wanted to provide an ethical alternative to a conventional supermarket – rather than be a health food store, or vegetarian retailer – and be socially inclusive.
But that decision to sell meat and dairy products has recently attracted the attention of vegan groups such as Brighton Vegan Activists and Direct Action Everywhere (DxE).
In the latest protest, by a local branch of international animal rights activists DxE, a group of around 15 animal rights and vegan campaigners streamed into HISBE’s store to accuse the retailer of perpetrating an ‘ethical lie’. The protesters blocked the store’s meat and dairy aisle and used megaphones to noisily and angrily criticize the retailer through tactics which HISBE said made some of its staff and customers feel intimidated.
In a statement on Facebook, HISBE noted philosophically that the ‘events raise an interesting clash in ideologies’.
The statement adds: “On one hand you have HISBE Food, a social enterprise committed to enabling mainstream supermarket shoppers to buy good quality, real food, locally sourced and seasonal. This includes produce that supports high animal welfare, natural farming, reduced waste and plastic, paying what’s fair and doing business beyond profits. We passionately oppose factory farming and encourage people to consume less, better quality meat. We are committed to ethics-led sourcing and, to us, this means we sell local and high-welfare meat, eggs and dairy products.
“We passionately oppose factory farming and encourage people to consume less, better quality meat”
“On the other hand you have these vegan activists, who think that it is morally wrong for HISBE to sell animal products, full stop. To the vegan activists, slaughtering an animal for food is the same as murdering a person … They want to free all animals and they hold these demos to educate the public to go vegan. And so you have two very different sets of food ethics!”
The DxE protestors have denied claims in some media reports that their supporters ‘hurled abuse’ at HISBE’s customers and staff. But the group says that it ‘does not seek permission to expose the truth and victims of animal exploitation’.
Main image: Members of animal rights group DxE invaded Brighton-based alternative supermarkets HISBE this week. (HISBE, via facebook).