Beef protest: ‘They don’t really care if they get arrested’

Rosary beads, chip vans and legal letters seen outside Dawn Meats factory in Grannagh

Independent farmers and supporters outside the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh on the Waterford-Kilkenny border. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Independent farmers and supporters outside the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh on the Waterford-Kilkenny border. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

It appears the farmers protesting outside a meat processing plant in south Co Kilkenny are in it for the long haul.

They have set up a stage opposite the factory entrance, where a staircase has been assembled out of stacked pallets, allowing people to easily cross over the wall into the field where their cars and jeeps are parked.

On Wednesday afternoon, with farmers in danger of growing tired as a result of the 24/7 demonstrations, they arranged for a chip van to come and feed the masses.

The blockade at Dawn Meats’ processing plant in Grannagh near Waterford city was among those named in a High Court injunction. Local figures in the Beef Plan Movement are named in the document.

“I see a lot of farmers digging their heels in,” said one farmer, who did not wish to be identified, citing the threat of legal action. “They don’t really care if they get arrested here because they have nothing left to lose. They have hungry children, they can’t pay their co-ops bills.”

He said the injunctions are viewed as “heavy handed tactics from billionaires”.

The farmers in Grannagh had a surprise visit to their factory picket in the early hours of Wednesday, when supporters arrived to recite the rosary with them after hearing about the injunctions on the news.

While the farmers outside the factory were surprised, they “respectfully joined in”.

One set of rosary beads was hung on the post to which Tuesday’s legal order was attached.

A garda in conversation with independent farmers and supporters outside the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
A garda in conversation with independent farmers and supporters outside the Dawn Meats plant at Grannagh. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

“We had the decade of the rosary at one in the morning, which is unusual in this day and age,” said one man. “They put their hands in on the injunction, which was nailed the board, and they said the decades of the rosary on that.

“The rosary beads are still on it for sure and they’ll be left on it. It’d be a brave man who’d take them off it anyway.”

Mounting tension

While there had been a scuffle at the nearby Anglo Beef Processors (ABP) plant in Ferrybank, the Garda presence was low at Grannagh with officers’ duties largely relating to road traffic matters.

One farmer said they had been advised by local gardaí­ to “do what we’ve been doing for the last month and be peaceful”.

Tensions ran high shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday. A number of the factory’s workers came out past the entrance and tried to escort a lorry past the picket – but to no avail.

Later, the cattle lorries found a way into the factory grounds by using a secluded back entrance.

One farmer, who arrived too late to prevent the trucks using the entrance, said it was “just demoralising” to see the cattle make it through.

The farmers on the picket responded by blockading the second entrance and upped their activity, for a period, to include preventing pork trucks from entering the factory.