Animal rights activists blocked a lorry carrying crates stuffed full of chickens to a kosher slaughterhouse on an industrial estate in Fish Island, on the edge of Hackney Wick, and stormed the building.
More than a dozen people holding banners emblazoned with slogans like “End All Animal Oppression” shouted “Shame on you!” at staff working for Kedassia Ltd.
They chalked on walls outside “If you love animals stop paying for their deaths. Go vegan” and “Animals feel pain, fear. They want to live. Stop hurting them.”
Police attended, and the chalk graffiti was later removed – apparently by Tower Hamlets Council, according to workers at the slaughterhouse.
The action was the first by a new vegan group calling itself East London Chicken Save, which has uploaded onto YouTube footage of the animals being brought in to be killed.
A man calling himself “Earthling Ed”, who uploaded the video, wrote: “The chickens in the truck were extremely disfigured and many had huge sores on their bodies.
“The tiny crates that they were in were stacked on top of each other meaning that the birds were constantly defecating on one another.”
Another vegan activist wrote: “There were probably about 1,000 chickens crammed into tiny, filthy crates… Many of the chickens were disfigured and had injuries all over their fragile bodies. Is their suffering really worth your meal?”
Issac Feldman, food business manager for Kedassia Ltd, confirmed there was a protest outside the slaughterhouse on 8 November.
He said: “They are obviously entitled to their opinion – people are entitled to their opinion – although if you look on their Facebook site it seems a bit over the top.
“But fine, there are some people who do feel very passionate about not eating any meat, and if they feel genuinely about that, fine.”
He added: “We are licensed by the Food Standards Agency. We are working within the law. We have a government vet there all the time. We are operating a lawful business, and that’s why the police responded to our call.
“They trespassed to our site with force, and I suppose they scared some staff.
“We employ something like 40-45 people, so we generate employment. We generate, obviously, tax and the rest of it, and we are running a lawful site, and therefore it’s frustrating, to put it mildly, the way they behave.”
The protest had been “quite rowdy”, he said, adding: “All I can say is that the Food Standards Agency, which regulates the transport and the animal welfare from A-Z, is very tightly regulated.
“I’ve been to abattoirs in Europe and North America and Israel, and the rules are clearly far more enforced in the UK.”
He said his company, which does business in red meat as well as poultry, had “spent thousands” on animal welfare.
Scotland Yard confirmed no protesters were arrested. East London Chicken Save informed them of protest beforehand, and police were present to “facilitate”.
East London Chicken Save says it will carry out vigils outside the slaughterhouse fortnightly.
Update at 12.04pm on Monday 14 November: Sabrina Ramsey from East London Chicken Save denied the group alerted police to the action beforehand. She said the group “didn’t feel the need” to contact police in advance and described the event as “a peaceful vigil, not a protest”.