There are many ways people can speak out against what they consider to be the evils of the world. With the internet and social media, it takes almost no effort to shoot off a tweet declaring that you think climate change is, in fact, bad. There are numerous marches and protests that you can join to connect with other like-minded folks and make some noise about harmful political decisions. And if all else fails, you can throw food.
Why people in the UK are protesting with food
Teens in England are starting up a trend of “milk pours” to protest the dairy industry and call for a plant-based future, Bloomberg reports. Over the weekend, the group Animal Rebellion planned coordinated demonstrations at stores like Whole Foods, Waitrose, and Marks & Spencer in which participants grabbed milk containers and dumped them onto the floors of the grocery stores just before noon.
“Unfortunately, this disruption is necessary to get those in power to listen to the academics at Oxford, Harvard and the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change),” one participant told Bloomberg. “We need bold and decisive politics at this time, not the horror show we currently see.”
This action comes just days after climate activists in London splattered tomato soup on Vincent Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery. According to Smithsonian Magazine, two young women with the group Just Stop Oil threw the soup and then glued their hands to the museum wall before explaining the group’s stance.
“Are you more concerned about the protection of a painting, or the protection of our planet and people?” activist Phoebe Plummer asked passersby in the gallery. “The cost of living crisis is part of the cost of the oil crisis. Fuel is unaffordable to millions of cold, hungry families. They can’t even afford to heat a tin of soup.”
The pair specifically chose the Van Gogh painting because they knew it was covered with glass and would be protected from the soup. The inclusion of food was used simply to get people’s attention and start a discussion about the larger effects of the oil crisis—and it’s a tactic that has a long history in global demonstrations.
A brief history of food as a protest tool
The first recorded incident of using food in protest, according to Bon Appétit, was in 63 AD when the people of the Phoenician colony Hadrumetum pelted their governor, Vespasian, with turnips out of anger over food shortages. Since then, there have been countless uses of food to show opposition to a person or cause.
There are certainly a few common standbys that always make a statement when thrown: eggs, cream pies, rotten tomatoes. These are all items that are “cheap, visible, and easily accessible,” political science professor Andrew Gelman told Bon Appétit, noting that the act of throwing food is, for the most part, a nonviolent act. Part of the satisfaction comes from the resulting mess, not to mention that gratifying splat.
Throwing food in protest is nothing new, and it shows no signs of abating. And as for milk pours, well, I’m just waiting for this form of demonstration to become a TikTok trend that spreads beyond UK grocery stores. Be careful in your local dairy aisle.