As we ease into the new year just one story dominates the environment beat: that the Metropolitan Police face calls for a detailed independent inquiry into its policing of protest outfits after it emerged that they had secretly infiltrated dozens of activist groups using a ‘deep undercover’ officer Mark Kennedy. Mark Kennedy spied on protesters, including climate activists, for almost seven years in a bid to gather intelligence that would help the Met disrupt the country’s green protest movement.
Details about his elaborate undercover role were due to be raised in Nottingham Crown Court this month in legal arguments relating to the attempted prosecution of six climate campaigners acused of conspiring to enter the controversial coal fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar. But the Crown Prosecution Service withdrew the charges suddenly after the defence requested disclosure on the role Kennedy played in organising the protest.
Kennedy himself is reported to have quit the Met and had offered his services to aid the defence in the Ratcliffe case which originally saw over a hundred activists arrested by police in April 2009 in a swoop designed to prevent the occupation of the power station. Campaigners are now – rightfully – calling for an inquiry into the affair, particularly examining allegations that he overstepped the mark between being a passive spy and becoming an agent provocateur.
Although it’s highly worrying that taxpayers money is being wasted by police trying to disrupt eco- protest networks it shouldn’t come as a surprise – infiltration and other covert operations targeting campaigners are hardly new.
And, as The Ecologist revealed in 2008 ahead of the Kingsnorth climate protest, it is not always the police who do the spying: our investigation traced how Toby Kendall, an employee of ‘risk management’ firm C2i International, had been paid to spy on direct action group Plane Stupid, using the pseudonym Ken Tobias.
Our report – and somewhat controversial film, Melting Point, which you can watch online at www.theecologist.org – highlighted a range of other equally unsavoury attempts to thwart or smear green protest groups by police, big business and corrupt sections of the media. Nothing, it seems, has changed.
In the week that Channel 4 tackles all things fishy with its Big Fish Fight season, you can watch online too our groundbreaking investigation, The Greed of Feed, examining the social and ecological costs of fishmeal production in Peru. Fishmeal is a principal component of farmed salmon feed and, as we documented, many of the UK’s leading food retailers were found to be sourcing salmon from Scottish farms with links to companies buying highly unsustainable Peruvian fishmeal.
As part of his campaign, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall examines salmon (amongst other species) and references the troubling feed question, the Ecologist Film Unit having fed much information and footage into the programme.
Also lending their support to the C4 campaign are Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. Whilst such high profile backing undoubtably generates interest in the issues, it also brings about troubling inconsistencies: at the time of the original Ecologist investigation into salmon feed, Oliver was among the celebrities found to be advertising Sainsbury’s Scottish salmon – one of the supermarkets linked by our research to a salmon supplier which had partnered with a feed company procuring huge volumes of controversial Peruvian fishmeal...