You can't be filming in the store. If you are not buying this you need to pop it back now - you need to do it now. You are damaging property that belongs to Asda...We will have to let the police know you have been filming - it's data protection.
You can judge a multinational corporation by how it deals with its critics. And the contrast between how Asda and Tesco coped when the internationally recognised aristocrat activist Hector Christie turned up at their stores in North Devon complaining about probable carcinogenic ingredients in Monsanto made Round Up weed killer.
The Devon farmer and scion of the aristocratic Christies has made headlines around the world in his time - famously being thrown out of the Labour Party conference after heckling Tony Blair in protest at the Iraq war, and also fooling riot police amid the carnage in Genoa in Italy during the G8 protests by dressing as a priest.
But now he is pioneering the "micro protest" where just one or two activists can walk into a supermarket, stage an eye-catching ceremony of "rounding up the Round Up" into a trolly, and then taking the loot to the manager and asking them to sign a declaration that they believe the product is safe for customers.
Biocide is suicide
Christie arrived with a few fellow protesters at Asda at lunchtime on Wednesday, took a trolly and marched to the weedkiller shelf. He filled his trolly with Round Up and then started to cover the trolly in yellow and black tape bearing the warning, "No entry - glyphosate causes cancer".
Within minutes a team of ASDA staff had swarmed in, and began intimating that the campaigners were committing criminal damage, threatened to call the police and misrepresented the Data Protection Act to try and stop filming taking place.
A staff member was heard to say: "You can't be filming in the store. If you are not buying this you need to pop it back now - you need to do it now. You are damaging property that belongs to Asda. "
A second Asda employee said: "We will have to let the police know you have been filming - it's data protection." A third added: "You are going to get into loads of trouble for that."
Hector's accomplice, who was wearing a tee-shirt with the slogan 'biocide is suicide', told the staff that he was concerned that Round Up contains a carcinogenic ingredient.
Threats and spectacle
"What you are selling is carcinogenic," he complained. "I'm not selling anything," the Asda representative said. The response: "It's in your store!"
Hector and his micro protest then set off for nearby Tesco, where again he filled his trolly with Round Up, decorated it with tape, and then heading for the customer service desk asking to see the manager.
But this time, the response was completely different. The manager was away, they were told, and the duty manager was summoned. She took a while and the protesters were left to their own devices, somewhat dumbstruck. "We might as well put it back on the shelf and head home", said one of the activists.
When the manager did arrive, she listened attentively and then asked for advice on how to deal with slugs in the garden without using salt - which may be harmful to the health of her dog. A third protester - a professional permaculture gardener - advised and then everyone drifted home. "Dried seaweed, gravel, egg shells, beer traps, wood chip". Without the threats and spectacle that had taken place in Asda.
The Tesco protest made for quite a genteel - and serial - protest. Hector is hoping to inspire protests across the country to do the same protest at supermarkets stocking Round Up, with a day of action planned for 30 May 2018.
A spokesperson for Asda said: "We respect everyone's right to their view and the right to protest peacefully. We also expect people to respect our customers, colleagues and property."
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist.
Hector Christie is concerned that an ingredient in Round Up could cause cancer.