Top 5 Best Dressed(up) Environmental Protests

Five animal outfits that helped to change the world

1. The Polar Bear: Save the Arctic (July 2012)

Dressing up as polar bears and climbing the roofs of 74 Shell petrol stations around the UK grabbed the national media attention that was necessary to raise enough awareness to potentially shame Shell into withdrawing their plan to drill for oil in the Arctic.

Although the Polar Bear is the photogenic face of the campaign (the walrus and his many flaps of leathery hide was pretty much side-lined in comparison), the Arctic’s animal inhabitants will not be the only ones to suffer if Shell are allowed to drill into the Arctic ice which has already dwindled by as much as ‘three quarters in the last 30 years’. The ice, while it remains, reflects the suns heat back at itself. If Arctic ice continues to diminish, the world’s climate will drastically change.  As a couple of weeks ago the amount of remaining sea ice hit a record low, the Polar Bear is posing for us all.

2. Cats and Dogs in Lab Coats: PETA lab protest  (August 2011)

A group of PETA campaigners dressed up as cats and dogs in lab coats to campaign for the Ethical Treatment of Animals at the prospect of weakening UK lab laws. The changes in the law would have allowed cats and dogs to be tested on for the first time in 25 years, as well as weakening the animal protection laws in UK laboratories. The army of not-so-familiar pets, begging for protection from testing in labs, was a harrowing and sad image that resonated through Marble Arch. For more information about revisions to the UK Lab Laws click here.

3. Elephant in the Room: Plane Stupid (July 2008)

The presence of a real life (inflatable) elephant at Plane Stupid’s demonstration symbolised the unspoken truth in a meeting between national transport organizations and researchers in 2008 to discuss the Climate Change Bill and how to “deliver the national transport strategy whilst meeting… climate change targets“; the unspoken truth being the impact of aviation emissions on the environment. The elephant, wearing a sign saying ‘Aviation is the Elephant in the Room’ stood strong, bringing into view and into discussion the growing problem of emissions from aviation.

4. The Orangutan:  Issues of deforestation (April 2008)

More than fifty Greenpeace activists dressed up as Orangutan’s and swung around two Unilever sites in London to protest against the company’s method of retrieving Palm Oil, which is leading to the destruction of the Indonesian Rainforest, one of the few remaining natural habitats of the Orangutan.  As well as destroying the home of a species, the destruction of the Rainforest is “massively accelerating climate change” by releasing “huge quantities of greenhouse gas” into the atmosphere. Combined pressure from various environmental campaigns and a documentary from the BBC forced Unilever to stop sourcing its palm oil in such a devastatingly unsustainable way from the Indonesian rainforest in 2010.

5. Guantanamo Pig Protest (April 2012)

In Derbyshire protesters dressed up in orange jumpsuits, pig masks covering their faces, to campaign against the proposal to create an enormous Guantanamo-esque factory farm for pigs. The farm would hold up to 25,000 pigs at a time, rearing them in the dark of the factory and allowing them mere seconds of natural light and fresh air in the moments of transportation to an abattoir, before slaughtering them one thousand at a time. The outfits were pretty terrifying, symbolising the sinister and bleak nature of the proposal and effectively communicating how terribly wrong it is to use this prison-like method of animal farming.

Image credit goes (with thanks!) to Greenpeace (polar bear), PETA (cats & dogs, and pigs), Plane Stupid (elephant) and Sion Touhig/ Greenpeace (orangutan)

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About Holly Strauss

A recent English Literature graduate, I love cycling around London and beyond. I have a passion for environmental well-being and the power of prose. Co-editor of The Patchwork Paper; an arts and activism ‘zine that publishes free opinion, fiction and encourages political (and personal) expression through art.

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