Mr Brocolli had his 15 minutes of fame after he was arrested by three Met Police officers during his Animal Rebellion activities in London last week. Animal Rebellion was campaigning alongside Extinction Rebellion when it shut parts of London down last week. The video of his arrest went viral and has been seen millions of times. He was carrying a sign saying ‘I’m locally-sourced and environmentally-friendly’ and he shouted ‘give peas a chance’. Mr Brocolli, whose real name is Roland Everson, was later released without charge.
Mr Everson appeared on Good Morning Britain dressed in his broccoli outfit. He proceeded to make fun of the proceedings saying that he was just a humble broccoli. “I just grow,” he said. He continually referred to Piers Morgan as ‘peas’.
His answer to why we should shift our diets was simply: “my point is that environmentally speaking we’re in incredibly hot water and we do need to transition to a plant-based food system.”
Opportunity to give a powerful coherent rational argument and convince the nation?
What he did not do was give a coherent, science-based argument on why Britain should give up meat and dairy. It was an opportunity to make a powerful point and Mr Brocolli chose not to try. At one stage he took out a banana from his pocket and answered it as if it was a mobile phone.
Both presenters criticised him for not taking climate change seriously.
It made for awkward viewing. To some he was a hero, to others he was absurd. So what is the truth? Is Mr Brocolli just eccentric? Is he foolish? Did he have a justification for treating the interview as he did?
He explained to the Daily Mail why he had done this: ‘Have you ever seen an interview with Piers Morgan? You can tell Piers it gets dark at night and he will shout you down. We decided not to let him do that to me.’
Piers Morgan is not everybody’s cup of tea and he is a marketing gift for the vegan movement as he seems to find it so irritating.
Alex Lockwood of Animal Rebellion has published a very thoughtful piece about the issues raised.
The sequence of events was that Reuters News retweeted Mr Broccoli’s arrest to their 21 million followers. After that Piers Morgan jumped on the story. Now obviously to Animal Rebellion want to get a lot of media attention to move towards a plant-based food system as part of the journey towards full animal liberation. The movement naturally wants to get conversations happening “especially outside of the vegan bubble”.
So naturally, Animal Rebellion saw the requests from Good Morning Britain and This Morning for Mr Broccoli to be on TV as an opportunity. But the question was what kind of opportunity was this.
The campaigning group asked if it could have a serious debate with a scientist. It had an academic, a food scientist and a climate change scientist lined up and ready but the TV producers said declined. They just wanted Mr Broccoli – in costume.
Animal Rebellion suggested a spokesperson debate the Tesco advert (‘Daddy, I don’t want to eat animals anymore’). Again this was refused – only Mr Broccoli would do.
Mr Broccoli is not a media spokesperson and whilst he does know about the science, and almost certainly more than most of GMB’s audience, “he was rightly terrified of Piers ripping him apart. As Piers often does. Mr Broccoli did not want to go on for that kind of interview.”
Yes, Piers Morgan loves to have a real dig at vegans and environmental activists. So the activists felt that the offer of a platform was “an illusion”. According to Lockwood, the producer even warned them in advance that Morgan would try to make him look like a hypocrite. They decided that this was a worse outcome than looking like ‘humble broccoli’.
So for Animal Rebellion, this so-called interview was seen as an action and not a media interview. They wanted “to take the power back from the media and put it in the hands of the people”. In short, it decided to troll Piers Morgan.
That is the context in which Mr Brocolli took his stand. According to Lockwood the media has an agenda and does not want to engage in serious science.
At around the same time, a hundred Animal Rebellion protestors went to Newman’s Abattoir in Farnborough. Their mission was to disrupt the everyday exploitation of animals for food. The media was not interested.