The demonstration, which began in the early hours of Saturday, is said to have seen one protester taken to hospital after chaos unfolded outside Darlington Farmers Auction Mart (DFAM) in Co Durham. Photos showed mask-clad activists from the Animal Justice Project (AJP) standing on the roof of the building holding banners and spraying coloured smoke flares. A spokesperson for the group said campaigners have now been left “covered in excrement” after one event attendee allegedly used a sprayer to blast manure at them.
Another activist was injured after farmers allegedly ploughed towards a group of protesters in a JCB digger and “assaulted” them, the AJP claims.
The National Beef Association (NBA), which is organising the expo taking place over the course of this weekend, describes it as a celebration of the best of British beef, drawing in at least 5,000 guests annually.
The AJP has said their protest was “peaceful” and “silent” and aimed to highlight “farmed animal suffering and environmental safety concerns”.
Police have been on the scene since 5am working to bring the demonstration to an end as guests and demonstrators clashed with one another but activists have said they intend to stay indefinitely.
READ MORE: Plea for over 50s to return to work as staff shortages criple economy
Mark Dent, chair of DFAM, said earlier he believed the protesters were the sources of “intimidation”.
He told the PA news agency: “We respect people’s right to protest, but the way they go about it doesn’t help their cause.
“There is no respect for people’s property or livelihood. I’m afraid then you lose your moral high ground… It’s a tin roof and they’re jumping up and down on it, and it’s bending.
“They’ve got their faces covered. It’s intimidation (and) threatening behaviour. I’m all for people protesting what they believe in, but it’s the way they go about it – the face coverings, the intimidation.”
The group has said the farming event “glorifies the exploitation and killing of animals” which is “fundamentally wrong and unjust”.
Neil Shand, chief executive of the NBA, said: “Nobody has been hit by a tractor.”
A spokesperson for the NBA claimed there was a “wonderful atmosphere” at the event and did not comment further on the protest.
Durham Police said: “Our officers are working to bring the protest to a safe end and to minimize the impact on the wider community.”