A secret plot by more than 100 eco-activists to sabotage the Grand National has been exposed by an undercover Mail on Sunday investigation.
Militant vegans and animal rights campaigners plan to use ladders and bolt cutters to storm security fences before the race at Aintree, then glue themselves together as a human barricade and sit across the course.
The conspiracy – revealed just two weeks before the race meeting – was uncovered by an MoS reporter posing as a member of the Animal Rebellion campaign group.
Last night we handed over our dossier of evidence to Merseyside Police.
Our journalist secretly filmed as the activists, who include a former top financial journalist and a nurse, simulated charging at security guards and boasting they would ‘ruin’ this year’s event – which has a TV audience of up to 600 million across more than 140 countries as well as tens of thousands of spectators at the course.
This Animal Rebellion member is award-winning business journalist Jim Edwards, the former founding editor of the UK edition of financial news website Business Insider
One of the plot ringleaders, Rose Patterson, 33, (pictured) boasted that the Grand National stunt would have worldwide impact
A secret plot by more than 100 eco-activists to sabotage the Grand National has been exposed by an undercover Mail on Sunday investigation
The conspiracy – revealed just two weeks before the race meeting – was uncovered by an MoS reporter posing as a member of the Animal Rebellion campaign group
This evening the Mail on Sunday handed over our dossier of evidence to Merseyside Police. Pictured: Horses race away from the start during the Grand National Steeple Chase on the final day of the Grand National Festival horse race meeting at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, north west England on April 9, 2022
Our investigation reveals how:
- Ringleaders have already conducted two secret reconnaissance missions of the racecourse to pinpoint security weaknesses
- A network of safehouses is being arranged to accommodate protesters before the race
- A fleet of minibuses is being hired to ferry protesters and equipment to the racecourse in Merseyside
- More than 100 activists have signed up to the plot, which is being organised via the encrypted app Signal
- Some activists plan to use ladders to scale Aintree’s security fence, while others will be tasked with cutting holes in it using bolt cutters
- Once on the racecourse, protesters plan to glue themselves together and sit down, forming a human barrier across the course
Any delay or cancellation of this year’s Grand National would provoke an international outcry and cost the horse racing and betting industries millions of pounds.
The plot echoes the so-called ‘Race that Never Was’ in 1993, when 15 animal rights protesters stormed the course near the first fence and delayed the start by eight minutes. It was then declared void after two false starts. Four years later, the race was postponed for two days after an IRA bomb threat led to the course being evacuated.
Alarmingly, those behind the latest plot claim it will ‘kick-start’ further protests at prestigious horse races this summer – raising the prospect that the first Royal Ascot of King Charles’s reign could be targeted in June.
Animal Rebellion – an offshoot of the militant environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion – was founded in 2019 and wants all animal farming and fishing banned. It also wants to end horse racing, branding it ‘animal abuse’.
The group came to prominence last year after activists dumped cartons of milk on the floors of top stores and supermarkets including Harrods and Fortnum & Mason.
In 2018 Jim Edwards was pictured alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan at a reception
He now advises Animal Rebellion on its media strategy. Outlining the conspiracy, he said: ‘…The thing we’re recruiting for is to get as many people as possible to Liverpool on April 15… We will be booking a bunch of houses so all the activists can stay together’
Last week our reporter joined ten others at a training day in an office in Dalston, a trendy enclave of East London, to prepare for the protest
Its fanatical members have also conducted a campaign of sit-ins at high-end restaurants. Former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan and his wife were caught up in a protest last month after Animal Rebellion targeted seafood restaurant Scott’s in Mayfair, London.
The MoS first infiltrated the group in November last year.
It quickly became apparent to our reporter that a major plot was brewing and that the restaurant protests were simply the precursor to a more dramatic action.
For weeks Animal Rebellion’s leaders have been careful to keep the conspiracy under wraps, but earlier this month an activist who called himself ‘Jim’ phoned our reporter with a startling announcement.
Describing a forthcoming protest as ‘our biggest spectacular one to date’, he asked: ‘Have you heard of the Grand National?
‘That will not be happening this year,’ he added. ‘We’re hoping to gather 300 activists to occupy that course and stop it.’ The MoS can today reveal that ‘Jim’ is in fact award-winning business journalist Jim Edwards, the former founding editor of the UK edition of financial news website Business Insider.
In 2018 he was pictured alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan at a reception organised by the website. He quit last year and now advises Animal Rebellion on its media strategy.
Outlining the conspiracy, he said: ‘…The thing we’re recruiting for is to get as many people as possible to Liverpool on April 15… We will be booking a bunch of houses so all the activists can stay together.’
Noble Yeats ridden by jockey Sam Waley-Cohen (no.28) clear a fence on their way to winning the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase on Grand National Day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival 2022 at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool
Racegoers watch a race on the second day, ‘Ladies Day’, of the Grand National Festival horse race meeting, at Aintree Racecourse on April 8, 2022
Last week our reporter joined ten others at a training day in an office in Dalston, a trendy enclave of East London, to prepare for the protest.
One of the plot ringleaders, Rose Patterson, boasted that the Grand National stunt would have worldwide impact.
The 33-year-old was arrested in February after she and four others blocked Westminster Bridge. She was also one of several activists carried out of Scott’s last month.
Stressing the information was ‘secret’, she said: ‘Basically the kick-off action for this whole campaign is going to be at the Grand National. The biggest horse race in the world… We have 600 million people viewing this horse race worldwide, we’ve got £300 million of bets on the horse race and we’re just going to ruin it.’
After clearing away the office chairs, the group were instructed to sit on the wooden floor with their eyes closed and link arms. Ms Patterson then began reading from a script in an exercise designed to prepare the protesters for the intensity of holding a hugely disruptive protest in front of a hostile crowd.
As she described how the Aintree protest would unfold, a soundtrack of rowdy spectators was played in the background.
‘You feel the nerves in your stomach and feel butterflies and anxious and sick as the minibus is driving to the final location,’ Ms Patterson said. ‘After about an hour … it’s time to get out of the bus. You put on your pink animal-rising T-shirt and all your fellow [protesters] get out of the truck.’
She then revealed how some of the demonstrators would use ladders to scale Aintree’s perimeter fence, while others would use bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence to crawl through. ‘There are like 100 of you now at the fence. You get the ladders out. Put them against the fence and you’re the first one over,’ she said. ‘You start climbing that fence and you see security on the other side. You don’t care. You know you’re doing the right thing. And others cutting through the fence and climbing through.’
The activists were told that once on the course they would glue their hands together before sitting down to form a human barrier.
As Ms Patterson continued her description, loud jeering and booing erupted on the crowd noise recording.
Winning jockey Sam Waley-Cohen celebrates with the Grand National Trophy after riding Noble Yeats to victory in the Grand National Steeple Chase at Aintree Racecourse on April 9, 2022
Minella Times and jockey Rachael Blackmore during the Randox Grand National Handicap Chase during Grand National Day of the Randox Health Grand National Festival 2022 at Aintree Racecourse
‘You’re all on to the track now and you start… gluing your hands to each other and walking towards the crowd and you can see 50,000 people screaming and shouting at you and they’re getting quite mad and security [are] running towards you,’ she added. ‘You keep walking and you feel fearless and powerful and then you sit down and you’re all in line together. You feel so excited and proud to stand alongside individuals making history.’
Ms Patterson revealed how Animal Rebellion’s leaders had previously planned to sneak on to the course the night before the race and dig up the turf. That plan, however, was ditched because it was decided it would be ‘way more powerful’ for hundreds of people to storm on to the course.
Ms Patterson also disclosed that the plot ringleaders have already visited Aintree twice to identify weak spots, adding: ‘We walked round the perimeter and on the track as well.’ She added that some stretches of the fence are only 5ft 5in high.
‘The track is huge, so security focus on where the spectators are but we are not going to go over there – it’ll be further down.’
The group will do a final reconnaissance mission once the three-day race meeting has started to identify exactly where security guards and police officers have been positioned.
Activists involved in the protest will be split into small teams known as ‘pods’ and managed by one team leader, known as ‘the stem’, who will be issued with a so-called ‘burner phone’ – a mobile phone bought for a specific use that can be discarded.
One of the activists, who has taken part in a string of Animal Rebellion stunts, said that the protesters should remain on the course until they are either arrested or dragged away.
‘The aim is to stop the event from happening and so we wouldn’t want to give them the visual of us standing up and walking away at any point,’ she said.
Those who wanted to take part in the action were asked to join a group on the encrypted app Signal entitled ‘The Race’. Last night it had 120 members.
The final exercise of the training day involved the activists simulating trying to force their way through a line of security guards. ‘This is private property, call the police,’ shouted one of the ringleaders as he pretended to be a security guard.
Some of those at the training voiced their reservations about breaking the law, with one activist named Liam saying he was ‘not thrilled about getting arrested’.
Last night Tory MP Damian Green, acting chairman of the Commons Culture Select Committee, condemned the ‘appalling’ plot.
He said: ‘I’m glad this has been exposed by The Mail on Sunday. Millions of people love the Grand National and love horses as well. I can’t think of a worse way of advertising your campaign, if you claim to love horses.’
Tory MP Alicia Kearns said: ‘Using these sorts of tactics to impose their militant opposition to meat-eating will only backfire. At least hopefully less police time will be wasted thanks to the Mail on Sunday’s investigation.’
Merseyside Police said it has ‘a robust policing plan in place for Aintree’, adding: ‘We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but public order or criminal offences will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.’
The Jockey Club, which owns Aintree racecourse, declined to comment last night.
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