Animal Rebellion: Mana protestors arrested at Ancoats’ Michelin star restaurant

The group is demanding a rapid switch to a plant-based food system but Mana founder and head chef Simon Martin said he was baffled why an independent business was being singled out rather than large corporate food concerns.
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Protestors from the food group Animal Rebellion demonstrated in Manchester’s Michelin star restaurant Mana at the weekend, with police making 14 arrests.

Activists from the organisation entered the Ancoats restaurant, which is known for its elaborate set menus, and then took up seats in the dining room where they unveiled their demands for a rapid switch to a plant-based food system. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it eventually made 14 arrests in total at the Blossom Street high-end dining establishment on Saturday night (3 December).

The group says it will continue targeting fine dining establishments until radical changes are made to tackle climate change, but Mana’s owner and head chef Simon Martin said he could not understand why an independent business in Manchester had been targeted.

What happened at Mana on Saturday?

Animal Rebellion said 16 of its supporters entered Mana, which offers tasting menus for £195 per person and where tables have to be reserved some way in advance, just after 7pm on Saturday. The group said it targeted Mana as the restaurant “refuses to cater to vegans” and “has a meat-heavy menu including many of the foods with the largest carbon, and land-use, footprints”.

Smartly-dressed Animal Rebellion campaigners occupied tables in the restaurants which were reserved for customers before producing mock menus illustrating the group’s demands, which it presented as a starter, main course and dessert.

Animal Rebellion activists in ManaAnimal Rebellion activists in Mana
Animal Rebellion activists in Mana

The group also targeted Salt Bae’s notorious London restaurant which serves gold-plated steaks as part of the same action and says it will continue to disrupt activities at high-end and fine-dining establishments until the government takes action on climate change. It wants support for farmers and fishing communities to transition to a plant-based food system and a programme of rewilding to boost nature and wildlife.

GMP said it was called to a disturbance outside the restaurant at around 7.20pm on Saturday and 14 individuals were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass. They have been released on bail pending further enquiries, police said.

What did Animal Rebellion say?

One Animal Rebellion member, a 29-year-old IT executive called Lewis, said: “These exclusive restaurants highlight a wider problem in our society. Whilst two million people are relying on food banks in the UK during this cost-of-living crisis, high-end restaurants are catering to a wealthy minority with meals worth hundreds of pounds.

“These expensive meals are often delivered at the expense of exploited workers, animals, and our planet.

“Instead of endorsing this broken system, we need to support farmers and fishing communities in a transition to a food system that works for us all. A plant-based food system that would feed more people using far less land, freeing up space for crucial rewilding to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and reverse biodiversity loss.”

What did police say?

Superintendent Ian Jones of GMP’s City of Manchester district, said: “Though this wasn’t a large-scale protest, we understand it caused some disruption in and around the area of Blossom Street last night so would like to thank members of the public and businesses for their patience whilst we responded to the incident in the most appropriate way.

Police at Mana. Photo: Animal RebellionPolice at Mana. Photo: Animal Rebellion
Police at Mana. Photo: Animal Rebellion

“GMP respects the right of people to protest peacefully and so will always, in the first instance, engage with organisers and demonstrators to facilitate this - as per national guidance. “It is, however, our responsibility to prevent and investigate crime, and keep people safe. In this case, and following engagement attempts, the most appropriate course of action was to make arrests.”

What has Mana said?

Mana’s chef and owner Simon Martin has released a lengthy statement about the events on Saturday night in which he robustly defended the restaurant’s environmental policies.

He said: “The protest at mana disrupted the operation of a small business that has already suffered economically from Covid and the ongoing energy crisis during the busiest night of the week. Guests who were celebrating birthdays and anniversaries had their meals delayed by three hours, and our hard-working staff had to work into the late hours of the night.

“While we tried to communicate with the protestors during the course of the evening, politely asking them to leave, they refused to speak with us.

“Whilst everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs, we are confused as to why the protestors chose to target a restaurant that prioritizes sustainability and animal welfare, instead of a corporate fast food chain.

Police speaking to Animal Rebellion activists in ManaPolice speaking to Animal Rebellion activists in Mana
Police speaking to Animal Rebellion activists in Mana

“Mana has always been a highly sustainable restaurant, sourcing hyper local and sustainably produced vegetables from small businesses just like ourselves who abstain from GMO’s, herbicides, and pesticides. Farms for livestock we use are personally visited by members of the team to ensure standards there meet our criteria for supply, and seafood is strictly captured by hand or line.

“The cost of a meal at mana is reflective of these production methods, which are lower yield and higher quality. It’s ironic that the protesters who are campaigning for better food supply do not realise the cost attached to the quality, leading us to believe they do not fully understand their cause.

“Mana is always supportive of good causes with a history of hosting events for The Christie NHS foundation trust and Eat Well MCR, as well as making donations towards StreetSmart and Hospitality Action. A portion of each table’s bill is donated towards the homeless.

“Mana offers a full vegetarian menu, however we do not cater for lactose intolerances for logistical reasons.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our guests on the evening for their patience and good spirits. We would also like to thank our team, who behaved professionally and successfully appeased our guests throughout their three-hour wait to get to their table. Once sat, the team rallied together quite remarkably to deliver the experience guests had waited many months for. A former member of staff heard about the incident even came in to help with the service.”