Michael Mansfield | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Michael Mansfield

The UK’s best – and best known – criminal defence and human rights barrister. Patron of Viva!.

I became vegetarian at the same time and for the same reasons as Hayley (Mills – click here). It is so obvious that meat production is about profit margins and creating a society in which life really doesn’t matter so long as there is a successful market place. Animals ride a conveyor belt of death on which they are electrocuted, executed and gutted while alive. This is massacre, this is genocide. It’s interesting that the corporations who abuse animals are often the same ones who exploit people. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many organisations like Viva!, who communicate with people extremely well and make us aware what’s important to our lives.

Man on a Mission (or Two)

He’s been Viva!’s patron from the start and has enlivened many a Christmas fundraising dinner with his pithy words but Michael Mansfield QC has now retired – or so he says. By Tony Wardle.

He simply couldn’t resist getting involved in the campaign against the 26,000 pig mega factory farm, at Foston. In his letter of objection to Derbyshire County Council Michael said:

“I have made it my career to seek justice for those who have been denied their rights. To allow the Foston pig farm to go forward would mean a life of hellish confinement for tens of thousands of animals.” He added:

“Most of the animals will never see sunlight or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto a lorry bound for the abattoir.”

The press reported his comments at length.

Michael barely had time to smear on his sun cream at his retirement house near the French town of Montpellier before getting involved in another project. It led to a brand new experience – being banned from court.

He and his wife Yvette attended an exhibition entitled Tarnished Earth, revealing the extraordinary environmental damage resulting from Canada’s pursuit of dirty oil from tar sands. It involves BP, RBS and other big businesses and government trampling over the rights of little people and destroying the lands on which they depend for survival – in this instance the 500 strong community of Cree indigenous people (First Nation of Beaver Creek). Of course Michael was bound to get involved.

He set up a support group in his chambers at Tooks Court and went to view the extraordinary, toxic moonscape that is being created in Northern Alberta. He met with lawyer Jack Woodward and offered his services pro bono but when he attended court with Jack all the weight of the state was thrown against him and this champion of civil rights was denied the right to appear.

What the proponents of this massive venture – the largest industrial project in the world – want to hide is its extraordinary vandalism. Huge workings, which could eventually cover an area of land the size of England and Wales, obliterate the landscape, replacing trees and greenery with huge black pits. Vast amounts of water and energy are used to wash out the bitumen and the water, now toxic and unable to support any life, is left in large lakes called tailings.

The volume of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced in converting this tar into oil more than cancels out all the other reductions in GHG effected by Canada. In ordinary oil production, the ratio of energy used to energy obtained is 1:100; with tar sands it is 1:3.

As for the court ban – it will take more than that to stop him.

Just to complete his retirement, Michael has also been leading the prosecution in the Ecocide mock trial in the Supreme Court. Fictitious CEOs were put on trial for offences such as deforestation of the Amazon, Arctic drilling, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and tar sands extraction. The aim was to focus attention on industrial environmental crimes with the intention of giving them similar weight to genocide.

And to stop him from getting bored, Michael responded positively to requests from some dons to stand for the Chancellorship of Cambridge University on a platform that all education should be free. The outgoing chancellor was Prince Philip who is not believed to share those same views. Michael was up against the actor Brian Blessed, a local grocer and Lord Sainsbury. In the event, Sainsbury took it and the £82 million he has donated to the university is not thought to have played any part!

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