Since working at WDM, I have often found myself doing unusual things such as dressing up in a shark costume or building a cardboard detonator for an action outside HSBC. I’d only been working at the organisation a couple of months before I was asked to climb into the front of a digger outside RBS to protest against their involvement in tarsands – just another day (not) in the office!
So in May 2013, I didn’t find it strange when I found myself wearing a bright blue Barclays eagle mask while trying to ride a ‘Barclays bike’ – for the second year in a row. It was the Barclays AGM and we were there to protest against their role in food speculation, welcoming shareholders with the chant ‘speculation means starvation, what we need is regulation!’ and ‘One, two, three four… Bank on hunger no more! Five, six, seven, eight… Osborne you must regulate!”.
Barclays is the UK’s biggest player in food speculation, and we estimate that in 2012 Barclays made up to £278 million in food speculation. So it was a big shock when after three years of public campaigning, the bank announced that it would no longer trade in agricultural commodities “for speculative purposes”. Although this was a success for our campaign, Barclays continues to offer opportunities for others to speculate on food, and so the need for European legislation on this was still a priority.
When I found out last week that the EU had finally managed to reach an agreement to curb food speculation, it made dressing up like an eagle outside the Barclays AGM two years in a row feel worthwhile. I remember trying to cycle in circles without being able to see out of the mask and in the pouring rain, and wondering if it was completely necessary. But after three years of creative actions and continuous lobbying of MEPs and MPs by WDM groups and activists, it has all paid off.
The EU’s moves to curb food speculation could not have been achieved without local campaigning and we all made food speculation an issue decision makers and the media could not ignore.