Two men who protested a London vegan event by eating dead, raw squirrels were found guilty of disorderly behavior and fined hundreds of dollars on Monday after prosecutors said the duo had caused “significant distress to members of the public.”
Footage of the incident, which was shared to social media in March, shows 29-year-old Gatis Lagzdins and 22-year-old Deonisy Khlebnikov speaking with concerned shoppers and police officers while holding a dead squirrel. Lagzdins, who was wearing a shirt that reads “Veganism = Malnutrition,” can be seen in photographs taking a bite out of the dead squirrel.
— Diora (@DioraBoros) March 30, 2019
Lagzdins and Khlebnikov reportedly went to the event, the Soho Vegan Market, in an attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of following a vegan diet.
According to a Fox News report, the Soho Vegan Market released a statement shortly after the video’s release thanking police for responding to the duo and condemning their actions.
At a June 14 hearing before the City of London Magistrates’ Court, Lagzdins and Khlebnikov denied charges that their protest was disorderly behavior. However, the Crown Prosecution Service of England and Wales disagreed.
“By choosing to do this outside a vegan food stall and continuing with their disgusting and unnecessary behavior despite requests to stop, including from a parent whose child was upset by their actions, the prosecution was able to demonstrate that they had planned and intended to cause distress to the public,” Natalie Clines of the CPS said in a news release. “Their pre-meditated actions caused significant distress to members of the public, including young children.”
Lagzdins was fined 200 pounds (about $250) for his part in the protest, while Khlebnikov was fined 400 pounds (about $500).
Lagzdins’ controversial antics highlight how, for many people, being vegan has strong political connotations. Veganism has come to mean more than just a niche lifestyle or a particular set of dietary restrictions.
Some liberals wear their veganism as a badge of honor for the purported commitment it shows to progressive causes such as the environment, sustainability and even feminism. On the other hand, the intersection of liberalism and veganism has long been a point of mockery for conservatives who see unflattering parallels – fanaticism, elitism, a disconnection from reality – between the two dogmas.