The scene, a shed on a barren windswept farm. The place, deep within West Yorkshire’s infamous rhubarb triangle, the home of hidden suffering for millions of rhubarb plants.
Activist, Honey Oil-Spring, a level 9 vegan who doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow, joined us in an ethically sourced, fair trade, lactose free cafe. “People tuck into a rhubarb crumble but I don’t think they stop to consider the suffering of the plants that make that crumble. That’s why I’m protesting against the treatment of forced rhubarb.”
Honey introduces us to Richard, a stick of rhubarb who successfully escaped captivity 2 years ago. “He was forced to grow at a time of year he wouldn’t normally be out. It’s vegetable slavery. January is cold, windy and wet. Would you want to be out in that weather?”
Holly went on to detail Richard’s cruel treatment at the hands of what many activists are calling “Big Farmer”.
Richard and thousands of other rhubarb sticks were packed into sheds. Kept up to their stems in excrement, they were kept in the dark and literally forced to grow. They had no idea what season it was never mind, what time it was.
The red colour of their stalks are so prized by rhubarb aficionados that each rhubarb plant has to be kept in the dark. This means the plants are even denued the right to photosynthesise properly.
Details of Richard’s escape are secret. He hasn’t seen his family in 2 years and can only assume they’ve perished. For now he’s one of the lucky ones.
Asked what they hope to achieve by raising awareness of the terrible conditions Holly said, “We want rhubarb unions. For too long Big Farmer has been able to ignore us. We hope that with unions we can expose our cruel treatment by Big Farmer. People who eat rhubarb may demand ethical treatment for rhubarb. We just want better conditions for these proud vegetabled.”
Richard and Holly hope to persuade more people to their cause. They hinted at doing something to highlight their cause in public. “We’re going to make the authorities crumble,” is their battle cry.
A sign of the desperation felt by many in the movement that time to end the suffering of forced rhubarb is running out. Please share the hashtag #rhubarbshaverights to show your support