15 January 1964|
|Died||1 February 1995
Baginton, Warwickshire, England.
|Cause of death||Physical trauma|
|Known for||Animal rights activist|
Jill Phipps (15 January 1964 – 1 February 1995) was a British animal rights activist who was crushed to death during an animal rights protest in Baginton, Warwickshire, England, when she deliberately stepped in front of a lorry transporting live veal calves heading for continental Europe via Coventry Airport.
Phipps did well at school but chose not to stay on after the age of 16; she went to work for the Royal Mail (her father was a postman). She had become interested in caring for animals when young, and joined her mother's campaigning against the fur trade from the age of 11. After herself becoming a vegetarian, Phipps persuaded the rest of her family to join them. By her late teens she joined the Eastern Animal Liberation League, a group affiliated to the Animal Liberation Front. A local campaign in Coventry supported by Phipps and her mother succeeded in closing down a local fur shop and fur farm. In 1986, together with her mother and sister, Phipps raided the Port Sunlight factory of soap manufacturers Unilever on Merseyside to protest at their use of animal testing. After smashing computer equipment, the group were caught and prosecuted, with Phipps' mother being sentenced to six months' imprisonment and her sister to eighteen months. Phipps herself received a suspended sentence as she was pregnant.
After her son was born, Phipps spent more time caring for him (having divorced her husband, she raised him as a single parent). She attended occasional demonstrations and hunt sabotage meetings during school holidays together with her son. The use of Coventry airport for export of veal calves horrified her, and in January 1995 she walked almost 100 miles from Coventry to Westminster to protest; on her 31st birthday she protested outside the home of the businessman who had organised the trade.
On 1 February 1995, Phipps was one of 35 protesters at Coventry Airport in Baginton, protesting at the export of live calves to Amsterdam for distribution across Europe. Ten protesters broke through police lines and were trying to bring the lorry to a halt by sitting in the road or chaining themselves to it when Phipps was crushed beneath the lorry's wheels; her fatal injuries included a broken spine. Phipps' death received a large amount of publicity, being brought up at Prime Minister's question time in the House of Commons.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided there was not enough evidence to bring any charges against the driver. Phipps' family blamed the police for her death, because the police appeared determined to keep the convoy of lorries moving despite the protest. The inquest heard that the driver may have been distracted by a protester running into the road ahead of him, who was being removed by a policeman. The policeman in charge of the protest speculated that Phipps had chosen "deliberately [to] fall" under the wheels of the truck, but Phipps' father insisted that she did not want to die as she had a young son to live for.
Veal calf exports from Coventry Airport ended months later, when the aviation firm belonging to the pilot responsible for the veal flights, Christopher Barrett-Jolly, went bankrupt following accusations of running guns from Slovakia to Sudan in breach of EU rules. In 2006 he was charged with smuggling 271 kg of cocaine from Jamaica into Southend airport.
The continuing level of protest was such that several local councils and a harbour board banned live exports from their localities. All live exports of calves later stopped due to fears of BSE infection. In 2006 this ban was lifted, but Coventry Airport pledged that it would refuse requests to fly veal calves.
Jill's Film, with footage of Phipps, the Coventry live export campaign, the funeral, and interviews with Phipps' family was produced and shown for the first time at the Jill's Day 2005 event in Coventry. Memorial events are held by grassroots animal rights groups around 1 February each year.
- Paul Vallely, "For what cause did Jill Phipps die?", Independent, 3 February 1995.
- Woman who died in veal protest becomes martyr of wider cause, by Mark Honigsbaum, The Guardian, 5 February 2005
- Final chapter in life and times of notorious pilot, John Revill, Birmingham Post, 6 December 2006.
- Catherine Barnard and Ivan Hare. The Right to Protest and the Right to Export: Police Discretion and the Free Movement of Goods, The Modern Law Review, Vol. 60, No. 3 (May 1997)
- No veal flights from Coventry, Fiona Scott, Coventry Telegraph, 9 March 2006
- Jill Phipps :: Memorial Website, visited 25 January 2007
- Veggies Animal Rights calendar, Veggies.