Animal rights protest targets butchers and shoppers in Northern Ireland
Animal rights protesters who caused chaos after disrupting a busy shopping afternoon in most of Ballymena's butchers' shops have been condemned.
The protesters from Direct Action Everywhere - Northern Ireland went inside the shops chanting "It's not food, it's violence"- much to the dismay of the owners and customers.
The small group also protested outside the shops holding placards and recording videos of their actions, which took place last Saturday.
While most of the owners asked the protesters to leave the shops peacefully, some customers on the streets took exception to being videoed and having their photos taken.
Eyewitnesses said there were tense moments when some meat-buying customers challenged the group on the street and at times the situation looked like it could have escalated into violence.
Another issue voiced by many customers was that the protesters were scaring young children inside the shops and outside, chanting through loud speakers.
Kieran McAtamney, who is the owner of K&G McAtamney Butchers on Ballymena's busy Greenvale Street, was among those targeted.
Protesters visited his shop first around 3pm and stayed in the town until after 5.30pm.
Kieran said: "The police had warned us they were coming as they had posted it on Facebook. When the group arrived here they came into the shop and it was at this point we asked them to leave.
"The group caused mayhem and were being obstructive to our customers, some of whom let their opinions be known to the group.
"It's all right for these protests to be held on the street, but when they come into the shop that's a different matter.
"Customers got very angry when they were being recorded. I have seen the group's videos posted online and we have reported them to the authorities. I don't think it is right to make videos in a shop and upload them online.
"I hear they are going to come back again, but if they want to have a peaceful protest they need to do it outside."
One of the staff at Prime Cuts butchers on Broughshane Street said while the group was entitled to protest it was not right that children were afraid and customers were hassled inside the shops.
"Everyone is entitled to their own rage," said the staff member.
"But it's not right if customers are being hassled and young kids are being scared."
One customer who witnessed the events, but didn't want to give his name, pointed out that most of the group were wearing leather shoes and belts.
"Even the camera bag was leather," said the witness, who branded the group's actions "ironic".
"They really did burst into the shop and cause havoc. It's my choice whether I want to buy meat or not and no daft protester is going to stop me."
People also took to social media to voice their disgust at the protest group.
Other posters, however, were in support of the group, wishing them well for future protests.