Tyre Extinguishers: ‘No balaclavas just a handful of lentils’ - how eco-warriors target Edinburgh SUVs and deflate tyres before fleeing scene in seconds
They are the guerrilla eco group waging war on SUVs by deflating their tyres, and have targeted hundreds of 4x4s in Edinburgh and thousands more across the UK.
Known as Tyre Extinguishers (TE), their mission is “to make it impossible to own a huge polluting 4x4 in the world’s urban areas” – and they insist their campaign is just getting started.
The “leaderless group” describes the vehicles as a “climate disaster”, “unnecessary” and ” dangerous” and are demanding the government introduce “pollution levies to tax SUVs out of existence”.
Now, a little more about how the group operates has come to light after a journalist from Vice magazine spent a night out with the climate activists.
For a recent article, journalist Douglas Rogers hit the streets of Bristol with the Tyre Extinguishers, learning a few of their methods and gaining some insight into why they do what they do.
'Nobody’s actually wearing a balaclava', notes the writer, having met some members of the group at 'a discreet rendezvous point on Bristol’s eerie, early-morning streets'.
On this occasion, the Tyre Extinguishers split up into pairs and the journalist gets to see first-hand how the group can deflate tyres using just a lentil – yes, a lentil – and are able to flee the scene in seconds.
‘I’m treated to a solemn demonstration of the process: a masked figure removes the valve-cap from a looming Porsche, adds a lentil and returns the cap – tightening until it hisses’, writes Rogers. ‘The whole thing takes about ten seconds’.
His 'instructor', who calls herself ‘Holly’, then informs him the tyres “generally go flat within about an hour”, before she tucks one of the group’s signature leaflets under the windscreen wiper.
Douglas notes that the whole thing is conducted in a very ‘business-like manner’, before they move on to the next target.
Later, ‘Holly’ will tell him: “As much as it’s exciting to be doing something that we think might be effective, it feels surprisingly like doing a job – just something that you have to do.
“It isn’t fun: I hate disrupting people’s lives, and it’s upsetting that it’s come to this. But it has come to this.
“We feel that nothing else will work – we don’t have any more time for letters or marches or waiting for more elections.
“We’ve had those strategies for 30 years and they’re not working. It’s time to shake things up.”
The use of lentils against SUV tyres is nothing new – it started with a group of Swedish eco activists in 2007 – but it's certainly a quick and effective way to deflate a tyre without having to hang around at the scene.
Just days ago, the Tyre Extinguishers claimed responsibility for targeting vehicles in the Brunstfield area in the latest spate of attacks across the Capital, which has seen growing criticism from motorists and local councillors.
This latest operation is at least the fifth time the eco collective has struck in the city since March, and they have said they will significantly step up action in the Capital in a bid to make it ‘impossible’ to own an SUV.