Força Vegan Magazine: Issue 6

Page 1


Vegan Festival in Ukraine

Vegan Tattoos

Animal Rising Unity in Motion Animal Think Tank

Jordi Casamitjana on chocolate production THE WAR
Lizard Beauty Think Like A Vegan
Plant-based anti-poaching unit in Zimbabwe FORÇA


Welcome to Issue 6 of Força Vegan magazine, over a year on from our last publication.

In that time a lot has changed in the vegan movement and one common theme to have arisen multiple times over is that of unity, and working together. Never before has there been such a depth of collaboration between the groups and there’s a real drive to see that increase on multiple levels. This issue reflects some of that growth, including an indepth look at narrative change from Animal Think Tank, alongside reports from Plant Based Treaty, Viva!, Animal Justice Project, Animal Rising and Animal Aid with some truly spectacular campaigns in 2023.

Before that we enter into the world of vegan tattoos alongside the inside story on Lizard Beauty and vegan eyelashes, plus the spectacular work of artist Phillip McCulloch Downs. We go back in time to honour the work of vegan pioneer Arthur Ling, explore the recent podcasts from Think Like a Vegan, pay a visit to Morocco and Ghana and we investigate the level of cross contamination in the production of vegan chocolate.

Then it’s time to relive some of the last 20 years of VegfestUK events as we look forward to our next 3 events this autumn - all that after taking a trip to a Ukrainian Vegan Festival in Kiev. Benny Malone explores the theme of vegan values and I wrap up this issue with a brief look at Unity in Motion, reflecting on the current trend for collaboration.

To start, what could be better than the uplifting story of the all-women vegan anti-poaching group, Akashinga. Enjoy. ISSN 2634-9566

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Published by VegfestUK ©


The views expressed in Força Vegan Online Magazine do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editor nor VegfestUK Ltd, and neither the Editor, Design team or VegfestUK Ltd accept any liability for any matter in the magazine, nor can be held responsible for any actions taken as a result of the content of this magazine. Advertisements and paid promotional copy are accepted without implying endorsement by the editor or publishers. Paid promotional copy is marked ‘Promotion’ on the appropriate pages.

credit: Adrian Steirn
CONTENTS 10 AKASHINGA 20 DR TROUBLE SAUCE Clean & Natural partner with DR Trouble Sauce to help raise funds for Akashinga. AKASHINGA THE BRAVE ONES An introduction to the plant-based Anti-Poaching Unit Akashinga, meaning ‘The Brave Ones’ in Zimbabwe, Africa.


A report on a vegan weekend in Ukraine, a feelgood vegan event despite the ongoing conflict.



Veteran Força Vegan contributor Tom Harris tells us of his job as a tattoo artist, and what to look out for.

An interview with Phillip, a talented vegan artivist.



A must read - in this interview Zii Lizard tells us more about her story and how she ended up founding the new brand Lizard Beauty, making vegan eyelashes and makeup.



outlines his new 10-week outreach campaign from Fez in Morocco.



Tivai of VVESOG tells us of a new type of vegan event coming to Accra, Ghana.








Jordi Casamitjana, the author of Ethical Vegan, investigates the apparent levels of cockroaches in the production of chocolate.



Benny Malone delves deeper into what it means to be vegan.

A GOOD LIFE ANIMAL JUSTICE PROJECT Animal Think Tank’s proposal for movement unity. Animal Aid tell us about their latest campaign, in partnership with VFC. A summary of AJP’s recent actions in the name of animal rights.
168 PLANT BASED TREATY 162 ANIMAL RISING Editor of Força Vegan Tim Barford shares his view on the potential pitfalls and opportunities ahead for the AR movement. VIVA! MULLER KILLER UNITY IN MOTION 152 180 Fresh off the Grand National, Animal Rising tell us about their recent actions. VIVA! recently staged street activism with Matt Pritchard all about dairy’s impact. VIVA! tell us more.





In the heart of Africa, where the delicate balance between wildlife and poaching threatens to unravel, a remarkable force stands tall to protect the magnificent creatures that roam the continent’s landscape. The Akashinga AntiPoaching Unit, born out of determination and a deep love for nature, has emerged as a beacon of hope in the war against wildlife crime. Comprising brave and resilient women, Akashinga showcases a revolutionary approach that not only safeguards wildlife but also empowers local communities.

Akashinga, meaning “The Brave Ones” in the Shona language, is the name of the all-women, plant-based antipoaching group founded in 2017 by Damien Mander, a former Australian special forces operative turned

vast areas of wilderness, whilst seeking to empower the local communities in the process. Recognizing the destructive forces of poaching and the untapped potential of empowering local communities, Mander’s primary objective was to provide alternative livelihoods for marginalized women while creating a formidable force to counter poaching activities.

3 years ago National Geographic made a short film, bringing much needed attention to the rangers situated just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, in the Lower Zambezi Valley. James Cameron - a familiar name to many - was the Executive Producer, and this film aimed to raise the profile worldwide, as the IAPF seeks donations to fund it’s expansion efforts. The reserve under Akashinga protection here

Cover & article
Adrian Steirn
Photo credit: Adrian Steirn VEGAN
“‘When you become Akashinga, I’m going to burn your house...I’m going to destroy your family’”

The patrols are essential to the protection of the wilderness, particularly when you consider that Mana Pools National Park alone has reportedly lost 8000 elephants in the past 15 years to poachers. The bigger picture - 20,000 elephants are killed each year in the name of the ivory trade, edging this peaceful and magestic creature ever closer to extinction.

Many of Akashinga are from abusive households, and each has a rich story that has ultimately led them to become rangers. By providing training, education, and employment

opportunities, the unit challenges traditional gender roles and enhances gender equality within communities. Women are recruited primarily from areas affected by poaching, offering them an alternative path away from poverty and exploitation. Akashinga invests in their personal and professional development, equipping them with skills such as tracking, intelligence gathering, wildlife monitoring, and conflict resolution.

In the short National Geographic documentary, one woman stands and explains to the others,

Photo credit: Adrian Steirn FORCA VEGAN
Photo credit: Adrian Steirn FORÇA VEGAN

“I was married to a man… who used to hit and abuse me… leaving me with scars. After all that had come before, I was not going to let this opportunity pass. That is why you see me working with all my strength… and with all my heart… so that I may prosper at the end.” Another tells her story“My husband was killed for being a poacher” she explains, “I am here today to support my child… to support myself… but also to prevent poaching in our community.”

The introductory training is a grueling 72 hour period of intense militarystyle training, designed to test the physical and mental endurance of the candidates in the searing heat. But this isn’t where the struggle ends for Akashinga. This is hard work, fraught with danger, with Akashinga Rangers having been killed in the line of duty by poachers. In a segment for 60 minutes, an Australian news reporter asked Damien “How much have these women exceeded your expectations?” Damien’s response is telling. “We did a selection out here for 189 men about 6 years ago, and at the end of Day 1 I had 3 men left. I did a selection for 37 women here, and at the end of Day 3 only 3 had pulled off. We thought we were putting them through hell, but they’d already been through it.”

Others speak of the abuse by the hands of their husbands, and of being the victims of rape. Even the threats leveled at the women on their way to their first day of training paint a dark and sadly all too familiar picture of the expectations and derision of women in many parts of the world. One trainee ranger explains on camera that she was told “When you become Akashinga, I’m going to burn your house, I’m going to rape you. I’m going to destroy your family”.

Damien goes on to say “Those women were ridiculed on their way to work.. on their way to selection on their first day. They were told piss off back home, go back to their house, go back to the fields, so those men ridiculed them on day 1. Okay, so that was 14 months ago, all the men in the community may not like it now but they respect it, 72 arrests later, they’ve taken down some syndicates from these areas, they’ve taken down hardened, armed poachers. And so the men, they respect it”. He continues, “Those women, with the arrests that they’ve made,

“We thought we were putting them through hell, but they’d already been through it.”

have been able to break up those syndicates and drive a downturn in elephant poaching across this entire landscape.” Adding finally, “These women. They’re the leaders. I’m expendable. They’re the ones taking this program forward.”

Overall the impact of this program to date is astounding. Where the IAPF operates, poaching has been eliminated by over 80%. Meanwhile the goal is still ever clear - the IAPF also states that in seven years elephant populations have plummeted by 30% across the continent, largely due to poaching. The battle isn’t over.

It’s important to repeat that Akashinga’s antipoaching operations are rooted in a multifaceted strategy that prioritizes community involvement, intelligence-led operations, and non-violence. The unit works closely with local communities, forging strong relationships and enlisting their support as custodians of wildlife. Through community engagement initiatives, such as education programs and sustainable livelihood training, Akashinga ensures that the local population sees the value in protecting wildlife. Gathering intelligence, utilizing modern technology and collaboration with

law enforcement agencies, enables the unit to proactively identify and disrupt poaching networks. Importantly, Akashinga embraces non-violent approaches, focusing on de-escalation and rehabilitation rather than confrontation.

The impact of Akashinga’s efforts has been nothing short of remarkable. Since its inception, the unit has made substantial contributions to wildlife conservation in Zimbabwe and beyond. By combating poaching and reducing the illegal wildlife trade, Akashinga has significantly curtailed the loss of iconic species like elephants

Photo credit: Adrian Steirn

and rhinoceroses. Their presence acts as a deterrent to poachers, while their dedication to preserving wildlife has inspired neighboring communities to adopt more sustainable practices. Additionally, Akashinga’s social impact extends beyond conservation. The unit’s empowerment of women has resulted in increased gender equality, improved livelihoods, and enhanced community resilience.

The Akashinga AntiPoaching Unit is a testament to the transformative power of community engagement and women’s empowerment in the realm of conservation. By

harnessing the strength and compassion of marginalized women, Akashinga has established a formidable force against poaching while fostering sustainable development within local communities. Through their unique approach, the Brave Ones are rewriting the narrative of wildlife protection, proving that the fight against poaching is not just about guns and patrols, but about embracing compassion, community involvement, and innovative solutions.

The legacy of Akashinga will continue to inspire future generations not just throughout the continent, but around the globe.

To find out more about Akashinga, check out the IAPF website which includes the National Geographic film, and check out the next piece on Dr Trouble Sauce & Clean & Natural, who are striving to raise money for this remarkable program.

“the IAPF also states that in seven years elephant populations have plummeted by 30% across the continent, largely due to poaching. The battle isn’t over.”



Dr Trouble, an artisan sauce producer, is set to launch limited edition bottles of its African Lemon Chilli and Oak Smoked Chilli sauces in collaboration with the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF). This partnership aims to support IAPF’s crucial anti-poaching and conservation initiatives across Southern Africa, where Dr Trouble is based.

With Africa’s key species, such as elephants, facing the threat of extinction, the IAPF’s all-female anti-poaching unit called Akashinga (The Brave Ones) is playing a vital role in protecting wildlife and empowering communities. This team of female rangers, who have often been marginalized or subjected to abuse, is revolutionizing

conservation efforts and transforming their own lives. Amidst the ongoing global Covid-19 pandemic and dwindling resources, wildlife has become increasingly vulnerable to poachers, making Akashinga’s work more important than ever. By collaborating with Dr Trouble on limited edition sauce bottles, the IAPF aims to raise funds to expand the highly effective Akashinga model across Africa.

Dr Trouble sauces are meticulously handmade in small batches, fermented for 100 days in glass flagons on an isolated farm in Northern Zimbabwe. The sauces use locally sourced ingredients obtained from rural villagers. The recipes, including the Oak Smoked Chilli and African Lemon Chilli, have

been passed down in the cofounder’s family for 125 years.

Rob Fletcher, co-founder of Dr Trouble, emphasizes the company’s commitment to giving back to communities and protecting Africa’s unique natural heritage. Inspired by the work of IAPF’s founder, Damien Mander, and his team, Dr Trouble conducts its own anti-poaching patrols and educates the local population about the importance of wildlife conservation.

As consumers increasingly prioritize environmental protection and the preservation of ecosystems and animals, Dr Trouble hopes that this partnership will enable them to contribute to the cause. They encourage their loyal customers to purchase these limited edition

“By collaborating with Dr Trouble on limited edition sauce bottles, the IAPF aims to raise funds to expand the highly effective Akashinga model across Africa.”
Photo credit: Adrian Steirn FORÇA VEGAN

bottles and learn more about the remarkable work carried out by the IAPF.

Clean & Natural’s collaboration with Dr. Troubles Sauces to sell chili sauces, including the special edition package, is an excellent way to support a worthy cause. The fact that the special edition package directly supports the IAPF (International Anti-Poaching Foundation) makes it even more meaningful.

The IAPF is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving wildlife, particularly in areas affected by poaching. By supporting the IAPF through the sale of the special edition package, Clean & Natural and Dr. Trouble Sauces are contributing to the conservation efforts and helping to combat poaching.

It’s encouraging to see businesses and organizations come together to make a positive impact on the environment and protect endangered species. Initiatives like this not only raise awareness about conservation issues but also provide tangible support to organizations on the ground working to make a difference.

By purchasing the special edition package and supporting Clean & Natural and Dr. Troubles Sauces, you are directly contributing to the conservation efforts of the IAPF. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy delicious chili sauces while also making a meaningful difference in the world.

“By supporting the IAPF through the sale of the special edition package, Clean & Natural and Dr. Trouble Sauces are contributing to the conservation efforts and helping to combat poaching.”


Of all the vegan events that have taken place this year, one of the most remarkable has surely been the Vegan Weekend festival held in Ukraine on April 22. Amongst the attractions was a food court with four vegan caterers, a coffee bar and 13 stalls selling vegan food, clothing, desserts, and gifts.


In spite of the horror of war, 650 visitors attended - well in excess of the 500 anticipated.

The event also featured music and a well-known comedian.

The priority though was to raise funds to provide food parcels and clothing for vegan women serving in the military, with the remainder helping to fund food for refugees.

The festival was partsponsored by UK humanitarian charity Vegan Compassion Group (VCG), which has been donating funds to feed refugees in Lviv,

Kherson and Kolky since last autumn. More recent efforts have been centred upon Dnipro, where many of those displaced from the destroyed city of Bakhmut have fled.

The VCG agreed to sponsor Vegan Weekend when it became clear that to do so would almost certainly increase the amount of its original donation. In the end, the fund raising element far exceeded expectations, with the event collecting four times as much as it cost to organise.

A further bonus was that a survey conducted of festival visitors showed that roughly 32% were nonvegans: 43% of that group

stated that the festival had made them think about switching to veganism.

VCG founder Mark Gold was delighted with the outcome.

‘As well as increasing the food provisions we could otherwise have supplied for those in need, the festival has spread the vegan message and brought a little joy to war torn Ukraine. It feels like a near- perfect result’

Vegan Weekend returns to Ukraine in July

A second Vegan Weekend festival is to take place in Kyiv on July 8th. This time the Vegan


Compassion Group is to be the sole sponsor – a big undertaking for a small charity but one it wants to take on, both to support of the inspiring efforts of the Ukrainian vegan community and to extend its commitment to feeding those displaced by Putin’s war. The hope is that at least twice as much as the organising costs will be collected on the day, with all profits providing food for refugees and for vegans defending their country in the Ukrainian military.

If you can help with a donation – however small – please go to our special fundraising page.

“In the end, the fund raising element far exceeded expectations, with the event collecting four times as much as it cost to organise.”


Philip is a very talented and driven vegan artivist, his work easily recognisable for it’s detail and poignancy. Certainly in the UK you may well have seen or spoken to Philip at vegan events, as he is a regular fixture at Art of Compassion Project exhibitions. We caught up with Philip to find try to find out the extent of his artistry, and how that connects with the vegan movement.


So what were your creative beginnings? Where did it all start?

A: I’ve been drawing, painting and writing since I was a toddler, and because I was always encouraged by my parents, I just never ever stopped. It’s been a very linear (and lucky) path, through school, 6th form college, Foundation course, Polytechnic, and then a job in a graphic design company, an animal rights charity, and finally the scary, but inevitable, decision to leave all bosses behind and be a truly independent artist. When I summarise it like that, it all sounds a bit too easy!

came together and (literally overnight) I became an animal rights artist.

I learnt recently that you’re not just a talented artist, but an author too. Can you tell us about that? What else have you put your hand to?

of which are lavishly illustrated. Although these have sold and been enjoyed and praised, I have never once tried to be commercial, and have expressed myself with absolute honesty. It’s an amazingly liberating experience.

But this journey lasted almost five decades and at no point did it all really come into focus until late 2014 when my vegan ethics, my art skills and my animal rights job all

A: I began writing stories as a form of therapy. After a family bereavement, I simply had to let out all the thoughts in my head, and it was so calming and cathartic that, when I became vegan and fully realised how the world at large was largely unbearable in its casual cruelty and ignorance, I returned to my writing and challenged myself to create a novel. A decade later I have a book of poetry and about ten story books published, a couple

Have you always included a sense of activism in your work? Do you consider it activism?

A: Yes, I think that art is a very powerful form of activism, transcending both language and cultural differences. The best art hits you in the heart and stays with you – a personal connection between the artist and the viewer, without filters. Information comes later, but conveying emotion is the primary power of art. You can’t


‘unsee’ and you can’t ‘unfeel’ once the image has had its effect.

My work prior to 2014 was very personal and self-reflective, dealing with issues in my daily life, but after I painted the portrait of Jo-Anne McArthur (the animal rights photographer) and it was seen by thousands on social media, I decided to add my voice to the AR cause via my artwork from that moment onwards. It was nerve-wracking to leave my introverted comfort zone and be seen and judged like this, but I felt compelled to try.

What would you say your biggest influences are?

A: In terms of animal rights art, Sue Coe is a true original. Her courage,

unflinching honesty and fury have been burning away in me since I was 21. Generally, I have a very eclectic spectrum of influences, but the overriding theme is that I love anything that pushes the boundaries, that is experimental, surprising or even uncomfortable. It really shakes my imagination up to experience this, and gives me space to approach my own creativity with an open minded attitude.

How did your connection with the Art of Compassion Project come about?

A: In 2015, whilst my first few AR paintings were doing the rounds on social media, the founder of the AOCP, Leigh Sanders, contacted me to ask if I’d

like to join, and I believe I was one of the very first members. It was such a thrill to get recognition like this! It really bolstered my resolve to continue, and when I left my job 2 years later, the AOCP provided me with a ready-made family of like-minded artists to support me in my first months alone – and THEN I suddenly found myself helping to curate the first ever AOCP exhibition at the London Vegfest in Olympia in 2017! I haven’t looked back since.

The art of Compassion Project is a group of vegan artists from all over the world, who contribute art towards various causes. 100% of the proceeds go to vegan and animal rights based charities and organisations. The group regularly run exhibitions at VegfestUK events, and raised money for us in 2022 with the Oracle Deck, still available at

They’re currently planning a second coffee table book after the very successful first one, which will be ready for 2024.


It seems like a long time ago now, but how did you keep yourself busy during lockdown?

A: Well, after initially losing my mojo and feeling very lost, I forced myself to embark on two major projects. The first was to create AGITATE ART as a joint venture with my great friend, the artist Helen Barker, and begin and online gallery of short videos addressing many different forms of injustice.

The second project was for me to publish a book of portraits and quotes, gathering together activists from all over the world. It took 18 months, and was the greatest artistic challenge I’ve had so far. I had a fantastic response from almost all the contacts I’d made over the previous five years, and the resulting book ‘ACTIVISTS – The Art of Empathy’ (available on Amazon) I believe is a unique record of people I regard as truly brave and selfless.

“the resulting book ‘ACTIVISTS - The Art of Empathy’ I believe is a unique record of people I regard as truly brave and selfless.”

Your art is so intricate. How long does it take you to finish a piece on average, would you say? How much work are we looking at here?

A: I mainly work on A4 size canvas boards, and once the design is traced out, on average it takes a week to paint, starting with painting the background first and then working my way through to the foreground. But the creative process before this stage can take anything from a day to a week – sketching out the very rough idea, researching a large selection of images to use, then printing them up and doing hours of physical cutting and pasting until they all slot together like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the effort that the viewer isn’t aware of!

Is there a particular project or concept in mind that you’d love to do one day? You’ve mastered paint / pencil and paper, you’ve written books. Perhaps film?

A: Well, I’ve dabbled in film making for quite some years and have a YouTube channel full of Animal Rights Art videos, as well as my general art, my everyday life and even some completely unnecessary music videos! In recent years I’ve indulged in an art style that emulates stained glass, so it would great to actually have my art produced as a real window. Though I’m not a religious

person, spiritual themes (I see nature as spiritual) are prevalent in my more upbeat work.

Do you think of an idea and then just, make it happen, then move onto the next piece? Or do you usually have a larger concept or series in mind?

A: I prefer to work with larger concepts, such as triptychs, as you can say so much more when you have a broader canvas. This approach began when I was at Polytechnic and the tutors asked for one self portrait, and I ended up painting thirty!

Is there anything you’re working on that our readers should be aware of this year?

A: I’m currently building a book of all my animal rights artwork as a companion piece to my ACTIVISTS book, but as far as new work goes, I’m very pleased to say that I’m looking for new approaches to the AR message, which is both exciting and frustrating! I don’t want to repeat myself, and this is such a difficult subject to address successfully that I’m perfectly prepared to wait until the idea is exactly right.

Thanks Philip! Your work is greatly inspiring and we’re eager to see what you create next.

Check out Philip’s work at


“I’m currently building a book of all my animal rights artwork as a companion piece to my ACTIVISTS book, but as far as new work goes, I’m very pleased to say that I’m looking for new approaches to the AR message, which is both exciting and frustrating!”

Above: Ivanz Tattoo, London


Thinking about getting a tattoo?

Ten years ago, I picked up a tattoo machine and began my career as a tattoo artist. It had been my dream job since I was thirteen, when I first admired the body art of my favourite punk bands. I desperately wanted to be part of that scene, but with zero musical ability, my passion for art seemed my best bet. Life, however, got in the way.

At fifteen, I attended my first protest; at sixteen, I became a hunt saboteur, and by eighteen, I was enjoying a mini-break at her majesty’s pleasure in Chelmsford Young Offenders Institute for refusing to turn my back on my non-animal cousins. Animal liberation was my life for the next decade, and a ‘real job’ wasn’t on the cards. But, unfortunately,

the government had other ideas. My friends and I were too loud and too effective, and at the age of twentyeight, I stared down the barrel of a five-year prison sentence.

On my release, I faced severe restrictions. I couldn’t protest or campaign, use the internet, or talk to my friends. On top of which, any job I applied for had to be approved by the Home Office.

After forbidding me from considering a litany of jobs, they hesitantly allowed me to begin a tattoo apprenticeship. I don’t know why this one was approved; maybe they just got sick of saying ‘no’, but while the British state stole years of my life, I also owe them my entire career.

Tom Harris, Animal Rights activist, Tattoo Artist & regular contributor to Força Vegan, shines a light on some of the nonvegan aspects of tattooing most people don’t think about.

I genuinely love my job. I get to travel, meet amazing people, and create unique art that lasts a (literal) lifetime. I’ve won awards internationally, had my tattoos licensed by LucasFilm, appeared on TV, and opened two tattoo

studios. But, as much as tattooing is my passion, preventing harm is my calling. Therefore, I refuse to do anything which involves the suffering of human or non-human animals. I use an all-vegan tattoo set-up, and I’m excited to have

Dani Green, The Keep, Edinburgh. Top right: Ivanz Tattoo, London
Right: Tom Harris, Chimera Studios, Bournemouth

formed Planet Ink, a team of awesome vegan tattoo artists. We will be making our debut at Vegan Camp Out this year, allowing everyone there the chance to get a meaningful, ethical tattoo. But I want everyone to have vegan tattoos, so I’m going to share with you everything I’ve learned about creating and receiving them.

If you’ve set your heart on getting a tattoo, you must make two big decisions. The first is what you want, and the second is who you want to do it. The ‘what’ is entirely subjective and has no right or wrong answer. In my humble opinion, there is no

such thing as a bad tattoo idea, just poor execution. There are many ideas I don’t take on because I don’t feel I can turn them into something wonderful, but I have no doubt another artist could mould each of those ideas into something beautiful. Some tattoos are deeply meaningful, some purely ornamental, and others almost entirely random. If you love the idea and want to wear it forever, it’s the right tattoo for you.

When considering the ‘who’, you have to strike a balance. Many of us prefer giving our money and trust to other vegans or activists —particularly if the tattoo carries an explicitly vegan or animal liberation message. At the same time, this is a piece of art we intend to wear for the rest of our lives. Not all tattoo artists can (or want to) work in all styles, so while you may know a vegan artist who does beautiful portraits, their script work may not be so great. If you’re looking to get ‘vegan’ tattooed across your throat, you may face a dilemma. Do you want the most ethical artist or the best tattoo? Fortunately, most creative industries are pretty veganheavy, and tattooing is no exception, so if you’re willing to research and travel, you should be able to find someone who ticks both boxes.

Sometimes, however, the perfect artist for the tattoo may not be vegan (yet). In this case, it’s up to you to ensure your tattoo is.

When you reach out to your chosen or potential artist, check their social media bios to see how they prefer to be contacted, and keep your message concise and polite. Popular artists will likely be busy, so try not to overwhelm them (they should be happy to tell you which products they use, but it is up to you to research ingredient lists etc.). If the artist is rude or


ignores you, take it as a red flag and move on.

Most modern ink brands are (proudly) veganfriendly. I use Electrum Inks due to their vibrant colours and vocal stance on anti-racism, female empowerment, and queer representation. However, it’s a long time since I last saw a non-vegan ink brand (and even then, it was artists using unregulated Indian ink). If you know which ink your artist uses, a quick website check will confirm whether they are vegan.

Most tattoo designs are applied using a stencil. A few years ago, the company that makes virtually all the transfer paper used by tattoo artists released a vegan range. This implied that all tattoos created with a stencil before this weren’t vegan. I contacted the

Above: Dani Green, The Keep, Edinburgh

company, and it turned out that all of their paper was vegan, but only the new range had been certified. They have ended that line, and all their products are now labelled vegan. Similarly, I have only ever been aware of one stencil application cream that wasn’t vegan, and after changing their ingredients (who wants crushed beetles rubbed in their skin?!), they, too, now bear the sacred vegan symbol.

Freehand tattoos drawn directly onto the skin require some form of pen.

While the ones designed for this purpose are usually vegan-friendly, many artists use Sharpies, owned by an animal testing company.

It’s always seemed a weird choice, as these pens must be disposed of regularly, so using the most expensive brand on the market is a waste of money.

It may surprise you to know that latex gloves may contain milk proteins. However, due to latex allergies, most (but not all) tattoo artists use nitrile gloves now, which are fine.

Even more surprisingly, many brands of kitchen towel aren’t vegan either.

Plenty is the brand used by most tattoo artists, and they have confirmed that they contain animal products and their parent company permits animal testing in countries which demand it.

During your tattoo, your artist will use a processing cream to soothe the skin, help the needle glide, and control the ink. This will either be a tattoospecific product (such as Butterluxe), which are

Above: Anrijs Straume, Bold As Brass, Liverpool
“Some tattoos are deeply meaningful, some purely ornamental, and others almost entirely random. If you love the idea and want to wear it forever, it’s the right tattoo for you.”
Above: Dani Green, The Keep, Edinburgh

often vegan (do check for rogue ingredients such as beeswax) or petroleum jelly. While Vaseline itself is made by Unilever (who are campaigning against animal testing, but some vegans continue to boycott due to their history), the generic versions often favoured by tattoo artists are usually cruelty-free. The tattoo process cream is often the same product your artist will recommend for aftercare. You should avoid barrier creams such as Bepanthen and Sudocrem because they are unethical and suffocate the skin and can negatively impact healing..

The final product to be aware of is topical anaesthesia. These are either a cream you apply before your appointment or a spray used during the tattoo. Always check with your artists before you apply any cream, as it can cause the skin to reject pigment or, in the worst case, lead to burns or severe reactions. If you use a cream, it will be up to you to source and find a vegan one (they do exist).

Unfortunately, a few years ago, there were several vegan numbing sprays available to artists, but a change in the law means they are now almost impossible to sell through tattoo suppliers. As a result, most tattoo artists who use them rely on Bactine, made by notorious animal

researchers Bayer. Some artists still use vegan topical sprays, but due to the difficulties in sourcing them, it is very much a minority.

Though not technically a vegan issue, plastic pollution is a massive problem for the tattoo industry. While many major suppliers, such as Starr and Butterluxe, are moving towards plasticfree shipping methods, the modern industry relies on disposable products. Needle cartridges, razors, gloves, plastic wrap, ink caps, and rinse cups are used in abundance and discarded en masse.

Companies such as Greenhouse Tattoo Supplies are trying to counter this by creating biodegradable alternatives to many common items, and larger companies like Starr are following suit. Naturally, they remain the pricier option, which is restrictive to many in the quantities required, but the tide is turning, and I’m very happy to support both these companies in driving the change.

So, if you’re after a vegan tattoo, always check the inks, stencil application, process cream, and aftercare, but don’t forget the less obvious items such as pens, kitchen towels, numbing spray, and gloves.



Zii created Lizard Beauty due to her personal challenges in the workplace combined with a passion for beauty and a realization of the animal welfare and environmental sustainability issues surrounding the eyelash industry. Her vision is to create an all-gender inclusive vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand that is also environmentally sustainable.

Zii Lizard – Thai born and raised in Northern Ireland - is the Founder of Lizard Beauty, a Trans owned and operated Vegan & Cruelty-Free Eyelashes and makeup brand.

Lizard Beauty - sounds awesome... you have to tell us about the name first!

The name Lizard Beauty comes from a Tattoo I have on my back of two-tailed lizard which in Thailand is called Jinchok Song Hang. In Thailand, it is believed that the two-tailed Lizard is an ancient animal that

brings good luck and good fortune. When Tattooed on a person it brings great power of attraction but also risk and it’s advised they should take only one partner. When used in a business context it can also bring good fortune so I decided that I would

Before we talk more about the business, could you tell us a little about your personal Transition story that brought you to the start of Lizard Beauty?

Absolutely, I think it’s important for people who

My journey starts in Thailand where I was born. I lived there with until the age of 14 before finding a new home in Belfast, Northern Ireland, with my mother and her Irish husband.

When I arrived in Belfast at the age of 14, I faced quite a unique challenge in my local school. I spoke no English and had to adapt to a new culture and way of life without being able to understand anything people said to me. This was truly a very hard period of my life.

Despite the difficulties, I worked hard to fit in, immersing myself in Irish culture and making friends along the way. It was during

hidden to avoid being ostracized by people in the community.

By the age of 17, I was more confident and began my physical transition journey. I started hormone therapy and eventually underwent surgery to fully transition to a woman. I was happy with my new identity but I started to face new challenges as a trans woman.

I worked in the restaurant industry in the UK, but constant abuse from the public made life hard. I tried various other jobs in factories, retail but it was all the same in the end. There would always be someone that would make life at work a misery. That’s when I decided, I would no longer work for others, I would work for myself instead. At the time I hadn’t decided it would be in the

beauty industry I just knew I wanted to do something different.

How did you decide to start Lizard Beauty?

Well to be honest, it sort of started just through a simple conversation. I love beauty, makeup, and fashion. One day I was showing my boyfriend a makeup brand I saw on Instagram, I thought it looked cool, he looked at me and said, why don’t you do that…I honestly thought he was joking. He made it sound so simply and exciting. I just started the next day. I really had no idea how hard it was going to be. Seriously I have never worked so hard in my life. The more I learned about eyelashes and makeup the more passionate I became.

To be completely honest I had no idea of the scale of

“Depending on which research paper you read it can range from 60-80% of eyelashes in todays market that are made of animal fur. This means 60-80% of people wearing eyelashes today have animal fur on their eyes!”

some of the animal welfare and environmental issues in the beauty industry. Especially in the case of eyelashes. Now I feel like an expert and am passionate to drive change!

Perhaps you could tell our readers a little more about the issues in the eyelash industry?

Yes of course. First, do you know what eyelashes are made of? It’s mostly animal fur, yes I said animals! The main animals used are Mink, Foxes, and Horses. Many are trapped in inhumane conditions.

Depending on which research paper you read it can ranges from 60-80% of eyelashes in todays market that are made of animal fur. This means 60-80% of people wearing eyelashes today have animal fur on their eyes!

To go a bit deeper, the main types of eyelashes and their animal-based or vegan status are:

Mink eyelashes: The most popular type of animalbased eyelashes. Made from the fur of minks, which are often trapped in inhumane conditions.

Fox eyelashes: These are also made from animal fur, but they are not as popular as mink eyelashes.

Horsehair eyelashes: These are made from the hair of horses. They are a good option for people who are allergic to animal fur.

Synthetic eyelashes: These are made from synthetic materials, such as nylon or polyester. They are a more ethical and sustainable option than animal-based eyelashes.

Amazing right… I knew some but not all of this when I started my business. You said there were environmental and sustainability issues as well, can you explain that a little more?

Yes, it’s actually quite surprising the more you learn, the eyelash industry has issues with sustainability and environmental recycling. When it comes to recycling, eyelash packaging, 90% is made from plastic which is not eco-friendly.

Now Sustainability is the really scary part. Forests are cleared to make those animal Mink Farms. There are harmful chemical used on these animal products. And even humans are abused, being forced to work for low wages in bad environments.

How will Lizard Beauty contribute to all of this?

Well I think everyone knows the solutions, but change isn’t easy. Since most people don’t know about the issues they don’t know any better and don’t even read the label. People don’t know that animals are skinned and killed just to make eyelashes.


I send out information on Lizard Beauty to social influencers to help them make videos for our products. I sometimes receive thank you messages that are more about the fact that they had no idea eyelashes were not vegan and were made from animals. It’s amazing how few people realise this.

What will we do, it’s simple really - all our products will be Vegan. All our materials and packaging will be made using recyclable materials. As we progress we will aim to improve our sustainability as much as possible. Finally we will commit to 1% Pledge to LGBTQ+ and environmental causes.

What’s the flagship products in the range?

Eyelashes! We started with 1 set of vegan eyelashes and actually that remains the core focus. We are now launching a whole new range. I’m super excited

a Limited Edition bundle of strip lashes at an amazing price point (that’s why it’s limited) – All Vegan of course!

How tough has it been to launch a new vegan business in these ‘challenging times’?

Extremely tough, I honestly had no idea how hard starting my own business would be. I work harder than ever before. I started Lizard Beauty only a year ago and have had to learn everything from scratch. I’ve watched a lot of YouTube and TikTok videos to help me!

We are making good progress so far…I started with just 100 eyelashes and they sold out pretty fast on TikTok and the Website.

“Now we have 30k followers and over 1m views on TikTok. We have 30k followers on Instagram, over 1k followers on our Facebook page and so much more.”

Now we have 30k followers and over 1m views on TikTok. We have 30k followers on Instagram, over 1k followers on our Facebook page and so much more. We already have a network of 50 social influencers who either promote or have made videos with our products since we launched. We love our social influencers, they are the key to our success as well [kisses to you all].

The really amazing thing… We did all of this in only 6 months!

Since that first launch as a sole trader I knew it could be something amazing…. now I need to grow and scale. A private investor helped with some initial funds to move us to a

limited company and we became Lizard beauty Ltd.

We expanded our products All vegan, cruelty-free, and packaged in recyclable materials including the delivery boxes.

I understand you are doing some crowfunding right now as well, can you tell our readers a little more about this as well?

Yes absolutely! We are crowdfunding…this is for support to grow the business from micro to small in my mind. We need some help to do more of the basics well….

We just launched a crowdfunding to support the new vegan eyelash range. We need help to

market and grow. Click here if readers would like to hear more about this story.

There are lots of special offers available for anyone that wants to support us. Really great Vegan eyelash offers!

What would you like to see most within the broader vegan community?

Awareness, people simply do not know. Cigarettes used to have pictures on to say this will harm your health. Maybe non-vegan products should say so on the label an animal was harmed to make this product. I think a lot of people would look for another cruelty-free choice.


I know there are some vegan labels and accreditations out there and we use some of those ourselves but it’s not used by everyone today. There is also a cost barrier to gain accreditation which is difficult for small businesses. Another hurdle to overcome!

What do you see holding back the broader vegan movement right now?

I’ve talked about awareness already. The other issue is money related. When times get tough people make different choices because they need to. I think that is ok. Life has a lot of pressures. I’ve seen people get into debt because they feel they have to buy the right things. That just leads to other problems.

Most importantly people need to look after themselves, their own mental health. If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t help other people either. It’s very important to be happy in life. Informed to make choices you need to for yourself and your family so you can do enough and still be happy.

We all want to know what your fave vegan dish is right now!

I love food. I mean I really love food. I am my happiest when I am cooking. I do a lot of TikTok live shows just cooking and chatting with my followers there. It helps spread the word of Lizard Beauty. Helps people to ask questions about Transgender people. Yes

there are some Trolls but sometimes I convert them to being a little nicer when they joined my live shows to when they leave again. Be patient, be happy, don’t judge, and amazing things can happen when cooking with me. Hehe.

So my favourite vegan dish… there are too many great vegan options from Gousto my box delivery company that I don’t have a particular favourite but one that comes to mind that I love is Vietnamese-style Fable Mushroom Rice bowl. So tasty!

Thanks Zii, we can’t wait to share Lizard Beauty with our readers. Good luck with the Crowdfunder!



Tivai, founder of the Vibrant Vegan Society of Ghana, shares plans to unveil a new type of vegan event starting in Ghana, soon to expand into other parts of the African continent.

Undoubtedly, Africa has become a hot spot for veganism in recent times with lots of activities, events, projects & new organizations springing up to assist in the advocacy of the vegan lifestyle & plant based diets across the continent.

A newly formed organization, known as the African Vegan Union is yet to be launched & their core objectives are to bring all vegan & activists within the Continent under one umbrella, assist with & provide educational resources & advocacy materials to organizations, organize events periodically & ensure the vegan

philosophy is advocated in its proper context.

In Ghana, the Vibrant Vegan Society of Ghana, led by Tivai & his team, are championing the vegan agenda with a series of events that has piqued the interest of environmental organizations, schools, cultural & traditional groups, diasporans and other international bodies over the last 10 years; thus seeing a good number of non-vegans transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.

The inaccessibility of vegan products is one of the major challenges non-vegans who are in the transitioning process face, thus making it difficult for them to cope


A few of the projects undertaken by the Vibrant Vegan Society of Ghana is as follows:

African Vegan Story (Documentary of Veganism/Vegans in Ghana)

Vegan film screening

Vegan vibes 2021

Vegan Wellness

Vegan Love

March for Veganism

(Environmental workshop on Plantbased organic farming)

VVESOG mini-expo 2021

Save Atewa Forest Now!

Worldwide Vegan Chalking Night 2021

World Water Day

Vegan School Clubs

Earthday 2021

International Day of forests

Demystifying Veganism & Animal Rights

Plant Based Treaty

Vegan ON!

with the lifestyle & at times revert to their former way of life - the non-vegan one. Furthermore, after several discussions with vegan & plant based producers, it was clear that their businesses continue to suffer many challenges & low patronage as a result of that invisibility to the general public. Consequently, most of these producers have incurred so many loses & decided to limit production or close down their businesses entirely. These aforementioned challenges led to the conception of our new project called the Plant Based Vegan Market.

Plant Based Vegan Market (aka Vibrant Vegan Market) is a quarterly outdoor event where plant based & vegan producers & vendors will be brought together to exhibit their items/ products to the general public. Entry is free & there’ll be no charge or fee for vending. The plant based vegan market is a long awaited project which is set to kick start in Accra and gradually move to other urban and rural areas.

Ghana has been waiting, the world has been waiting and we are stoked to announce the grand introduction which will definitely impact not only citizens but diasporans and interested persons who are looking to transition to a vegan lifestyle and persons who have had difficulties accessing plant based or vegan stuffs in the past.

“Entry is free & there’ll be no charge or fee for vending. The plant based vegan market is a long awaited project which is set to kick start in Accra and gradually move to other urban and rural areas.”

This has been a challenge but with effort over the years, it’s finally here. Hurray!!

The objectives of the Plant Based Vegan Market are 1. To make vegan/plant based products easily accessible & visible to the general public, for non-vegans who would like to transition & vegans who want a one-stop shop for their products. 2. To encourage, motivate & assist non-vegans transition smoothly to a Vegan diet & lifestyle by partaking in a cooking demo; & 3. to keep plant based and Vegan businesses thriving, as most of them face continuing challenges & insolvency and are on the verge of closing down their businesses.

Activities will include the afore-mentioned exhibition of assorted vegan/plant based products including food stuffs, meals, fashion, artworks, publications & more. There will also be a variety of vegan & healthrelated talks, a free food cooking demonstration, vegan arts and entertainment including music, spoken word & traditional games. Add to that free tree seedlings giveaways, Animal rights & climate education, a Kids corner, an Activism workshop, The Plant Based Treaty Education & other sideshows to boot.

We strongly believe that a consistent market will encourage more people to easily switch to a vegan or plant based lifestyle.



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Morocco is about to witness a groundbreaking initiative that will revolutionize the way people perceive veganism and its positive impact on their lives.

Simohamed Bouhakkaoui, a renowned vegan advocate, has taken on the role of project campaign manager for an immersive 10-week vegan outreach campaign, specifically designed for the Moroccan audience in their native dialect. In this article, we dive into the details of Bouhakkaoui’s visionary project and its significance in the Moroccan context.


Embracing Moroccan Culture and Language: One of the key differentiators of Bouhakkaoui’s vegan outreach campaign is its focus on delivering information, guidance, and support in the Moroccan dialect. Recognizing the importance of cultural and linguistic relevance, Bouhakkaoui aims to bridge the gap and connect with the Moroccan audience on a deeper level. By speaking their language and understanding their unique context, Bouhakkaoui ensures that the campaign resonates with individuals throughout Morocco, fostering a sense of familiarity and inclusivity.

A Journey Towards a Compassionate Lifestyle

Bouhakkaoui’s 10-week vegan outreach campaign is much more than just a series of events—it is a transformative journey for participants. With Bouhakkaoui at the helm, this initiative aims to empower and assist individuals in Morocco as they embark on a path toward a compassionate and sustainable lifestyle. By providing comprehensive resources, practical tools, and personalized support, Bouhakkaoui ensures that participants feel equipped and motivated to make the transition to a vegan lifestyle successfully.

Understanding Moroccan Values

As a native of Morocco, Bouhakkaoui deeply understands the cultural and societal values that shape the Moroccan mindset. He recognizes the importance of aligning the campaign with these values to foster acceptance and engagement. By highlighting how veganism aligns with principles such as compassion, respect for nature, and sustainable living, Bouhakkaoui demonstrates that embracing a vegan lifestyle is not only accessible but also in harmony with Moroccan values.

Community Building and Support

Bouhakkaoui believes in the strength of community support in fostering long-lasting change. Throughout the 10-week campaign, participants will have the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals who are also on their vegan journey. By building a strong network, sharing experiences, and offering mutual support, Bouhakkaoui cultivates a sense of belonging and encouragement within the vegan community in Morocco. Together, participants can inspire and motivate one another, creating a ripple effect of positive change.


Practical Guidance and Resources

Bouhakkaoui’s campaign provides participants with practical guidance and resources tailored to their unique needs. From traditional Moroccan vegan recipes to tips on dining out and navigating social situations, the campaign equips individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary to embrace a vegan lifestyle seamlessly. Bouhakkaoui understands the challenges of making the transition and ensures

that participants receive the support they need at every step of their journey.

Making an Impact

Beyond personal transformation, Bouhakkaoui’s vegan outreach campaign seeks to make a significant impact on Moroccan society as a whole. By raising awareness about the benefits of veganism, including improved health, reduced environmental footprint, and animal welfare, the campaign aims

to inspire individuals to make conscious choices. Bouhakkaoui envisions a Morocco where veganism becomes an integral part of the cultural fabric, contributing to a more compassionate and sustainable future.

About Simohamed

Simohamed Bouhakkaoui’s role as project campaign manager for the 10-week vegan outreach campaign in Morocco marks a turning point in the country’s perception of veganism. By


tailoring the campaign to the Moroccan audience in their native dialect and aligning it with their cultural values, Bouhakkaoui ensures that the message of compassion and sustainability resonates deeply.

As individuals across Morocco embark on this transformative journey, Bouhakkaoui’s leadership and dedication pave the way for a brighter and more compassionate future for all.

“Bouhakkaoui ensures that the campaign resonates with individuals throughout Morocco, fostering a sense of familiarity and inclusivity.”


After publishing our book, Think Like a Vegan: What everyone can learn from vegan ethics, I wanted to continue the conversations started in the book. I had been mulling the idea of a podcast for a long time. My sign to get serious was seeing Jim Moore starting Bloody Vegans Productions. With a vegan host, vegan guests, vegan producer, Think Like a Vegan Podcast (“TLAV Podcast”) was born.

I didn’t want the format of TLAV Podcast to be the usual Q&A and endless banter. I thought about the bits I liked about my favourite podcasts. Those were when I got to hear from a guest with limited

interruption by the hosts. When I have guests, I get out of their way and let them tell us what their work is all about. Other times, I focus on a discrete topic or issue.

Whether a guest or me, each episode is a mini talk about one topic which might not be the focus of an everyday conversation. And all is premised on veganism being part of basic fairness. These short talks and guests inspire and educate, expanding the conversation around veganism.

I recorded Season One last year and Season Two has just begun. Both have been very satisfying to make and I learned so much.

In Season One, I talked about why veganism and activism are for everyone, issues surrounding using graphic images and talking about veganism with others. Jason Hannan spoke about the concept of Meatsplaning and the rhetoric of denial in animal agriculture. Geertrui Cazaux gave a passionate talk about why veganism isn’t ableist. Maneesha Deckha talked about animals in the law and her concept of beingness as a fairer basis for laws than anything we have now. Aysha Akhtar’s talk on alternatives to animal experimentation in medicine has become my go to recommendation to anyone asking about what about animal experiments. And Benny

“Whether a guest or me, each episode is a mini talk about one topic which might not be the focus of an everyday conversation. And all is premised on veganism being part of basic fairness.”

Malone talked about his favourite fallacies and how to spot and dismantle them. reproductive rights, and more.

Season One will also be forever memorable because Sherry Colb’s episode on reproductive rights and animal rights was one of her last appearances. Her commitment to advocacy even during late stage cancer will always be a guiding light for me.

In Season Two, I move from specific topics to systemic issues – more big picture stuff – and take a hard look at non-vegan Leftists. As we’ve talked about in our book, animals’ bodies are both a means of production and a saleable product. They’re bound up in this impossible situation from which escape is seldom possible. And this brutal and unjust exploitation doesn’t stop with them. It permeates every aspect of our existence to our and their detriment.

I also include music from Matthew Gersterberger, a vegan seismologist from New Zealand.

Marx, Veganism and Political Solidarity Across Species

Where is the political solidarity from those who’ve thought and care about labour and social exploitation? Leigh Claire La Berge talks about her

forthcoming new book

Marx for Cats: A Radical Bestiary (Duke University Press), and makes the case for political solidarity across species.

Vegans should be Socialist

Troy Vettese and Drew Pendergrass are the authors of Half Earth Socialism:A Plan to Save the Future from Extinction, Climate Change and Pandemics (Verso). We talk about their book, the simulation game that goes with their book and why vegans should be socialists and socialists should be vegans. We also talk about Drew’s work at mapping methane and other emissions in real time and go really off piste by chatting about my rewilding project in Scotland.

Factionalism in the vegan movement

Infighting. It’s something people in the vegan verse complain about -- mostly on social media. What do we mean by infighting? Is it something unique to the vegan and animal rights space? Should we be concerned about it? Does it benefit one group over another? How should we engage with it if at all? And what might be some of its consequences, if any? If this is something you think about or have encountered, you’re not alone. Corey Lee Wrenn, has researched and written on factionalism and talks to us about it.


historical, and environmental influences on the large-scale shift towards intentionally reframing supply chains without animals.

Vegan diets for animals

Josh Milburn’s book, Just Fodder: The ethics of feeding animals (McGillQueen’s University Press), explores a variety of questions from “Who are we obliged to feed? Who are we permitted to feed? What are we allowed to feed animals? To What is the role of the state in feeding animals? And How might obligations concerning the feeding of animals differ from obligations concerning the feeding of humans and why? These

Emilia at the first observance in Inverness of National Animal Rights Day. Credit: Mark Richards of Aurora Imaging
Troy Vetesse, one of the guests on TLAV Season 2.

questions and this book really pushed me to consider things in ways I just wasn’t expecting.

Human Privilege: The Power Dynamic between People and Animals

Tim Reysoo develops the concept of human privilege by extending the notion of social privilege to make sense of the enormous power differential between humans and animals in society. He also develops the concept and social category of “species privilege” and “human innocence”.

War: An Animal Rights Perspective

Sara van Goozen and Josh Milburn are the first to include considering harm to animals in just war theory.

theory looks at whether a war is justified and if so, how that war should be conducted. They authored “Counting Animals in War: First Steps towards an Inclusive Just-War Theory” published in the journal Social Theory and Practice.

Veganism isn’t shopping

In this series, the big theme has been systems with special attention to economics and capitalism. Selling as many different products is one of the principal manifestations of capitalism. And in the context of vegan products - What’s it mean to have more vegan products available to buy? Do more vegan products mean fewer animals are being exploited for their bodies and secretions? Is veganism

about products? Is veganism winning? I share my thoughts about this and more in the last episode for this season.

It’ll be a challenging season. I’m here for it and I hope you are too.

Check out Think Like a Vegan Podcast & the book of the same name.

“Broadly speaking, just war theory looks at whether a war is justified and if so, how that war should be conducted. They authored “Counting Animals in War: First Steps towards an Inclusive Just-War Theory”

Ihardly eat chocolate these days. One of the effects of the pandemic on me has been that I have reduced considerably the percentage of processed food in my diet. And chocolate is, indeed, a very processed food — so much needs to be done to the cocoa bean to make it into a chocolate bar.

Because I do not eat much chocolate anymore, I did not mind this assignment. I was asked to write an article about whether chocolate is as vegan-friendly as most vegans assume. I thought

that, if I found out that it is not, I would not lose much. I already knew the Belgians were responsible for unveganising chocolate, as they were the first to add milk to it. But after vegan chocolatiers have removed the cow’s milk and replaced it with plantbased alternatives — or left it out altogether for dark chocolate — has chocolate become vegan-friendly again?

It will not be if it has any animal ingredient in it, but standard black vegan chocolate only has cacao

mass, cacao butter, lecithin, and sugar. Well, these are the modern ingredients of solid black chocolate since the Swiss combined them in 1875. The cocoa mass is made of fermented, roasted and ground cocoa beans, the cocoa butter is a fat extracted during cocoa bean processing, sugar may come from several plants, and lecithin (which was added to the mix many years later) is an emulsifier, often made from soya, that makes the ingredients blend together better. On the face of it, all these are plant-based.


Chocolate will not be vegan friendly if any animal product was used during the process (as many wines and beers are not vegan-friendly either if animal bones or fish has been used to clarify them), but there have not been any reports of standard chocolate makers using any animal product during the manufacture that does not show up in the end as an ingredient (although a question mark should be put in the case of sugar which could be refined with bone char).

Another reason for not being vegan-friendly could be that live animals were used in the initial process of collecting the ingredients, as is the case of monkeys in Thailand being used to collect coconuts or pigs being used in France to find truffles. Unless we are talking about vegan “milk” chocolate where cow’s milk has been replaced with

coconut milk from Thai farms that use monkeys, there are no reasons to believe that animals have been involved in the harvesting of cacao, soya or sugar cane.

Then we have the issue of cacao produced on farms that kill many animals using pesticides (which is an issue applicable to any produce). There is organic chocolate cultivated with minimum pesticides, though, so that one would be vegan-friendlier than the other chocolates (I don’t know if there is any cocoa plantation grown in a veganic way, but if there is, that would be the most vegan-friendly of all).

Then we have the issue of cocoa produced with the help of workers in slavery or slavery-like conditions, including child labour (a recent lawsuit against the major Swiss chocolate producer Nestlé has highlighted this issue). As veganism seeks to exclude all exploitation of all sentient beings, not only the exploitation of some species, any chocolate produced under such conditions would not be vegan-friendly (in May 2022, the Vegan Society of Canada has stated that

most cocoa, and therefore chocolate, even those without dairy, is not vegan certifiable for this social justice reason).

So, if we ignore the sugar (and some chocolates don’t have any), and avoid chocolate from companies that unfairly exploit people, is organic chocolate veganfriendly then?

It may be…unless you consider contamination.

If vegan chocolate is manufactured in factories where non-vegan chocolate is also made, would we find traces of milk in the vegan versions for having been cross-contaminated? We could, but I think if the factory takes this issue seriously and develops systems to prevent this to happen, this would be rare, especially in those vegan certified chocolate makers. There may be the odd sloppy bad apple here and there, but this would not be the norm and it would be something that could happen with other vegan products too. Nothing to become too worried about — unless you are very allergic to milk.

That is not the contamination I am thinking about, though, but contamination with insect remains. Wait a minute, am I talking about accidental contamination with insects that may occur in some places where chocolate is stored? No, it’s a little bit more than that. I am talking about the claim most


chocolate is contaminated with the remains of insects such as cockroaches, because of the method used to produce it. I am talking about much higher levels of contamination than other products. I am talking about the majority of chocolate, not the minority. If that is true, if all chocolate contains insects as an undeclared unwelcome “ingredient”, then the claim of not being suitable for vegans could have some legs — pun intended. Is this an urban myth? That is what I will be investigating in this article.

What is the vegan problem with chocolate?

The first time I heard about chocolate not being veganfriendly was at least ten years ago when I learned that some vegans did not eat it. I asked one of them why, and I remember he used several reasons. I contacted him again to be sure I did not forget any. This is what he said:

“Firstly because the theobromine in chocolate is addictive (similar to caffeine). Secondly in the

manufacture of chocolate, they allow a certain percentage of insect parts. More recently I started eating some white chocolate which contains cocoa butter but no cocoa solids.”

I am an abstinent vegan who doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t smoke, or take recreational drugs, and these days I also try to avoid caffeine — so I moved from coffee to black tea, from black tea to green tea, and now from green tea to mint or camomile tea. Therefore, I totally get the

“if all chocolate contains insects as an undeclared unwelcome “ingredient”, then the claim of not being suitable for vegans could have some legs — pun intended.”

theobromine reason. I don’t want to be in a position of becoming so addicted to something that I would “suffer” when I cannot get it. But, to be honest, when I was first told about the insect contamination, I kind of dismissed it — and I have been dismissing it until I started researching for this article.

Then, I found several worrying articles. Firstly, one from NBC News from 2012 titled “Chocolate allergies linked to cockroach parts”. In it, it states “According to ABC News, the average chocolate bar contains eight insect parts. Anything less than 60 insect pieces per 100 grams of chocolate (two chocolate bars’ worth) is deemed safe for consumption by the Food and Drug Administration.” I then found the ABC News article titled “Bugging Out: Chocolate Allergy Linked to Roaches”, in which it says “Chocolate isn’t the only food product to blame for contamination, other foods like peanut butter, macaroni, fruit, cheese, popcorn, wheat and some cheese also contain this material.”

Many years later, we still see this type of story circulating. Published on 6th June 2022, the Green Queen website wrote an article titled “Your Chocolate Bar Probably Contains Cockroach Parts.” In it, it says “Bugs are constantly present during the food manufacturing process,

from crop production to transportation to storage. While you might think that regulators ensure that your end product is bug-free, that might not always be the case. Part of the reason is it’s nearly impossible to prevent exposure.

Bugs are abundant in our agricultural systems, and so regulations control only for excess. Under FDA guidelines, food manufacturers are legally allowed to produce food with traces of insects like cockroach parts, which are considered ‘natural contaminants’ and is considered safe for public consumption.”

So, the issue seems to be that insect contamination is everywhere (some reports have suggested an average person ingests nearly 140,000 pieces of insect matter each year), and the authorities allow certain amounts for foods.

But why do all these headlines focus on chocolate only? Is this issue somehow different in chocolate than in peanut butter, for instance? In the NBC News article, I also found this:

“According to Morton Teich, an allergist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, contamination by cockroaches and their droppings is unavoidable, because it happens at cocoa beans’ source.” Perhaps the answer lies in how chocolate is created from the beans of the cacao tree.


How chocolate is made

I learnt lots about chocolate when I visited the ChocoStory Museum in Bruges many years ago. The history of it is fascinating, but also how it is made. From plants to mouth, chocolate is probably one of the most processed foods humans have ever made.

It all starts with the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), a small evergreen tree of the family Malvacea. It can be found within 20° north and south of the Equator in the American, Asian, and African continents (although it is originally from the Americas, from Mexico to the Amazon basin, and it was domesticated by the

Olmec people, the earliest known major civilization in Mesoamerica, from 1500 BCE to 400 CE). Today, the majority of cocoa production takes place in Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.

These trees produce oval fruits called pods, which contain 30–50 seeds. To make chocolate, these seeds, known as cacao beans, need to be extracted from these pods after they are ripe. They grow in five columns inside the pods surrounded by a white pulp or pith (called baba in Latin America).

The next step is to ferment the beans (yes, chocolate, like tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi or Kombucha, is a fermented food). Each bean is cleaned by hand and some baba is left on to aid fermentation, which can take two forms: the “heap method” where beans

are heaped in piles on the ground (mostly in Africa), and cascading boxes (mostly in America). For two to nine days, the beans are left there to ferment, covered by banana leaves (and then they turn brown). Fermented beans are then placed either on wooden boards or bamboo mats from 7 to 14 days under the hot sun, continually raked and turned over for consistent drying. Once dry, the beans are packed into sacks and traded (exported to international markets or directly to the chocolate makers).

Cacao producers can then blend them with beans from other places to mix flavours (as whisky makers do by blending several malts), and after being cleaned, they can be roasted at low temperature (with the resulting chocolate often called raw chocolate) or a high temperature (and the resulting cacao is called cocoa). Shells are

separated from the nibs by a process called winnowing, and nibs are finely ground into cocoa mass. When this mass is pressed it produces cocoa powder and cocoa butter, which can be traded separately to chocolate makers. They can then mix them again and combine them with other products, such as sugar or lecithin. By separating the powder from the butter, the shelf life of the cocoa mass can be extended, so it facilitates trade. To the naked eye, cocoa powder is darker than cacao powder, but there is also a difference in taste.

Dark chocolate requires only cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar (The Spaniards were the first to add this last ingredient after bringing cacao beans to Europe taken from the Aztecs they massacred).


Adding milk powder makes milk chocolate (and this step was added by the Belgians, today known for having a big chocolate industry). Naturally, plantbased milk can be used instead of cow’s milk, and sugar that has not been purified with bone char can be used, making the chocolate theoretically vegan from an ingredients point of view. White chocolate is made with cocoa butter, sugar, and milk powder (or vegan alternatives), but because

products, but I want to draw your attention to something: between the 2-9 days of fermentation, and the 7-14 days of drying under the sun, we are talking about the beans laying in the open between 9 and 23 days in great quantities. And in very hot and biologically diverse tropical countries. See what I am getting at?

The insect paradigm

According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Department of Entomology, there are about 30 million living species of insects in the world, and they probably have the largest biomass of terrestrial animals. At any time, it is estimated there are some 10 quintillion individual insects alive.

it contains no cocoa mass, some do not consider it true chocolate.

Finally, depending on the type of chocolate produced, chocolatiers continue processing the ingredients using different methods and procedures (conching, tempering, moulding, etc.), and adding other ingredients, such as soy lecithin, vanilla, etc.

A very long process indeed, both in steps and time. This may not be that different from other complex

However, tropical countries have many more insects than the rest of the world as insects have not managed to deal with lower temperatures very well. In fact, most of the world’s insect species are thought to live in these tropical regions. Just as well, as many plants depend on insects to reproduce there.

Eighty-seven of the world’s major crops are thought to be fully or partially dependent on insect pollinators, and most tend to be grown in the tropics. Cacao is one of them, as it is primarily pollinated by midges, which are tiny flies — tiny in size, not in numbers, as Scottish Highlanders can testify. But this also means that the

“Eighty-seven of the world’s major crops are thought to be fully or partially dependent on insect pollinators...[this means] the places where cacao beans are left fermenting and drying for up to 23 days are also crawling with many insects.”

places where cacao beans are left fermenting and drying for up to 23 days are also crawling with many insects. Having all the beans placed there in the open in these tropical locations will attract many insects, some trying to feed on them, others trying to feed on the first ones. Cockroaches, abundant in the tropics, could see these cacao bean heaps or boxes as very appetising “restaurants”, and as they are there for days without any pesticide to repel them, they will have plenty of time to eat, breed, and hide.

Perhaps when the beans are being dried, they become less appetising spots for the roaches, but other flying insects can get in as the beans are even more exposed to the environment. In the end, though, when the beans are roasted, all the insects will leave or die, and when the dried beans are pressed and converted into a mass, the insect remains will become unnoticeable (but this does not mean they are not there).


When the mass is separated into powder and butter, all the insect remains will end up in the powder side (which is not filtered in any way and contains all the nonfatty substances the bean has been accumulating during all its existence and history). And the roasting at high temperatures to produce cocoa could make the remains virtually undetectable.

Veronika Pfaeffle, an FDA spokesperson, told USA TODAY in 2021, “Through FDA’s extensive sampling of cocoa beans for insect infestation, we have not found this product to be particularly attractive to cockroaches… Cocoa beans do not represent a special problem in this regard other than that which would be associated with any food exposed to insanitary conditions.”

The newspaper concluded, “based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that most chocolate allergies are caused by ground-up cockroach parts found in

chocolate. Several allergists told USA TODAY that most allergic reactions to chocolate products are caused by major allergens like milk, nuts and peanuts.” In the end, there may not be cockroaches in chocolate (and the allergic reactions to chocolate may have nothing to do with insects, but perhaps with the milk powder added), but because of the way cacao beans are processed, and where they are processed, I would find the claim that cocoa powder does not contain any insect remains unbelievable. It is clear to me that each gram of dark chocolate contains cacao powder produced with this method in an insect-rich country, so some insect remains are bound to get through (even if no longer detectable after roasting).

Is that a big deal, though? How much are we talking about? Even if the traces may be small enough to be considered safe by the authorities, are they small enough to be considered vegan-friendly? Well, I guess it depends on who

you ask. Not all vegans are equally fussy about these things. But some vegans’ opinions about this may be more relevant than others. I’m thinking about those vegan organisations whose job it is to determine if a product is vegan or not. I decided to ask them.

What do the vegan gatekeepers think?

The Vegan Society not only created the word vegan, but they also have a certified vegan trademark, which you can find on several chocolates. I thought it would be important to ask them about this issue. I sent them the following question: “Can you please tell me what is the Vegan Society’s policy or opinion regarding cacao contamination with insect remains, and the possibility that this can make chocolate unsuitable for vegans.” On 8th June 2022, I got this reply:

“Thank you for getting in touch with us about this. We completely understand your perspective and the complexities involved

“Not all vegans are equally fussy about these things. But some vegans’ opinions about this may be more relevant than others...I decided to ask them.”

with food production, in this case the processing of cacao. In order to help you understand our stance I have provided the below of our definition of veganism: Veganism is a matter of conscience and it is up to the individual vegan to be well informed about vegan issues and to decide to what extent they are personally practicable and possible for them.

The definition of veganism should guide you to the standard that you should aim for, but every individual will be different. Whilst taking a medication that includes animal products is not strictly ‘vegan’, we encourage people to take their prescribed medication in such circumstances where no vegan alternative is possible.

Many of the things that we use have been tested on animals at some point. The harvesting of food causes the death of insects and small mammals. Walking down the road we may kill insects underfoot. On the other hand, there are things that most of us can do such as avoiding eating animal products, using toiletries and cosmetics tested on animals or containing animal products, wearing clothing, footwear and accessories that are made of animal products. The society, in its definition is encouraging vegans to follow the thought process that you have about what is practical and possible for them. Some vegans will be willing to do what is inconvenient to them in order to do what is practical and possible.

We have no current plans to revise our definition of veganism but if you are a member of The Vegan Society you could raise this issue at an AGM either as a question to the AGM or as a motion to the AGM. More information of how to do this can be found on the website in the members’ area. If you are not a member of the society, you can find information about joining here: https://www. . I hope you have found this useful. If you have any further queries on this or anything else, please do feel free to reach out and let us know.”

I wasn’t completely satisfied with this reply, so I responded with the following:


“Thanks for your reply, but I am afraid It does not answer my question. I asked the Vegan Society’s policy or opinion regarding cacao contamination with insect remains, and the possibility that this can make chocolate unsuitable for vegans. I am asking specifically about cacao and chocolate, and not anything else, and I am not asking about deaths of animals during harvesting,

which end up in the final products. I am aware that some vegans don’t eat chocolate precisely because of that, while they still eat any other vegan product that may have caused accidental animal deaths while harvesting.

So, I only ask about cacao in particular, for the particular way that it is processed AFTER harvesting. For instance, you may have

product that contains cacao where tests have been made that does not contain insect remains. Or you don’t certify chocolate from particular countries where it has been shown cacao is often contaminated with cockroaches for the way it is stored. Or that you don’t consider cacao suitable for vegans. Any specific policy (or opinion written in a blog or elsewhere) specific about cacao and chocolate.”

Thank you for your email, and apologies if there was any miscommunication over my understanding of your initial queries. We do trademark cacao products if they meet our trademark standards outlined in the email below.

We still live in a sadly non-vegan world and most farming processes do involve some form of harm to animals such as animal-products in fertilisers, insects and some birdlife harmed by harvesting and so on. It can sometimes be very difficult to know for certain exactly what harm is being done to animals during harvesting. Vegan farming is nowhere near the level it would need to be at to feed all the vegans in the world.

Because of all these reasons, we do not ask about the contamination of insect remains in cacao as part of The Vegan Trademark standards. We require all trademark holders to sign a cross contamination declaration to ensure that everything practical and possible is being done to reduce contamination of animal traces. We work to guidelines of 100ppm. Therefore, if there was concern that a product had contamination of an animal ingredient of over 100ppm we may revoke the Trademark.

I hope this answers your question, but I would be happy to discuss this further with you if you have any other queries. On a similar note, if you would like to be referred to our trademark team to carry on this conversation, I can absolutely let them know you would like to discuss this particular issue further.

I took up on their offer and requested to be referred to their trademark team, asking if they had rejected any chocolate for having found more than 100ppm insect traces in it. They replied the following:

“I can confirm that we have not rejected a cacao ingredient for there being a concern of the contamination of insects.”

As you can imagine, this did not reassure me enough, so I decided to ask others.

I contacted the Vegan Action/Vegan Awareness Foundation, which runs the “Certified Vegan” certification in the US and other countries. I wrote them the following:

“I am a freelance writer for vegan issues and I currently

writing an article about chocolate contamination. In particular, cacao contamination with insect remains because of the way it is produced. Is this an issue you have looked into? What criteria do you use to determine if vegan chocolate has too much of this type of contamination before giving it certification as vegan?”

They promptly sent me this reply:

“That is something we would not take into consideration for Vegan Certification. We base it exclusively on the list of ingredients and processing aids (if any).”

I had another one to ask. One with the reputation to run the most strict and

comprehensive vegan certification system there is. The most “belt and braces” certification of all. Carissa Kranz is an American lawyer (vegan from birth) who in 2017 created BeVeg, a Vegan certification company that is ISO accredited (International Organisation for Standardisation) and is recognised by the World Accreditation Forum for its internationally accredited vegan standard. A BeVeg certification goes beyond others because it does physical audits on sites (it’s not just paper-based) by accredited auditors and considers the premises as a whole where the products have been manufactured and distributed, not just the products themselves — as this addresses the issue of accidental cross-

“We’ve done some lab testing in the past where we deliberately added isinglass (fish bladder) and that wasn’t even detected by the ISO-accredited lab tests. That’s why audits and standards are so important. Lab testing is not always reliable.”
- Carissa Kranz, BeVeg

contamination. Carissa would be the perfect person to ask about this, so I wrote to her with my usual question. She replied with the following:

“This is an interesting topic. Since we are the standard owners we have the ability to constantly revise the standard to meet new revelations. At this time, BeVeg controls are more about what happens on the facility level to prevent animal contamination on shared equipment at shared facilities, and supply chain accountability...I don’t think lab tests of chocolate have detected these minuscule levels of insect DNA. Lab testing isn’t perfect, and usually lab testing comes back with

dairy contamination, if any. We’ve done some lab testing in the past where we deliberately added isinglass (fish bladder) and that wasn’t even detected by the ISO-accredited lab tests. That’s why audits and standards are so important. Lab testing is not always reliable. But, the BeVeg standard is a living breathing document and we are constantly revising it to meet new revelations.”

I did not seem to get anywhere with my questions, other than to discover that those who care about whether a product is vegan or not did not appear to be too bothered about the possible insect contamination of chocolate (or had not

thought about it much) — at least until I asked them the question.

There were some people left to ask, though. The vegan chocolate makers themselves. I found a website from Veganuary titled “Best Vegan Chocolate UK”, and it has a list of brands separated into Vegan ‘Milk’ Chocolate, Vegan Dark Chocolate, Vegan Chocolate Spread, and Vegan Hot Chocolate. I took the list of the ten brands in the Vegan Dark Chocolate section (Hotel Chocolat, Green and Black’s, Booja-Booja, Ombar, Doisy & Dam, Cocoa Libre, Dirty Cow, Divine, Tony’s Chocolonely, and Ritter Sport), and on 7th June 2022 I wrote to all of them the following:

“I am a freelance writer who is writing an article about vegan chocolate for a Magazine. Could I please ask you three questions for it?

1. Do you produce vegan chocolate?;

2. What measures do you take to prevent crosscontamination between your vegan chocolate or its ingredients and animal ingredients used to produce non-vegan products?; and

3. What is your view on the claim that chocolate is not veganfriendly because the cacao used contains traces of insects?”


for me to send to the manufactures by rejecting their products solely based on such contamination.

I don’t care if there are traces of insects in my food (and I honestly think chocolate does not really have more insect remains than many other products, especially organically grown) unless they are the consequence of storing it in unlawful unsanitary conditions after making it. I care more if people kill insects to prevent their bits

to end up in my food. I am an ethical vegan who cares as much about insects as cows or pigs. I don’t want them to be killed for me, and this is why I try to eat vegetables grown in the veganic way, where no pesticides have been used.

So, weirdly, I’d rather eat plant-based products with accidental insect remains in them than totally clean plant-based products which do not have insects because pesticides and insecticides were used to kill them

all before they reach the product stage. Therefore, as far as insect contamination is concerned, fairtrade organic chocolate may fit better with my manifestation of veganism than a vegetable samosa which comes from makers eager to use insecticides and who get their veg from non-organic sources.

I don’t have to eat chocolate, though. I like it, but I am not addicted to it — and I have no intention to become addicted. I don’t crave it,


and I don’t need it. And there seem to be many issues around it which question its suitability for an ethical vegan like me. Because of that, in my path to consume less highly processed food, fewer addictive substances, and fewer unneeded products (especially those with ethical question marks around them), I may continue buying less chocolate.

But now and then I would buy vegan chocolate not for

me, but for others. For those who grow cacao organically in developing countries and make chocolate themselves ethically (without child labour) to decolonise the industry; for those vegan chocolatiers who have rejected animal products; for those vegan companies who sell them and need vegans like me to spend their money on them, rather than on their carnist competitors.

I will try to avoid buying the other vegan non-

organic chocolates traded to profit unethical nonvegan companies that still exploit people in developing countries, and which are produced alongside nonvegan chocolate (perhaps with sugar refined with bone char). But, from time to time, if I can find them, I will still eat the ones that pass all my ethical filtering — as I may get a good dose of healthy antioxidants in the process.

I don’t think any insect would mind if I do so.




the immediate post war years, he formed Solflower, a limited company created to produce biodeisel called “Sunoil,” made from sunflowers.

Arthur’s son, Adrian, says of his father, “He is known by most for is work at PLAMIL and the Vegan Society. From his association with the Vegan Society in the 1950’s he joined a group interested in producing a non-dairy milk, which eventually became Plantmilk Ltd, later changing to Plamil Foods Ltd, to which he dedicated himself.”

Adrian is now the managing director of Plamil Foods. In 1965, the company succeeded in producing the first widely distributed soya milk, which Adrian Ling says was, “a true achievement and again far ahead of its time.”

As Adrian Ling notes above, having joined the Vegan Society in the 1940s, Arthur began to attend meetings of a 1950s group concerned with the manufacture of non-dairy milks. Through the hard work of Arthur Ling, fellow vegan pioneer Leslie Cross, and others, what is now Plamil Foods Ltd emerged from, first, “the Plamilk Society,” and then “Plantmilk Ltd.”

The object of the Plantmilk Society was to promote the manufacture and sale of a satisfactory alternative to dairy or other animal milk used for human consumption, the ingredients of such alternative to be of exclusive plant origin.

The Winter 1956 edition of the Vegan Society’s journal, The Vegan, included the full text of the Report of the first Annual General


Meeting of the Plantmilk Society. Arthur Ling was the chairperson, and Leslie Cross the secretary. It was reported that the Society had achieved some important media coverage, including in the pages of the London Evening News, the headline being: “Now your milk may come from a plant.” After reports in the “foreign press,” inquiries from around the world were received. Cross notes that they had received two tins of non-dairy milk from a Califiornian company, which The Vegan wryly comments, “conforms to American standards of nutrition and hygiene.” It would be another nine years before Plamil was launched in Britain. Plamil now produce a whole range of plant milks, chocolate spreads, a host of vegan chocolate bars, and eggfree mayo. At one point, the company ever developing novel ideas supplied Plamil mini-pots to airlines to cater for their passengers.

Arthur Ling was well versed in company law and used his expertise in aid of both Plamil and the Vegan Society. Plamil began production in a rented factory in Iver in Buckinghamshire. He says that they knew a move would be necessary at some point as they were aware that a property developer would buy out the whole site sooner or later. Luckily this forced change did not occur until 1972 and by this time a group of sixteen vegans were set up to financially support a

Above: Article from London Evening News in 1956, mentioned on this page.

move to a new factory in Folkestone. Leslie Cross, who had been the only employee of the business retired, and Arthur replaced him. It was at this point that the name Plamil was formally adopted. As the story goes, the term “vegan” came from taking the first three letters and the last two from “vegetarian.” Similarly, Plamil was derived from the first three letters of the words “plant” and “milk.” Already, there were rumours then that an unhappy dairy industry was to sue to prevent Plamil referring to “milk,” something that still animates cow and calf exploiters to the present day.

In 1986, Arthur declared that: “Truly the Law is an ass! But it all demonstrates the power of the dairy

industry to influence the Labelling Acts, so much so that the current Act says: The word “milk” or any other word or description which implies that the food being described contains milk shall not be used as part of the name of a food unless, a) the food has as an ingredient cow’s milk with all its normal constituents in their natural proportions or, b) the food has an ingredient of cow’s milk …”

In terms of what Arthur Ling’s expertise provided for the Vegan Society in his long association with them, including being their honorary patron and President, his concern was to put the organisation on a stable footing, for example, by purchasing its own premises. Recall from the Kathleen Jannaway

blog entry in this series that the Vegan Society was often housed in the property owned by its officers and officials for many years, which is not an ideal situation for a national social movement organisation. This move, and the development of the Society’s trademark, is believed to have placed the organisation on a secure footing into the future. 21st century vegans have pioneers like Arthur Ling to thank for their foresight in such matters.

There is a little-known provision in the Vegan Society’s Articles of Association that Arthur Ling was very supportive of – in “Objects,” at section 4b in the document to be precise: “To relieve elderly vegans who are in need.” As a vegan of 41 years and in

Above: An early Plamil ad.

my 60s, I’ll be knocking on their doors sometime soon!

As the poem on the previous page suggests, Arthur helped a great many vegans over the years, not only through his long years with the Vegan Society and Plamil but on a personal level too, and he was especially helpful to new vegans taking their first steps along the way.

For example, Arthur Ling was the inspiration behind the first ever “Vegan Buddies”* initiative, an important landmark in vegan history, which was launched by the late Neil Lea, then editor of the activist magazine ARCNews in the 1990s, and Mary Brady.

When Mary Brady was four or five months pregnant, she became a vegan. Feeling a little nervous about the pregnancy, and wanting dietary advice, she phoned the number on the back of a Plamil carton, and was put through to Arthur Ling. She recalls

He talked to me for ages on the phone, answering my questions, reassuring me, and being a “vegan buddy.” Two days later there arrived in the post his booklet on raising vegan kids, and pages of handwritten notes and recipes. So, I continued vegan, and a healthy vegan, and my son was born 8 pound 12 ounces, and is now a lifelong vegan, nine years old, 29kg and four foot five. Perfectly healthy.

Mary would eventually meet Arthur face-to-face at a vegan festival. Arthur recognised Mary’s voice from the phone call they had years before. Soon, Mary’s son Séamus “bombed past them” with another child. Arthur smiled, and said, “He never did get rickets, did he?”

Mary adds in a tribute after Arthur’s death:

‘This is why Neil and I set up the Vegan Buddies scheme. I would not be who I am today, or doing what I do today, if it hadn’t been for Arthur’s friendship and patience with a nervous new vegan. Séamus wrote to him a couple of days before he died, and I got to know Arthur a bit more after I started campaigning properly – he was a wonderful man, and the world is better for his having been in it, and poorer for his passing.’

Arthur Ling was very much an enabler in his life. And not only in vegan-related issues. For example, he started and ran for years a boy’s football (soccer) club which gave kids in the locality the chance to be involved in a football league.

In the year of Arthur Ling’s death, the London Vegan Festival of 2005 was dedicated to his memory and work, as was the Spring 2005 edition of The Vegan magazine.

The Arthur Ling Memorial Award, set up and run by

Plamil Foods, is granted each year to an individual or group for their outstanding contribution to the cause of veganism. The award has been given to registered vegan dietitian Sandra Hood, who has spoken at VegfestUK events, Dr. Dan Lyons of the Sheffield-based antivivisection organisation Uncaged, Patrick Smith of the Veggies Catering Campaign in Nottingham, England, Tim Barford, the manager of Yaoh hempbased company and VegfestUK, and award winning vegan chef and food writer, Tony BishopWeston.

The final word on vegan pioneer Arthur Ling goes to his son Adrian, who writes:

‘At retirement age in the 1980’s, he continued to work actively for many years, being honoured with a number of ‘lifetime’ achievement awards. Whilst still participating in running the company he latterly and gradually dedicated himself more and more to research…the nutritional aspects of the vegan diet, his true love and passion.’

Next time:


VegfestUK began life as The Bristol Vegan Fayre on November 1st 2003, and is celebrating 20 years of vegan events this year. Here’s a quick look back over 2 decades of some of the UK’s most memorable vegan fiestas

VegfestUKorganisers of the UK’s biggest indoor vegan events - is celebrating 20 years of running vegan events this year, with big changes over the 2 decades on so many levels. What started out as ‘a good excuse for a party’ on World Vegan Day 2003 at The Watershed by Bristol’s iconic docklands grew into a huge affair spanning 4 cities and including the UK’s first vegan Trade show back in 2017. And fast forward to 2023 and VegfestUK is back to something approaching full throttle this year, with 4 events including a return to Bristol after a gap of 5 years, and a new event showcasing vegan comedy, music and performing arts.

VegfestUK started life in Bristol and quickly became an annual event - the first event saw some 40 stallholders, around 1200 visitors, a talks room, performance room, a large licensed bar and an after party at a local nightclub running until 4am in the morning. From the start, music, rock n roll and a hedonistic atmosphere was a fundamental part of the vegfest success story, with founder Tim Barford, a former rave promoter and festival organiser, famously quoted in the local press as ‘This is Bristol, we do parties, not issues’. True to say a lot of the early events focused mainly on food, nutrition and entertainment but campaigns were an essential part of the show

Above: The main stage at a VegfestUK Bristol event at the Bristol Amphitheatre.

from day one, with a wide and varied representation of both grassroots and nationals at these events. “My job was to get people there in the first place” adds Tim “but we always relied on these groups to provide the education and inspiration for people when they got there. In and amongst all the food and music was a backbone of vegan ethics and activism, but you had to go looking for it.”

The success of Bristol transformed into a 3-day outdoor festival in The Amphitheatre and Waterfront Square by the Harbourside, complete with main stage, marquees and outdoor caterers. The first year outside - in 2007 - saw a fabulous performance by The Beat on Sunday to a crowd of 3,000 and that set the tone for the next decade in Bristol, peaking in 2012 with a 3-day free event attracting 20,000 over the weekend. Bands like Happy Mondays, The Farm, Peter Hook & The Light and Roots Manuva took centre stage and wooed the crowds year after year before some issues with the Council forced a rethink in 2017, and the curtains were drawn on one of the longest running independent community events the City has ever seen.

Above: Bez performing with Happy Mondays.
Above: The Abyssinians playing Vegfest Bristol.
“The year ahead is a challenge but there is a lot of growth to be seen, and there are some fantastic new people involved with a hunger for a return to the good old days, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while”

“The Bristol Vegan Fayres especially were incredible fun” said Tim “and combining the power of rock n roll with the attraction of plant-based diets worked really well in Bristol. Some of our best memories as a collective are anchored right there by the Harbourside.”

But by that time, Vegfest had grown rapidly and established shows in Brighton (2009) and then Hove (2010 - 2014) before returning to The Brighton Centre in 2015.

“Brighton was dope” says Tim “in part because of the location, but also the venue and the wonderful team there and the fabulous

Above: Organiser Tim Barford announcing the end of VegfestUK Bristol at the Amphitheatre.

conference facilities. It meant for the first time we started putting on conferences and our first vegan comedy festival. This paved the way for the conference facilities at Olympia - we started there in London in 2013 and in 2015 and 2016 produced some really dynamic conferences with well over 100 speakers presenting. Around this time Vegfest switched from being a primarily plant-based outreach event to a vegan conference with ethics and movement shaping coming to the fore. But we never lost the original party vibe all the way through and to this day Vegfest retains a party element that is as

much a celebration of what we already have as it is an event to encourage change and movement.”

A bold and expansive move to Glasgow for 2015 and 2016 proved a little short lived but very valuable, paving the way for a number of smaller shows from the various new vegan events teams that had sprung up on the back of a wave of growth in all things vegan and plant based. By 2019 there were over 300 vegan events across the UK - back in 2003 there were 3, and even by 2013 only a dozen vegan events. The growth factor of vegan events undoubtedly fuelled both the rise in vegans but also especially beneficial for

a growing number of small vegan businesses and a large number of campaigns.

“Vegan events have been a big part of the growth of the vegan movement, and in particular before the rise of social media when the sense of community was in some ways a lot stronger and people only met up in person, not online. And of course, back in the day, people would cross the country for vegan donuts and cup-cakes. Now they cross the road to Lidl and Waitrose. It’s definitely changed the dynamic.”

Veganism going mainstream has made an impact and made it harder for vegan events to thrive now, as

Above: Black Roots performing at VegfestUK Bristol at the Bristol Amphitheatre.

part of the big attraction was always the food. But Vegfest continues to grow again after the long hard years of lockdown which sadly finished off a number of events companies. That and all the economic uncertainty has seen a number of independent vegan traders cease trading and although there are plenty of new ones, even so the current climate isn’t easy for vegan events.

“We’re enjoying doing some more community-based events and going back to our roots in some respects” adds Tim “but with the added advantage of 20 years’ experience and an understanding of veganism, plant-based lifestyles and movement issues like never before. The year ahead is a challenge but there is a lot of growth to be seen, and there are some fantastic new people involved with a hunger for a return to the good old days, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a while now.”

VegfestUK has hosted VegfestUK Brighton in April 2023, and looks forward to The Bristol Vegan Fayre

September 2nd & 3rd 2023, then The first ever London Vegan Comedy Festival at Kensington Town Hall

September 30th October 1st, before returning for the 10th time to Olympia for VegfestUK London

November 18th 19th 2023.

Keep up to date with VegfestUK events on the website

Left: A shot of the Auditorium during VegfestUK London 2017 at Olympia London.

Looking back on VEGFESTUK BRIGHTON 2023

VegfestUK Brighton returned to The Brighton Centre on the weekend of April 29th & 30th in some degree of style after a 4 year absence for a busy, vibrant and warm event that saw around 5,000 visitors alongside 125 traders, and 6 talks rooms offering a wide variety of expertise, inspiration and education.

The event was free to attend and of the attendees approximately 30% were not yet vegan, making it one of the biggest vegan outreach events of 2023.

Visitor feedback was fairly conclusive that a lot those attending were inspired to make significant lifestyle changes after visiting the event, with an estimated 200 people going vegan and 450 people significantly increasing their plant-based options in the future.

“This was a return to a real feelgood factor for Vegfest”

said the organisers “with a lot of visitors staying all day and spending quite a lot of money too - especially on food. The event being free to attend definitely saw a real community vibe and this was reflected in the feedback. A lot of people had a really good weekend. That said, numbers of traders were back to 2009 levels and visitor numbers were also down from previous years. There are a lot of reasons for that - not least the amount of small vegan independents having to stop trading altogether - but despite all the challenging circumstances the overall feelgood factor was back and has given us a lot to build on. No one is pretending that it’s easy given the current climate and ongoing economic realities for everyone, but we are slowly seeing the movement come back to life post-covid and it feels like the best is yet to come. It’s already a lot better than it was last year.”

Feedback from the event can be viewed in detail here, including some interesting revelations from the many vegans who attended. Full results from the visitors survey can be viewed here.

You can also scan this QR code here for the survey results from Brighton 2023.

VegfestUK Brighton 2024 hasn’t been confirmed yet but dates are currently under review and expect an announcement on the site later in 2023.


Ba 2 day free event at Document on the Pennywell Lane, and features a big indoor space with around 80 stallholders, including 10 caterers, and a host of talks and entertainment plus a sweet little outside area for DJ’s and a dance zone - going back to the roots of this original iconic event held annually in Bristol during the noughties.

A chill out room at the back ensures some space for workshops, kids area, licensed bar and plenty of seating and space, whilst the main talks room seats around 150 and plays host to a programme of

activism and movement unity the theme alongside some key note speakers and a comedy hour each day. Between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors are expected over the 2 days in what hopes to become an annual event again in the heart of Bristol.

‘We started our first event 20 years ago in Bristol and it’s nice to be back’ say the organisers ‘and booking DJ’s again for an outdoor dance area at a vegan event is a joyous experience. Added in some outdoor caterers and a host of independent ethical traders inside plus some comedy, panels, talks

and music and we have a bit of a special day out for visitors - free tickets, bring a friend who is yet to be vegan and come and celebrate in style. Thats the message.’

Tickets are required in advance and available from the website free of charge.

Donations welcome, thanks!



30th SEPT & 1st OCT

growing collective of vegan comedians and artistes showcasing together in the heart of the West End.

Tickets for the London Vegan Comedy Festival are on sale from August 1st and are £12 day and £20 for the weekend. Tickets are limited and likely to sell out in advance.

The inaugural London Vegan Comedy Festival is taking place at Kensington Town Hall weekend September 30th October 1st between 11am and 6pm each day, with a stage downstairs for 16 vegan comedians over the 2 days, and a stage upstairs for musicians &, performing arts.

80 stalls downstairs including a number of food vendors ensures an exquisite weekend for vegans in London seeking a fun and uplifting day out in the heart of of the city with some of the best vegan food options available in town, some excellent independent traders and of course a

It’s been ultra tough for performers this last few years and it’s only this year that a lot of events have come back and the circuit is beginning to buzz again. Several years ago, there was a thriving vegan community of musicians, comedians, artists and performers and that’s coming back slowly. The London Vegan Comedy Festival is proud to showcase this growing collective in all its glory and puts the focus firmly on performance, entertainment, fun and food. Cake and Comedy in abundance is the order of the day.

The full line up is due to be announced throughout August and September this year, and you can find the line-ups as and when they are released here




The UK’s biggest indoor vegan exhibition of 2023 returns to Olympia National at the iconic exhibition centre in the heart of London. With around 200 exhibitors and a dozen hot food caterers along with 8 talks rooms, there’s room for between 4000 & 5000 visitors each day on the weekend of November 18th & 19th 2023.

Now in it’s 10th year, VegfestUK London is the UK’s biggest and longest established indoor vegan exhibition, and this year the focus is very much on Movement Unity and Collaborations, which is becoming a central theme in 2023 across the UK.

The show also features the Vegan Business Tribe, which represents over 1000 vegan businesses right now, with a schedule of talks and panels around the theme of vegan business, and there’s a return for the UK Charity V For Life which focuses on the UK’s elderly vegan population. Add in a Kids Area and an area for health and optimum nutrition, an area specifically dedicated to introductions to a plantbased lifestyle, as well as a whole Fitness and Wellbeing focus, including competitions for visitors to enter, and we have an allround holistic vegan family day out for people of all stages and ages to enjoy.

Plus there’s the opportunity to touch base with around

200 independent vegan retailers and charities making it the biggest collection of its kind in the country right now.

“VegfestUK London Olympia has been running 10 years now” add the organisers “and in that time we’ve seen a huge shift in availability for plant-based options, with every high street outlet and supermarket offering a plethora of plant-based products for an everincreasing market. The role of the independents is still crucial for the growth of plant-based options and Vegfest showcases a lot of up-and-coming vegan start ups and new businesses as well as some of the more established brands.

“Areas like the Vegan Business Tribe Live Zone feature multiple new vegan options as well as panels, presentations and seminars on how to succeed with a vegan business. Throw in the multitude of vegan campaigns and charities and in many respects VegfestUK London retains its central position in showcasing multiple facets of the modern-day vegan and plant-based movements, making it an unmissable weekend for the thousands of visitors descending on the iconic Olympia National for a fiesta of all things vegan.”

Tickets are priced £5 day and £8 weekend, available in the autumn here


VEGAN VALUES By Benny Malone

Unless we hold certain specific values then the concept of veganism isn’t fully captured and can lead to loopholes or positions that don’t necessarily entail being vegan and avoiding all animal products. A balance of values is recommended to arrive at a vegan position. In this article Benny Malone discusses the values we have that might lead to us being vegan.

If disputations about defining veganism and where to draw the line are seemingly not making progress, we can perhaps instead look to what values we might share. I would suggest vegan values are – nonexploitation of sentient beings, including not enslaving and commodifying them.

Philosopher Stijn Bruers lists the following as values we might respect in others; ‘welfare, well-being, preference satisfaction, autonomy, liberty, health, the right to live, the right to bodily autonomy or the right to property.’

We could add to that the concept of ‘consent’. We value animals in a direct duty sense, because ‘what happens to them matters

to them’ in the memorable words of Professor Tom Regan. Their sentience is therefore valued because they have an interest in not being harmed and exploited. Each individual has different capacities and therefore interests, and these should be respected in a way that corresponds to not frustrating those relevant interests.

In an article (1), Roger Yates explains how the vegan social movement has a focus and a scope. The focus being how animals are used, and the scope being the wider implications of this which affect humans and are often political in nature. Despite the concerns/fears of some about the focus being ‘lost’ and efforts to reduce veganism to a diet


or an apolitical stance, it is worth clarifying that many of the vegan pioneers had a wider scope in mind. The true implications of veganism are often not even fully assimilated by many vegans. I see its main target as the domestication of other animals by humans. This is the clear focus. But as we are the social beings who need to be convinced to give up our human supremacy and dominion over the animals we have enslaved, we need to take the wider scope into account, for its effect on communities and society. For example, in 1951, The Vegan Society were

clarifying what it means by the term “exploitation,” saying that the Society seeks “to end the use of animals by [humans] for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by [humanity].”

In a comment in a 1945 edition of The Vegan, Donald Watson noted that the object of The Vegan Society was to “oppose the exploitation of sentient life.”

‘Recently the Vegan Society adopted revised and extended rules which among other things clarify

the goal towards which the movement aspires. The Society’s object and meaning of the word “veganism,” which have until now been matters of inference and personal predilection, are now defined as follows: “The object of the Society shall be to end the exploitation of animals by man” and “The word veganism shall mean the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals.”

The Society pledges itself to “seek to end the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection and

Vivisection painting by Emile-Edouard Mouchy

all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.” ‘By the adoption of this rule, the Society has clearly come out on the side of the liberators; it is not so much welfare that we seek, as freedom. Our aim is not to make the present relationship between [humans and other animals]…more tolerable, but to abolish it and replace it by something more worthy.’

An understanding of the principle behind veganism sets up expectations for beliefs, attitudes, language and actions. It sets up expectations for how someone identifying as vegan would regard animals and the sort of relationship you would expect them to have with regards to other animals. In the preceding explanation of veganism by Leslie Cross we see that he saw veganism as a complete revolution in how humans view and value other animals and that this would have massive implications

in terms of really ushering in a new society. If the principle is not exploiting animals, then the behaviour that is expected is not to use language that reinforces the property status or commodification of animals at the expense of their individuality. A basic expectation would be to not consume animals as this involves treating them as resources and involves their breeding and exploitation.

The expectation of following the principle does imply a greater demand than merely paying lip service to a cause. The expectation of serious commitment to a lifestyle change is set up. As a sincerely held ethical position it is not something one can drop on a whim, in the same one adopts other principles and doesn’t drop them for the sake of convenience. My friend David C. Arenas has written about how the ‘practicability’ clause in The Vegan Society definition can be misread as ‘practical’ and lead to people thinking this gives leeway to consume animal products if it’s more convenient or ‘impractical’ to find a vegan alternative. Clearly a serious commitment to a principle means we should exhaust all possibilities and efforts in looking for alternatives and question whether we really need certain consumer items in the first place.

One way to think about the expectations you have of vegans which therefore reflects how you

are defining veganism, is what you would be surprised to see a vegan doing. This does rely on some preconceived notions, but these reveal what your instincts are about veganism. I would be surprised to see a vegan watching a rodeo for entertainment, for example, or going ‘fishing’ (hunting for a fish). I would also be surprised to find a soi disant vegan eating a hamburger just because there were no vegan options and they hadn’t planned ahead for a journey. Everyone will draw a line at some point, but on one side of that line, beyond any ambiguous areas, will be areas of expected behaviour that definitely disqualify that action from being vegan. So although we can’t be ‘perfect’ or may have even been unwittingly or unintentionally contributing to something non-vegan, that doesn’t mean the principle changes or the whole edifice collapses. I’m certain there were things I was doing or purchasing as a vegan of one or two years that I had just never thought about as possibly containing animal products (in books or paper etc). Does that mean for the whole time I was never vegan? Or if there is something I’m not even aware of now, does it mean I am not vegan? I don’t have that expectation of other people and I would say that intention does matter. If you are made aware of it and can then get an alternative that just means moving closer to the principle in practice. In reality no-one

Above: Leslie Cross

will ever reach the ‘100% vegan’ target. So practically it would be useless to define veganism this way, unless your aim is to try and debunk veganism. But we can acknowledge that the principle and values still stand. This is why I think it’s better to think of veganism as a categorical value – following a principle and values, rather than a numerical value where anything less than 100% is meant to somehow invalidate the concept of being vegan. This is why I say all vegans are equally vegan. Everyone with vegan values and following the vegan principle is ‘100% vegan’ – though there is no real use in making it a numerical contest. It is up to each individual and their conscience to see how

well they are following the principle in every aspect of their lives. We aim for consistency because we want to model the world we want, where animals are given respect and a right to their own lives and bodies. This goes against the values of non-vegan society which sees animals as expendable commodities. I wouldn’t expect a vegan to support the idea of breeding animals just to be slaughtered at the youngest possible age which is most profitable to agribusiness, or that this can be justified on the basis that animals are replaceable because they are like fungible commodities.

A picture emerges then of what our values are as vegans and the

expectations which follow from holding these values. As individuals we model the behaviours and attitudes we want to see spread wider among the human population so that animals are not exploited and commodified. We recognise that it is a collective effort but if any systemic change is to happen where animals are no longer used, it would imply individuals being vegan. I personally consume a 100% plantbased diet to show that it is feasible and that animal products are not needed. I try to support vegan businesses where I can but my expectations are that some people may have to buy from supermarkets and I do too. I expect people to need to drive and have a phone to function

“This is why I think it’s better to think of veganism as a categorical value – following a principle and values, rather than a numerical value where anything less than 100% is meant to somehow invalidate the concept of being vegan.”

in our society and for many essential services, so although I can cycle to where I work, I don’t expect everyone to. As vegans I don’t think we are asking anyone to do anything we aren’t doing or are willing to do ourselves.

We are trying to balance an adherence to avoiding animal products with the difficulty of checking the supply lines of every fruit and vegetable on our plate to examine whether an animal was used somewhere way down the production line by a farmer who might use animals. The balance here is with an eye on advocacy and not setting up extremely time-consuming barriers.

Those hostile to veganism think it should be more restrictive if they draw the line where you would be spending hours researching every ingredient. Buying something with a vegan label, whilst not perfect in every aspect, at least moves the needle and removes the direct involvement of an animal in becoming a product.

Animal exploitation is such a massive enterprise that when we look at it as individuals, we can think we don’t make a difference. Similarly, when we look at the areas that we are accused of ignoring as vegans such as farm worker’s rights, environmental problems

from plant agriculture and the use of bees to pollinate crops, the line seems to recede forever before we can even draw it. The way to think about these problems may be to think of the ratchet analogy. No one has a solution to certain problems or infrastructure just isn’t in place to make a clear vegan choice without large amounts of effort, research and time.

However, before you even get to these areas of greater difficulty you should have ‘ratcheted’ the areas where it is much easier to avoid animal use into place. Just because you can’t find out the provenance of every piece of lettuce on a supermarket sandwich


doesn’t mean you suddenly but two tickets to the dolphinarium to watch animals performing tricks for human amusement.

So when critics of vegans say we are ‘just drawing the line at convenience, the same as everyone else does!’ they aren’t wrong in one aspect, but they are in another. It’s true that we all get to some stage of convenience where it would impact our day-today-living. But with a social movement like veganism, I think there are legitimate reasons for this. The ‘convenience’ argument here is not the same as just ordering a hamburger

Some things are a problem for anyone and everyone who claims to value animal interests, so why are they just aimed at vegans? If exploiting bees crop deaths, farm worker’s rights were all problems before you were arguing against veganism then how would ‘debunking’ veganism or saying it’s impossible to be vegan help them? What are the solutions to these problems being highlighted and how are you advocating for change? How does supporting animal exploitation help any of the problems you point to?

Here many people will

complaints about vocal vegans telling other people what to do. Any efforts for systemic or social change will encounter the same problems or potential for criticism that veganism does.

Another way to think about veganism and the values we share is aiming for a minimum definition – we take the principles and practices we agree that all vegans should have in common as a minimum.

The scope of veganism may be more than this of course but as we get further away from the focus there will be more disagreement on politics and other affairs,

Utilitarian ideas of ‘suffering reduction’ or ‘maximising utility’ don’t capture the fundamental wrong we are trying to address, i.e., viewing and treating other beings who are rightsbearers as mere means to an end rather than ends in themselves.

When we fail to view them as having the right to their own lives and bodies, we start calculating how we can breed and grow them into bodies to serve our desires, to capture and break their spirits so they entertain us, to cage them so we can take their feathers, fur and skins to clothe ourselves. Their bodies are viewed as if they don’t even belong to that individual. So we think we

can own other beings and trade in their bodies. And in typical capitalistic fashion, with utilitarianism emerging from the industrial revolution in England, we view the worth of a life as contributing to the capital of an abstract aggregation of ‘utility’. So the life of an animal can be ended as long as the abstract level of utility is compensated for. And just like the concept of money, this fungibility carries across individuals who don’t matter as much as that level of utility as long as its coffers are kept topped up.

The individual with their unique viewpoint can never be compensated however. These lose everything while a different individual is

created, in an endless cycle of breeding and slaughter to compensate ‘utility’. And so utilitarianism justifies the replaceability of individuals and the offsetting and interchange of utility like a currency.

The evidence I’d be looking for someone to be vegan is the attitude shift – they no longer see animals as consumables. Veganism by extension is not merely a consumer activity.

A consumer boycott is necessary but not sufficient. This is also why I wouldn’t expect vegans to accept arguments like veganism being a personal choice. Viewing it as a purely personal and private thing is viewing it like a personal

“The evidence I’d be looking for someone to be vegan is the attitude shift – they no longer see animals as consumables. Veganism by extension is not merely a consumer activity.”

dietary choice. Vegans do care what other people are doing, much to their chagrin. I think if you are vegan you want to see change in the world and an end to the situation animals find themselves in. This will require large scale change in society. It’s also why I’m suspicious of people using arguments about how individual change doesn’t matter and we should only concentrate on corporations or systemic change.

I’m not sure how they expect massive systemic change without individuals being prepared to adapt to that change. In terms of societal change, we are aiming for greater influence over time, maybe over generations, with each adopting the values more

and therefore taking on more influence. So saying the world won’t go vegan overnight isn’t news. We aim for 10%, then 20%, then 50% and at some stage there is a tipping point of influence and public opinion being swayed. This is achieved best by everyone pulling in the same direction with the same goal and studies show that committed activists achieve this best. The same is true for responding to arguments about causal impotence. At some stage a tipping point is reached where demand affects supply, and we can’t be sure where that is but it requires a collective effort with you as part of it. For advocacy too, a person may have heard various arguments but then hearing a

particular way it is phrased or explained may unlock or become the tipping point for them to change their behaviour and attitude.

Reducetarianism and other movements that seek to absorb veganism into their fold erase the social and attitudinal aspects. In many ways it mirrors the effective altruist movement – values and challenging attitudes towards virtues are dismissed if a practical change can just be made in material terms. The material change is what we want too but we also want people not to view animals as resources. When you don’t view animals as ingredients you aren’t thinking how to reduce the amount of animals as ingredients in your dish. ‘Ending the

“Vegans do care what other people are doing, much to their chagrin. I think if you are vegan you want to see change in the world and an end to the situation animals find themselves in.”

battle between Vegans, Vegetarians and Everyone Else’ actually means vegans surrendering what makes veganism different to these movements. It’s a nice idea putting them along a spectrum, but this is the numerical value idea of veganism. It leaves out the principles behind veganism and the call for an end to animal exploitation and complete reform of our relationship to animals. When I was a vegetarian I didn’t oppose animal use. The clue to the meaning of veganism is what changed from then to now.

Similarly with utilitarians who are vegan for suffering reduction reasons, I don’t think their position necessarily entails veganism. This may be

why we see many of the most prominent utilitarians not argue for abolition, but instead seek to legitimise arguments for ‘humane treatment’ on smaller farms, or backyard hens and make a case for Reducetarianism rather than veganism. Suffering reduction is their principle, not necessarily a categorical opposition to animal use. They arrive at an approximately and tentative vegan position through wanting to reduce suffering and avoiding animal products is a means to this end.

No amount of concern for animal welfare adds up to a position against the commodification of animals. A concern for ‘welfare’ can operate within the paradigm

of animal exploitation, and indeed what animal agribusiness means by ‘welfare’ (torturing animals less) does so. More values and different principles are needed to arrive at veganism as I understand it.

Systemically we should of course welcome material change, reductions, and any positive steps people make towards veganism. As long as people aren’t positioning veganism as extreme, dogmatic, purist, perfectionist etc then I’m unlikely to take issue with their efforts. Vegan education is still needed to arrive at a vegan position, whether that’s educating oneself or being exposed to vegan advocacy. So Reducetarians who say they are allies or in


favour of veganism as an eventual goal can help by not unfairly maligning or misrepresenting veganism. If we are educating about veganism we often have to overcome these barriers and bust myths about veganism, so Reducetarians are reinforcing these myths and the property status of animals.

Even if Reducetarians see veganism as a goal after an initial stage of reducing then vegan education and making a case for a vegan position are going to be necessary at some point. I would argue Reducetarians should just concentrate on making their own positive case without mentioning veganism unless setting it up as an aspirational position. Otherwise, they seem to be trying to make their own position more attractive in contrast to how they position veganism. Perhaps, too they have personal beliefs that don’t mesh with veganism, or they want to convince themselves that because they don’t want to be vegan that there must be something wrong with vegans and/or veganism.

It’s often said that with veganism people are aligning their actions with what they already believe about animals, meaning they believe they should be treated fairly and not caused unnecessary suffering. I think if it really were that simple then people wouldn’t have a hard time aligning their actions to their beliefs.

They would be consuming animals but suddenly think ‘my actions here go against the belief I have that animals aren’t objects’. I think it’s more accurate that people are genuinely conditioned or take great pleasure in seeing animals as disposable objects here to entertain them or to satisfy their craving for a ten-minute meal. They think that even their trivial interests vastly outweigh the vital interests of animals. It might be regrettable in some way but humans are so special and ordained in a hierarchy that even these vital interests can’t tip the balance. Humans delight in lording it over others and animals are so low on the hierarchy that they hardly count. They are a category where to be treated like them is to be held in utter contempt. If animals weren’t treated like that, being ‘treated like an animal’ would not mean being disrespected and viewed as if your life is worthless or you are only an instrument for others.

All the problems of animal agribusiness are enabled by this view of animals as abstracted units of production, stripped of their individuality and regarded as property/ commodities. Without this view we wouldn’t be breeding, transporting and slaughtering animals. If we respected them as individuals and honoured their right to their own lives, families, and bodily autonomy we simply couldn’t exploit them as we do.

The question of ‘where to draw the line’ is fundamental to veganism. It delineates which beings we extend moral consideration to and the criterion we use for this. Everyone’s particular position can be defined by this delineation. Vegetarians, pescetarians and vegans attempt to draw a line ‘around’ different species of animals, and often for different criterion (sentience/intelligence etc) and using different ethical frameworks to justify the arguments. Although there is talk lately of sentience being enshrined in law, at a practical level animal agribusiness has gerrymandered lines around the animals it wants to exploit and slaughter. So even if animals were recognised as sentient, then customary farming exemptions draw a line around the animals they want to exploit. Animal rights seeks instead to draw a line of protection around animals so that they are free from being used as resources.

Defining through negation.

Another way to look at the meaning of veganism is through what it is not, or contrast with adjacent positions. We often say ‘veganism is not a diet’ in order to disabuse people of the notion that veganism is limited to what people eat. Similarly, we can say veganism is not environmentalism whilst not ruling out that vegans may be concerned with


the environment. It seems sensible to me to talk about our vegan values, say what the lowest common denominator is amongst vegans that we can all agree on at a minimum. One of the best ways for this is to ask what the area of concern of veganism is – what problem has it identified and is it trying to solve. Expansionist ideas like ‘eliminating suffering’ seem to me to be beyond the stated aims of veganism – to end the exploitation of animals by humans. This is not to say that vegans shouldn’t be concerned with other causes. Indeed, due to the interconnectedness of many issues this is unavoidable and if we are interested in advocacy and societal change, we will encounter

these issues. In reply to some fallacies that we are often presented with (relative privation) we say that we can care about more than one issue at a time, so there’s no reason not to use that same logic here for other social causes. Why do some activists try to limit vegans talking about more than one issue? The other thing I see is that there is a lack of reciprocity from other movements – ‘we support their cause but they don’t support ours’. In this way vegans are held to a higher standard. If we claim to be a progressive movement, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Although I sympathise with fears over the focus being lost or people becoming

apologists (putting animals last) I also find it odd to intentionally not have some sort of larger framework of awareness of social issues and politics. If we want to make societal change we need to think on a systemic level and improving access to healthy vegan options in schools etc. Of course, those anti vegans who complain that veganism is an individualistic, consumer activity are not happy with any moves to offer vegan options in schools and councils either.

Eye on Advocacy

If we consider ourselves vegan advocates then really, we are supporting veganism and promoting it. This should be obvious,


but is where we meet a lot of resistance from those who want to silence any advocacy. Chapter one of my book ‘How to Argue with Vegans’ is dedicated to Thought Terminating cliches and rhetorical devices that seek to silence vegans. People are okay with silent vegans or ‘personal choice’ vegans who don’t actually speak up about the issue and tolerate animal use.

For me, veganism can’t purely be a private affair. One could have a plantbased diet if they are motivated purely for health reasons. I think a vegan value is wanting to advocate for an end to animal exploitation however. We don’t just want to be vegan for ourselves. We want other people to be vegan also, we

want a vegan society. We want to liberate animals from their oppression and exploitation. Imagine being satisfied with just following a vegan lifestyle for yourself but unconcerned about how animals are systemically exploited and knowing this will go on all over the world forever. If I said I was vegan because I found animal-based foods ‘disgusting’ I would hope that people could see this is a purely personal reason. There is nothing we can do with such reasoning as a basis for advocacy. Indeed, the reason itself is unconcerned with advocacy. It is nothing to do with the morality of using animals and the situation. A critic of personal disgust as a reason would be correct in saying that this should just be a matter of personal

choice. So a list of vegan values has to contain being an advocate because we are vegan because we are modelling the world we want to see and we want it to be modelled on a scale where it actually has an effect on the world and prevents animal exploitation.

To be an advocate means not just speaking up for a cause but also representing the interests and rights of the individual you are speaking for. This brings a responsibility to think about what those interests are and awareness that we are humans advocating to other humans, who may not be directly listening to the animals or taking their interests into account themselves.

“Another is the cycle of indoctrinating children into speciesist attitudes and moral distancing from animals who they naturally empathise with, but aren’t informed about how they are exploited.”

Future- hypotheticals Breaking the cycle

The answer to many conundrums in issues around veganism is the concept of ‘breaking the cycle’. An obvious example is the cycle of breeding and slaughtering animals. Another is the cycle of indoctrinating children into speciesist attitudes and moral distancing from animals who they naturally empathise with, but aren’t informed about how they are exploited. These cycles will continue in perpetuity unless there is some circuit breaker and the only one currently at our disposal is vegan education and vegan living to remove the demand for the cycle. Everything else perpetuates the cycle.

Breaking the hypotheticals

Trolley problems are an interesting area of study, and designed to test our intuitions when exploring moral dilemmas. Whatever your moral framework or what you value, some trolley problem could be engineered to force you to make a difficult choice. It’s this reverse engineering that makes some hypotheticals fairly useless when it comes to demonstrating anything except what they are forcing you to do. For example, one scenario beloved of Reducetarian vegans is where you are at a friend’s dinner party and they serve you lasagne. Somehow you discover that the lasagne was made with egg. Do you eat it?!

Presumably they’d be fine if you said you had an allergy, but a sincerely held ethical belief is unacceptable.

The thing with lots of these hypotheticals is that they are one off situations and have little consequence beyond those unique circumstances. So we are forced into a situation where we bite the bullet on surviving on a desert island. The knowledge we acquire from what we’d do in a survival or self-defence situation may not be applicable when reapplied to the real world we find ourselves in.

For some of these thought experiments the vegan is stripped of all their usual tools and any ability to get out of tricky situations. It’s a false dilemma between


consuming an animal and a complete catastrophe where observers are put off veganism for life by your reaction. These hypotheticals need to isolate the variables in order to make it a stark choice just between two limited options, in order to see what is most important. Rather than helping us with situations we actually face, they tend to demoralise and antagonise everyone involved. Some decoupling is very useful when we want to isolate variables, but when things are decoupled so much that they no longer operate within any usual context we usually find ourselves in and actually need to navigate, it can be useless in a practical sense. For people who call themselves ‘pragmatic’ it seems strange they have to

decouple vegans from all the practical tools and skills that they could be helping to promote, to help normalise the solution being a winwin for everyone involved, rather than a humiliation or confrontation. For those interested in normalising veganism, it is better to deal with the real challenges we face and how we can communicate effectively and kindly, but without compromising our message. The restaurant example with the wrong order just sets up for failure the next vegan who might get served the wrong meal. This is what I mean by having one eye on the future here, and taking everything into account rather than isolating variables to engineer a result. Usually the vegan is portrayed negatively, ‘creating a fuss’

and putting people off. But what if they are actually personable and explain the situation? This helps prevent mishaps in future and therefore animal parts being served. After time to reflect, observers can see the issue was important to the vegan and that they don’t view animals as ingredients. This seems to have better overall consequences than allowing mistakes to continue until someone finally speaks up. The cycle here must be broken too and the correct impression of veganism communicated. With so many trolley problems there comes a point where we should think ‘who keeps tying people up on these tracks?’ and work to stop them doing that. Something is clearly going

“understanding veganism can be as simple as whether you are hostile or sympathetic to its aims. We know we can’t be ‘perfect’ vegans, we know animal use is completely normalised and deeply entrenched in our society.”

wrong and these aren’t just isolated incidents! I think understanding veganism can be as simple as whether you are hostile or sympathetic to its aims. We know we can’t be ‘perfect’ vegans, we know animal use is completely normalised and deeply entrenched in our society. We know ‘the world won’t go vegan overnight’ but if we get to 10% of the population first, then 20% and so on, we start making a difference in supply and demand and in creating a powerful lobby and influence on society. If we can’t even get going with a working definition of veganism which simply communicates the problem we are trying to solve then it shows a lot of bad faith pedantry in my opinion. Someone sympathetic to the general aim will understand this and the difficulties of disentangling ourselves from all aspects of animal use. Someone hostile to the aim will come out with nirvana fallacies, whataboutisms, and tu quoque fallacies to try to show that it is impossible.

If we are fairly modest in our claims and about what the problem we are aiming to solve is, then I think honest people can see why we are vegan. The problem is most people clearly don’t see a problem with animal use at this point in history. They believe animals are here for us, whether that’s because a god put them here for us, or through evolution we are more intelligent and

powerful and therefore it is a simple case of ‘might makes right’. It would seem people are actually far away from adopting vegan values in this interpretation. If the values are the ones that actually mean animals shouldn’t be used as resources, then veganism is identifying a problem most people have zero issue with. And yet it leads to the largest scale slaughter of beings on the planet.

Why do we identify as vegans? Those hostile to veganism will assign you motives in order to dismiss what you are doing and why. This can be part of their do-gooder derogation or to pre-empt anticipated moral reproach. You will be told you are virtue signalling or want to feel superior to others. But as we discussed in the section on advocacy, wanting to feel superior or above wouldn’t mean you’d be making efforts to help other people be vegan and want everyone to be equally vegan. In a way it is signalling, but not in the way ‘virtue signaller’ has come to represent, where it is merely a gesture. What it signals is that we are communicating that we think animals have moral status and that we therefore don’t support their exploitation and commodity status.

We also act upon these beliefs by living a vegan lifestyle and advocating for animals. If that’s ‘virtue signalling’ then so is pretty much every other social

movement. Why not listen to why vegans are telling you they are vegan and judge that on its merits?

Our values may inform our view of other animals but I think unless they are specific values, what I’ve called vegan values of not commodifying animals and not exploiting animals – derived from the values of respecting animals as individuals with a right to their own lives and bodily autonomy and integrity. Only these values necessitate leaving them alone and not breeding them so that their bodies can be utilised for human purposes and ends. Other values may inform our veganism but without this specificity they can lead to other positions rather than veganism, through distortion or delusion of thinking we are being respectful, loving or fair when we are actually doing the opposite by using animals and exploiting their bodies and reproductive systems. By re-focussing on first principles and the aim of veganism we can be clearer about what we value. We value a direct duty to animals due to their interests and recognise that this means not using them for our own ends. Our focus is on the victims and the system of normalised violence and oppression which views them as nothing more than commodities. People know the price of animals but not their real value.



The pursuit of animal freedom comes in many shapes and forms, all tied together by a shared hope: a world that treats every creature with respect. From advocates for domesticated animals’ rights to those campaigning against the destruction of homes, the movement is a diverse chorus of voices, each representing a different part of the broader cause.

Even though we share an overarching objective - the betterment of animals’ lives - different perspectives within the movement often find themselves in competition. We have welfare campaigns

offering shorter term goals that improve the lived experience of animals within the existing system, while abolition aims to dismantle the systems of oppression completely.

Simultaneously, we find conflict in conservation discussion: to some, protecting ecosystems or ‘endangered species’ leaves compassion for individual animals overshadowed by ideas of species hierarchy and population numbers. These debates will be familiar to anyone in the movement and, though both ‘sides’ want to improve the lives of animals, they nevertheless clash on an ideological level.


This variety of perspectives is one of our biggest strengths - it’s testament to our passion and diversity - but it can lead to internal disagreements that dilute our overall impact. An example we find in the vegan movement is the role of purity politics in our conversations. When we set rigid boundaries about what being a ‘real’ vegan means, it can lead us to spend time excluding rather than welcoming people.

Engaging in this binary, ‘veganer than thou’ thinking not only creates divisions within the movement, it also makes the barrier to entry too high and intimidating for those taking the initial steps towards a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Thankfully, achieving unity doesn’t necessarily mean we have to agree on everything. Rather, it’s about choosing to focus on our shared aspirations and agreeing to a core guiding principle. As a united animal freedom movement, we can present a cohesive front, amplifying the impact of its advocacy and outreach efforts. Moreover, a unified movement can attract wider support from the public and policymakers, and increase our potential to effect meaningful change.

At Animal Think Tank, our narrative work aims to provide the movement with a narrative that speaks to our shared aspirations

regardless of our diverse methods; a principle we can all agree on and also had the potential to persuade the public.

A guiding principle: movement unity through narrative unity

A narrative is a collection of interconnected ideas and stories that serve as a lens through which we interpret the world, and our place within it. These narratives are deeply ingrained and subtly woven into the fabric of our lives. They seep into our consciousness through the stories we encounter as children, the movies we watch, and the advertisements that line our paths down the


high street. Often invisible, these narratives become the foundation of what we consider to be common sense. They shape our fundamental perception of the world to the point that it can be challenging to envision a reality that deviates from the status quo.

One such narrative is that of human exceptionalism, the belief that humans are unique and distinct from nature or other animals. This perspective often leads people to claim that using the bodies of other animals for human ends is morally acceptable.

Another pervasive narrative is the belief that efforts to

change our relationship with animals are ultimately futile, because the widespread continuation of meat consumption by others renders individual choices insignificant or pointless. These, and other harmful narratives, help to continue sowing disunity and making growth of the movement difficult.

However, by disrupting harmful narratives and amplifying beneficial ones, we have the potential to not only reshape the cultural landscape, but also swell the movement, bringing the wider population at large on-board. We need a narrative that doesn’t just unite the movement, it also needs to persuade those

who are currently ambivalent about animal freedom. The strength and success of our movement, like any group striving for social change, depends heavily on how well we can create a shared narrative. If we can unify our story, we’ll not only pull our movement closer together but also attract more people to join us.

The LGBTQ+ rights movement has successfully used narrative unity to create movement unity, a strategy from which the animal freedom movement can draw valuable lessons. By embodying ‘Pride’, this movement has woven a powerful narrative centred around the celebration of


identity, the right to selfexpression, and the importance of being proud of who you are, irrespective of your sexual orientation or gender identity.

Although the LGBTQ+ rights movement is a diverse tapestry of individuals and groups, each with their unique aspirations, all of them can rally and be included under this umbrella of ‘Pride’. Though groups within the movement have varied goals and engage in plenty of infighting themselves, the narrative of Pride connects them all, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose.

The narrative of Pride doesn’t just unite the movement internally; it also serves as a catalyst for societal change. The simple yet profound message of being proud of one’s identity resonates with a broad spectrum of society, creating allies and supporters who may not identify as LGBTQ+ but still share the belief in equality and acceptance. This broad societal support has been instrumental in driving

policy changes and shifting cultural attitudes towards greater acceptance and inclusion.

Just as the LGBTQ+ rights movement has leveraged the power of a unifying narrative to achieve its goals, the animal freedom movement too can create a compelling story that resonates with everyone, regardless of their specific interests within the movement, or even their beliefs about eating animals. By doing so, we can foster greater unity within the movement and garner broader societal support for the cause.

Message testing: which words work?

Animal Think Tank’s longterm narrative research project is aimed at identifying the most impactful narratives, messages and frames to garner similar levels of public support for animal freedom as other movements like the LGBTQ+ movement have. So far, our research has yielded significant findings. In our

“Though groups within the movement have varied goals and engage in plenty of infighting themselves, the narrative of Pride connects them all, creating a sense of unity and shared purpose.”

emphasise any particular values, which allowed us to measure baseline attitudes in general.

Our initial results indicate the persuasiveness of certain message frames while highlighting counterproductive ones. In one message, participants were told that society is evolving and becoming fairer all the time. Most countries in the world have improved their human rights by outlawing human slavery and child labour. Recognising the rights of animals is the next stage in our progress towards a fairer world. This narrative, one of social evolution, led to much higher animal freedom attitudes amongst our participants than amongst those who read the control message.

Another message we found effective was one that invoked the golden rule:

When it comes to morality, the golden rule is to treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves. However, we often forget this rule when it comes to our treatment of animals, particularly farmed animals. The way we treat other animals is immoral. We have a moral obligation to respect other animals, and to treat them more morally.

The message we found most effective focused on the unique abilities of other animals: Many people feel that humans are uniquely special in the animal kingdom. However, many other animals are highly intelligent, just like us. Crows can solve complex problems, dolphins work together to hunt, and bees can count. Studies have shown that pigs are just as intelligent as dogs. Many animals even have intellectual capabilities that

humans do not possess. For example, bats and dolphins can use sonar, and many animals can sense sights and sounds that humans can’t. Because of their intelligence, we should protect animals’ rights. This message was able to move the attitudes of 1 in 10 participants from being either indifferent or against animal rights to being supportive of animal rights.

While this is an effective message, we suggest using this ‘intelligence’ narrative with caution, as it risks unintentionally propagating speciesist attitudes. The ‘intelligence narrative’ could inadvertently lead to a hierarchy within the animal kingdom, with more intellectually sophisticated species like pigs or dolphins enjoying more protection and empathy, while those deemed less intelligent, such as fish or insects, could potentially face more


cruelty or indifference. Consider earthworms, for instance. They may not demonstrate intelligence in a way that’s traditionally recognized, but their role as the ‘gardeners of the soil’ is crucial for our ecosystems. Hence, instead of focusing solely on intelligence, it may be more beneficial to emphasise the unique individuality and contributions of all animals, celebrating the role they play in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems.

Connecting with wider values: freedom and justice

Our studies have shown that leveraging people’s existing values of freedom and justice for all can be an effective strategy. In one particular study, participants who were exposed to a passage emphasising LGBT+ rights, which made no mention of animal rights, reported improved animal-rights attitudes. This finding suggests a spill-over effect, where activating values in one context can positively impact attitudes in another. This spill-over effect presents an opportunity for campaigns to reference other social justice issues, fostering greater collaboration between different movements.

Fostering collaboration for movement unity

In the ongoing quest for narrative and movement unity within the animal freedom movement,

fostering collaboration is paramount. When we harness the collective wisdom of the diverse voices within our community, we can gather, debate, and distil our thoughts and shape a unified vision for the future.

In February 2023, 52 of us from across the UK Animal Freedom movement came together for a collaborative messaging event hosted by Animal Think Tank. Across two days, NGOs, grassroots organisations, academics, and creatives shared ideas about what existing narratives we think are the most persuasive, as well as potential new narratives for Animal Think Tank to test in our future public research.

These gatherings can be spirited, filled with passionate discussions and intense dialogue. And it’s through this vibrant exchange of ideas that we’re able to analyse and ultimately understand the different perspectives within our movement. By encouraging this dialogue, we’re not only addressing our differences, we’re also amplifying our shared aspirations, which forms the basis of our unity.

This collaborative process is instrumental in guiding our future actions. We’re focused on creating narratives around which we can unite - narratives that reflect our collective agreement and shared values. These narratives are not borne out of compromise or

convenience, they are the product of deliberate, collective decision-making. They serve as our compass, guiding our movement forward.

One effective narrative shift we identified during this workshop was recognising animals as individuals and focusing on their personalities and lives instead of just viewing them as victims, or as a collective, anonymous group.

Moving forward: the power of unified narratives and collective actions

As a global community of diverse voices championing the rights and wellbeing of all animals, we have to acknowledge and respect our differing perspectives while converging on our shared aspirations and values. The effective integration of these disparate perspectives is key to amplifying our impact and creating lasting, meaningful change for other animals. Narrative unity, as has been shown across a multitude of other freedom movements, has the potential to greatly influence not only how we perceive and value our fellow animals, but also our actions towards ensuring their freedom and wellbeing. By coming together to challenge harmful narratives and embrace empowering ones, we can transform the cultural landscape to be more inclusive and respectful of all forms of life.



In the winter of 2014, Animal Justice Project was founded to continue the decades-long fight against using animals in laboratory experiments. We have since broadened our scope to animal farming too, using undercover investigations, pressure campaigns, stunts, education initiatives and public engagement to end the abuse and exploitation of animals on farms. Our work has repeatedly exposed the lie of ‘high welfare’ standards, showing that no matter the farming system, animals who are commodified remain vulnerable to cruelty.

We couldn’t do what we do without our courageous undercover investigators and nationwide network of activists. Investigators have planted hidden cameras and taken jobs as farm and abattoir workers to gather evidence of animal welfare violations. Activists have descended on farms

and scaled government buildings to protest to demand a more just future for all animals.

Some of our investigations into animal farms have been particularly impactful, drawing significant media attention, prompting supermarkets to cut ties with suppliers and even leading to prosecutions of farm and slaughterhouse workers and owners. Two of our most influential campaigns include ‘Dairy Still Kills’ and ‘Scammed!’

Dairy Still Kills

Part of our larger Expired campaign, Dairy Still Kills focuses on the calves killed as part of the dairy industry. In a UK first, our undercover investigators captured footage of tiny calves being slaughtered inside Chester-based abattoir G & GB Hewitt. This shows that despite many major UK supermarkets, dairy processors and farm assurance schemes like Red


Tractor now prohibiting the routine shooting of unwanted day-old male dairy calves on farms, the killing hasn’t stopped. Instead, the calves now often go to ‘calf dealers’ to be sold on and raised for beef or sent straight to slaughter.

One such dealer was Oaklands Livestock Centre in Shropshire, a pipeline for calves slaughtered at G & GB Hewitt. Using hidden cameras, we filmed inside Oaklands over several months and revealed a shocking culture of abuse and general disregard for the wellbeing of the calves. Distressed calves were shouted and sworn at, thrown and kicked during loading and unloading, and left sometimes as long as 21 hours without water or adequate feed.

Since releasing our footage, we have organised multiple nationwide days of action, working with local animal activists to educate the public about these violent realities of the dairy industry. We held protests outside livestock markets in Shropshire and at the headquarters of dairy giant Müller, which contracted with farms sending calves to Oaklands. All of this gained us radio interviews and significant nationwide media interest in the investigation.

Shropshire council then pursued charges against Derek Whittall, owner of Oaklands. In April this year, Whittall was found

guilty of offences under the Animal Welfare Act, and was banned for five years (sadly, not life) from owning or keeping cows, received community service and ordered to pay thousands in costs to the prosecution. As for Oaklands, it has ceased operating – a huge win for our movement and proof that our investigations and campaigns really do make a difference.


In May 2018, new legislation came into force requiring all slaughterhouses in England to install CCTV cameras. This is supposed to ensure welfare standards are being met when animals are facing their final moments. But far from protecting animals, we have found CCTV to offer nothing more than false assurances about the standards of care inside abattoirs, creating a smokescreen for consumers.

When the government released a five-year postimplementation review of its Welfare at the Time of Killing (WATOK) legislation in 2021, we were suspicious of its claim that animals were not facing critical welfare issues inside slaughterhouses. We decided to conduct our own investigation at the small, family-run G & GB Hewitt and two years later, Morrisons-owned Woodhead Brothers. What we discovered prompted us to launch our Scammed! campaign to show the public the horrifying truth

of what was taking place in full view of the government-mandated CCTV and even official veterinarians.

First up, G & GB Hewitt. This abattoir had been rated as ‘Generally Satisfactory’ by the government for six years in a row. ‘Generally Deplorable’ would have been more accurate. Through hidden cameras we placed inside, we captured evidence of piglets, cows and sheep being violently abused and mishandled by workers, sometimes in view of the Food Standards Agency-appointed Official Veterinarian. In May this year, Hewitt as a company and six of its workers –including two members of the Hewitt family – were found guilty of breaching WATOK regulations. While they only received paltry fines as punishment, the Hewitt name is now forever associated with animal abuse, serving as a clear lesson in why a slaughterhouse being ‘family-run’ guarantees nothing in terms of animal welfare.

At Woodhead Brothers, our undercover investigator posed as a slaughterhouse worker for the first time, giving us direct insight into how the place operated. With 3,000 pigs, and many cows, forced to slaughter at Woodhead Bros every day, there was no time to waste for the workers, who rushed the distressed pigs to their deaths by hitting and shouting at them, in breach


shows that despite many major UK supermarkets, dairy processors and farm assurance schemes like Red Tractor now prohibiting the routine shooting of unwanted day-old male dairy calves on farms, the killing hasn’t stopped.”


of welfare regulations. Both of these investigations gained national media attention, including stories in The Times. We went on a three-city tour to raise public awareness of the problems with slaughterhouses, handing out vegan food – always a sure way to get people to come and talk to us. Our main message was, and still is, that the systems that exist to protect vulnerable, frightened animals from harm (in addition to getting killed) don’t work. In fact, their real purpose is to create the impression that

ongoing relationships with animal sanctuaries like The Retreat and Brinsley Animal Rescue have led to cheerful and uplifting content creation.

Our Campaigns Manager, Ayrton, joined Animal Think Tank’s Messaging Day earlier this year strengthening our relationships with other animal advocates around the country and giving us opportunity to carry out and plan future collaborative work. The event solidified that we must all work together in



With around 1.9 million cows living on UK dairy farms, and big companies like Müller raking in profits of around £536.5 million, it is clear to see that the industry prioritises profit over their animals’ wellbeing. It is heartbreaking to see footage from Viva!’s investigations, which has set the scene for numerous campaigns such as The True Costa Dairy, Scary Dairy, MooFree May and, most recently, our zero grazing exposé.

Between July 2021 and September 2022, Viva! Campaigns’ investigators documented conditions at three of the largest zero

grazing dairy farms in the UK, as well as one calfrearing facility, supplying dairy giants Müller and Arla. They discovered cows locked indoors all year round, denying them freedom to graze throughout their entire miserably short lives.

To meet the public demand for dairy, zero grazing mega-farms are on the rise. An estimated 20 per cent of all dairy cows live their whole lives with zero access to the outdoors – shattering the idyllic image of cows out grazing the English countryside. These cows spend an average of five or six years – only one-fifth of their natural lifespan – lying on dirty, concrete floors.


Viva!’s most recent campaign Müller Killer spotlighted the investigation footage to illustrate Müller’s part in the rise of zero grazing dairy farming. The life of a dairy cow is already a miserable existence, and the addition of zero grazing has made it even more intolerable. Yet the answer to zero grazing is not ‘better dairy’ – all dairy commodifies cows and causes catastrophic suffering.

We campaign tirelessly for the rights and freedoms these animals deserve. A

dairy cow’s life is one of the most tragic and cruel of all –caught in a perpetual cycle of suffering that only ends when their life is needlessly taken. Exploited for their reproductive systems, cows are forcibly impregnated every year to keep their milk flowing. Being pregnant and lactating for seven months of a year takes a damaging toll on her body.

The fate of their calves is decided by the gender they are born with – if they are male, they are deemed a ‘waste product’ and are

tragically slaughtered or sold as veal. If the calf is female, she will be placed in a tiny hutch for the first eight weeks of her life, isolated and crying out for her mother, until she is old enough to join the herd and replace another spent mother as a dairy cow. Female cows typically give birth to four calves before they are sent to slaughter and this tragic existence is simply so we, the only mammal who drinks milk into adulthood, can have dairy. As a woman, I can only imagine the emotional trauma she would feel


within this endless rotation of reproductive exploitation, having her babies stolen and now, with zero grazing, her inability to fulfil her natural desires, such as grazing.

On Friday May 19, Viva! campaigners were joined for our Müller Killer launch event by none other than Matt Pritchard! Matt joined us in Leicester Square, along with around 20 volunteers, to launch our biggest anti-dairy campaign yet. Matt dined on a mock Müller corner yoghurt –the fruit replaced with a

gory concoction of replica blood and umbilical cords – specially designed by a prop team to look like the real deal. The stunt represents the blood and gore associated with the dairy industry, which is hidden from the public eye. A massive thank you to everyone who joined our launch event with Matt, to hold a placard, have a conversation or hand out yoghurts. It was a great success and this was thanks to our amazing volunteers! As part of Viva!’s Müller Killer campaign, we travelled to cities across the

UK throughout June and July to give away dairyfree yoghurts and raise awareness about the dairy industry. We called it the YogHURTS tour. Activists from groups including Animal Rising, Anonymous for the Voiceless and Hunt Saboteurs joined us for our events, speaking to people, holding placards and displaying ‘tools of the trade’ in our eye-catching “Experience the Future of Dairy” tent. This is where we showcased our investigation footage to the public, providing a unique experience of the future of


dairy, and demonstrated some of the equipment used within the industry, such as hobbles, artificial insemination tubes and a calf milk replacement feeder.

The public seemed most taken aback with the hobbles – a device used to tether the hind legs of a cow together to prevent her from doing the splits after nerve damage during calving – noting how restrictive they were. Outside the tent, we had a table filled with leaflets that covered the cruelty within the industry, the health implications and the impact dairy has on the planet. With people lured in by our “Free Vegan Food” sign, conversations flowed,

with many seeds planted. Viva! has campaigned for the end of exploitation of farmed animals since 1994 and Müller Killer is just the latest pressure campaign placed on animal agriculture industries. Other work includes our campaign, The True Costa Dairy, where activists held events outside Costa stores up and down the country highlighting the atrocities that these cows face, discovered on our Home Farm investigation.

At Viva! it is integral to us that we acknowledge our space within the animal rights movement and work with other groups to end animal exploitation. Both as an activist in my own

right and as a campaigner at Viva!, I am involved in supporting many different groups, most recently The Save Movement’s final Manchester Pig Save Vigil. To end animal exploitation successfully, we must work together and support each other, using different tactics across the movements to induce change.

If you’d like to get involved in driving this change for dairy cows across the UK, simply head to our Müller Killer webpage where we are providing free stall packs for anyone who would like to run their own local YogHURTS event.

By Issy Acosta
“At Viva! it is integral to us that we acknowledge our space within the animal rights movement and work with other groups to end animal exploitation.”


In our latest campaign, A Good Life, we explore what it means for animals to have a ‘good life’ – one that is free from fear, harm, suffering and exploitation. Many people do not realise that in the UK the vast majority of animals killed for food are still

babies, who are routinely maimed and mutilated to maximise profit. Factory farming is on the rise; many people oppose this kind of farming, but animals don’t just suffer on factory farms –they suffer on all farms.

Most people are under the impression that labels such as “free-range”, “grass-fed” and “organic” really mean something for the animals – but, in reality, these labels mean little to the individuals used and killed for human

completely legal, standard farming practices – both free-range and intensive –cause suffering, and would shock consumers if they knew what was happening. The campaign will look at all areas of animal farming, addressing each species of farmed animal in turn. So, to mark the launch of A Good Life, we turned our focus to chicken farming, and teamed up with vegan food company, VFC, to give away free Vegan Fried Chick*n to people in York! Passers-by were able to try a VFC sample, and if they took our short quiz on chicken farming, they received a voucher for free VFC vegan fried chick*n, which is available in most supermarkets!

VFC is an incredible, mission-led vegan company. They have previously conducted an investigation into a supposedly “high welfare” farm that supplies


KFC. They commissioned an independent environmental audit by Mondra to assess their own range’s environmental impact vs “generic southern fried chicken made from chickens” and “Gram for gram, in every single metric, VFC came out on top”. They really care about animals, the environment and fellow humans, so they were the perfect company for us to collaborate with. And their products taste amazing, too! More information about their products and mission can be found on their website at

Our online quiz was short and interactive, but incredibly informative. For example, did you know that chicks are “de-beaked”, which involves slicing off the tip of their beak with no pain relief, and that farmed chickens now grow to four times the size of their wild ancestors – so quickly that they reach slaughter weight (2.2 kg) in just 42 days!

We had many positive conversations on the day of the launch. We spoke to people who were initially sceptical, but who were shocked to learn about the routine harms in chicken farming. Many people took our quiz, spoke to us about the harms of animal farming, and were pleasantly surprised at how delicious vegan fried chick*n is!

There are many standard practices, including mutilations, that are completely legal and

routine; we found out during the event that even some vegans and vegetarians were shocked to learn about what takes place on farms.

This campaign has only just begun. We have many plans and projects in preparation, including an advertising campaign this summer. A Good Life is all about reminding people that behind every animalderived product, there is an individual: an individual who likes to play and form friendships and bonds, who feels pain and fear, and who does not want to die. Starting from the 17th of July – for one month – we are displaying this message prominently at King’s Cross Station in London. King’s Cross is one of London’s busiest stations, providing the perfect opportunity to change hearts and minds!

To mark the start of our ad campaign we are excited to be collaborating with independent vegan baker, Joy, who founded the compassionate Joyful Kitchen*. Joy creates decadent, delicious, vegan versions of all your favourite cakes. Our outreach event will see us giving away 300 delicious and beautifully decorated piggy cupcakes (have you guessed what the ads are about yet?) to passers-by who take our quiz about – that’s right! –pig farming.

Our adverts feature on the digital ribbon, where commuters, tourists and day trippers will see the

truth behind the “happy” imagery often used by the pig farming industries exploiting animals. These myths are literally ripped away, revealing facts about pig farming. Keep an eye on our socials, or sign up for our campaign emails, to learn more about this exciting project and our other important campaigns.

Are you an animal advocate who would like to get involved in our campaigning efforts? We are so immensely grateful to all the activists who volunteer their time to help animals. If this sounds like you, we have just started an Action Team! You can also order A Good Life leaflets for your outreach events. If you are interested, please contact us at info@

*Based in Kent, you can also commission Joy to create an amazing wedding or other occasion cake. Joyful Kitchen is on Facebook and Instagram at joyfulkitchenkent.


All species of animal having an opportunity to live life and grow old; it’s what everyone reading this wants to see on our planet. But, sadly with current human behaviour this is only the case for a minority group in terms of population (wildlife, humans and companion species), and even these are under threat from the climate and ecological emergency. Changing this is going to take drastic actions, and that’s where nonviolent direct action groups such as Animal Rising come in.

We have been taking actions this year that highlight how completely broken our relationship with other animals is and the immense harm and suffering this is causing. We have taken part in horse racing and dog racing disruptions. These industries use similar techniques of breeding, dominating, exploiting and discarding, only differing on the species of the victims. For us it’s a clear parallel, but the RSPCA are conflicted between them by calling for a ban on greyhound racing but continuing to support horse racing. We have also taken

part in a number of open rescues and occupations that give individual victims a chance to have their stories told and expose the harm.

Some closely linked organisations have been doing amazing work across the country in supporting meaningful changes in the here and now. Plant Based Universities have enabled pressure from students to change the behaviours of their university to align their food offerings with the scientific evidence, with recent wins in Kent and London Metropolitan. Plant Based Councils have empowered local residents


to call on their council to follow up the declaration of a climate emergency with some meaningful leadership on food policy, with a recent win here too in Exeter.

As we move between highlighting the sadly numerous sources of animal suffering in this country, we highly appreciate the huge support we receive from other organisations like Viva!, Animal Aid, and Animal Justice Project to collaborate, share knowledge and hear from the experts. They have allowed us to really capitalise on the media exposure our actions have

“we highly appreciate the huge support we receive from other organisations like Viva!, Animal Aid, and Animal Justice Project to collaborate, share knowledge and hear from the experts.”

gained us, and shine a spotlight on all the harms we carry out to other animals. Since rebranding as Animal Rising we have had unprecedented coverage, with major broadcast television slots and over 50% general public name recognition after The Grand National.

But media isn’t the only measure of success, the most important thing for us is giving everyone an

That’s not to say we haven’t had our challenges too this year, the laws around protest are changing faster than a lot of people can keep up with, and additionally mainstream media still have issues they absolutely detest to give coverage to such as animal testing and factory farming. Nevertheless, our brave supporters are resolute in continuing to take action for the animals and environment, because they know that with every new law to crackdown on protest we are one step closer to achieving meaningful change. As we continue to repeatedly drag the issues into the spotlight again and again, there is only so long that they can look the other way before having to confront themparticularly with the climate crisis only ever growing and becoming linked more closely with animal agriculture.

opportunity to get involved and this has been going amazingly too. We now have roughly 25 local groups set up across the UK that have been doing amazing work in their area by taking part in national days of action. This has ranged from postering the streets, to supermarket and restaurant sit-ins, to demonstrations. All whilst remaining resolutely nonviolent (engaged but peaceful) and showing that we are a group of people that puts love first and disruption a close second.

It’s essential that the estimated 1.5 million vegans in this country, and countless more animal lovers waiting in the wings to join us, get active and work together to amplify the urgency around the changes we all know absolutely need to happen.

By finding the movement that we most align with and collaborating as much as possible between them, we stand the best chance of getting animal and climate justice for all life.

“We now have roughly 25 local groups set up across the UK that have been doing amazing work”

Plant Based Treaty for Cities & the World

In January 2023, the City of Edinburgh Council made history after becoming the first European capital to endorse the call for a global Plant Based Treaty to tackle the climate crisis.

It all began in March 2022, when a flurry of emails landed in the inboxes of Edinburgh Councillors, urging them to endorse the treaty. Little did they know that their collective voice would set off a chain of events making national headlines. Among the councillors, Scottish Green Party councillor Steve Burgess couldn’t ignore the plea from the residents. He took it upon himself to table a motion, calling for Edinburgh to endorse the Plant Based Treaty. To his surprise, the council decided to take a different path. Instead of a simple vote, and in an

unprecedented move, they unanimously agreed to conduct a comprehensive impact assessment of the treaty’s 3R demands and 39 principles.

Months flew by, as the council conducted research into the treaty, food system impacts and Edinburgh’s consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, in January 2023, the much-anticipated report was presented to the Policy and Sustainability Committee. The findings were clear: shifting towards plant-based diets held tremendous potential for mitigating climate


“the endorsement passed with an overwhelming majority of 12 votes to 5. The Scottish Green Party, Labour, and the Scottish National Party had united to support plant-based solutions”


change. The report stated emphatically that “the science is clear, meat and dairy consumption must reduce to achieve climate targets.”

Plant Based

Treaty communications director Nicola Harris, who lived in Edinburgh, and attended Currie High School stepped forward to deliver a compelling deposition to the council, calling for the city to take bold action and endorse the treaty. Vegan Councillor Ben Parker also spoke eloquently in support of the treaty. He proposed an amendment to the report, demanding a vote on endorsing the treaty and encouraging the Scottish Government to join them. The council chamber buzzed with anticipation, and as the vote was cast; the

endorsement passed with an overwhelming majority of 12 votes to 5. The Scottish Green Party, Labour, and the Scottish National Party had united to support plant-based solutions to the environmental crises we face.

Councillor Ben Parker expressed his elation, drawing parallels to signing the Fossil Fuel Treaty two years earlier. He said: “To sign the treaty is to show that we take our climate commitments seriously, and recognise the science behind the climate emergency – that is, to know that food systems are key drivers of emissions, and that plant-based foods must figure as part of the solution to tackling climate change. I hope that other Councils in Scotland – and the rest of

the UK – can follow our lead on this too. We need to see a radical and wholescale shift in our approach to all manner of policies, actions and activities.”

Along with the endorsement, Edinburgh has now committed to implementing a plant-based food strategy across the city; they are due to complete a report outlining a roadmap and policy changes by the summer of 2023.

The Plant Based Treaty ultimately kicked off in the UK six months earlier, when Haywards Heath Town Council unexpectedly, yet boldly stepped into the spotlight, becoming the very first town in the UK to endorse the treaty. In fact, this small conservative commuter town in the south

“Scottish Green Party councillor Steve Burgess couldn’t ignore the plea from the residents. He took it upon himself to table a motion, calling for Edinburgh to endorse the Plant Based Treaty.”

of England, with 34,000 residents, was the first in Europe to do so. Here, another Green councillor, Dr Richard Nicholson, a vegan astrophysicist who wasn’t expecting to be elected as a councillor took the lead after joining the environment committee. He wasn’t reelected in the 2023 council elections and has now taken on the role of Plant Based Treaty City ambassador. In an opinion piece for the environmental news site Green World he said, “Animal farming is directly responsible for a third of human-caused methane. We can no longer wait for governments – we must all act immediately. We need local, national and international cooperation to reduce food-related emissions through a shift to

plant-based diets and work to reduce food waste. As Greens, we can and must do much more; we must lead! It is time to step up, to be counted and sign the Plant Based Treaty.”

Nicholson has passed the Plant Based Treaty baton on to his wife Deanna Nicholson, who has been newly elected to the council, where she will be working on implementing the treaty.

Hot on the heels of Edinburgh’s endorsement, Norwich City Council endorsed eight weeks later. The driving force came in the form of Green Councillors Alex Catt and Jamie Osborn when they introduced a groundbreaking motion which would have

mandated 100% plantbased catering at council meetings and events. Jamie Osborn, said, “Endorsing the Plant-Based Treaty is a sign that councils take behaviour change seriously. It is the actions of institutions, including local governments at all levels, that play the biggest role in shaping the choice environment.”

However, during the lively 40-minute council debate, with many twists and turns, an amendment by Labour Councillor Oliver significantly watered down the impact of the endorsement. The weaker motion ultimately passed, however not without merit. It includes measures such as establishing new community gardens,

“To sign the treaty is to show that we take our climate commitments seriously, and recognise the science behind the climate emergency –that is, to know that food systems are key drivers of emissions, and that plant-based foods must figure as part of the solution to tackling climate change.”
- Councillor Ben Parker

ensuring all food and drink provided at meetings and events hosted by the council include plant-based options, and using events to promote and showcase plant-based options, and using information displays about the climate and health benefits of a balanced plant-based diet.

Alex Catt, said, “While the uptake of vegan diets have increased in recent years, we need systemic change to make this diet easy to access for all so that we can all make better choices for the planet. Any council that has declared a climate emergency must be

matching this with action and endorsing the Plant Based Treaty is key when emissions linked to food outweigh those from many other sectors.”

Momentum across the UK continues to build, with almost 500 councillors signing to date with more motions planned in 2023. There is cross party support from councillors, including 169 Greens 158 Labour, 76 Liberal Democrats and 31 conservatives.

The power of email

How did the UK get so many councillors to sign?

A small team in the UK worked on data collection for more than 20,000 councillor email addresses and then distributed newsletters asking supporters to email their councillors. Organisations which have endorsed the treaty including Viva!, Vegfest, Plant Based News, Animal Justice Project and Veganuary all helped spread the word by sharing the email action online and in their newsletters.

Sign your city up

The UK team is planning to spread the treaty nationwide to create

176 FORÇA VEGAN Isn’t it time climate conferences were vegan? Tell Cop28 to go vegan!

pressure for the UK government to become the first in the world to endorse the Plant Based Treaty, just as they were the first to declare a climate emergency in 2018. More than 20 MPs already support the campaign, including high profile politicians such as former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Kerry McCarthy, and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas.

You can help by visiting the Plant Based Treaty website where there are pre-prepared letters ready to send off to councillors in countries including Canada, Germany, Italy, Poland, USA and UK, with more countries planned in the following months.

Global appeal

Plant Based Treaty is spreading across the globe, with Didim, the first Turkish town to endorse in October 2022. The municipality is encouraging every restaurant in town to add vegan options to their menus by hosting dedicated workshops and training from Plant Based Treaty Turkey campaigner, Nilgun Engin. The town also hosted a vegan festival to celebrate the endorsement, attended by thousands of residents.

The endorsement was secured after holding several meetings with assistants to Mayor Ahmet Deniz Atabay, the mayor said, “We are aware of the

seriousness of the climate crisis and we believe that the Plant Based Treaty campaign will make a positive contribution towards solutions to this crisis.”

Along with the endorsement, Plant Based Treaty Turkey campaigners secured an agreement for toiletries in the council building to switch to vegan and cruelty-free by 2023.

A Plant Based Treaty 1.5 Upgrade for 2023

When Plant Based Treaty launched in August 2021, the focus was on collecting endorsements from individuals, groups, businesses and cities. However, following our partnership with the Better Food Foundation and VegTO where we published an open letter to C40 cities calling for the implementation of best practices in plant-based food policies, we upgraded Plant Based Treaty to version 1.5 for 2023.

Our goal is to partner with institutions, such as city halls, universities, schools, hospitals, care homes, prisons, restaurants, corporations and trains, to implement actionable targets for the Plant Based Treaty that will impact the climate crisis. These include implementing plant-based menus or introducing plantbased defaults and public information campaigns.

A series of playbooks are in development detailing

actions best practices we can all use to lobby our cities and their institutions.

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Plant Based Treaty has launched a new petition calling on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to encourage the hosts of COP28 to provide 100% plant-based catering and create a policy for future climate conferences to offer 100% plant-based catering.

Between 30 November and 12 December 2023, the United Nations will hold its 28th annual climate change conference in Dubai. It marks a key milestone when the world will take stock of its progress to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C warming. Over 70,000 participants are expected to attend COP28, including heads of state, government officials, industry leaders, academics, and representatives from civil society organizations.

Imagine this, if 70,000 delegates ate two vegan meals daily at COP28, instead of the usual offerings, it would equate to 1.8 million climatefriendly plant-based meals during the conference. For example, if beef was swapped to plant-based protein and all dairy and cheese to plant-based alternatives, this would spare almost 40,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse


gas emissions (CO2e), 64 square kilometres of land, and 728 million litres of water. That’s equivalent to taking 8,600 cars off the road for a year, more than the land area of Poole in Dorsey, and the water use of 291 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The petition calls for:

1. 100% plant-based catering during COP28 and all UN climate conferences and offices, showcasing locally sourced veganic produce where possible.

2. Use the Food and Water Systems Day at COP28 on December 5, 2023 to focus on plant-based solutions following calls from twentyone cities, including the Scottish Capital Edinburgh

and Los Angeles for world leaders to negotiate a Plant Based Treaty as a companion to the Paris Agreement. A focus on the multitude of benefits and opportunities of a transition towards a plant-based food system to address the triple threat of the climate crisis, food insecurity and the cost of living crisis.

3.COP28 to take a zerotolerance approach to greenwashing by the animal agriculture lobby by ensuring industry representatives are not platformed for the purposes of promoting unproven measures that are at odds with the latest IPCC science.



Take action
Sign and share the petition
Download the social media kit FORCA VEGAN 179


At the recent VegfestUK Brighton in April 2023, founder Tim Barford gave a short talk entitled ‘Unity in Motion’ looking at the current trend for collaboration amongst the main groups and the grassroots. Tim points to 9 key words all beginning with C to demonstrate how we can come together as a mass movement and achieve our twin goals of animal liberation, and a shift to plantbased food systems.

This covers over 40 years of being a part of the animal movement, and indeed, it was in October 1980 that I first joined this movement.

This is slightly spurred out of the meeting we had back in February 2023 when Animal Think Tank and a number of the animal groups got together to discuss strategy, framing, narrative, messaging— essentially, how to become a mass movement and achieve our goals.

There’s plenty of mass movements that have achieved their goals. Sadly, in many respects, the animal movement has yet

to, and there are multiple reasons for that. That being said, we do have a genuine opportunity now to join together and achieve our goals, and the Animal Think Tank has been looking at other social justice campaigns like the Freedom to Marry campaign, which, in the space of 11 years in the USA, managed to come from an incredibly marginalized group with incredible bigotry and discrimination to overturning those laws and achieving their goals, which was to establish the freedom to marry for all people in the USA including the LGBTQ+ communities.

So, it’s very important at this time that we do come


together and unite. Partly this is to inspire that, but also to reflect on how much that has already happened. At this point, I will credit all the groups, all the individuals, all those businesses that are working towards a vegan world. And whatever direction, whatever positions we have, I do know that everybody doing this work is doing it because they’re moved to try and change the world for a better place.

This was originally going to cover what I call the 7 C’s, which obviously made me think of “Sweet Dreams,”“Sweet Dreams are made of this,” - but it’s graduated to about 9 C’s now, and there’s a number of key words to share with you. The point of this though is to try and give a very quick snapshot or blueprint to how can we actually achieve a unified movement that achieves our goals as a mass movement.


The first thing that we have to understand is that there are a lot of Contradictions in our movement. I go back to the day that I joined this movement. I’d gone Vegetarian in 1980, I stopped eating meat aged 17, stopped wearing leather, and I went up to my first AR protest in October 1980 - a Hunt Sabs Anti-Blood Sports rally. I remember distinctly they had a burger van there and all the activists were eating beef burgers and they were all wearing leather jackets. And I remember saying then, why are we eating meat? Surely if you’re anti-blood sports and you’re Hunt Sabs, why would you want to eat meat? The response at the time was very “no no no no that’s nothing to do with it”, so right from Day 1, my experience is we’ve had a very contradictory movement.

Essentially, most movements have 1 goal, but we’ve got 2 very broad goals. Now, any animal movement should be underpinned by animals and a demand for justice for animals, But we also have a plant-based movement, and we’re looking to shift to plant-based food systems in a very rapid timeframe. The science is clear, we have to do this in a decade and shifting to plant-based food systems does have a lot in common with demanding justice for animals, but essentially, they’re different goals, and sometimes they’re working together, and other times they contradict. We’ve also got a contradiction in that we’re looking for system change, we’re looking for corporation change, we’re looking for institutional change, and we’re also looking for individual change, and sometimes those strategies and those tactics and those messages


and those goals can be contradictory. Now, when you look at our actual animal movement, never mind the fact that we have 2 movements, within our animal movement we have animal welfare people who are concerned with regulating the treatment of animals. Then we have animal liberation people who are concerned with ending the use of all animals, and we have animal protection groups like Hunt Sabs again or Sea

Shepherd that really are about protecting certain species. Under this great umbrella of the animal movement, quite often that animal rights message gets lost and misunderstood, and we end up with contradictory positions. Obviously, while the welfare position regulates the treatment of animals, the abolitionist position, which is to end the use of all animals, can at times be contradictory.

The best thing to do, I would say, is accept and recognize our twin goals. To realise we can campaign for both if we’re going to follow certain instructions or blueprints, and these blueprints really start with my second C -

If we want to get over these Contradictions and unite, we have to address our Communication. All too often, our communication

“we have to do this in a decade and shifting to plant-based food systems does have a lot in common with demanding justice for animals, but essentially, they’re different goals”

more ready to see the good in people, not too quick to judge. The truth is currently that we’re a very attackdefence movement, and a lot of us don’t seem to be getting past this. Of course, a lot of activists have, and there’s a number of groups, for instance Animal Rising, who’ve really got to grips with their communication. By doing that, they avoid our third C.

Conflict, as I know a lot of you will agree with, has absolutely decimated our movement at times. We’ve seen it time and again, but we don’t seem to use the tools that we have to either

Left: Tim conducting the ‘Unity in Motion’ talk at VegfestUK Brighton 2023.

avoid conflict or resolve conflict, and that really gets in the way of a unified

The tools we’ve got, especially something like the Intersectional Framework, we can look at our activism through that lens and try to understand that some of our activism does impact negatively on other people, and some of it doesn’t. Some of our activism really creates division and conflict, some

I’ll use a little example here. Of course, we all want as vegans to get over the message of what happens to cows —that mother cows are separated from their calves. We, as vegans, are quite comfortable appropriating different positions, like Mother’s Day for instance. So come Mother’s Day each year, we can use it to articulate how horrific it is that calves are separated from their mothers. We try to use that to focus people on going vegan. Mother’s Day seems to work quite well, and I think that’s because we’ve all got a mother or have had a mother at one point or another. We’ve all got that in common, and we celebrate Mother’s Day. It seems like a good time to get the message across.

However, there are times that appropriation doesn’t work. We saw that with the appropriation of the #metoo hashtag, which was again used to show the plight of calves and mothers. Of course, that caused conflict because it was undermining what was a very powerful social justice message. It weakened and diluted it, causing a lot of conflict.

If we were looking at this through a framework that helps us understand these dynamics in the first place, we can avoid such conflicts. Again, I credit those groups like The Vegan Society and

Animal Rising who are doing this work. We want to make sure that our activism is not going to exclude people by being clumsy, but instead, we should strive to be inclusive, especially by making it a global movement. We are a global movement, and we have to be aware and work with these considerations. The Intersectional Framework is a fabulous tool if used correctly.

Of course, it can be weaponized, and we’ve seen some of those problems, but it doesn’t have to be. I think that’s one

Right: Two problematic PETA campaigns that demonstrate creating unecessary conflict in the name of veganism & vegetarianism.


of those tools that can and does really help shape this movement.

As I said, a lot of this is already in motion. It’s already happening. But if we’re going to deal with our contradictions, improve our communication, and try to avoid conflict, then we have a platform where we’ve got another three Cs to consider.

Clarity, Consistency, and Conflation

If we’re clear on our positions and we’re consistent we can then avoid conflating one another’s positions. For

example, Minil Patel is really good at this. He did a lot of good work during Veganuary. He was doing daily posts on social media to fill in some of the gaps in knowledge, opening up conversations along the way. Minil is a Junior Doctor who we’re in solidarity with Junior Doctors right now, and he’s got a really good, articulate way of explaining the vegan position. For example, he got asked, ‘Can a dog be vegan?’ and he used that opportunity to say, ‘Well, no, a dog can’t really be vegan because veganism is a philosophy or a position, and a dog can’t really manage that. But we can have dogs thriving on plantbased diets, and they do.’ He was able to get that position over and then calmly go

on and answer questions. Minil is consistently good at keeping our positions clear and not conflating them.

We understand that veganism is a position we take against the willful commodification of all animals, but that’s very different from the benefits of plant-based diets. We understand the benefit of plant-based diets, especially wholefood plant-based diets, for human health. It’s obviously beneficial now for the environment. There’s also that crucial aspect of sustainable food and food sovereignty, but they’re all slightly different issues. They’re all really important. They’re all about the benefits of plant-based diets that center plants &


humans, and the animal movement centres animals and is effectively an animal rights movement that understands that animals have a single sole right not to be commodified. Animal advocates stand up for this and not only articulate, but also advocate for those rights and, at a minimum, do not violate those rights. That’s the animal rights position that underpins veganism, and we must understand veganism from this perspective because when we do that, we’re not undermining veganism, but we can really accelerate our promotion of plantbased diets and the benefits of such without causing conflict.

How many times have we said “Oh, you’re just plantbased” or “Oh, you’re a

vegan extremist”? All we’re doing is not being clear about our positions. And yes, veganism IS a diet. Of course, it is. It doesn’t make sense to say, “it’s not a diet.” And it IS a lifestyle choice, and it doesn’t make sense to say it’s not. But it doesn’t make sense to frame veganism without its crucial, underpinning values, which essentially is justice for animals. We know that even during the space of this talk, we’re going to see a couple of million animals killed. That’s the rate it’s happeningunless we as a movement demand justice for animals whenever we can, we will never achieve total liberation for all animals. But we have these twin goals, and we have, because of the climate crisis, we have to come together

on plant-based diets. We need to come together with actions like the Plant Based Treaty, which is demanding Councils to endorse the treaty. We’re seeing Haywards Heath, Norwich, Edinburgh, Oxford, and Exeter in the UK. All these Councils are now endorsing the Plant Based Treaty, all within the last few months.

We really need to accelerate that process. The shift to Plant Based Diets is essential. We have a contradiction again here, because if we’re dealing with systems and we’re dealing with institutions, it’s going to be a different message. We can’t expect a school or a university to go 100% plant-based overnight. We know that it has to be by consensus. We know that that’s how

and his post on the distinction
“veganism IS a diet. Of course, it is. It doesn’t make sense to say, “it’s not a diet.” And it IS a lifestyle choice, and it doesn’t make sense to say it’s not. But it doesn’t make sense to frame veganism without its crucial, underpinning values, which essentially is justice for animals.”
Minil Patel
between vegan pets and

it works. We know that if we have Stirling University and Edinburgh University vote, they may be different, and they were. Stirling University has endorsed the Plant Based Treaty and is going to be fully plantbased within a few years, and Edinburgh University has rejected that and not endorsed it, and students have chosen differently. So, we understand that’s how institutions work, how systems and local governments work. It’s by consensus. And that is different from asking people to respect the fundamental rights of non-human animals and stop using them as commodities.

We’ve got to be clear here. If we can be clear and consistent, then we can

get to the really important part. So we’ve got 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Cs. The next one is really exciting.


Now this is happening across the board right now. Anyone paying attention to the animal movement will be seeing this time and again, and that’s Collaboration. The key to building mass movements is to collaborate, and when we’re clear with all these things and we’ve got all this in place, we can really collaborate. And we are seeing this. Absolutely. Look at what happened with the Grand National back in April 2023. We had Animal Rising pushing through the media - owning the media with well-rehearsed responses and statements. We had Animal Aid, we had Viva!, we had the Animal Justice Project, all supporting and raising this issue of using animals and horses, especially for

entertainment. And all of these campaigns, these groups, already have these campaigns in place, and they lifted them. Then it extended, and we had the Hunt Sabs on board, and then we were working with the grassroots, and we had the Merseyside Animal Rights Campaigns, and this terrific collaboration that really made an impact. And we can build on that.

We’re seeing organisations like Viva! who are really beginning to collaborate. They’re supporting the Plant Based Treaty, they’re supporting the Plant Based Universities Campaign. We’ve seen Animal Rising collaborate with Camp Beagle to put vivisection in the picture. We’ve seen people like Vegan Organic Network now collaborating with farmers in Ghana, and so they’re going global. Look at Animal Aid working with XCellR8. XCellR8 are the people who do the alternatives to animal testing.

This work is really developing, and now Animal Aid is collaborating with Lush, and so they’re collaborating with businesses to push this message forward. I know there’s so many more, and we haven’t seen this level of collaboration ever before. This is really, really crucial to building a mass movement, and if we can understand the contradictions, communicate well, avoid conflict, be consistent, be clear, and not conflate our positions, we can all collaborate. And there’s so much good collaboration going on that we have to encourage more of that, and we have to really move into action.

But then the really important part comes, and this is where mass

movements have achieved before, when collaboration becomes coordination.


When we start coordinating, we will achieve what we set out to achieve, and in fact coordination is a must for this to happen.

For instance - let’s collaborate next year at Aintree. See if we could shut

them down. Why not? Or if we don’t shut them down, let’s see if we can generate so many people to come on board and tap into shared values that we actually get a ban on racing or the industry stops because people no longer want to do it, and that’s pretty much what’s happened with Greyhound Racing. That’s what’s happened with Bull Fighting. It’s just on the way out. And we can push that through within a

Above: Animal Justice Project’s social media on the Grand National, referencing Animal Rising.

short period of time if we coordinate, but we could go further with that.

The Plant Based Treaty has a really good system of emailing Councillors, so you could email now all of your local Councillors with an email directly asking them to endorse the Plant Based Treaty. It takes about 10 seconds - tap - you just emailed your local Council. Now when that happened in Edinburgh in January, end of January, they had a vote, I think just at the end of January, maybe February. The Councillors there made a point of saying how much those emails had carried, and Viva!, VegfestUK, Animal Justice Project, and Veganuary all collaborated on that at very short notice. And because of that, those Councillors received a lot of emails, and that was enough, that was enough to show there was support for this, and that collaboration is key. Now imagine if we’d had the whole movement do that, imagine if we had all of us, Hunt Sabs, all our Grassroots, We The Free, if we were all collaborating at one time to push that through with the local elections in May, now would be a fabulous time to do it.

Now, that’s something, but what happens if we REALLY collaborated, like start picking something almost every month, we got a whole movement behind key issues, maybe when London Fashion Week comes up for example, and we had everybody talking about using animals for


clothing. Imagine if all of these campaigns came together, and we were working with the media to get the word out, like we’ve just done with the horse racing. A word of encouragement - over 50% of the country now is opposed to horse racing, that figure has leapt since Aintree in April.

If we were coordinating on Veganuary or COP28, if all the groups were using the month of December to not only really promote people getting onto Veganuary - using that time to really show off foods on the runup to Christmas - and then using the wonderful resources of groups like the Plant Based Health Professionals UK who are really big on the science for the benefits of plant-based

diets, we could have the entire movement pushing a feel-good plant-based agenda each year. Perhaps this time we could really be raising those issues and really bring that across to more people than ever. My little vision is about how we can implement that mass movement by coordinating and collaborating. And that’s within our grasp, it’s already happening, and again I point to those groups doing this work and say thank you for that. Let’s build on that, and I know for a fact that there’s a real desire amongst these groups to really work together, but we can even work with some of the groups that we feel we’re not aligned with, some of the ones like campaigns for bigger cages.

Now to be clear, I don’t agree with that, I can’t really, it’s not a position I share. I don’t want to see bigger cages, I want to see empty cages. I don’t want to see better treatment for some animals, I want to see all animals no longer being used as commodities. I want us to change the way we see animals - from property to personhood, and regulating the welfare or treatment of animals whilst still using their bodies as commodities does appear contradictory to that position, but we can still collaborate because the welfare groups have a real interest in plant-based food systems, and so we can work with welfare groups even if we’re animal rights activists. We could get over that and collaborate just by being clear on our positions, and that’s the key.


We have to put an end to all of this ‘us and them’ stuff within our movement, we just can’t have this constant putting people down. We’ve got to raise our movement because we’re up against a Conspiracy, and not exactly a secret Conspiracy - in fact as they’re doing it in broad daylight. Look at COP27 - Animal Agriculture was taken completely off the agenda, there was a conspiracy of people, governments and corporations with vested interests who were powerful enough to remove it entirely from the discussion, but they’re not powerful enough to combat a mass movement that comes together as one.

It is my firm, true belief that if we can get over ourselves and we unite, we can overturn a conspiracy that is keeping billions of animals and humans in servitude and commodification, and we can get our shift to plantbased food systems and do it really rapidly. That is unity in motion, and we only have to look at the movers and shakers already doing it to be inspired to do it ourselves. If we can adopt that and do more of it, I do genuinely believe that within 1 year we could see a complete transformation of our movement, and that’s something that has to happen.

So there you go, there’s a short route map of how I think we can work with what we’ve got. We’re

not an ideal movement, we’ve got a lot of different challenges within us, but it is as it is, it’s up to us to look at what’s in front of us and absolutely do the best we can to build on what we’ve got. We’ve got a very short timeframe to do it in, but if we’re going to achieve a shift to plant-based food systems, we cannot throw animals under the bus, and that’s been part of the problem with some of the bigger groups who’ve almost tried to do away with the vegan position. However when we’re advocating for the vegan position, we can’t just throw this whole shift to plant-based food systems under the bus either, and we’ve got to really celebrate and praise and respect our plant-based educators, and we’re really short of that in this movement. We

“if all the groups were using the month of December to not only really promote people getting onto Veganuary...and then using the wonderful resources from groups like the Plant Based Health Professionals UK who are really big on the science for the benefits of plant-based diets, we could have the entire movement pushing a feel-good plant-based agenda each year.”

don’t hold our plant-based educators with enough respect. We should be absolutely encouraging them, and at the same time our vegan advocates, our ethical vegans, some of our authors, advocates, absolutely we need these people, and we must celebrate what we’ve got instead of trying to fight over it. Let’s come together and celebrate it.

I genuinely believe that we could collaborate and coordinate very quickly. That’s in place, that is good communication between all these groups. I think we had 50 groups represented at the Animal Think Tank, that’s how many people were coming together and had a thirst for this, the desire for this as a movement has never been stronger. It really is there, especially incredible people a third of my age who are leading the way now in this and demanding we work together to do it.

And I think the work the Animal Think Tank is doing, which maybe you don’t know about, the Animal Think Tank actually started at VegfestUK Brighton 4 years ago when Laila Kassam presented her route map too on movement unity, and they did a lot of research, they did a lot of looking at messaging and narrative, as well as how we frame things. It’s really humble work, and it comes from a justice-

based position, so that no one’s looking at changing the message, the message remains intact, and what they’re doing is looking at the messaging - how do we get our message across the best way possible? That’s the importance of being consistent, clear, not conflating, because when we do that, we can frame veganism as something a lot more attractive, a lot more welcoming, and a lot more interesting to people.

Holistic Veganism

The way I like to frame veganism, I think a lot of people share this, is holistically. So veganism in my head is holistic, it’s a whole thing, it incorporates all of these aspects, and so you can be vegan for the environment, you can be vegan for health, you can be vegan for sustainable food supply, and you can be vegan for spiritual reasons, but at heart you have to also be vegan for the

“we must celebrate what we’ve got instead of trying to fight over it. Let’s come together and celebrate it.”
Below: A meetup of many animal rights groups hosted by Animal Think Tank.

animals. If you’re not vegan for the animals, then, yeah, sure, it’s really then more of a plant based position, but if you are vegan for the animals, you can be vegan for all those reasons too. Holistic veganism works when we understand the principles of justice that underpin our movement, and once we accept them and acknowledge them, we can work them in and really grow into our understanding of the broad scope of veganism.

We’re better off getting over some of our differences, recognizing some of those contradictions, and coming together and collaborating on the positions we share, and all you have to do is pay attention and then join in the fun, so that’s pretty easy, and that’s how I see it going.

As for framing veganism, I think we should listen to the research, pay attention to the research, and it might be another year or so before we’ve got a clear picture, and I’d advise anybody now to pay attention to what’s going on with the Animal Think Tank, it’s fabulous, and it’s involving quite a lot of people in the UK. I feel that if we can do that in the UK, we can really do it all over the world.

There’s tremendous collaboration going on all over the globe and I think if we can tap into that and build on that and grow that, I really believe that within 10 years we could achieve

our first movement goals and see an 80% shift to plant-based food systems within many countries, which means all prisons, institutions, hospitals, councils, universities & schools, all by default plant-based, and then all of these high street shops and chains and restaurants and everything would follow suit and be plant-based. We can do that, it’s within our power, and we need to do it because we are running out of time. And this by nature helps pave the way for our second movement goal - that of true animal liberation, which will only come by understanding and advocating for the rights of animals not to be commodified, not to be used as property, and encouraging people to go vegan. And this is achievable in our lifetimes. Both goals can be achieved if the movements unite as one.

We don’t have time to carry on arguing, and if that’s the best we can do, we’re going to fail those generations of both humans and animals to come, so this is important, it’s important we seize this moment, and we’ve got a very short timescale to do it in, so if you’ve got a timetable, get on it


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