/' http-equiv='refresh'/> Vegan Outreach Lincoln and East Midlands: In Defence of Vegan Education


In Defence of Vegan Education

We had an article published in the abolitionist on some of the hostility we faced from the old guard traditional welfarists to us doing vegan education. We've pasted it below but it is well worth going and reading the rest of The Abolitionist online magazine here.

On November 12, 2011 we participated in the Lincoln Veggie Fayre as co-organisers and volunteers—our last act as members within a local welfarist group. The previous year had seen over 600 visitors so it seemed a good opportunity to inject a vegan message into proceedings.

To give context, the fayre had originally been founded by grassroots vegan activists in 2008 with the values of free entry, free vegan food and vegan education. It had certainly lost its way since those noble beginnings, with the original founders and co-organisers being pushed out one by one until quite different values remained. The group remaining, despite having the word vegan in its title, had taken every opportunity to bask in the media glow, particularly that of the toothless Nocton “victory”, when the infamous local dairy proposal was refused by default on environmental grounds. Vegan education was clearly no longer the main goal.

 In a rare meeting the few members in attendance were told that 2011 would have admission fees and free food was to be restricted, despite decent profits the previous year. Luckily we eeked out one last whimper of democracy and such negative shifts were at least temporarily delayed. The fayre would go ahead with free entry, although there would remain a thinly disguised war on the free food. We thought this bizarre, as this was meant to be an advocacy event.

Determined not to let the event shift too far from its roots, we put in many hours of preparation and organisation. We dutifully vowed to uphold the free vegan food and education elements to the best of our abilities. We took our stations on the Friday afternoon, preparing the food on site as is required. We even introduced new, healthier items like giant bowls of quinoa salads.

Getting the ingredients we asked for out of the group coffers was made predictably difficult, so, we often had to reach into our own pockets. We didn’t expect to recoup the money, but considered it instead a donation to veganism. We would be there until late evening providing a huge spread, a great testament to the efforts of a small remaining band of principled volunteers.

Sadly, on the day of the event we were again exposed to an attitude of total antagonism towards the free food from the welfarists: “It’s stopping people from buying stuff,” was an oft repeated mantra amongst the disgruntled few. Ironically, never one to miss a media opportunity, the self-proclaimed “director” went on the radio pushing free food (and entry) as the main attraction to any would be attendees.

Suspiciously, all the food was put out in one go—rather than staggered as is customary, so all visitors get a chance to sample and taste through lunchtime and beyond. Unsurprisingly this led to dwindling supplies a few hours in, which must have caused those guided by the profit motive great pleasure.

In fact, outrageously, many people were even left unsure as to whether the food was suitable for vegans! This now under publicised baseline had been explicitly stated in previous years by helpful vegan volunteers dishing up food and having conversations with visitors as they did so. This year the tables were shifted around and reduced so that it wasn’t possible for anyone to perform this helpful duty and, instead, the food was just angrily dumped out with no further supervision or care.

Regardless, the bounty of vegan goodness was still very well received by a curious public. So what better way to cement and nurture that interest than by sharing the recipes? Alas no, our efforts to put out cards with an online link to the recipes we had prepared were thwarted and routinely gathered up in an odd display of ego. A bizarrely covert form of vegan advocacy, where recipes that make transitioning easier are hoarded instead of shared.

Well there lays the next problem, the total lack of vegan advocacy at the fayre. Oh sure the event had a baseline of veganism buried away somewhere, but it was seen as an almost dirty word to be ashamed of, or , “radical” even (more on that one later). The local welfarist group had vastly scaled back its vegan educative materials and chosen instead to put prime focus on their private business’ stall. A cynic might suggest this played a part in the lurch towards the aforementioned commercialisation of the fayre.

Who could expect any more, though, when the event had become near totally enthralled to the whims of VIVA!, the self-proclaimed biggest vegetarian group in Europe? They took a double stall in a prime location, choice position on all sponsorship materials, and their director Juliet Gellatley was to dominate the speaking schedule with not one but two lengthy talks. Meanwhile her assistant would fill any remaining gaps by giving VIVA! cookery demonstrations.

Again, for the sake of honesty, VIVA! do have a vegan message buried somewhere, however it takes a firm backseat to all things “veggie”. Given they do choose to use only the anaemic tag of vegetarian in their name, that’s no great surprise.

Most important to the organisation seems to be self-aggrandisement and crowbarring the word VIVA! into every phrase. Don’t go vegan, “go VIVA vegan!” and, more to the point in most easily appeasing the general money-donating public, don’t go veggie, “go VIVA veggie!”. As outsiders, there’s a feeling that they are not interested in getting people to go vegan, so much as getting people to donate money. Even if they do go vegan, it is correctedly called ‘Viva Vegan!’, so as not to lose out on potential members. Any concern that people might be put off—by linking veganism to a specific business—is ignored in favour of profit.

In the face of these overwhelming odds, we took it upon ourselves to assume the role of pariahs and provide the one and only stall focussed purely on vegan education. It was a great success, with plenty of people interested in the logical, unequivocal message of opposing all use of other animals in equal measure.

It is surely refreshingly consistent to hear such a message, after VIVA! confuse with messages implying kangaroo leather is worse than standard leather, or that there is an equal moral footing for buying free range eggs rather than not buying eggs at all. As a result our blog has received a good number of hits and we’ve had plenty of feedback and call to continue the discussion.

Of course when presented with a hundred welfarist messages and only one of abolitionist veganism, the path of least resistance is to obey the flashy slogans of the big animal welfare authorities and go “veggie”. However, we definitely provided food for thought by exposing people to ideas that they otherwise wouldn’t have received. If nothing else we introduced a meme that runs contrary to the near worthless platitudes contained in the perceived wisdom. As such, attending the event, whilst not without its difficulties, was certainly worthwhile.

During a rare gap in the VIVA!-led festivities, we even found a vacant slot to present a talk to a standing room only audience. Giving the accessible and purposefully vague (yet accurate) title of “How to Best Help Animals.” the abolitionist vegan message was received with great curiosity and interest, with many people staying behind to comment that they couldn’t disagree with the logic of the argument. For full context, the speech we presented can be found here.

This is not to say there weren’t problems: the following Sunday morning, after our labour and volunteering had conveniently been fully exploited, we were issued a letter informing us that our memberships of the local animal welfare group had been terminated with immediate effect. Other dirty tactics to discredit our efforts sadly followed, but not all local animal welfare groups need be so antagonistic towards vegan education. So, whilst egregious, this behaviour needn’t put off other advocates from attending similar events to present a much needed alternate perspective.

Our satisfaction is in having consistently and logically promoted the interests of other animals rather than one ego-led self-promotion and mutually gratifying PR exercises such as that between private enterprise and attending VIVA! patron Benjamin Zephaniah.

Vegan education was edited from the videos and photographs of the event and director of VIVA! Juliet Gellatley was overheard to call us “trouble causers” and our commitment to vegan education “radical”. “Go be radical somewhere else” was the royal decree. Interesting statements coming from an organisation that officially responds that veganism is the answer, when asked by potential donating vegans. There’s a business-forced inconsistency here that is not hard to spot.

We immediately fired off a letter of complaint to VIVA! towers, expressing our disappointment and querying why they are so openly hostile towards non-violent, vegan education but received no response at all. The arrogance of big money animal welfare organisations seemingly knows no bounds. Perhaps we needed to offer a financial donation in order to get a response?

Oh well, here’s to The VIVA! Veggie Lincoln Roadshow 2012. Be sure to have your entry fees at the ready, plenty of spending money and a packed lunch just in case the free food is in short supply.


  1. The attitude of the 'welfarist group' has been visible for some time. They would fall over themselves to court council and church dignitaries in supplying foodstuffs for events yet go into apoplexy when asked to give a cooking demo by some Anarchists for their Free School day. And these Anarchists would have been a far more receptive and appreciative audience than any of the former.

    1. We couldnt agree more. Anyone interested or receptive deserves access to vegan education and to deny it to anyone is to do a disservice to the animals,environment and to the individual humans health. We had a great time at the free school day,had some meaningful conversations and all the food was vegan which is a great ethical baseline!

  2. I came over here looking for a link to send a thankyou for the sterling work you put in on April 21st at the "Spring Green" event, where you provided a breath of fresh air and put over a gentle and loving message whilst not being offensive or confrontational. I thought you were professional, and I mourn the fact that I didn't have time to talk to you and get some advice about some of the issues that I struggle with as I transition my family's diet towards a more sustainable endpoint.

    Reading this article makes me so sad, as you do so much for your cause. Please rest assured that you have made a difference to my diet and viewpoint, and I look forwards to being able to talk to you when I'm not trying to organise anything!

  3. Thanks for the kind words Annie. If you have any questions or require any information or advice we're more than happy to help out.

  4. What a horrible group the other people are and i'm really surprised at VIVA and am stopping to donate to them. You are right in your other article that we can do as much good on our own than giving them money. Thank you so much for being a loud and proud voice for animals I really respect you guys and hope to one day meet you,I feel we would be friends.