Veganism in the UK has exploded in the last few years. We’re seeing plant ‘milks’ and dairy-free cheeses increasingly taking up space on supermarket shelves, Greggs’ vegan sausage rolls were the main topic of news in the New Year, and a new vegan ‘cheesemonger’ has recently opened up in London.
But is veganism just a food trend that is spreading around the world? You could say that – but there are multiple groups of passionate activists who say that veganism is here to stay – and for a reason. To them, it’s not just a diet or a health fad; it’s an ethical lifestyle and the future of the world as we know it.
When we hear ‘vegan activism’, some of us instantly associate this with people being intimidating, militant or preachy.
Changing hearts, changing minds
However, some members of animal rights’ groups don’t want to be tarred with that same brush – there’s a new type of activism that has spread worldwide; from the largest cities to the smallest country towns.
I sat with Ricardo Jorge Novais Viana, a vegan activist from Portugal who is now living in Southampton. He attends official marches and protests in London and around the country when he can, as well as attending activism events in his home city.
More recently, he became one of the two organisers of Anonymous for the Voiceless, also known as AV, in the Hampshire city, which is an international street activist organization ‘dedicated to total animal liberation’.
Ricardo, who also goes by ‘Ricardo the Avocado’, talks me through a day at a ‘Cube of Truth’ AV event…
It may seem a little strange, a group of people standing in a cube formation, wearing Anonymous masks and holding laptops showing slaughterhouse footage. But to them, it’s a bold statement – and it’s got to be said that it attracts plenty of attention from passers by and shoppers.
There’s a new type of activism that has spread worldwide; from the largest cities to the smallest country towns.
Is this form of activism effective? That’s what Ricardo, and many other activists around the world, are striving for.
Not all peaceful
He talks to me about more ‘aggressive’ attempts by vegans to convey the message – and he explains how it can put people off trying out the lifestyle.
It cannot be denied that veganism is on the rise, and it doesn’t appear likely to stop growing – whether people go vegan for their health, because they love all animals, or environmental concerns.
Ultimately, Ricardo taught me that the Cube events are about peaceful education and open-mindedness. They want to attract attention, sure, as every campaign or not-for-profit organisation does.
But it must be working, because an increasing number of people are beginning to listen, question, and challenge their set beliefs on where their food comes from. We have to admit that the world is changing, albeit slowly.