Celebrating 30 Years of the Vegan Trademark
You’re probably all familiar with the instantly recognisable Vegan Trademark. You’ll see it on the packaging of many items on our website, but how much do you actually know about this iconic stamp? As this year is a landmark anniversary of the Vegan Trademark, we thought we’d take you on a journey over the past three decades. Buckle up, off we go…
A Brief History of The Vegan Society…
Founded here in the UK, in November 1944, The Vegan Society is a registered charity and the oldest vegan society in the world. The Society was founded by Donald Watson and his wife, Dorothy, along with four friends, who worked together to define and coin the word ‘vegan’ (the first and last letters of ‘vegetarian’), as a statement against vegetarians who ate dairy and egg products.
So, How and Why Did the Vegan Trademark Come About?
The sunflower you see in the Vegan Trademark was taken from the original, hand-drawn Vegan Society charity logo – it’s simple, eye-catching and easily recognisable. There is still no legal definition of ‘vegan’ when it comes to product labelling. Products are therefore open to being mislabelled – either by companies misunderstanding the definition or wanting to gain access to a vegan audience without doing the groundwork. Prompted by this lack of clarity, in 1990, the Vegan Society’s Trademark was introduced to help consumers easily spot vegan products. This was the world’s first vegan product labelling scheme of its kind.
Every single product labelled with the Vegan Trademark has been checked by a team of experts to ensure that absolutely no animal ingredients have been used and that is has not been tested on animals either. The Vegan Trademark represents the international standard for authentic vegan products and is registered in many countries around the world, being used worldwide on over 44,000 products.
The Vegan Society’s Impact Today…
With thousands upon thousands of products globally carrying the Vegan Trademark, The Vegan Society have helped catapult veganism into the mainstream. Talk of vegan ethics and culture-shifting vegan products have been discussed openly in the media and by celebrities (does anyone remember Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscars speech!?), as well as online searches for vegan products rocketing year on year. The Vegan Society’s official partner, Veganuary, signed up a record 400,000 people this year, compared to 250,000 in 2019 – showing that more people than ever are adopting the diet and lifestyle, and require the products to suit their choices.
Veganism... Thoughts from Robin Roth, our Mission and Transparency Lead
My son was 11 when he informed us that he had seen something on the internet about animal factory farming. He informed us that he intended to become a vegetarian. So, we smiled, breathed in, and decided to wait it out. It’s a dangerous game trying to “out-wait” a child. You assume that you have all the cards in your hand and it’s just a question of playing them at the right moment. But children can be wise and know so much more than their parents.
Nine years on, the whole family has become vegetarian and we have occasionally flirted with, though never fully consummated an affair with, veganism.
The original inspiration for my son was the sudden realisation that factory farmed food was produced in the most unimaginably horrible way. As Bismark, Chancellor of Germany in the 1880s once commented, “the man who wishes to keep his respect for sausages and laws should not see how either is made.”
Over the years my interest in animal farming became more nuanced. It was not just about how the animals were housed and ultimately slaughtered. I began to understand that eating meat is fantastically inefficient in terms of feeding a growing population. It is one of those generally known “facts” that to produce a one calorific unit of meat requires 10 calorific units of grain. While some animal meat (chicken) is less grain intensive than others (beef), the overall sum is about right.
Just because this is “normal” doesn’t mean that it makes any sense whatsoever. I know of relatively few business models that deliberately choose to invest 10 units of a commodity, throw in some additional cost and time in order to produce… one unit of the same commodity. It works because of an economic system that is heavily subsidised by the state and has enormous hidden costs which we all pay for – or will pay for at some point in the future.
I was recently informed that a small but still significant percentage of our water bill covers the cost of cleaning up farming effluent. The hidden cost of excessive anti-biotic usage may, of course, yet come to haunt us in ways we don’t want to contemplate given our current experience with the pandemic – and the subsidies paid to produce mono-crops and actively remove bio-diversity at every opportunity are eye-watering. And this is to say nothing of the removal of vast areas of tropical forest every year, in order to feed animals in Europe. Cheap meat and dairy are, in fact, very, very expensive.
Veganism is a logical response to a completely rotten system. And of course, vegans are vilified by very powerful industry lobbies who have a lot to fear. Rotten systems tend to react – often viciously – when they feel threatened. Now, anyone who is interested in trade justice can begin to smell a good cause here. Veganism, and vegetarianism, are in fact distinctly political choices. It sounds a bit like fair trade, in fact, and we are up against exactly the same few multi-national trading companies.
Veganism may seem beyond most of us - even if we could imagine a life without meat, eggs, milk and butter, what do vegans actually eat? How on earth can you live with such a limited selection? One of my favourite authors Michael Pollen – who understands more about food injustice than most Fairtrade leaders, wrote a brilliant book on this subject called “Eat Food. Not too much. Mainly plants.” He stresses that grass grazed animals kept in healthy, generally organic, conditions play an extremely important role in sustainable agriculture – but examples are few and far between. He recommends that if you can support these farmers, do so. 100%. And just a clue here – you generally won’t find these products in supermarkets.
I have to side with Pollen on this occasion, a little dairy – organic and local – is still part of my diet, but if we want to make lasting changes to how food and animals are reared, eating less processed, factory farmed food is good for us, for the planet – and it definitely isn’t what the multinationals desire. What better reason can there be than that for giving it – at least occasionally - a go?
By the way WFTO Principle 10 is: “Respect for the Environment.”