Introducing Plant People: bite-sized chats with plant-based eaters from around Brighton telling us how they like to enjoy their food.
Full name and what you do
Vicky Bond, Managing Director of The Humane League UK
How would you describe your diet?
How long have you been eating like this?
I’ve not eaten meat since I was 14. I went vegan nearly 9 years ago
Your top three places to eat in Brighton at the moment…
1. The Longhouse - easily the best brunch in town!
2. Food for Friends - great for a celebration
3. Earth and Stars - the best beer-battered tofu and chips are too good!
Food you just can’t get enough of…
I go through phases, at the moment its Oumph pulled pork in a stir fry
What do you think is missing from Brighton’s food scene?
Cheaper veggie eating places, open in the evening but aren’t fast-food.
What’s your signature dish?
I’ve recently perfected my vegan Nasi goreng
Who inspires you?
My team, it’s rare to work with such dedicated and talented people all with the same vision.
Tell us about what The Humane League does and how you do it
The Humane League (THL) exists to end the abuse of animals raised for food. We do this by influencing the policies of the world’s biggest companies, demanding legislation, and empowering others to take action and leave animals off their plates. The Humane League began operating in the UK in 2016, becoming a registered charity in 2018. The organisation has secured cage-free commitments from over 90 brands in the UK, impacting the lives of millions of hens.
Our primary focus is now on reforming the broiler chicken industry, addressing the immense suffering endured by chickens reared for meat by asking companies to sign up to the European Chicken Commitment.
Biggest achievements this year :
We’ve seen some big names commit to improving their welfare criteria, including Tesco making a cage-free commitment covering parts of Asia. Hotels like Millennium & Copthorne,Hilton and Best Western have recently committed use only cage-free eggs in all their hotels around the world and Mondelez International including China in their cage-free commitment.
An increasing number of companies are committing to the European Chicken Commitment criteria, as the public becomes more aware of how broiler chickens bred for meat are reared and demand change. We estimate that a total of 50 companies have now made a commitment to higher chicken welfare in Europe.
Restaurants who have committed include Wagamama, Pret a Manger, Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas, ASK Italian, Zizi, Prezzo, Carluccio’s. In the food service sector, we have: Aramark, Compass, Sodexo, Elior Hospitality: Accor hotels Manufacturers: Kraft-Heinz, Nomad Foods
Why targetting big business and working with other countries is important....
We target big businesses not only because they are the biggest uses of most animal-based products but also because they hold a lot of the power to make change. We could focus on producers but they are often limited by the companies they supply to and their willingness to pay.
We collaborate with other organisations across Europe and around the world through the Open Wing Allliance, an alliance THL founded, made up of over 70 animal protection organisations around the world with the aim to end the abuse of chickens. Working with other organisations across different countries helps us reach the big multi-national corporations. We collaborate by going to meetings together and joining forces on campaigns. We also get to share and learn from one another.
Why did you join The Humane League and what did you do before
I joined The Humane League because I think there is such an extreme injustice in the world when companies make millions or even billions off the suffering of animals. These companies need to be held accountable and the tactics that THL uses hold companies accountable in a way no other group was doing when I joined in 2016. THL has a rare culture and incorporates core values that I believe are extremely important: being relentless, nimble, collaborative, inclusive and innovative. Their animal rights philosophy coupled with the pragmatic need to reduce suffering now meant THL was a perfect fit!
Before THL I was working at Compassion in World Farming as a Food Business Manager, working with companies to improve animal welfare in their supply chains. The role was very collaborative with companies and took me on many farms and in slaughterhouses. Before that, I did a number of roles and my career actually started as a veterinary surgeon.
What have been your biggest challenges to date? (in your role and as a business)
For us as a charity one of our biggest challenges has been handling the high workload. We have grown from 2 people in 2016 to 15 people today. This just shows how much work there is and to be honest we could double again and still be extremely busy but I hope that we are at least a bit more sustainable now with more people within the charity.
Personally in my role, I think a challenge has been moving away from being so technical and now working with a much more lay audience adjusting my presentation style to fit that. I’ve been working on it a lot in the last year and hope I’m getting much better!
What do you think are the biggest barriers that the vegan movement is facing?
I think there are a number of barriers including the traditions we associate with certain meats and the general lack of people realising how they could actually cook a vegan meal.
Also, while veganism is no longer seen as being quite so weird, it is still seen as extreme and this isn’t always helped when people take tactics that just make people defensive rather than engaging in conversation. I think it’s important to be a great role model for veganism, healthy and happy but also kind. And being kind means kind to all. Ruining someone’s evening by accusing them of being a murderer isn’t likely to make friends or help the general public listen. Tobias Leenhaert and Melanie Joy are doing a lot to try and get vegans listening to better ways to communicate. Being self-righteous or accusatory never achieves much. I often want to scream inside but that’s where it should stay, being calm and collected, listening and empathising gets you much further in influencing people.
Another barrier is that we aren’t quite at a place where vegan meat substitutes are cheap enough to attract people to easily swap. Part of the problem is meat is horribly cheap and with chicken even being sold as a loss item by supermarkets it means consumers have a total misconception of costs.
How can people get involved in activism generally and also with the Humane League
There are many groups out there advocating for animal rights and for people to switch to a plant-based diet that need volunteers to raise awareness and fundraise.
At THL we run action parties in cities where you can join a group of activists and spend the evening taking actions for our campaigns. We also have an online campaign tool called the Fast Action Network that you can join here and you’ll get an email twice a week with quick 1 minute actions you can do online to campaign against companies. We are looking for volunteers to help get involved in our action parties, protests and other aspects of our work. If anyone is interested please contact Katie here.
Find out more