This week I’m delighted to be talking to the Head of Campaigns and Policy at The Vegan Society. Louise Davies, who has worked at The Vegan Society for just over a year, aims to encourage people to go and stay vegan, to raise public awareness of the benefits of veganism, and influences opinion formers and politicians to encourage vegan-friendly policy changes.
Louise is also interested in social justice and environmental issues. She owns a fair trade shop – eighteenrabbit.co.uk – and has previously worked for the Green Party, the Guardian & Observer, and ran her own sustainable events agency in London. She lives on the Welsh border with her husband Andrew, and two rescue cats – Robert and Patti (The Smiths).
1/ What made you go vegan?
I’d been vegetarian for years after a school photography project at a local cattle market, but struggled on and off with veganism for a while. The final push was matching up my environmental concerns with what I eat and realising that you can’t be truly green unless you’re vegan.
2/ If you could only watch 3 TV programmes for the rest of your life, what would they be?
I’m on my third run through of How I Met Your Mother so I potentially will be watching if for the rest of my life… I love the friendly familiarity of the characters. I know this will sound like I’m trying to offset the cheesy HIMYM answer, but my second answer would genuinely be the Channel 4 News. And lastly, I’ll say Black Mirror as I’ve been gripped and disturbed in equal measure by the last series and think it could do with several repeats.
3/ What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
I’m just back from a trip to Morocco which was quite special. I’m not telling you about my ultimate favourite place though as what makes it so perfect is that no one knows about it! But it’s on the Pacific coast of Mexico…
4/ What are the vegan options like where you live?
I live in a small village in mid Wales with 1500 inhabitants. BUT, it’s a magical place with 30+ bookshops, heaps of interesting people and a burgeoning interest in veganism. Honestly, when The Vegan Society were running our Plate Up for the Planet campaign last summer random passers-by stopped me to say they were taking (and loving) the seven day challenge, and Hay-on-Wye has become very vegan friendly. We have the Salad Project with a vegan lunch option every day, Old Electric with lots of vegan choices including cakes, and the brilliant Beer Revolution are doing vegan February (and they have great vegan pizzas and snacks year round).
5/ What is your idea of happiness?
It depends on my mood – jumping up and down at a Vaccines gig, sipping margaritas on a Mexican beach, or snuggling with my cats on the sofa in front of HIMYM.
6/ Which three other vegans would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
This is a tricky question as I’m often telling vegans not to hang out with each other – we need to break out of the vegan bubble! But as you’re forcing me, I’ll go for George Monbiot, Morrissey and Woody Harrelson. I actually have been in a lift with Woody Harrelson. He was eating a banana.
7/ Do you have a favorite motto, if so, what is it?
I know it’s overused, but it has to be the Margaret Mead quote: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
8/ What are your all-time fave vegan things to eat?
My husband’s seitan popcorn chicken with coconut rice. Also I should give a shout out to Not Dogs who I don’t go to enough given they’re in Birmingham like our office.
9/ What song do you most like to dance to at a party?
Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle and Sebastian.
10/ Who in the world would you most like to see go vegan?
Right now it would be amazing if Michael Gove MP went vegan. As our Secretary of State for the Environment he has the power to really change our food and farming policies. The government talks about sustainable agriculture policy but we need to question whether farming animals for our consumption can ever be sustainable. We’re currently paying farmers to produce food which is bad for the environment, bad for our health and, crucially, bad for animals. Come on Michael – see the light!
I also asked Louise a few more questions because I am a big fan of the Vegan Society’s work and wanted her take on a couple of issues:
11/ Where do you see veganism going over the next few years?
We’re on an incredible journey of transition, and it’s been wonderful to see the vegan momentum take hold. There’s been hardly a week in the last year that I haven’t seen a new report or news story that substantiates our belief that veganism is best for the environment, our health and the animals. We’re an evidence-based organisation and work hard to ensure our campaigns and communications are factual, but it’s often hard not to get carried away with the information overload that points to a vegan future. For me, key wins of last year were the Guardian declaring its support for veganism, and environmental guru George Monbiot committing to a vegan diet. We’ll see more of this in the years to come, but we shouldn’t be complacent, change won’t happen overnight and there’s plenty of work to be done.
12/ How best to advocate to the vegan-curious
This harks back to my political campaigning work, where I always supported positive messaging. We need to present veganism as a gain not a sacrifice, something hopeful not fearful, and we need to be friends, not enemies, of anyone even thinking about veganism. The Vegan Society have a number of campaigns that do just that, and people can get involved in these at a local level. We’ve just launched a Campaigner Network to provide anyone interested in advocating for veganism with the tools to do so.
If you want to hear more from Louise Davies, she is speaking at the upcoming In-Vitro Feast evening alongside speculative designer David Benque, and others, about lab-grown foods, its impact on society, and how it’s disrupting the food industry. I’ve been invited by the Makerversity to attend this event at Somerset House on Thursday 8 February 2018 and they’ve asked me to let you know about their discount code which is ALLGOOD20. Check out it out here. I am sure it will be a fascinating and thought-provoking evening.