Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism
ROBIN LANE AND THE LONDON VEGAN FESTIVAL
Robin Lane has inspired many to veganism and activism. He himself has a rich
and varied animal rights background in animal rights, veganism and
animal liberation. He is an ex ALF Press officer, he has organised vegan
theatre and vegan stalls on the street and is co-founder of Campaign
Against Leather and Fur (CALF). He is also one of the founder members of
London Animal Action, no longer running. Today we talk to him as
co-founder of his very successful 9th Year running of holding the London
Abolitionist: What have you been doing with yourself these last few years Robin?
Robin Lane: For the last 3 to 4 years I’ve been involved with Vegan Campaigns which is a group that promotes veganism in London. Every month we do a
street stall in a different part of London – we do North, East, South,
West – on a rotor basis and we actively promote veganism. We promote
food samples and people that help on the stall make vegan food and we
give it away to the general public. We give away literature and vegan
recipes and we have the chocolates and soymilk and we get to speak to
the general public on a one to one basis which is brilliant. Also what I
have been doing is the annual London Vegan Festival and next year it’ll
be our 10th year.
How did the London Vegan Festival get started?
In 1996 I was one of the council members of the Vegan Society UK and
someone on the council had the idea of having an annual vegan event but
he was thinking on a smaller scale at that time. I suggested that they
make it into a much much bigger event and from that a small working
party – Alison and another person - was formed from council members of
the Vegan Society.
In 1998 we held our first vegan festival in London. It attracted then about
1000 people and that was quite surprising because we weren’t expecting
that many. The following year Alison, my wife and I organised the second
vegan festival and we carried on organising them right up until 2005
when we joined forces with the Vegan Campaigns people.
In 2006 we joined up with Festival of Life, a raw food organisation. We have joked there’s been 2 festivals going
on in one building. We have inspired vegan festivals all around the UK
now so changed our name and regionalised ourselves to London Vegan
Festival instead of National Vegan Festival.
Tell us about the 2007 London Vegan Festival. Was it bigger and better? Who
was there? Who were some of the speakers? What were some of the unusual
It was a huge amount of work this year but we really did put on an amazing
show. We had 2400 people through the doors which is the most we have
ever had at our festival. This year we did a huge amount of advertising
and in fact the London newspaper, which is a free newspaper given out on
the Underground carried a full page article about the Festival this
year which I think brought in a lot of the public. We took everybody
this year. We had a comedian performing, we had music playing all day
long in one of the halls, we had a film show and played “Behind the
Mask”, we had 106 Stall holders. The Vegan Organic Network were
there this year promoting veganic farming – some organics don’t use
veganic fertilizers and such so that’s where veganic farming comes in.
We had a group this year called “Road Peace”. They lobby for lower road speeds and they help people who have been
bereaved in road accidents. The point is, aside from the fact that the
organisation is run by a vegan, millions of animals are killed annually
on the roads each year. What we do is try and diversify and cover a
whole spectrum really of different areas. We have the ALF Supporters
Group promoting their work to Animal Aid promoting theirs, for instance.
We try to include everybody who is promoting a vegan cruelty-free way
How was the Festival received this year Robin?
Very, very well. In fact we had more congratulatory remarks this year than we
have ever had before. We had lots and lots of emails saying how good it
was. Our event is very unusual because it’s very grassroots. We are not
some big organisation who are paid to put on a show once a year. We
actually do it on a voluntary basis and we keep our entry price right
down to one pound. It was a pound in 1998 so it’s actually gone down in
price if you take inflation into account. We try and charge the stall
holders as little as possible. We keep the costs down and we don’t do it
to make a profit but we have to cover the hall costs but that’s about
How has veganism grown in London now?
You just have to look at the High Street really to see how it’s grown. When
people say we haven’t gotten very far in 30 years we only have to
remember back. When I first became a vegan in 1982 it wasn’t very easy
to get produce but now it’s like vegan paradise especially in London.
I myself think of veganism as something that could cure the world ills.
That may sound idealistic and I know we are still a small international
community but ultimately about a vegan life it’s all good. It addresses
environmental concerns and it encompasses respect for one another as
well because that really does come into it as well quite a lot. I think
it could be the answer.
As Donald Watson, the founder of veganism once said: Vegan covers all the criteria…
Yes it does. For instance if someone becomes a vegan then all those other
things full into place. It has a dominos effect. If people have other
issues, someone might be a meat-eater and a anti-vivisectionist whereas
if someone becomes an ethical vegan they automatically take into
consideration all the other issues such as animal circuses, vivisection –
things fall into place.
What are your views on progressive publications in the movement?
I think it’s really important for publications to make it as easy as possible for people to see how that’s what you’ve got to be cooking.
People that we meet in the street at our stalls they don’t really think too
much about issues like vegetarianism and veganism. They have their lives
and they don’t really think about those things.
To make it as simple as possible to follow it’s important to make it clear
about the health benefits because some people just don’t care about
animals. They think animals were put on the earth for us to eat.
Another thing that progressive publications have to do is talk about
environmental considerations because animal farming is one of the worse
things that causes environmental damage and pollution and how the water
is poisoned by all the effluent.
What about the staving people in the world and the grain that’s taken from
all the other countries such as Ethiopia and how the western diet
affects people in developing countries.
And what about all the forests being cut down to provide feedlots etc. Talk
about these issues on that sort of level and veganism is easily seen as
the answer ultimately to all those problems.
What made you become a vegan Robin?
It was a natural progression for me. I couldn’t put it down to any thing in
particular. In 1980 I was involved in the anti-nuclear movement and my
mother and my brother became vegetarians at the same time as me. Years
later I seem to remember picking up a leaflet about vivisection. I
didn’t really know much about it and then I became involved with the
British Union Against Vivisection and from that I became a vegan as the
most obvious thing. My Mum became vegan at the same time which was
really good because I didn’t have anyone else to go vegan with me.
These days you can say you’re a vegan and people know what you are talking
about. It’s a known word now whereas before people would have thought if
you were a vegan you’d be from another planet or something. Quite often
you see the word “vegan” in the supermarkets on some products. The big
bread company Hovis has put “vegan” on their bread. It’s an on-going
thing and it’s going to get more and more popular. I’m very confident
What about CALF – Campaign Against Leather and Fur?
In 1989 we were originally going to only campaign against leather because
it wasn’t that well known a issue back then but we did bring in fur
because there really isn’t that much difference between fur and leather
when you are talking about the skins of murdered animals. People used to
say about leather at the time “Oh, it’s just a by-product of the meat
industry” and we were actually criticized for having this campaign but
now vegetarian and vegan shoes are available and the Vegan Society,
Animal Aid etc has produced a leaflets against leather so it’s much more
well known now than what it was when we started CALF.
How has activism changed in England?
In the late 70’s, early 80’s to 90’s there was a lot more people involved
in those days, there was a lot more people on the streets doing
demonstrations and huge marches. 7000 people marching from A to B was
not uncommon. Nowadays you go to a protest say at Oxford where a lab is
being built and you might get 500 people. The point is nowadays you
might get less people but the campaign is more focused so perhaps more
is actually being achieved now than what it was previously.
There’s a great level of campaigning happening in England. Regarding the
campaigning today things have become very very difficult for
campaigners. People are being arrested just for having a placard or
giving out leaflets. I know people who were on a antifur picket and they
were singled out and their homes were raided by the police and they had
to go to court. A friend of ours had a placard with a dead fox on it,
she was arrested and had to go to court and she was just giving out
leaflets. We had a case recently where a group in South London were
having a stall at a council run Green Fair and the stall was descended
on by 12 police officers for having collection tins on their table. It’s
become a little bit heavy. I think the truth is the Government will let
people do whatever they want to as long as they consider it ineffective
but once people become effective, it’s then that they start clamping
down and that’s what’s happening now.
What advise can you give others if they want to set up their own Vegan Festival?
Don’t do it in London! (laughter)
People have said to us in the past when we were the only ones doing a National
Vegan Festival, they’d say “Why don’t you organise it in Birmingham?
Why don’t you organise it in Manchester? Why don’t you organise it in
Scotland?” “Or what about Cornwall?” or whatever and I’d say to them,
“Why don’t you organise it in Birmingham, Manchester or Scotland?”
Some people decided that they would start doing just that and we would say,
“It’s not that difficult”. I mean we didn’t have any prior experience.
It’s about naming a date, finding a hall, contacting organisations and
thinking about putting on some entertainment because people like to be
entertained as well. They don’t just want to look at horrible pictures
all day long. It’s really not that hard if one puts their mind to it. It
is a lot of work but it’s a very fulfilling.
Add a Comment