Grantham is usually a quiet, sleepy market town, most especially now with near-deserted streets due to Coronavirus restrictions. It is also, for obvious reasons, quite a conservative little town, being birthplace of Britain’s first woman prime minister. It may therefore seem an unlikely place for a cutting-edge campaign to encourage veganism. So you can imagine my surprise when I noticed a couple of what initially looked like cute animal posters on bus stops outside King’s School. On closer inspection their deeper meaning was clear, as they were part of vegan charity Viva!’s challenging new billboard campaign to make people think about what they are eating.
I wanted to find out more, and the good people at Viva! were quick to reply, letting me know about their latest billboard campaign across the East Midlands. The billboards, with their hard-hitting messages, are challenging people to question their food choices and to try the vegan route. And the widespread campaign is targeting the residents of Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, as well as smaller communities like Grantham.
As Viva! explained, all too often people choose to buy animal products without making the connection to the animal who has suffered and killed in order to be on their plate. Over a billion animals were slaughtered in the UK in 2018, and the vast majority of farmed animals are being raised on factory farms. It’s therefore time to confront the uncomfortable hypocrisy that we love animals yet condemn others to a life of suffering.
After testing different messages on meat eaters, Viva! found that the direct approach of asking the questions so many choose to ignore was the most effective. They have placed the billboards in bus stops where people have time to absorb the message and on gigantic proactive sites with a huge footfall.
Certainly this particular site, outside one of the county’s top grammar schools, is normally a hive of activity as the King’s boys come and go from the school that educated Sir Isaac Newton. It has a history of academic excellence, and the boys would undoubtedly take in the message. But, of course, the school has closed due to Coronavirus, and so I hope others see the billboards and think deeply about the implications.
Juliet Gellatley, Viva!’s Founder and Director, is forthright about the charity’s choice of message. “Veganism has exploded and today it is more popular than ever”, she explains. “However, despite this surge in popularity, many people are still unaware that the neatly packaged animal products on supermarket shelves come from factory farms where animals are kept in shocking conditions. We’re constantly told that the UK has the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but this just isn’t true. Factory farmed animals are kept in cramped and squalid conditions and pumped full of antibiotics to minimise diseases created by such unnatural conditions.
“Viva! is using these billboards to capture the public’s attention and raise the intriguing question of why we love certain animals yet eat others. Britain is a nation of animal lovers, and over 50% of the population has a companion animal. We are hopeful that this campaign will resonate with these people and encourage them to choose vegan.”
Viva! is also asking the public to share the billboards on social media, using the hashtags #ChooseVeganBillboards and #FavouriteAnimal.
It is unfortunate for the campaign that so many streets are virtually empty with the restrictions placed on the movement of UK citizens, absolutely necessary as they are at this current time. But hopefully enough people will see the billboards and will actually think about the message, and perhaps make some vital changes to their lifestyles.
And of course, if you have chosen to go down the vegan road, we have the perfect vegan cheeses and recipe suggestions to help you on your journey!