Monday, September 01, 2008

Dear Fellow Vegetarian Society members

Below are three motions that are being brought before the membership at this year’s Annual General Meeting of The Vegetarian Society on Saturday 20 September 2008. These motions all seek to rationalise the Society’s commercial activities, and to protect the Society from the potential for negative publicity, owing to its commercial interests and relationships with companies that many of us would see as less than ethical. One of the resolutions seeks to improve the welfare conditions of animals which produce Vegetarian Society ‘approved’ products.

If you are a member of the Society please try to attend this year’s AGM – even if you do not usually attend – to vote on these important matters and make a difference to the Society and to the welfare of animals. If you are unable to attend the AGM please consider sending your proxy vote to the Society – a form of words can be found below which you can print out, fill in and return to the address at the bottom of the form. You do not need to obtain a proxy form from the Society – this form of words will suffice. You can appoint any member who is attending the AGM to vote for you. If you do not know any other member(s) attending the AGM, and wish to vote in favour of the motions, you might consider naming one of the two proposers as your proxy. Please contact us for address and membership number details to complete the form – our contact details are at the bottom of this email. If you have any queries about these resolutions or would like additional information about the rationales please contact us and we will try to provide more information.

In addition to this information members might also like to consider that only one resolution will have a substantial effect on the Society’s income streams – the resolution to approve only dairy products and eggs that meet more humane standards for animal welfare. The Society is better able to afford to make this important ethical decision today than at any time in its 160 year history. The Society’s latest accounts are publicly available at and show that the Society has net assets approaching £3.4m and net current assets of £1.5m. The Society has received £800,000 of a legacy that is expected to exceed £3m. In this unusually strong financial position it can afford a little largesse towards the animals producing egg and dairy foods. It is surely no more than those members leaving legacies to the Society would have expected from an ethical and above all compassionate registered charity.

Thank-you for taking the time to read this email – it is appreciated. It is impossible for us to reach all the members of the Society with our rationales without paying for a large mailing to the membership. We would be grateful, therefore, if you could forward this email to other members of the Society or to message boards/discussion groups where members of the Society are likely to be found. Thank-you.

Kind regards

Samantha (Sam) Calvert Tony Bishop-Weston (Tony Weston)

Motion: That The Vegetarian Society should develop and enforce animal welfare and GM free criteria for egg laying hens and dairy animals and therefore products containing eggs and dairy products licensed to use the VSUK Seedling Symbol. These standards to be not lower than that of the ‘organic’ welfare standards as defined by the Soil Association.

Rationale: This motion seeks to rationalise the Society’s Seedling Symbol guidelines on ethical issues. It is illogical for the Society to have a rule about the welfare of hens, and even about the use of GM material, and yet not on the equally pertinent issue of the welfare of the nation’s dairy herds.

The Soil Association’s standard for hen welfare is higher than that of The Vegetarian Society’s – a fact that may surprise some members. For example, the current Vegetarian Society standard allows hens to be ‘tipped’ (tip of beak removed) and to be kept in larger flocks than the organic system. At present The Vegetarian Society can ‘approve’ dairy products produced by zero grazing (cattle housed indoors with no access to grass) and where the calves have been sent for continental veal or other intensively reared systems: practices that are forbidden in the Soil Association system.

It is also important that the Society is consistent regarding GMOs. If GM material is not suitable to be included in ‘approved’ products then surely it is not acceptable that it is fed it the dairy herds and laying hens that produce eggs and dairy that are approved by The Vegetarian Society either. Similarly, as the Society does not permit ‘Vegetarian Society approved’ laying hens to be fed animal or fish feeds then dairy animals producing Vegetarian Society approved products should not fed them either. The Vegetarian Society is aware that the Soil Association’s welfare standards are the highest of any UK accreditation system and admits as much on its own website (; so acknowledging that it ‘approves’ many cruel practices in animal husbandry in the name of its membership.

More information on these issues and the guidance and views of a number of organisations – from animal welfare groups, to retailers, to those concerned about GM fed dairy cows can be found at the following links:!OpenDocument

Motion: To avoid indirectly profiting from animal slaughter, VSUK Seedling Symbol income from companies that are not exclusively vegetarian, such as McDonald’s Corporation, should be ring-fenced to be spent on educational vegetarian or vegan projects.

Rationale: The Vegetarian Society currently licences many products and services to use the Seedling Symbol that are manufactured or supplied by companies that are not exclusively vegetarian.

The Society is vulnerable to criticism in obtaining part of its income in this way.

By ring fencing these monies for educational work fees from companies that are not fully in line with the primary objectives of the Society can be shown to be spent exclusively on promoting a compassionate and healthy vegetarian or vegan diet to the nation rather than on running costs for the Society such as administration or salaries.

This motion would not deprive the Society of its income stream but would ensure that all income from these sources is spent on promoting the Society’s charitable objectives.

Motion: That The Vegetarian Society change its Seedling Symbol logo, artwork and trademark so that no approbation of a product or service is implied. In particular the words ‘Vegetarian Society approved’ should be removed and replaced with ‘licensed by The Vegetarian Society’ or ‘registered with The Vegetarian Society.’

Rationale: The Vegetarian Society’s Seedling Symbol implies approval of a product or service by including the words ‘Vegetarian Society approved’. This is dangerous to the Society because it leads the public and food professionals to believe that the Society thinks that a product is ‘good, acceptable, satisfactory or right’. However the Society’s ‘approval’ confirms only that the product meets the criteria for such matters as vegetarian ingredients. It does NOT confirm that the service is good, that the food is healthy and well-balanced for a vegetarian diet, that dairy herds are treated well, that it tastes nice, that it is made with good-quality ingredients, that it is produced under fair-trade conditions, that the workers are well treated, that there is no child labour, that the company is not involved in producing other products that may be objectionable to vegetarians or that are routinely tested on animals, that the company does not have investments in other companies that may be objectionable to vegetarians nor that the product contains no poor-quality additives etc.

It is clearly not feasible to take on board every issue that may arise and it could be argued that it would be outside of the Society’s charitable remit to do so. However what the Society CAN do to protect itself is to ‘license’ or ‘register’ products and services – or use another term that does not imply approbation on behalf of its membership. This is the practice of both the Vegan Society and the Soil Association.

Proxy Form

To be valid a proxy document must be received at the Society’s registered office no later than 48 hours prior to the time appointed for holding the meeting or adjourned meeting at which the ballot or vote is to be taken. This means that it must reach Parkdale by the morning of Thursday 18 September 2008. Please print out and complete the document below. Please ensure that you have signed it and had it witnessed and that you send it by post and not email or fax. Thank-you.

The document appointing a proxy shall be in the following form:

I (full name) _______________________________________________

of (full address) _____________________________________________

a Member of The Vegetarian Society with Membership Number ___________

Hereby appoint (proxy Member’s Name)______________________________

a Member of The Vegetarian Society with Membership Number_________

of (proxy Member’s address) _____________________________________

and failing him/her The Chairperson of the Meeting referred to below …

to vote on my behalf at the Annual General Meeting of the Society to be held on the 20th day of September 2008 and at any subsequent adjournment during the validity of this proxy.

As witness my hand this _______ day of _______ 2008.

Signature ____________________________________________

Name (BLOCK CAPITALS) _______________________________________

Witnessed by (Signature) _________________________________________


Samantha Calvert Marketing & PR
t. 01782 505430
m. 07967 042050

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