Vegan Lifestyle Association
I met Chantal and David a year or so ago at VegFest. We had been talking prior to that, but seeing them in action was amazing!
They had shopping baskets all around their stall, which were full of vegan products. So, without using any words, visitors could see how easy it was to shop for vegan products. The majority of the items on display are available in mainstream supermarkets, which showed that vegan food isn't hard to find and going to a specialist shop is no longer required!
Read on to find out more about the Vegan Lifestyle Association, which was founded by Chantal and David.
What does Vegan Lifestyle Association specialise in, and how much do you charge for this support?
Essentially the Vegan Lifestyle Association helps people to live more ethical, greener, healthier lifestyles, and in doing so achieve our vision of saving lives and saving our planet.
We promote veganism and support people with practical help and resources.
Anyone is welcome to join us no matter what their lifestyle is at present.
In addition, as an Association, with thousands of Associates already, we can, and are, providing a strong voice for veganism, helping to get vegan voices heard in mainstream media.
Better still, and unique to the UK, we’re totally free to join!
In fact everything we do is free.
This is an altruistic venture, funded by philanthropists and donations, and our 80-strong team are all volunteers.
Associates get great free benefits, such as, discounts on foods products and services, monthly competitions, 121 mentoring, a 24/7 vegan news channel, an activists newsletter and notice of vegan job vacancies.
Where are you based?
Our headquarters is in Bristol – but our team of Directors, Team Leaders and volunteers are all over the UK and beyond.
Does Vegan Lifestyle Association exclusively serve those who are local to you or can others who are further away access your support and products too? If so, how?
The way it’s going we’ll soon be global! Our Associates are mostly based in the UK but we do also have many international Associates and some international volunteers – from 14 different countries at the last count! Because much of what we do is online and translates well, we can help anyone, anywhere, and if we don’t know the answer to a specific question, we can usually find someone in our wonderful community who does!
What inspired you to create an organisation that solely focuses on plant-based living?
I became vegan for ethical reasons i.e. wanting to reduce animal suffering. The environmental impact is increasingly important to me too.
Veganism offers a solution to so many global issues and when I became vegan, I knew that I needed to do more. I wanted to become an advocate and an activist. This is what the second half of my life is about.
I also felt that, in order to raise awareness as quickly as possible we’d need strength in numbers. As individuals we’re rarely listened to, but as a collective voice within a body such as an Association, it’s an entirely different story. The VLA is already working with companies, other organisations and the media, and this is due to the power that we have as a collective. The potential has suddenly become massive, and that’s why people who care are joining us. They want to be heard and we give them that voice.
How easy is it for you to share your message and inspiration with the public?
It’s getting easier and easier. New (social) media methods of course open up a whole world of opportunities in terms of reaching people and we have 9 channels across twitter, facebook, Instagram and YouTube – with YouTube videos being our next great adventure! The reach that these can have literally runs into millions and they are a big part of our strategy. But there’s also no doubt that traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, books, radio and TV are important, and I’m delighted to share that we’ve already been interviewed several times and have even liaised with some TV producers; so watch this space as we start to grow our profile and voice even further.
For someone who hasn't heard of Vegan Lifestyle Association as yet, based on your opinion or feedback from others; what are 3 most beneficial things that they would gain by being part of it?
1. A consistently friendly, non-judgmental welcome. We have zero tolerance to ‘vegan police’! We receive emails and comments every day from people who love our ethos and approach, some have (sadly) had bad experiences elsewhere and are relieved to know they can join us and be welcomed, no matter what lifestyle stage they’re at. Whilst we advocate full lifestyle ethical veganism and always shall, we are also totally pragmatic and recognise that there are many pathways to veganism, and we’ll support anyone along that.
Our tag line “your vegan friend, for life” says it all really, and we live by that and operate by it.
2. Increasingly we’re getting messages from people who have used our mentoring service, thanking us for the help they’ve received through it. This follows on from what I’ve said above. It is open to anyone who needs that extra little bit of support with something.
The practical side of becoming vegan can now be quite easy to adopt, but it’s the ‘people stuff’ that’s a little trickier to manage and so when you can buddy up with another vegan who’s been there, and can offer some advice and support, there really is nothing quite like it. We are a peoples Association and we work for humans as much as we do animals.
3. Finally, members appreciate the benefits, such as, saving 50% on shoes or 25% on vegan cheese or chocolate. It helps all of us try new things and to live the lifestyle we care so passionately about. Plus we love seeing the photos that people send us in of their competition wins (we run 3 or 4 every month) and we have some exciting plans for new directory additions in 2016 as well! Join up and we’ll keep you posted! https://veganlifestyleassoc.com/join/
Is Vegan Lifestyle Association owned by, or in partnership with, another company that tests on animals or sells non-vegan products?
Our set-up is completely transparent. The Association is officially registered as a not-for-profit limited company and details are lodged at Companies House. Whilst we work with/alongside others, we are not in partnership with any other company or organisation. We do not take sponsorships and remain brand neutral. We have directories listing companies who sell vegan foods, products and services and some of these companies do sell non vegan goods too (like the supermarkets where most of us shop etc!) however, it would be a very small directory if it only contained 100% vegan companies! We’re about connecting people to products that make living a vegan lifestyle easier, so rather than promoting companies; what we do is, connect people to their vegan goods. This helps people go vegan more quickly and easily, it creates demand, and in some cases, it has already led to companies becoming 100% vegan!
Tell me a bit about yourself before you launched Vegan Lifestyle Association?
Haha! Where to start?! I’ve led a diverse lifestyle and career path. A snapshot would tell you that I’ve lived all over the UK, and abroad, I’ve worked in several different career fields and for different industry sectors. I’ve also set up and run my own businesses. All of this made me a ‘Jill of all trades’ it’s often said! But I’ve always tended to work in catering, communications, customer service and managing teams, which really helps with running the VLA.
I’d only met 1 vegan before shifting to a vegan lifestyle myself.
I came to veganism through a set of mixed circumstances where I lost my best friend to cancer, rescued some ex-battery hens and watched several powerful films such as Earthlings. All of it culminated in me changing my life completely, with no going back. It’s been a whirlwind and I think the next 40 years will be too! Mine is a life of two very distinct halves, proving that anyone can change if they want to.
What is your vision for the future of Vegan Lifestyle Association?
To become a leading voice for veganism in the UK and beyond. Bringing people together for a common cause and helping them to live compassionate lives, easily. We know that it’s working already, because nearly half of our Associates were not vegan when they joined us. We’ll continue to expand on our outreach work and our campaigning too,. We have a lot planned already for 2016. We have a professional strategy in place and we have a great team, which includes fabulous volunteers who have the drive and the will to achieve positive world change. If people like our positive and proactive approach then I encourage them to join us and to add to that voice, so we can achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible. It’s literally about saving lives and saving our home planet.