Vegan EU immigrants talk about UK’s EU Referendum
Guest post by Ian McDonald.
What do Vegan EU Immigrants think about the UK’s EU Referendum?
The United Kingdom is locked in a debate about leaving the European Union. The Remain campaign is citing all the economists who are warning Brexit would seriously damage the economy, and the Leave campaign’s primary issue is immigration. And FGV has already rounded up several blogs on how Brexit would affect animals.
Vegans come to the UK from all over the EU. Some of them make the food FGV features. Some EU immigrants are won over to a compassionate lifestyle once on Albion’s shores. So what do vegan EU immigrants think of the UK’s referendum? I asked a few of them.
Antonio Favata, Italian, campaigner, software engineer, and drooling vegan
When I arrived in London a little over a year ago, I was immediately amazed by the vibrant, multicultural environment and by the very active London Vegan Meetup.
Inspired by that, a few friends and I started London Drooling Vegans, which hosts weekly(ish) droolings. That sparked the birth of a network of Facebook groups that organise regular social outings, like Metalheads & Rockers, Geeks & Nerds, and many others.
After a Brexit, given how many of the people involved in the community are not from the UK, London would lose a lot of its attractiveness for me and I would definitely consider moving to Berlin.
Jasmijn de Boo, Dutch, former CEO of The Vegan Society
I am quite sure that, on balance, staying in the EU would be more beneficial for animals than leaving. Just having a voice at the negotiating table is priceless. Even though the current government’s animal advocacy voice has nearly disappeared, I am hopeful a more animal-friendly government will be elected within the next ten years. We must therefore remain in the EU, and hope that compassionate government returns to the UK sooner rather than later.
(Excerpted from Jasmijn’s full blog post on the referendum).
Rudy Penando, French, Vx shopkeeper and Secret Society of Vegans designer
It drives me crazy to hear that a lot of British people are blaming immigration for the strains on our public services whilst ignoring the government cuts.
My two shops (Vx London and Vx Bristol) import a lot of products from continental Europe. (Rudy’s vegan emporia sell tasty treats like the ones he’s holding in the pic that are otherwise very hard to get hold of in the UK – Ian). I can tell you that we will have to decrease the imports and raise up our prices if the UK leaves the EU.
The UK will have to pay a fortune to regain access to the single EU market and will have to abide by regulations to get that access. Regulations they will have no say in the formulation of.
We can also imagine that to get access to the European single market, as part of the agreement, the UK will have to allow immigration from the EU.
Fabio, Italian, FeD By Water vegan restaurateur
I believe FED BY WATER is adding a valuable contribution to Britain’s lifestyle, creating delicious and ethical food which is pleasing the local population and contributing to a better planet.
I don’t think FED as a business and me personally as an individual will be kicked out from London/UK. Still, the majority of my team probably will be, and the added problem will be getting goods that we generally get from the EU (mainly from Italy). So on a personal level I wish it will not happen, otherwise we will have to decide what to do 🙁
Carla, Portuguese, Black Cat vegan café co-op member
Things were easy for me when I arrived to this country; I even went to study for one year to Poland through Erasmus, so in general terms I see a positive thing if the remains in the European Union.
I imagine that for us to set up a cooperative, like we did with Black Cat, would have been difficult if we weren’t citizens of countries belonging to the European Union.
Giancarlo Roncato, Italian, Vegan Sweet Tooth stallholder
I live in the UK with my Polish boyfriend. It, more than any other country, has been my home for the last 16 years. I own a UK-based vegan food company with him. I am an active contributor, regularly organising events which promote not only veganism but healthy living.
But, because of the potential for Brexit, the referendum, and the anti-foreigner sentiment, we have begun to think about our status as foreigners, about actively looking for somewhere else in the world to live, and have decided to diversify, shifting investment out of the UK; we will not wait until we are pushed.
Perhaps Italy, where some of my family live. For many friends and customers this would be an enormous change, and we will be very sorry about leaving. I’m not sure that any of this is an unintended consequence, after all, it’s exactly the point of leaving the EU.
Please go to vote to remain in EU.
Nacho, Spanish, Black Cat vegan café co-operative member
For me being a citizen of a country belonging to the European Union has been positive – although I believe that referendums are also positive, the people should have the right to decide their destiny. I am in favour of people having their say, here in the UK – or for example in Catalonia about independence.
Carla and I took over Black Cat,after having lived in the country for a few years. We have worked together with many people coming from other countries of the European Union but we would love to be able to hire easily people from all over the world.
All in all I am in favour of Britain staying in the European Union despite it being far from something perfect. The exit would feed further ideas of the far right like xenophobia and racism.
Jeanette Di Leo, German, researcher at Viva
The vegan community in all of Europe is thriving, now more than ever. Surely building barriers – which a Brexit would inevitably entail – is more a hindrance than a help to our cause?
Jaysee Costa, Catalan, campaigner
I am a Campaigns Manager of an international animal protection organisation, and I have lived in the UK for over 20 years now.
I got my zoological degree in one EU country, developed my animal protection career in another, became vegan in another (the UK), and worked to help animals in several others. I think that without the EU it may have taken me much longer to become vegan, but I know for sure that without the EU I would not have converted as many vegans as I have, and I would not have been able to help as many animals as I did.
When the nations’ borders fell, the walls between me and the animals I wanted to help fell as well, so I finally got the chance to do what I was born to do. Everyone deserves that chance too.
Veronika Powell, Czech, campaigner and researcher at Viva
I worked on campaigns concerning EU regulations, and remaining in the EU is definitely the sensible thing to do for many reasons, including animal and environmental protection.
The UK government wouldn’t have approved many positive changes over the years without the EU pressure and it’s easy to see that leaving future decisions, especially about animals, simply to the government and its Tory interests, would be like playing Russian roulette.
Also campaigning for a change at European level brings not only a united effort from many groups across Europe but makes it possible for smaller groups to be more effective and use the expertise of bigger groups on the particular issue.
I didn’t plan to come to the UK but life brought me here and I’ve met many people along the way, travelling and working in the EU, campaigning for good causes. If Britain left the EU, everything would get more complicated and there would be more needless bureaucracy involved swallowing huge amounts of time and money just for the UK to be able to stand out.
Ian McDonald produces “The Vegan Option” (tagline: really interesting radio that just happens to be vegan), and is currently working on “Vegetarianism: The Story So Far”, a fascinating exploration of meat-free and compassionate history. Dr Ian McDonald is a BBC-trained digital media producer whose work has been broadcast on national radio in the UK. He lives in East London with Mazzy, a rescued cat.