The Official Animal Rights March is back next week, so Veganuary caught up with Surge co-organiser Ed Winters (otherwise known as Earthling Ed) to find out what we can expect to see at this year’s event, whether he thinks we’ll ever see a wholly vegan world, and what’s behind the rise in veganism
With over 10,000 people expected to attend the march in London on 25 August, and more than 20,000 people set to join similar events in 23 cities worldwide, The Official Animal Rights March has become the largest of its kind. This year the London route will end at Hyde Park, providing a larger area for the post-event speeches from Ed, other march organisers, and Harry Potter actress and Veganuary Ambassador Evanna Lynch.
“It’s going to be bigger, louder and brighter,” Ed tells us. “Our main aim is to foster a sense of community, to make people feel invigorated. We want to inspire people to become more active and to use their voices to fight on behalf of the animals.
“It’s a really optimistic and hopeful way of bringing people together and encouraging them to be more proactive in their daily lives, and it’s showing society that the vegan movement isn’t going to be stopped, it’s growing every year. We want to share that optimism, but also encourage people to research what we stand for… The fact that we’re on the streets being loud and very passionate sparks people’s interest.”
The Official Animal Rights March began in London in 2016, and last year saw marches in New York and LA. While the event has now spread to over 20 cities worldwide, Ed feels that London remains key to driving progress in the vegan movement.
“There are more vegan restaurants and cafes here, and the number of vegans living in the city is huge… We’re making such big progress in London and the rest of the UK that if we keep pushing the way we are we’ll really set a precedent for the rest of the world, certainly the Western world.”
“We’ll also have live feeds from the event and a lot of people attending will film video to share on their social media pages, so their friends and family might start asking why their son, daughter or friend is doing something that can be seen as radical and so passionate about this cause. When you start looking into [veganism] you can’t deny the truth, so hopefully that alone will make people want to change.”
The Rise of Veganism
Ed also believes the freedom of education, alongside social media, is significantly fuelling the rise behind veganism, particularly the ability to share impartial information. This, coupled with the accessibility of vegan options in most high street chain restaurants and in every supermarket, is encouraging people to make the change.
Beyond the march, we’re seeing multinational organisations like Greenpeace begin to talk about the environmental impacts of animal agriculture, something that Ed says has a resonating effect and demonstrates the severity of the situation.
“Bigger organisations that have been very quiet on the issue have been put into a situation where they can no longer deny it. The United Nations said for example that to avoid the worst effects of climate change the world needs to shift to a plant-based diet, and that’s incredibly alarming.”
A Vegan World?
Asked whether we’ll see a wholly vegan planet in our lifetime, Ed would like to hope so – but realistically thinks it’s unlikely. However, he believes we could see a vegan UK and Western world: “I like to think it will be ethics driven, but with the environmental impact alone people will be forced into a situation where they have to change, they have to eat plant-based because we don’t have the time or planet left to sustain what we’re doing… Hopefully at the very least hugely significant changes will occur. As long as we can lay the groundwork for future generations I think that’s what’s important.”
To help encourage others to spread the vegan message, Ed – who is known for his thought-provoking, calm and level-headed interviews with non-vegans – wants us to be knowledgeable, sympathetic, and to approach people on their level:
“If every vegan is able to do something in their own day to day lives, even sharing something on social media, this movement will be driven much faster.”
Activists like Earthling Ed and Joey Carbstrong have become well-known not only in the vegan world but also with the wider public. Ed attributes his success to sincerity, as well as enabling people to feel part of an uplifting, positive change: “I like to think I am tapping into people’s optimism and showing them that change is happening. Although I’ve always just done what I felt was right and followed my heart, people have responded to that for the most part.”
For those who are yet to sign up to Veganuary, Ed says: “You’ve got nothing to lose in trying it, but everything to gain. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for us. Taking the pledge means being part of a really supportive and immersive community that provides guidance and help, which makes veganism fun, accessible and manageable. We live in a world where change has to come from individuals, so sign up and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy it!”
If there’s one thing Ed could say to the animals it’s that: “We’re trying.”
Never one to miss out on an opportunity to discuss favourite foods, Ed tells us his best vegan dish is mac ‘n’ cheese, and his favourite vegan restaurant is the Vegan Junk Food Bar in Amsterdam. The original location was so popular that a further two have since opened in the city.
We look forward to seeing Ed and the Surge team, Evanna Lynch, and as many of you as possible at the Official Animal Rights March.
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