Grow Vegan

Food Sovereignty and Veganism
Nicole is a permaculture practitioner, grower and community organiser based in Somerset. She has been vegan 11 years and thinks creating plant-based systems that feed our communities is a way of accelerating the social change necessary to end animal agriculture. Nicole Vosper What is food sovereignity? There are six principles that are presented as part of the food sovereignty framework promoted by international group La Via Campesina who represent 200 million small-scale farmers and peasants worldwide.

Food Sovereignty is the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right of people to define their own food and agriculture systems.

It’s a framework that has been used by peoples in the Global South since the first Food Sovereignty Forum in Mali, Africa in 2007, where the Declaration of Nyéléni first stated that it is farmers and citizens who need to be at the heart of food systems and policies, rather than the demands of the markets or corporations. Why is it relevant to the vegan movement?

Where does food sovereignty stand in relation to other movements?

In brief, food sovereignty:
1. Focuses on food for people – putting people at the centre of food policies and rejecting the proposition that food is another commodity for international agri-business.

Challenging this industrial agriculture and corporate model of food production with one developed from the grassroots by and for those involved in food production is vital, and food sovereignty as a framework has shown its opportunities and strengths amidst social movements for change in the past decade.

The same industrial agricultural models that are responsible for factory farms and wildlife habitat destruction perpetuate labour exploitation, the displacement of indigenous people and ecological harm across the planet. As vegans are fully aware: how we feed ourselves is a major determinant of our relationships with other beings.

Having self-determination over our food systems is essential if we are to manifest the social justice for non-human animals and ecological respect that we hold close to our hearts in the vegan movement.

6. Works with nature – food sovereignty uses the contributions of nature in diverse, low external input agroecological production and harvesting methods and rejects industrialised production practices which damage the environment. ‘Time for Food Sovereignty’ – La Via Campesina Europe

5. Builds knowledge and skills – develops appropriate research systems and rejects technologies that undermine, threaten or contaminate these, e.g. genetic engineering.

4. Puts control locally – places control over natural resources such as seeds and land locally and ensures the right of local communities to inhabit and use their territories in socially and environmentally sustainable ways.

3. Localises food systems – brings consumers and providers closer together and rejects inequitable trade practices.

2. Values food producers – valuing all, especially women and small-scale farmers, who cultivate, grow and harvest food.

The Vegan l Spring 2013


Food sovereignty cannot be achieved through one or the other; all principles must be practiced for true selfdetermination over our food systems.

Which of the six principles is the most important?

‘Transforming our food system’ brought together over 100 farmers, activists, academics and more from all corners of the country and marks the crest of a wave of food sovereignty organising in the UK. What are the challenges facing food sovereignty in the future?

In July 2012 the first UK Food Sovereignty Gathering took place at plant nursery and market garden workers’ cooperative, OrganicLea in London.

Food sovereignty as a framework has been commonly adopted by those working in international development circles however the growing community food movement in the UK, permaculture networks, transition groups, local organisers and more are now increasingly using the principles to focus and frame their practice.

How is food sovereignty applied in the UK?

It is clear for anyone reading the longer version of the principles that food sovereignty is not explicitly vegan. This can be personally and politically challenging when many people involved are small-scale animal farmers with very different visions of what food sovereignty would look like if achieved in the UK. Are we allies in the fight against corporate control of our food systems or are we enemies in respect of the mistreatment and killing of animals for food? Despite the challenges, I feel we have an obligation to continue to participate and add our voices

to the conversations that are taking place. There is a white elephant in the room and that is that industrial animal agriculture clearly impacts on the ability of people around the planet to have sovereignty over their food systems. It is here that veganism provides leverage for re-designing our food systems and achieving social justice for all beings and not just humans. Interested in learning more about food sovereignty in the UK? Follow these links for more information.

Boo Armstrong
On the 8th of October 2012, multi award-winning social entrepreneur Boo Armstrong, died after a valiant struggle with cancer. Obituary by Louise Wallis

As she wrote in her chapter for the book Be The Change, Boo “cared a lot”. Her first political act – aged nine – was to go vegetarian. At 16 she turned vegan. She and I became friends soon after, when I was President of The Vegan Society. I hired Boo and her sister Franny to make the Society’s first film Truth or Dairy. Boo stars (incognito) in my favorite two scenes – as the Pantomime cow, and the ‘dancing feet’ in Vegetarian Shoes. Boo went on to achieve more in 37 years than most manage in a lifetime. At 19, she was the youngest ever Chair of the London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard. Later, as Coordinator of charity Women and Health, she raised £400,000 in lottery funding to transform their base into a fully accessible eco-building. In 2004 she founded Get Well UK, which sought to make complementary therapies available on the NHS, and won many awards, including the ‘Integrated Health Futures Award’ from Prince Charles in 2005. Boo inspired many people with her drive, determination, and infectious sense of fun. She lives on in our hearts.

The Vegan l Spring 2013


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