Although new research from Kantar UK has suggested the number of vegans in the UK is significantly lower than thought, with only 3% defining themselves as such, their presence is still ever-present.
In November last year, vegan activists stormed Touro Brazilian Steakhouse in Brighton, East Sussex, and disrupted diners’ meals by playing recordings of animals being slaughtered in an attempt to convince people to stop eating meat.
Around 20 demonstrators, from a network called Direct Action Everywhere, chanted: “It’s not food, it’s violence,” and held placards showing farm animal slaughter to highlight what they called the “unsustainable and unethical exploitation and suffering” in the meat industry.
The protest lasted for about 20 minutes as the cow slaughter recordings were played to force diners to “listen to the screams”.
Police were called several times but failed to arrive – so does this leave business owners to fight off vegan militants on their own?
This was certainly the case in France after a growing number of butchers were vandalised or sprayed with fake blood.
Concerned butchers sent a joint letter to the government's interior minister Gérard Collomb to appeal for strengthened protection from the "terrorism" of vegan militants.
In the letter, butchers told of their worry about the consequences of “excessive media hype around vegan lifestyles”, and that vegans wanted to “impose their lifestyle on the immense majority of people”.
Despite the butchers’ concerns, vegetarians and vegans still only make up a small proportion of the French population. A recent survey estimated that just 3% of the country considered themselves vegetarian, with vegans even fewer in number.
Living in fear
Even more alarmingly so, owners of Marlow Butchers in Ashford, Kent, said they were “living in fear” after claiming vegan activists had threatened to petrol bomb their business.
The family-run butcher's shop was vandalised when activists from the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) spray-painted “stop killing animals” and “go vegan”, as well as daubing the ALF logo under the window.
Speaking at the time of the incident, which happened in May last year, business owner Wayne Marlow told Kent Online that he "feared for his life".
“They want to close us down and people are threatening to smash the windows or petrol bomb the store,” he exclaimed.
“We live in fear and we’re up worrying at night – they are terrorising us.”
'Poor choice of tactics'
Dominika Piasecka, spokeswoman for The Vegan Society, said she encourages vegans to think twice about the way in which they protest.
“We understand and share these activists’ pain but we do not think vandalising butcher’s shops is helpful in inspiring people to go vegan," she said.
“We encourage vegan advocates to consider how their actions are viewed by the non-vegans they are targeting because a poor choice of tactics may result in the public becoming defensive, rather than listening to their message.
“A better form of advocacy is one that encourages a meaningful dialogue and is in a neutral location, where people’s minds are more open to hearing about veganism.”