Elliot Gold is a vegan who wants you to know who he is and what he does. He regularly campaigns outside shops selling fur in London, engaging customers and passers-by who wear fur or might want to. Regardless how loud he chants into his loudspeaker at the thousands of people walking past each day, few are likely to be converted.
Vegans are extremists by nature. There are about 600,000 in the UK. That’s 0.88% of the population. Globally, the percentage will be even smaller. Why media pay so much attention to veganism is puzzling.
“I think they really do have a warped view of what nature is like and I think they really want it to be how they wish it was, they want all the birds to be tweeting and sitting on everyone’s shoulder,” says former Metropolitan policeman turned investigator Ian Jensen about contemporary vegan activists.
Writing anonymously in Wildfire, a new anarcho-vegan extremist manual that’s an extension of the Unoffensive Animal website, Elliot complains some ‘direct action’ groups are buying chickens from farmers, instead of pillaging.
“How many times have you seen organisations and individuals post how they rescued an animal, or seen posts asking for people to hurry and ‘rescue’ chickens from a farm because the farmer has now agreed to give them to activists (what isn’t told upfront is that these ‘activists’ have bought the animals from the farmer, further reducing their lives to a commodity),” he moans.
One of the chapters Elliot writes is called ‘Accomplices not allies’. Reading it, several things are clear:
1: his group doesn’t have many real friends so needs to align with people he doesn’t trust,
2: he says there are no leaders in any of these groups but you should listen to him,
3: true vegans are prepared to break the law with direct action, otherwise they are ‘reducing a fight for liberation to a consumer choice’,
4: he believes animals are capable of ‘liberating’ themselves without human help through ‘acts of defiance’.
“So when they talk about animals showing acts of defiance,” Ian says, “it could be a ram trying to headbutt a farmer, a sheep trying to run away. They talk about animals not wanting to go to slaughterhouses, that’s the one I think they’re really looking at or foxes running away from hounds and presumably they also mean chickens running away from foxes. They might even mean mice running away from chickens and it basically just goes down, doesn’t it? In the animal world everything eats something else.”
Elliot also has a dig at fellow vegan group Anonymous for the Voiceless, run by Paul Bashir, who has compared eating meat to paedophilia and racism. Some former members accuse Bashir of turning Anonymous for the Voiceless into a cult.
“Instead of giving solidarity to vegan options and businesses, give solidarity to prisoners and arrestees,” says Elliot. “Instead of ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’ (they’re not voiceless) amplify the words and voices of direct action against the agents of oppression.”
This conflict within the extremist groups reminds Ian of splits in the resistance to the Romans in the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Warning: there is colourful language in the following video.
“Although they argue no one is in charge, deep down they all want to be in charge,“ he says. “It’s one of those cases where art is imitating fact – people will break up and they’ll be small breakaway groups where they don’t really have another agenda, they just fall out for a whole host of reasons. A lot of the time they don’t think some people are prepared to do absolutely everything to protect animals… then the groups that do direct action don’t take enough direct action.”
Some groups adopt a line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where a member of an impoverished community insists it’s an anarcho-cynicalist commune, with each member taking turns to be leader whose decisions are made through a complicated approval process.
“It’s the Peoples’ Front of Judea argument all over again – they call it a non-hierarchal collective,” says Ian of the new breed of animal rights extremists. “It’s very Monty Python but they were members of the student union and all that and a lot of this is the student union moving out to the countryside. The class war has been taken out into the fields.”
Elliot’s insistence there should be no leaders in anarchist vegan groups is at odds with his obsession with himself. It was through a site called StarNgage, where ‘influencers’ measure their own popularity, that we found Elliot’s name and phone number. He has around 20,000 followers on Instagram under his veganvikingell pseudonym.
While he complains about fellow vegans reducing animals’ lives “to a commodity”, he’s happy to sell himself to The Vegan Vibe – a company that makes vegan clothes.
Meanwhile in Sheffield, another vegan clothing company has become the centre of the extremist vegan movement Elliot is promoting.
HeartCure is the main distributor of Wildfire. It shares its address with By the Heart Provisions, the company that prints the magazine. Heartcure’s owners are Georgia Cook and Jordan Mccuscker.
Jordan was in court in Kent in 2019 for trespassing after being caught in a raid on an abattoir. So an animal rights extremist running a vegan clothes shop is printing a magazine for animal rights extremists.
“I think there’s enough for the police to investigate,” says Ian. “The worst thing that can happen for them is if fieldsports did actually fold because they’d have nothing in their life to complain about.”
It’s only just begun, but this could be the end of Wildfire. It won’t be the end of the paranoia among vegans though, as they thrive off their own self-contained cult of personality.