UK Government Responds to Nonprofit Challenging Rishi Sunak to Go Vegan for £1M

Rishi Sunak standing in front of door facing camera
Image from Shutterstock

On January 26th, Generation Vegan (GenV) received an official letter from the government in response to their high-profile campaign for PM Rishi Sunak to go vegan for one month in support of a more compassionate and sustainable UK, and in exchange for a £1 million donation to his chosen charity.

The response came on behalf of the Prime Minister and His Majesty’s Government from MP Mark Spencer – a representative of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who also happens to be a beef, lamb, and egg farmer.

Despite being presented with strong arguments and scientific evidence that adopting a plant-based food system could be the only way to fulfill the Prime Minister’s commitment to reach net zero, support farmers, and lead the UK with compassion, Sunak’s representative sidestepped the issue. Instead of stating whether the Prime Minister would accept the offer to go vegan for one month, Spencer merely iterated that they were already taking all necessary steps “to ensure greater environmental sustainability” and “towards achieving our 25-Year Environment Plan ambitions and our carbon net zero goals”.

GenV CEO, Naomi Hallum – to whom the letter was addressed – responded with incredulity.

“When it would be so easy – as easy as going vegan – for Rishi Sunak to take meaningful steps that would give the UK a real shot at meeting its climate commitments, I’m at a loss as to why our Prime Minister won’t do so. Making vague promises and 25-year plans are just stonewalling tactics that those of us who are genuinely concerned about climate change and animal suffering are growing increasingly tired of. As Greta Thunberg would say, it’s just more ‘blah, blah, blah’ in lieu of meaningful and decisive action.”

It is perhaps not surprising that MP Mark Spencer – someone who profits from farming animals – would be reluctant to acknowledge the destructive impact that animal agriculture has on our environment. But, Generation Vegan believes it presents a serious conflict of interest that Spencer is the Minister responsible for tackling issues that his family business plays a significant role in causing.

Animal products generate disproportionate amounts of greenhouse gases and are major contributors to the contamination of soil and water. Beef and lamb have by far the largest climate impact of all the foods we consume.

Continues Hallum:

“Producing beef and lamb emits 99.48 kilograms and 39.72 kilograms of greenhouse gases, respectively, per kilogram of meat produced. To put that into perspective, plant-based proteins such as tofu, peas and nuts emit 3.16 kilograms, 0.98 kilograms, and 0.43 kilograms of greenhouse gases, respectively, per kilogram of food produced. Beef and lamb are also the two most land-intensive foods to produce, so I’m not convinced that somebody who profits from selling these products should be the voice on sustainable food production. That’s like making the tobacco industry a spokesperson for battling lung cancer.”

graph of land use for different protein sources. animal products use a lot more than plant proteins
Photo © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

GenV’s offer to the Prime Minister expires today. In a final plea for Sunak to step up to the plate, they and their supporters have gone on camera to detail the many reasons why switching to a plant-based diet would be better for our country, our health, our farmers, and our future. Among them is Dr. Gemma Newman, a prominent British medical doctor, nutritionist, and author. In her message to Sunak, she states:

“Research shows that adopting a plant-based diet is significantly associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and lower risk of cardiovascular disease incidence, which is the leading cause of death in the UK. Plant-based diets are also “especially potent” in preventing type 2 diabetes and have been associated with much lower rates of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and cancer.”

News of this bold million-pound campaign has made headlines in more than 14 countries, and people as far afield as Brazil, Mexico, and India have all tweeted the UK Prime Minister encouraging him to lead by example and go vegan – perhaps in the hope that other world leaders will do the same.

Gen V says that it would certainly be encouraging to see a few more politicians giving veganism a try. United States Senator Cory Booker and New York Mayor Eric Adams are two of a number of prominent political figures who already champion a plant-based lifestyle, for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. In the UK, at least five MPs are vegan, while The Vegan Conservatives was recently established to raise the profile of veganism within the party.

Unless the UK Prime Minister has a last-minute change of heart, GenV will be holding onto their £1 million for a future campaign, while also making sizable donations to Amberwood Animals and The Farm Animal Sanctuary, two UK-based sanctuaries providing care for over 600 abused and neglected farmed animals.

Mark Wakeling, the former dairy and beef farmer and Royal Military veteran who founded Amberwood Animals, is currently fundraising to provide food, bedding, additional housing, fencing, and veterinary care for the 40+ cows, pigs, and sheep in his care. Mark’s work can be supported HERE.

The Farm Animal Sanctuary team is currently fundraising to purchase land that will allow them to provide a permanent home for their 600+ rescued animals. You can support their work HERE.

letter from Rishi Sunak declining to participate in the vegan challenge

Ready to go vegan?

Go Vegan

Already vegan?

Get Active