Vegan Logo: Controversy
- Vegan Trademark Controversy
In the last year, a strong criticism of trademark decisions the British Vegan Society has been raised by Plamil, Ltd (UK) who felt that the Vegan trademark no longer means what most vegans think it means … ‘Animal free’.
Plamil is one of the oldest and most ethical vegan companies. It was a long time supporter of the British Vegan Society and has been awarded numerous titles such as, “top ethical brand in 2009” and rated as producing the most ethical chocolate by Ethical Consumer magazine.
The company was established by Arthur Ling whose association with the Vegan Society goes back to the 1950′s. In the 1980′s Plamil was the first company to proudly label products with the ‘Vegan Sunflower’ trademark.
In the British Vegan Society’s Autumn 2008 magazine, the society published its new “Animal-Free” standards in which the use of “may contain milk/eggs/fish” statement would be allowed alongside the ‘Vegan Sunflower’ trademark. This statement is used if a manufacturer is unable to ensure their product does not contain milk, eggs or fish. Plamil, originally named after “The Plantmilk Society”, and many 1,000s of vegan supporters believe that the 2008 change has led the vegan trademark to be illogical and redundant.
Plamil suggested an review and updating of all aspects of the vegan trademark. This was ignored by the British Vegan Society. The British Vegan Society has changed the meaning of the logo and is apparently able to change it at will, without the consultation of the Vegan Movement. Plamil is no longer able to support the Trademark and is phasing out its use.
Plamil go on to explain that, in food production terms, “as far as is reasonably practicable” is now more easily defined and achievable by any manufacturer. If they so wish to do so. The compromise made by the British Vegan Society has been a financial one.
In food terms, the ‘small print’ of the new rules contradict the aims of internationally accepted vegan standard … “as far as is reasonably practicable”. The ‘Animal-free Vegan Trademark’ and standards may now contain anything from a small to significant uncontrolled amount of milk, eggs, fish or meat. Plamil also argues that the standard fails to meet the UK Food Standards Agency’s guidelines. These state that vegan food should not be contaminated by animal products.
Clearly the trademark no longer means what most vegans think it means.
Other groups and business people within the Vegan Movement are discussing the use of Plamil’s new Vegan logo by others companies who want a purer, more reliable definition of vegan products and a modernised logo.
Tony Bishop-Weston from Foods for Life stated that, “other companies they are excited by a modernised logo which communicates integrity and innovation and is more appealing to a LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) consumer.” He claims that the word “vegan” now carries more legal weight than the British Vegan Society registered logo. A new set of vegan DVD’s produced by White Dolphin Films will also carry Plamil’s as the British Vegan Society will no longer certify and register books and DVDs.
Other groups such as ViVA! (The Vegetarian International Voice for Animals), an animal rights NPO, have also launched a rival logo after their members demanded a logo that looked at the health benefits of vegan food. But some companies are afraid that Viva’s hard animal rights message would put off consumers.