The Vegan Society has once again confirmed that it is both racist and corrupt.
Further to my open letter to The Vegan Society regarding its failure to respond to complaints, trustees have finally started to respond. However, in their response to a complaint by former Vice-Chair, Eshe Kiama Zuri, almost everything that could possibly be wrong is wrong.
Firstly, its worth noting that when a white former-trustee made a complaint about a Black sitting trustee (and a white trustee accused of enabling them), an independent QC was commissioned to investigate those complaints. However, when a Black former-trustee made a complaint about white trustees (and the non-Black trustees of colour accused of enabling them) their colleagues have dismissed those complaints without either:
- an investigation, or
- the involvement of an impartial adjudicator.
Instead, the complaint was only considered by compromised trustees – four of whom had been co-opted to Council by the accused trustees (effectively appointing their own judge, jury and executioner), while a fifth had been widely celebrated by the very same white former-trustee who made had malicious complaints about the Black former-trustee.
Therefore, they ALL have untenable conflicts of interest and loyalty (i.e. corruption). And the process for handling complaints from Black former-trustees against white trustees is notably different to that for handling complaints from white former-trustees against Black trustees (racism).
Turning to the actual response, trustees consider commissioning "an external investigation into the VS Council due to conflicts of interest and review historical complaints" is "an unreasonably wide accusation, and cannot qualify as a complaint. It is not particularised, and it is not time-bound at all. We believe that it seeks to revisit issues (expressed in vague heading-form only) that are years, even decades, old."
Yet the exact same could be said about the complaints made about Eshe Kiami Zuri. However, unlike the complaints against Eshe Kiami Zuri, the complaints concerns trustees actions within their roles for The Vegan Society; therefore, they are even more important to investigate. And contrary to the claims above, such complaints were time bound – limited by trustees' terms on Council. Nevertheless, the terms of reference for such an investigation into such a complaint could have specified a shorter timeframe if considered necessary; while even the most perfunctory investigation would have allowed complaints to be "particularised" rather than merely dismissed.
The response goes on to deny that "the report has shown this to be a targeted hate campaign". Yet the report concluded that
(1) TB’s complaints against EKZ appear to have been motivated by a profound personal animosity towards EKZ related in part to EKZ’s identity and protected characteristics [young, Black, disabled, queer, non-binary], to their stance on a number of political and ideological issues and to TB’s friendships with individuals who were displaced from leadership positions by the election of EKZ as Vice Chair.
(2) … EKZ was identified as a target for complaints by TB on social media. TB encouraged his followers and other individuals to search for adverse information on EKZ and to provide it to him and to complain to the Vegan Society
Were it not so serious, it would be laughable that trustees could consider that this does not constitute a targeted hate campaign.
Similarly, the claim that Eshe Kiama Zuri was "treated fairly in the handling of the complaints against you" – given both the clear disparity illustrated above, and the comments in the report that:
(3) The Society took a significant period of time to decide how to respond to complaints made against EKZ. During this time Council took no steps to ensure that appropriate support was provided to EKZ or to ensure that the confidentiality of its processes and deliberations were emphasised and maintained. As a result, information which should have remained confidential was placed in the public domain and used to further fuel the campaign against EKZ.
(4) EKZ had previously and appropriately raised concerns about language used by members of Council that raised issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. These have not been adequately addressed in a timely way.
(5) EKZ had previously and appropriately raised concerns about their treatment by members of Council and the Society – those concerns have not been openly or fully addressed.
(6) EKZ had suggested that Council members undertake inclusivity and diversity training in June 2019 - that suggestion was not taken up.
(7) EKZ has been criticised by members of Council for raising their genuine concerns.
(8) The Society does not have an acceptable use social media policy that applies to trustees and provides no guidance to office-holders on social media activities.
(9) The Society does not have an effective mechanism for reflecting on the performance and functioning of Council and identifying and dealing with areas for improvement.
355. I am satisfied in particular that EKZ’s concerns about their treatment by some Council members and in relation to diversity and inclusivity in the Society were raised in good faith.
356. I have received evidence that EKZ was mis-gendered in Council meetings and was on occasions treated in a way which gave rise to legitimate concerns about the fairness and equality of their treatment. I have also received evidence that indicates very clearly that Council is not equipped to have mature and constructive conversations on diversity and inclusion matters; nor is it able to deal effectively with challenges to prevailing orthodoxies.
Not to mention the QC's recommendation that "The Council of The Vegan Society… Adopts a written complaints procedure for dealing with complaints against trustees. That procedure should specify how complaints against the Chair and Vice Chair will be addressed and identify what support will be provided to the subjects of any complaint" – a clear indictment of the processes followed.
Furthermore, the comments about resignation before mediation are entirely disingenuous: while those trustees who resigned voted for mediation, those who remain on Council voted against (with one abstention). Eshe Kiama Zuri's resignation letter also explained:
I am leaving prior to mediation completing as I have said what I needed to say to the mediator about my time on council (in a tear-filled and emotional meeting) and I refuse to go through yet another process where I will be gaslit, abused and our Black service provider will be discredited and torn apart. This will be used to silence myself and others should we try to speak up after mediation, and we will continue to be seen as ‘troublemakers’ for trying to challenge oppressive behaviour and do our jobs as trustees to lead the society in the best way possible.
To suggest that a trustee who has experienced a campaign of sustained abuse (from within Council and without) needs to continue to subject themselves to such abuse so that the organisation might learn from the corresponding investigation (particularly when trustees continue to attempt to undermine its conclusions) is an absolutely disgraceful example of victim-blaming.
The excerpt from the report above that "information which should have remained confidential was placed in the public domain and used to further fuel the campaign against EKZ" also undermines trustees' claim that "there is no specific evidence of breach of confidentiality by the current trustees", while its accusation that Eshe Kiama Zuri promoted access to the leaked report seems to ignore trustees' explicit commitment to " never using confidentiality as an excuse not to disclose matters that should be transparent and open". (Notably, Council had approved publication of this document before that decision was reversed after trustees' resignations.)
When the complaints against Eshe Kiama Zuri were considered to have been "motivated by a profound personal animosity towards EKZ related in part to EKZ’s identity and protected characteristics", etc. (and no evidence was provided to support them) it is clear that they were in bad faith. And the extent of these accusations clearly did bring the society into disrepute. Furthermore, they showed how malicious accusations can easily undermine the society's democracy. Such behaviour must have consequences. To ignore it, is to encourage it.
Sadly, The Vegan Society seems keen to reward racism and bullying, and to punish all who challenge it.
This response is a whitewash – with emphasis on the "white".
Two more complainants have had their complaints rejected. In each case there has been no investigation, and no impartiality – with accused trustees appointing their own judge and jury.
The board of The Vegan Society is wholly corrupt, and must be removed.