Society faces a governance overhaul if it is to survive
A “hostile” and “toxic” environment has led to five trustees resigning from the Vegan Society.
The charity is facing a governance crisis after Eshe Kiama Zuri, Joel Bravette, Robb Masters, Michele Fox and Sally Anderson resigned from the charity’s council last week.
Former vice-chair Zuri said in their resignation letter they had remained at the charity for two years “despite it being a hostile work environment from the beginning,” but they could “confidently say that The Vegan Society is not a safe place for young people, for Black people, for queer people or for any other marginalised people.”
The charity’s chair, Robb Masters, also resigned.
He described the council as a “toxic environment” in his resignation letter, and questioned what the organisation had witnessed if not “a co-ordinated campaign of racist, transphobic and ableist bullying against the society's youngest voluntary trustee”.
He said: “Indeed, joining the council in 2018 felt a lot like penetrating a clique or cabal where one was celebrated if they were willing to uphold the status quo.”
In June, the charity published a summary of an independent investigation into complaints that Zuri had allegedly exhibited racist and discriminatory behaviour on social media, which Masters had allegedly “enabled”.
No complaints were upheld against Masters and the vast majority of complaints against Zuri were not upheld, although the report described two social media posts Zuri had made as “unprofessional and inappropriate”.
The report outlined a number of mitigating circumstances, including that the chief complainant appeared “to have been motivated by a profound personal animosity towards Zuri”.
Recommendations for the charity were put forward in the report including committing time and resource to rebuilding and developing positive working relationships between trustees, adopting a written complaints procedure for dealing with complaints against trustees and adopting an equality and diversity statement and policy for trustees.
A spokesperson for The Vegan Society said: “There has been conflict among the board that we have been working hard to address and it is regrettable that they have chosen to leave the day before a planned mediation session.
“We thank them for their work for the society and wish them well for their future endeavours.”