Many people are asking questions and demanding answers. The focus of the whole debacle seems to be some non-vegan produce in a freezer.
In a statement issued by the Co-op they claimed that during the Christmas holidays the freezers at a local Somerfield store broke down which lead to Somerfield’s throwing the contents of these freezers away. This food, including dairy and meat products, was then stored in a freezer at the back of Pogo’s vegan restaurant for several months.
A spokesperson for Pogo’s said “Some of us who are involved in the co-op and some people from surrounding squats went down to salvage some food, which was otherwise going to waste, including dairy products, frozen vegetables and meat.”
The discovery of these products on the premises led to widespread disillusionment and discontent, resulting in the direct action (removal of the ‘meat’) followed by a meeting, the outcome of which was that the members of Pogo’s co-op resigned. It had been hoped that everyone would be able to continue working together, however it was the co-op members decision to resign and discontinue volunteering at the cafe.
However, underlying issues also emerged from these events, with concerns being aired that the fact that those who had previously been running Pogo were even storing meat in the freezer of a vegan space, regardless of where it has come from, showed how little respect they have for the vegan and animal rights community.
It was felt that as such an established hub of vegan activity and networking within the vegan community, such an establishment should be run by vegans for many and obvious reasons. It also transpired that most of the co-op members are not vegan, which previously was a relatively unknown fact and has been greeted with widespread surprise by patrons.
With regard to accusations that the outcome was a ‘revolution’ or a ‘coup’, it is and was neither and no-one was “ousted” or “overthrown” nor were there “secret” meetings or any kind of “conspiracy”.
A co-operative is defined by the International Co-operative Alliance's Statement as “An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise”.
Many people did not feel the co-op was being run democratically and that some members were unapproachable, which in turn may explain the use of direct action taken in this case. Members also expressed that they were becoming frustrated with the nepotism and favouritism shown by this co-op.
PogoBlue, from the new Co-op crew, stated “People have felt uncomfortable and undervalued by the Pogo Co-op for a long time. Many people in the past have left purely due to the attitudes of that Co-op. (And will now be returning due to these recent changes).”
Pogo’s blog comment section also shows some emotive comments from anarchists who feel they have lost an important space, but the feeling is that they need to understand that this is not their space to do with as they please but that they should respect the ideals and basic principals of a VEGAN space, which seems to be the crux of the matter.
“Not only was there meat stored in the garage, the ex co-op members were consuming dairy products in pogo” said a volunteer.
A Pogo customer commented “Some people could see that non-vegans were taking over. What would have been next? The little jug of cow secretion on the counter for those who must have it in their coffee? Skipped dead cow burgers? It was the start of a slippery slope which had to be nipped in the bud. In light of recent long standing vegan products adding dairy to products such as Sosmix and Green and Blacks, vegans feel they are being further ostracised and marginalised and to find the same thing happening in Pogo’s was just a step too far.’
The volunteers who were handed the task of re-opening Pogo’s on Thursday 11th March, along with the help of some of the leaving co-op members, have prepared a “Mission statement” which will help to redefine Pogo’s original principles and draw a line under this sad situation and hopefully turn it into an opportunity for renewal and a fresh start.
The Mission Statement reads as follows:-
“Pogo is a completely vegan cafe for the community. The open collective works to promote a philosophy of animal liberation and respect for the environment through delicious vegan food. It's a place where yuppies and weirdoes sit side by side with almost no problems. Dogs welcome!”
Anyone wishing to become involved in Pogo’s new or ex volunteers should email;
We can DO this, together.