We went to Viva!'s vegan van in Ipswich - here's our (and the public's) thoughts
Animal rights charity Viva! has landed in Ipswich, bringing free vegan burgers for the public on the second day of its tour.
It set its van up in front of the Cornhill with a mission to convince skeptics to consider making the switch to vegan options.
Handing out free plant-based burgers, more specifically the Moving Mountains brand which creates its patties from sustainable soy protein, it quickly built up a lot of interest.
"Reception has been very positive", said Jasmine Clarke, an environmental campaigner for the Bristol-based charity.
"We really want to raise awareness of both the environmental impacts of our food choices - the impacts of livestock and agriculture - and the sheer amount of land used by farming."
She added: "Not many people know how much land is taken up by agriculture. We also want to raise awareness of veganism in general and the options that exist.
"Many people think vegan food doesn't taste of anything, is bland, tastes like cardboard, and we want to show them that this simply isn't true."
While they are only visiting six locations for this tour, having set up in Southend yesterday, Jasmine said they want to try and reach as much of the UK as possible.
What we thought
By the time I got there the van had already built up a sizeable queue. Visitors were given half a burger each to try, served in a bun with lettuce and tomato accompanying it.
Despite my skepticism towards vegan food, the burger looked more like meat than I expected - it was juicy, tasty, and far less greasy than a beef burger.
The outside was browned nicely, and they even managed to replicate the look of a slightly rare burger.
If I was being picky, you could still tell it was not real meat, but the differences were slight. It even tasted very similar, although it lacked much of the umami flavour that beef burgers have.
Jasmine said they chose the Moving Mountains brand because Viva! felt it was a very good meat substitute, and could help convince people to make the switch.
Comments made from people who had tried the burgers appeared to echo these sentiments.
What you thought
Many people thought the idea of parking a vegan van in the middle of the Cornhill - effectively Ipswich's main square - was a bold move.
Jono, who turned up to the burger van with his friends, said: "I'm not a vegan myself, but I have eaten vegan food in the past.
"I like what they're doing here - some vegans can be a bit pushy but I think they have an important message.
He added: "I like the idea of cutting down on meat, but I'm not brave enough to fully make the switch."
Someone who had very nearly made the switch was Melissa, who turned up with her son, Joshua.
"I'm a vegetarian but I've attempted to make the switch to veganism," she told me. "I love, and I assume other people will like, the idea of being able to eat a burger without killing an animal."
"There's a lot of rubbish in meat and all the food we eat that is causing obesity levels to rise."
She feels as though action needs to be taken to encourage people to at least consider reducing their meat consumption for the sake of the environment.
She added: "Many people don't like change, they think 'why should I?' and we need to encourage these people that cutting down is a good thing."
I then ran into Scottish-born Timothy McGuire, whose wife is vegan, who noticed how the crowds had turned up.
"Ipswich people love a bargain - they're offering free food and so they've turned up," he said. "People love food."
Timothy is a pescetarian, although he admitted he 'won't turn down meat' if offered it.
He felt the event was well-organised and smart, and has noticed the vegan scene getting bigger in recent years, citing increased options in restaurants.
He said: "I feel veganism is a massive plus to the environment. Meat is addictive and the industry has negative effects on the world and our health."
James, who had turned up with his son George, was a confirmed vegan and showed up to express his support for the movement.
"It's good this is happening in the middle of town, so that everyone can see," he said.
"I think it will have an overall positive experience to convince people to reduce their meat consumption.
"The event spreads a good message and I feel it being so open could help convince passing skeptics - to crack harder nuts.
He added: "20 years ago people mainly went vegan or vegetarian for health reasons, but now there are so many options that it can become a lifestyle.
"Having access to plant-based comfort food is very important, it means people can make changes without needing to sacrifice what they love."
I also ran into Soraia, who had tried going vegan in the past, but had to stop as she started losing weight due to a lack of protein.
Viva! representatives were offering her advice, and she feels as thought the increasing options for vegan diets makes switching easier.
She said: "I 100% agree with with their message. I love animals, we only have one planet and we should strive to protect all living things.
"I like how there are entire sections in supermarkets dedicated to plant-based food and I think that events such as this could have a positive impact on people."
She told me that she thought the burger was nice, although she'd never tried the brand before.
Lastly, I talked to Mike, Sam and Ben, who were skeptical and a little hesitant to stand in line.
Sam, who had never tried vegan food before, said the burger was flavourful, while Ben, who had, also said he liked it.
Mike said he liked the idea of veganism, and that cutting down on meat for health reasons was a good idea.
"A lot of meat has additives that are bad for your health," he said.
All three eat meat, but said you often can't tell the difference with many meat substitutes.
They also felt the burger was cleaner as they are far less greasy than beef burgers.
Mike added: "I think the environmental effects of veganism depend on many factors, but I think it could ultimately be a good thing for Ipswich."
The burger van
The van is central to Viva!'s campaign and appears in much of its branding. For this tour, it was coated with burning forests and jaguars, who are losing much of their habitat through agriculture, Jasmine said.
The van is covered in text that describes animals whose habitat is being theatened by agriculture and bears a striking design.
Next to it was another van with a monitor that plays Viva's campaign film, although the sound was off.
Jasmine added: "Our logo is a little gruesome. It's supposed to represent a burger, but instead of the patty, we have animals who are dying because of meat, fish and dairy."
On the other side of the jaguar design is a toucan.
The marketing may be a little aggressive, but it appears to be working.
The van was manned by a single woman handing out burgers, with a league of volunteers speaking to the public.
What's the tour about?
The tour is part of the charity's Eating the Earth campaign, which was launched a few weeks ago.
It was opened with a fine dining vegan pop-up restaurant in London attended by various influencers.
There they also played their campaign film, which details animals being impacted by agriculture.
Viva! went on tour to promote veganism and help educate people into making switches in their lives that could have a positive effect on their health and the environment, Jasmine told me.
She said: "The soy is sustainably sourced and we ensure that everything we use is palm oil free, due to its devestating effects on deforestation."
This is its third such tour the charity had conducted.
On its website, Viva! also has an interactive map where users can find out more about threatened species.
Jasmine concluded by saying the group is planning a 'week of action' which will ask people to set up stalls across the UK and 'blow up the internet' with a viral marketing campaign.
She hopes the charity will continue to expand and keep spreading its message.
The tour continues tomorrow when Viva! heads to Norwich.