Resignation Letter, July 2021
To the Chair and CEO of The Vegan Society and the Council of Trustees
I hereby offer my immediate resignation from council. I realise that I was elected to the role of trustee for four years, but sadly, I do not feel that the environment in council is one where I can make my best contribution or indeed where I feel at all comfortable.
The situation in which I have unwittingly found myself in the past nine months may not be typical of the functioning of the society council. On the other hand, having been told of a previous situation where six trustees felt they needed to resign as a group, and also the resignation of a couple of previous Chairs of council, as well as a recent resignation of a CEO, I cannot help but think there is a long-standing and ongoing problem in the organisation. In my view, the current composition of council is completely dysfunctional, and some trustees use their extensive knowledge of past society history and process in subtle but extremely effective ways to ensure that their positions are protected, and positive progress is hampered. As a result, important issues which may have bearing on the future course of the entire charity are not receiving the attention in good faith of a united and effective team as they should be.
Having expected to be part of a forward-looking, vibrant and compassionate group of people on council, making a contribution to an organisation embodying a philosophy which had completely changed my life, I was sadly disillusioned. My own experience on council has been one of constant questioning of motivations and actions, to the point of feeling harassed and bullied by some trustees. I have reached the point where I am doubting my own competence in areas which have been seen in every other organisation with which I have worked as particular skills, such as useful insight, good communication, minute-taking and capturing the major points of discussion without verbatim reproduction, not to mention sound professional judgement. Of course, I did not take on the role of trustee simply to resign when things got difficult. However, since February, when I became chair of the Investigations Committee, overseeing the investigation of a number of complaints into the behaviour of the Chair and Vice Chair, my time and energies have been increasingly consumed by my role on council, and it became my aim simply to ensure that I continued to serve in this toxic environment until the investigation was completed, and the report safely received. This has now been done but sadly has been followed by the complete inability of some members of council to accept the report, much less wish the exonerated Chair and Vice Chair well. The pseudo legal expertise that they are bringing to a report prepared by a noted barrister simply echoes the way they manage all their dealings in council, and I cannot see how I can contribute to changing this and still maintain my own integrity, professionalism, dignity and mental wellbeing. As a result, I tendered my resignation to the Chair and the CEO shortly after the report was received but as the Charity Commission had by that stage gotten involved, I agreed to stay on as council secretary to help collate responses to the CC and perhaps reconsider. However, the validity of my resignation decision has only been confirmed during that time. The inability of some trustees to put forward fair and honest assessments of the situation to the CC is beyond disappointing, and the fact that they are attempting to use a public statement about the investigation to curate the truth is unacceptable to me. I am no longer able to put forward statements on behalf of council but in my name when they so seriously disagree with my own viewpoint on the issues at hand. I made my position and previous resignation clear during the mediation interview in which I recently participated. In any event, the revelation by some trustees that they do not believe that the (twice) democratically elected and now exonerated Chair should be leading the society, despite the investigation results, has confirmed for me that for some trustees the investigation and mediation are never going to change anything. Ongoing bullying of the Vice Chair – and the complete lack of concern for their physical and mental health (actually made worse by the lip service paid to being concerned about same) - has been of particular concern. The final straw has been the way in which, as the society and council tries to agree on the release of the results of the investigation to our membership, the complainants (including a close relative of one sitting trustee) who at best are indicated by the report as lacking in understanding but in my view have been part of an orchestrated attack with specific aims in mind, are being afforded protection and anonymity throughout, while elected officer holders trying to act in the best interests of the society have been afforded no such support or protection. Having already been unwillingly named online for my role in the investigation process, and then having had a positive attempt to combat that weaponised against me and used by some to divide council further, I do not feel I can safely serve the TVS council any longer.
I send my utmost respect to the Chair, the Vice Chair and the CEO, who in my view are continuing to try and lead the society in the most difficult of circumstances. I believe that the investigation report supports many of my own observations about council, and I hope that the society can work with the CC to establish a process and gather appropriate people to action the recommendations of the report so that the difficult time that has been the signature of my tenure will be the starting point for more positive things.
Dr Sally Anderson
Personal statement, May 2021
I was absolutely delighted to be elected onto the Vegan Society council in 2020. It has been a far more complex and difficult journey so far than I imagined. As council secretary, I have brought to council some of the skills I shared in my candidate statement last year:
I have served on numerous committees in various capacities, both in driving forward projects and in managing administrative tasks. I am an effective project manager with good people skills, but also enjoy the minutiae of planning, tracking, minuting and reporting....I served three terms on a student union board of trustees and underwent training on the ins and outs of being a volunteer trustee in a charitable organisation, and focused my attention on helping the student-led board to develop and publish their annual strategy and manage their reporting processes.
I have been privileged to work with the colleagues who have contributed to this site. I believe that we can benefit the society by honing its governance processes, creating an environment which will help us to expand membership into under-represented groups, and expressing views on wider issues which befit the society's standing as a leader in a movement which, for me, has at its heart justice and compassion.
The past six months have thrown up many unexpected challenges, not least our previous CEO moving on to new things, and Covid shaking up everything around us. Challenges, yes, but also an amazing opportunity to look again at aligning our articles and framework with a revitalised strategic plan, developing a set of values which clearly express how we want to interact with each other and our members, and creating governance structures which facilitate a spirit of collaborative enterprise.
I know that AGMs often seem like dry and dusty events, and it's easy to take the view that one vote won't make a difference. But I hope that every one of the Society's members will consider carefully all the candidate statements and motions for the AGM as well as the vision expressed on this site and vote for a society for the future.