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Juliet Gellatley

Inspiring Female Founder Spotlight: Juliet Gellatley

Juliet is the founder and director of Viva!, the UK’s leading vegan campaigning charity. Juliet founded Viva! back in 1994 and has worked tirelessly for decades to make the charity a leader in the industry. She has dedicated her life to campaigning for animals and has spearheaded the vegan movement, helping it become the growing lifestyle we know it as today. Her work includes the ground-breaking multi-award-winning documentary HOGWOOD: a modern horror story, investigating countless factory farms and regular features in national print and broadcast media. She is also the author of The Livewire Guide to Going, Being and Staying Veggie!, The Silent Ark: A Chilling Expose of Meat – The Global Killer, and Born To Be Wild: The Livewire Guide to Saving Animals. Juliet was the winner of the Linda McCartney Award for Animal Welfare in 1999, sponsored by the Daily Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards. Juliet is also a mum to twin boys Jazz and Finn and has numerous companion animals including a dog called Roza who she rescued from the Ukraine conflict.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

I am passionate about animals, even as a child I was rescuing them and secretly adopted a stray cat who gave birth to kittens in my wardrobe! Later, it was a trip to a mega farm used to showcase factory farming that turned me vegetarian, and I went vegan in my 20s when I witnessed a male dairy calf being torn away from his mother to be killed.   

I launched Viva! on 26 October 1994 from my garage in Church Minshull (near Nantwich and Crewe in Cheshire). The beautiful and kind author, Audrey Eyton, donated £20,000 to the group, and everything was bought with this money – from computers to franking machine – to the all-important first campaign materials. It was make or break with the launch appeal – and fortunately, it was make (a little)!

Viva! held a launch event at a very packed house at the Union Club on 26 October 1994. Media present included MTV, BBC Radio One, Daily Mail, The Guardian, BBC TV (SE/London news), The Independent and Channel 4. But I’ll always remember my mum and dad being present!

How did the idea come to you for the company?

I set up Viva! to investigate farmed animal cruelty. Almost no one was exposing factory farming in the UK, and I wanted to change that, so I did. However, Viva! doesn’t just focus on the animal side of veganism. We also work across three other pillars: health, planet and lifestyle. We encourage people to be as healthy as possible while helping the planet and enjoying their lifestyle.

How did you achieve awareness?

Media coverage has been an excellent way of promoting Viva!’s work; I’ve appeared on hundreds of TV and radio shows over the past three decades, as well as achieving countless pieces of coverage across print and online.

Since I launched Viva! the world of social media has been born, which has been instrumental in getting our campaign information seen by as many people as possible. We have almost 100,000 followers on Facebook.

Outreach is also so important. We take to the streets and hold protests, as well as offering members of the public free samples of vegan food: it’s an excellent way to encourage people to try vegan! Our outreach approach is always open and honest but friendly.

How have you been able to gain funding and grow?

Many people already knew of me and my work and with them as a basis, I built a supporter base though mailings and inserts in magazines, and it is they who have built Viva!. We grew mostly from small donations and as we’ve got older, legacies in people’s wills have become increasingly important. We maintain public support by regularly keeping in touch with our members and subscribers, showing them the work and campaigns we’re doing and their successes – and that’s why our magazine Viva!life is so important.       

What are the key successes? 

Seeing more people go vegan is a huge success for Viva! The more people who go vegan, the less demand there is for animal products, and fewer animals have to suffer.

We also celebrated success when Tesco stopped buying from Hogwood, a pig farm we investigated four times that had some of the worst instances of animal cruelty I’ve ever seen. This took major tenacity: we campaigned for years to get Tesco to ditch the farm. We also got Red Tractor to remove the farm from its assurance scheme. The conditions at Hogwood pig farm and the battles we faced exposing the reality, were so shocking that we made a documentary HOGWOOD: a modern horror story, which is now on Netflix.

It’s always a success when I can save an animal, particularly if I can then see them flourish. In 2017, together with Mary Frankland, director of Dean Farm Trust and animal sanctuary, I rescued a sow, Hope Apple Blossom, and her family of piglets from slaughter. Hope’s dance of joy became a viral internet sensation and she featured in Viva!’s (and the UK’s) first vegan cinema ad.

Another enormous success was Viva! stopping all UK supermarkets from selling kangaroo meat. Again, that campaign took a shed full of persistence and determination. But it paid off!

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Money is always the biggest challenge because without it we can’t launch effective campaigns. Because we have been so successful in calling farmed animal abusers to account, we have retained our supporters’ loyalty – and their willingness to fund us.

What are your plans now/for the future?

Our core work will always be to go inside the dreadful places where animals suffer and show it to millions of people through our successful media coverage. The global situation means we have to expand our campaigns with urgency to tackle the climate crisis and reverse the shocking decline in wildlife and everything that makes up biodiversity. We are launching Viva! Uganda so we can be there, on the ground, at the heart of the problem. Viva! Poland was launched some years ago and has been incredibly successful. I also encourage anyone and everyone to start their own pressure groups. Can one person have an impact? Just think of Greta Thunberg!        

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?

My number one piece of advice is to just go for it! Find a cause or topic you are truly passionate about and work hard to make it a reality. Always be true to your passions! Celebrate themand don’t be deterred because you will hit numerous obstacles. Always bear in mind who or what it is you’re working for. For me it is always the animals and their suffering and that is the lodestone that I use to navigate through life. I have to do what I do – for them!

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Resilience is key when it comes to running your own organisation. Being persistent is also essential. I’ve faced many kickbacks, but I’ve bounced back every time and that has been key to Viva!’s success. My final tip is to work hard. Running your own business means you rarely work a 9-5, you often end up working holidays and weekends, but it’s worth it when you really care about the cause.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

My mum was, and will always be, my inspiration. She had a tough childhood and responded by being determined to make life better for everyone she loved. 

Heather Mills, someone who has overcome hardships – not least losing her leg – and become a pioneering animal rights activist, businesswoman and successful sportswoman. Few people have experienced the vitriol and hate that she has but she has overcome it with strength and determination.

Joey Carbstrong – an influencer, activist and YouTuber. Joey comes from a tough background, and his YouTube channel now reaches millions with consistently gripping and entertaining videos convincing so many to go vegan.

Mahatma Gandhi – his fight for human rights without violence and winning, despite being opposed by the entire British establishment and its military.

Nelson Mandela’s incredible focus on freeing South Africa from apartheid that he maintained for 27 years in prison. On his release he eschewed vengeance and promoted peace and reconciliation.

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?