Animal-rightists bounce the Pogo stalwarts

A COUP has occurred at the workers’ co-operative Pogo at 76 Clarence Road, 80m west of Clapton Square. The spark was a row at the strictly vegan co-operative café over, of all things, meat.

Animal-rights activists have taken control of the venue, say members of the displaced faction. The origins of the coup lie in a freezers breakdown at a nearby supermarket.

Somerfield wanted to dispose of the contents so co-op members and local squatters salvaged frozen vegetables, as well as non-vegan dairy products and meat.

Pogo members labelled the reclaimed food as not for café use and placed it in a freezer in the storeroom, which is out of sight of the dining area.

This was a temporary arrangement, partly a favour to local people, some of whom did not own freezers. The food was not intended for the café, and specifically marked so. A volunteer objected to there being meat on the premises. Several secret meetings, to which co-op members say they were not invited, were held away from the café.

One night a group of people let themselves into the café and threw away all the non-vegan produce from the freezer and pasted it with animal-rights literature and a note warning that “freeganism”, a way of highlighting how supermarkets waste food by needlessly dumping it, was a slippery slope to something or other.

The note also complained that not everyone had been properly consulted. The insurgency continued as one of the rebels used the email account via which Pogo keeps in touch with volunteers to call a meeting at the same time as one planned by core members.

A confrontation occurred, at which the co-op was told it was “cliquey” and that the 15 or so objectors wanted more responsibility. A counter-accusation was that they had never mentioned this. In any case, said the “original”, co-opistas, there was no shortage of the responsibilities usually available in a retail operation, such as cleaning, baking and errands.

The “original” added: “They also implied we weren’t vegan enough to run a vegan café. The result was that all the the originals and some long-term volunteers resigned. A member said: “We don’t want to work with people who want power, or think that we do. Being in the co-op is being in a position of responsibility, which is not necessarily fun. The implication that only vegans who are practising animal-rights activism should be allowed to run the café is very exclusive and alienating.”

The café will now be run by a different group. “We aren’t happy about leaving the café,” said an original, “but we feel they left us no option.”

The co-op started life as Pumpkin. Later the name was changed to Pogo. The area is one of the roughest in London: feral youths from the adjacent Pembury estate occasionally fling themselves at the security grilles enclosing the premises and an anti-gun meeting at the in December 2008 ended in two shootings.

But its popularity has grown, particularly with students on small budgets. It won a contract to supply cakes to the Rio cinema and in the last few years it has broadened its activities, among them free classes in German and other languages. Recently it announced free yoga courses.

The new regime said that Pogo would become an “open collective” and a “more enjoyable and fulfilling experience” promoting “moral veganism” after its reopening on Thursday 11 March.
Pogo-goers are sceptical that a different regime will offer extra features, or even the good-value meals and relaxed service that made it one of northeast London’s worst-kept secrets.
David Altheer 100310
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11 thoughts on “Animal-rightists bounce the Pogo stalwarts

  1. Pogo is still here. Almost all of those involved with the takeover described above have long since left. Check to see what’s happening and please note the takeover had nothing to do with HAC! Cheers — Jon [Thanks. Your points will be followed up. — Ed.]

  2. Pingback: Pogo update: ‘Open for normal service’ | Hackney's leading independent news site – LOVING DALSTON – Editor David Altheer
  3. I don’t think Pogson is involved – he is still in prison – the Fool and Debz are though and that is bad enough.

  4. So SHAC and Pogson became involved and now there are arguments. What a surprise !

    The very last thing POGO needed was their particular brand of “do it our way or face the consequences” that we have come to expect from SHAC. I’m not surprised that the old group (who have done such a good job up until now) decided to resign with the SHAC reputation for violence against any group that opposes their narrow viewpoint.

  5. Really unhappy to see this. The nutters at SHAC have done so much damage to the animal rights movement in the UK and now they have control of one of the best Vegan cafes in the country.
    I will no longer be going there as long as SHAC are involved.

  6. POGO has been completely runied by this. The atmosphere that made it ao brilliant has gone. If the new crew want to claim that the old co op were cliquey then they should justify the fact that they no longer speak to anyone in there i.e. the customers.
    POGO now feels like you shouldn’t be in there…like you’ve walked in on a meeting and everyone has stopped tslking because of you.
    It is being run by SHAC now. I wouldn’t go in there any more if you are an ordinary Hackney person…POGOS has become like a no go cafe for ordinary people. It’s reputaion as an alternative but professionally run cafe has gone and it seems that a loaf of trust funders who don’t seem to care whether or not anyone but SHAC goes in there have wrecked it.
    POGOs is over.

  7. Good luck – with the FOOL on-board you are really going to need it!

  8. The cafe was always a co-op first and the vegan aspect was to ensure inclusivity- now it will become is exclusive and the work of those who built it will be wasted this is not about ego;s this is about conntrol and those who need to grow up are the ones who are wrecking – lets see what a mess it is in next year.

  9. What is more important: our local vegan cafe or the egos of those involved with the co-operative?
    GROW UP!

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