“The Vegan Society of Aotearoa” was registered as a charity with the Charities Commission on 15 September 2010 (Charity Reg. No. CC45333). However, there has never been any legally incorporated entity by this name in New Zealand (e.g. incorporated charitable trust or incorporated Society etc.). “The Vegan Society of Aotearoa” is an unincorporated “Trust” with its “Trust Deed” dated 1 May 2010 specifying three trustees on its “Board”, available on the Charities website (www.charities.govt.nz). Two of the founding trustees are still current officers for “the Trust”, two two new trustees were appointed in 2011.
Under section 15 of the Charities Act 2005, if the Commission is to register any legally constituted entity as a charity, it must only do so under the applicant’s full and correct legal name (see Appendix I below).
It is important to understand that “Veganz the Vegan Society of New Zealand Charitable Trust“, a Charitable Trust (Reg. No. 1230157) incorporated on 31 July 2002, is legally distinct from “The Vegan Society of Aotearoa“- an unincorporated “Trust”. The former is NOT registered with the Charities Commission.
One must wonder whether the Charities Commission Registration Team ever accessed the “Search Other Registers” on the Companies Office website (www.companies.govt.nz) to determine whether or not The Vegan Society of Aotearoa was a registered incorporated legal entity. It is not.
“The Vegan Society of Aotearoa” was granted “charitable status” under charity law in 2010 and was assessed by the Charities Registration Team as “benefiting the public, or a section of the public”, in a manner that was “identifiable”, “clear”. and “related to its charitable aims”. Its Purpose is set out under s. 3 of its “Trust Deed” dated 1 May 2010:
“The purpose of the Trust will be to promote veganism as an environmentally friendly, healthy and compassionate way of life. In particular the Trust will….”
3.1 further the knowledge and interest in sound nutrition and veganism, and in vegan methods of agriculture and food production as a means of increasing the agricultural potential of Aotearoa, to the physical, economic and moral benefit of all living beings.
3.2 provide a means of social contact and exchange of information for new and existing vegans by way of regional social support and provision of resources.
3.3 develop and maintain positive relationships with organisations sharing similar aims.
3.4 encourage the research, study and use of alternatives to all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
3.5 take any action consistent with this charitable purpose.
After a thorough inquiry into the activities, ‘doctrines’ and objects of this [unincorporated] “Trust”, the Charities Commission accepted that the exclusive primary “beneficiaries” of this charity were “vegens”, who are all required to pay membership fees.
According to section 2 of the registered Trust Deed dated 17 July 2002 of Veganz the Vegan Society of New Zealand Charitable Trust (an incorporated entity which is not a registered charity):
“A Vegan is a person who knowingly chooses not to consume, use or wear any products produced from animals or which contain animal by products; and avoids products that have been tested on animals or involves cruelty or abuse of animals in their research or production stages. Veganism stands for respect and compassion for animals (including the human animal).”
The Vegan Society of Aotearoa provides a list of all the animal items prohibited for vegans: “meat (fish, shellfish, livestock or poultry) eggs, dairy products, honey, gelatine or use of leather belts, fur silk, wool, cosmetics or soaps derived from animal products.” (Source: www.vegansociety.co.nz)
The Charities Commission has graciously granted The Vegan Society of Aotearoa permission to vastly extend the official public record of the “beneficiaries” to their Society’s “charitable activities” to effectively include: all animals used as a source of meat and/or other food product by man, and all those used as a source of health products and/or clothing materials. Many of these animals are indeed true “beneficiaries” of the charity as they owe their very lives to the charitable work of Vegans, who actively persuade fellow New Zealanders to desist and abstain from their “moral crimes” against the Animal Kingdom (e.g. eating animals and using their by products), and jump on board the Vegan lifestyle bus to help green the planet and save its bio-diversity.
The Vegan Society of Aotearoa promotes “protection of animals”, “conservation” and “the environment” according to the Charities Commission website. Such broad activities have been ruled by the Commission to be “charitable purposes”.
In a sense, all its “charitable activities” can be viewed as detrimental to much of our New Zealand farming industry that forms the backbone of our export trade. Urging people to desist and abstain from eating meat and all other animal products would be viewed by most New Zealanders as detrimental economically to the “public good”.
Most ordinary and reasonable New Zealanders would reject the view that providing vege recipes and information of Vegan food outlets on a website to Vegans and sponsoring vegetarian family fun-days where vegan charity members and friends can delight themselves in the partaking of vege food, constitute “charitable activities”. They would see no “public benefit” in allowing paid up members of to pursue their own private lifestyle choices.
Everyone has the right to pursue a vegan lifestyle, or for that matter naturalism, as a lifestyle choice, or any indeed other private hobby. Both vegans and naturalists claim to offer health rewards to those who embrace their respective lifestyle choices. Both claim a vast body of research evidence supporting the superiority of their respective lifestyles compared to normal lifestyles (eating meat and wearing clothes).
Both have followers that actively expose themselves to the public to win over public empathy and support and recruit new members to the ‘faith’. There are many vegans who are “animal rights activists” and take part in protests ‘baring all’. Yes nudity is regularly their favoured tool to win recruits and lobby for their political views. Who can forget those grim animal rights promotional photos of nude men and women hunched over in foetal positions confined within battery hen cages?
The six million dollar question is:
Should groups of naturalists and/or vegans be granted “charitable status” based on their claims that their lifestyle choices positively impact society or a group within society, to such a significant extent that they provide “public benefit” and “the moral benefit of all living beings”?
The Charities Commission has clearly given a positive answer to this question, ruling that the purposes of The Vegan Society of Aotearoa are “charitable” and come under one of “the four charity heads” (e.g. presumably “advancement of education”).
The Vegans website states:
“The society is a friendly, informative and professional organisation. It offers resources, information, event notifications, product advice, vegan role models, recipes and support systems. We put out a quarterly magazine and advise on many things via the website.”
Its homepage mouth-watering articles include: …. “OUR TOP PICK: Navigating the ethically treacherous waters of chocolate.” and “Veg-Yummy Places .. [re] vegetarian-friendly or vegan restaurants.”
The 20010/2011 financial accounts of The Vegan Society of Aotearoa that were required to be filed with the Charities Commission no later than 30 September 2011, have yet to be filed and are now almost twelve months overdue. And yet Despite this very serious breach of the Charities Act 2005, this unincorporated Society has not been deregistered or removed from the Charities Register.
The former Chief Executive of the now disestablished Charities Commission, Mr Trevor Garrett, was recently reported by The Hutt News as saying
“… charitable organisations registered with it [the Commission] that had not filed returns six months after the end of their financial year were sent a reminder letter. They get a more “strongly worded” reminder a month or two later and at around three months overdue – which is where HMCT is – “we get to the stage where we look at de-registering. That’s how seriously we take it.”
Mr Garrett had been asked for comment by the paper’s editor, Mr Simon Edwards, on whether or not “The Hutt Mana Charitable Trust’s persistent late filing of financial returns risks it being struck off by the Charities Commission, losing its tax exemption status.”
Dr Carolyn Corderoy, a senior lecturer in Victoria University’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law, who has been engaged in a detailed research investigation into the compliance failures of charities being ‘monitored’ by the Charities Commission with respect to their financial returns, and who was referred to in The Hutt News; has concluded that the levels of non-compliance by charities in New Zealand raises serious concerns.
According to the Charities website (www.charities.govt.nz), The Vegan Society of Aotearoa last filed its financial accounts with the Charities Commission for its financial year ended 31 March 2010. These accounts, uploaded onto the Charities website on 6 October 2011, reveal that its total gross income was $2,950 – sourced from $935 donations and $2,015 from membership fees. Its total expenditure in the year was $306 and the net surplus was $2,644.
It is run with the services of five voluntary staff involving an average about 20 hours of combined work from them, on average each week. There are no paid workers or employees.
It appears that the Charities Commission Registration Team have seen fit to grant The Vegan Society of Aotearoa charitable status under the “third head” [“Advancement of education”] of Lord Macnaghten’s four heads of charity. It recognises its primary charitable contribution is to be “Community Development” in the specialist roles of “education/training/research”).
Vegan recipes have niche and no-doubt financially lucrative markets on a global scale. Animal activism and vegan charities go hand in paw.
Vegan education is advancing thanks to the Charities Commission, fostered and nurtured via the promulgation of vegan lifestyle teachings and practices.
The “public benefit” gained from New Zealanders embracing the doctrines, teachings and lifestyle patterns of vegans or coming under their influence has been positively grasped in full by the Charities Commission. The uptake by true believers of the vegan lifestyle will undoubtedly issue in a more holistic, green and animal friendly planet… surely a truly charitable goal for any charity registered by the Charities Commission.
1. Charitable Trust late again with returns, agm
The Hutt News. 3 April 2012. By Simon Edwards
“Dr Carolyn Cordery, of Victoria University’s School of Accounting and Commercial Law, took a quick look at HMCT’s trust deed last week and said to be four months’ overdue on filing and holding an annual meeting was “poor”. ”
2. Trust Deed of VEGANZ: The Vegan Society of New Zealand Charitable Trust dated 14 December 2004.
3. Application For Incorporation Of A Society As A Board. Dated 17 July 2002. Received from VEGANZ by National Processing Centre 31 July 2002.
4. Trust Deed of VEGANZ dated 17 July 2002
15 Name of entity
The name of an entity complies with this section if—
(a) the entity is incorporated under that name under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908; or
(b) the entity is incorporated under that name under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957; or
(c) the entity is incorporated under that name under the Companies Act 1993; or
(d) the entity is established, or constituted, by an Act under that name; or
(e) in any other case, in the opinion of the Board, the name is not—
(i) offensive; or
(ii) liable to mislead the public.
Section 15(e): amended, on 1 July 2012, by section 16(1) of the Charities Amendment Act (No 2) 2012 (2012 No 43)