Food Advocate & Vice President at ProVeg International, UK
“I’ve seen huge changes in the past ten years thanks to collective efforts by organisations, companies, food services providers, influencers, chefs, and other role models.” Proud of how far the plant-based space had gone in a matter of just years, really, Jasmijn de Boo turned vegetarian at age 12 after witnessing terrified pigs transported to a slaughterhouse. “The 1980s were not very veg-friendly, and I remember being challenged, particularly on whether I thought I was trying to save the world.” At 18, she knew she wanted to become an advocate and voice for animals. “After obtaining a Masters in animal behaviour and welfare I gained broad experience in a range of organisations. Following the success of the Dutch political Party for the Animals, in 2006, I then launched and led the UK Animals Count party, later rebranded the Animal Welfare Party, which I led for four years.” In 2011, Jamijn joined The Vegan Society as CEO, an executive journey that led her to another chapter as SAFE CEO in New Zealand and eventually joining ProVeg International’s Executive Team in 2018.
Her greatest challenge (as well as opportunity) was the industry itself: “When I joined The Vegan Society in 2011, veganism was still very much at the fringes of society. Mainstream media attention started to happen around 2013, after the European horsemeat scandal. Then it took another two to three years until veganism became more accepted. Since 2016, we’ve seen an explosion in vegan food, drinks, clothes, accessories, services, investments, etc. And increased awareness about the environmental impacts of the livestock sector and health are resulting in growing numbers of flexitarians, who now make up about 30-40% of the population in many countries.”
“ProVeg’s approach is very much to support people on their journey, wherever they are.”
Inspirations, go-to’s and lifehacks:
- Pandemic lifehack that helped you survive 2021: A few amazing summer breaks to the Lake District, Malvern hills, Wales, and Scotland took me to a happy place in nature where I recharged my batteries and gained important perspectives.
- A person that inspires you: My husband, Andrew Knight, who works incredibly hard (and is one of the most disciplined and productive people I know). He is an animal advocate who pushes new academic boundaries, currently in sustainable pet food research.
- Last series/movie that kept you awake: There are so many movies and series that make you wonder afterwards. One recent non-animal-related example was ’14 Peaks: Nothing is impossible’ about an all-Nepalese team climbing 14 Himalayan mountains over 8,000m tall in under 7 months, which is completely unheard of. The adventures and challenges are led by fearless Nimsdai Purja, who has self-belief and determination in abundance, stays cheerful in the face of adversity, and inspires thousands of people around the world.
- Favorite book / A book everyone should read: This is difficult, as there are so many great books and authors. So many inspiring people. Dr Jane Goodall has been a long-term inspiration (and I’ve had the fortune of meeting her in person three times), so I’d definitely recommend her books. A non-animal/vegan related book I’d recommend would be This is going to hurt by Adam Kay, about his experiences as a junior doctor in the NHS. It’s witty but also deeply moving, about the pressures in the UK healthcare system. And also, of course, Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, providing a great perspective on human evolution and the impact on each other and the world.
- App you find most valuable: Currently it’s my physiotherapy app! But I hope I won’t need that anymore in a couple of months. In summer, I like using the tidal app so I can look up when it’s a good time to go kayaking on our local river.
- Favorite food / favorite vegan treat: This must be the hardest question… I must admit that vegan chocolate is very tempting but I know it’s not very healthy. I like most foods, and in terms of cuisines, I really like Thai and (South) Indian food.
Personally, Jasmijn went deeper too. “I’ve been motivated to protect animals for a long time, but meeting my now husband, Andrew Knight, at a conference helped me become vegan and take my career in that direction. We used to have some strong philosophical arguments about tactics or certain topics in the early days, but we’ve supported each other in good and bad times.” Going vegan was also pivotal in cracking the code of competitive running, a hobby she took on more than a decade ago. “I’ve run many races and enjoyed doing a few personal bests, and two triathlons, mostly without proper training. The fact I managed to do them at all was mainly because of my vegan lifestyle.” Apart from becoming an endurance athlete, she and her husband enjoy nature walks and dancing to stay fit and to get away from their desks.
“We need cultured meat to be affordable ASAP to help cut the most meat consumption.”
In the world of work, it’s important for Jasmijn that people know they can count on her: “I enjoy developing people and organisations. I value evidence-based work as well as strong external communications to share what we’ve achieved and show what we can offer.” Her mission is clearer than ever: “For the sake of the 70+ billion land animals and the more than one trillion sea animals killed for food, as well as for environmental and health reasons, we seriously need to reduce animal consumption as much as possible. Ideally by 100%, but this is unlikely given people’s habits and traditions of eating animals.” She’s betting on cultured animal products becoming available and affordable as soon as possible to provide options. “We need to make the policy, trade, and socio-cultural environment appealing for plant-based, cultured animal products and fermented foods and achieve systemic change at all levels. We’re making progress!”
Jasmijn is one of the Food Heroes for 2022. See more inspiring and world-changing stories from Food Heroes here.