A VOLUNTEER has expressed her anger after she was told by the animal charity she worked for that she was not allowed to eat meat or dairy products on site.

Glennis Irish, from Darlington, worked for six months for Farplace Animal Rescue, a Weardale-based sanctuary that rescues and rehomes animals.

The 49-year-old, who had been working at Farplace's children's charity shop in Darlington's Cornmill Shopping Centre, said she quit her volunteering position after she was told the sushi she had brought in for lunch had to be eaten outside of the shop because it was not in line with the charity's vegan policy.

Mrs Irish, who has worked in retail from the age of 18, joined as a part-time volunteer after a medical condition meant she was no longer able to work full-time.

She said: “It’s not fair that I would have to eat outside if I wanted to have my lunch just because its meat, even if I was out of sight of customers.

"They should not be able to dictate that I can only sit inside the shop if what I am eating is vegan.

"I really enjoyed working there. It was getting me out of the house, we all worked well together as a team, but this whole thing has just put a spanner in the works.

“I respect people if they want to be vegan but I don’t see why I should be forced to eat my lunch outside in the cold if what I'm eating goes against that.

"I was doing a bit of everything - I served customers, I started opening the shop on Mondays and worked Mondays, I was doing pick-ups for people who wanted to donate bulky items.

"I sorted through donations and made sure everything complied and priced everything. I did everything there was to do in there.

“I spent £30 on 50 pens to sell for the shop. I even went out and bought a T-shirt with my own name on it.

“It’s a bit frustrating to be told that after you have put in a lot of effort for them and don’t get paid for it."

Farplace Animal Rescue said they make all staff and volunteers aware of their vegan policy when joining the charity.

Gareth Edwards, the charity's Chief Executive, said: "When any of our volunteers start with us they sign a document agreeing to our vegan policy.

"We tell them we don’t care what their lifestyle is outside of their work but as a vegan charity we ask them to not consume animal products on our sites - this has been the same for seven or eight years.

"We are a Weardale-based sanctuary so we do rescue a lot of farm animals as well as cats, dogs and other animals.

"If one of our vegan partners was to come into one of our sites and see someone eating the same kind of animal they are trying to save, it would be very inconsistent with what we do as a charity.

“We organise vegan festivals as one of our ways of making income as a charity and we run events across the country, so it is very much part of our ethos.

"We don’t sell any non-vegan products in our shops, for example if we get any leather products we trade with other charity shops that can then sell them on. We don’t feel comfortable selling something that harms the animals we rescue.

“Most of our staff and volunteers are omnivores and on their lunch they just go out and eat off site.

"We do not dictate to our volunteers what they do in their own time. We just ask them to respect our policy which is made clear to staff and volunteers from day one.”