In May 2024, the animal rights group PETA put up a billboard in Bolton, north of England, encouraging people to go vegan, after a train passenger was unable to get oat milk for his coffee at Bolton’s train station, and his social media posts about it went viral.

Paul Whitley, who is not vegan, tried to get oat milk, his favourite, in his coffee at Bolton station’s “Coffee House’” only to be told they had none. He posted on X, “I’m in Bolton train station and I asked for oat milk in my coffee and the lady told me they don’t do that kind of thing here.”. As a consequence, the Swedish oat milk manufacturer Oatly, which saw his tweet, sent Whitley hundreds of ‘Oatly Barista Edition’ cartons of oat milk, so he’ll never again have to be without his favourite milk. Whitley commented, “When I posted about coffee options in Bolton, I didn’t expect to accidentally spark a debate on cow milk vs oat ‘juice’, have the story hit the national press. Oatly have now sent me some freebies so I can’t stop alt-milking the attention I tried to get oat milk coffee in Bolton and accidentally became a minor celebrity.”

Then, PETA, aware of the controversy, displayed a digital billboard on Derby Street, opposite the University of Bolton’s Deane Road Campus, just 500 metres from the railway station.

Whitley commented the following about it: “I think it’s brilliant that they are promoting this so much in Bolton, and I’m sure there are lots of people in Bolton who enjoy an alt-milk and would like the opportunity to get that in their train station, so hopefully it might encourage WHSmith to stock more than dairy milk, maybe offer an alternative,”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.