August 14, 2022

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Animal rights group PETA has demanded any new owners of Britain’s ‘oldest pub’ Ye Olde...

Animal rights group PETA has demanded any new owners of Britain’s ‘oldest pub’ Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is renamed ‘The Happy Hens’ and has an all-vegan menu.
The ‘bonkers’ proposal came days after pub landlord Christo Tofalli, 53, announced he was leaving the 1,300-year-old boozer due to financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit hospitality venues hard.
The parent company of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks – found in St Albans, Hertfordshire – is currently looking for a new landlord.
Now, PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – is seizing the moment to demand a ’21st-century revamp’ of the pub, which dates back to 793AD and once hosted Oliver Cromwell.
Activists say the pub’s name ‘calls to mind the violence and cruelty of a hideous blood sport that has been outlawed in the UK for more than a century’.
They have suggested Ye Olde Clever Cocks as a new name, as well as The Cheery Chooks and The Happy Hens.
Campaigners are also demanding the pub, which served classic British grub, adopt a fully plant-based menu.

Animal rights group PETA has demanded any new owners of Britain’s ‘oldest pub’ Ye Olde Fighting Cocks (pictured, file photo) is renamed ‘The Happy Hens’ and has an all-vegan menu

The open letter, penned by PETA’s vegan chief Dawn Carr, calls on pub company Mitchells & Butlers to ‘bring the pub into the 21st century’ with the changes.
But local punters have ridiculed the proposals for undermining the boozer’s history.
Caroline Thain wrote on Facebook: ‘As an eco aware animal loving human, there’s no way they should change the name.
‘Why don’t they put their time, energy and other resources into helping real animal cruelty and leave history and heritage which speaks truth – light and dark – to crack on?!’
Debbie Lynn agreed: ‘Not everyone wants to eat vegan food. Why change a historical pub name.’
In a simple defiant comment, Rachael Longley wrote: ‘Bonkers. Why is it even any of their business.’
Other residents threatened to boycott the pub if it adopted PETA’s proposals.
Steph Herbst Farley wrote: ‘If it goes all vegan I’m not going.’
Rob Tillotson added: ‘Bunch of idiots, pub in crisis, lets alienate it even more with a menu for what, less than a quarter of the areas population?’
Mitchells & Butlers was contacted for comment.

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The ‘bonkers’ proposal came days after pub landlord Christo Tofalli, 53, announced he was leaving the 1,300-year-old boozer due to financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit hospitality venues hard 

This sign tells the legend that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the pub for one night during the Civil War, stabling his horse in what is now the bar 

Secret tunnels, Oliver Cromwell and a Saxon king: The colourful past of Ye Olde Fighting Cocks  

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is one of several pubs claiming to be the oldest in England, with rivals including Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (1189?) Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton, which is mentioned in a charter from 1251. 
Historic England describes the building as ‘of 16th-century appearance’, although the owners say it dates back to the 11th. Its octagonal shape is due to its original use as a pigeon house – hence a document from 1756 giving its name as ‘The Three Pigeons’. 
The pub has had its current name since 1872 due to its history of cock fighting, a sport which was banned outright in England and Wales in 1835. At other points it was known as ‘the Round House’ on account of its shape. 
Interesting features inside the building include an original bread oven, while there are reputedly tunnels stretching from the beer cellar to St Albans Abbey. Other claims made by the owners include that Oliver Cromwell slept there for a night during the Civil War, and that the foundations incorporate parts of the Palace of Offa, King of the Mercians.

PETA’s latest attempt at pushing for a name change is not the first time the activist group has targeted the pub.
In 2015, PETA also urged Mr Tofalli to change its name to ‘celebrate chickens as the intelligent, sensitive animals they are’, the group said at the time.
Its special projects manager, Dawn Carr, also then suggested ‘Ye Olde Clever Cocks’ as an alternative.
‘The name Ye Olde Fighting Cocks calls to mind the violence and gore of cockfighting, a hideous blood sport so cruel that it has been outlawed in the UK,’ she said. 
‘A change of name to Ye Olde Clever Cocks would help highlight the fact that chickens are intelligent, sensitive and super-social animals. 
‘[It] would encourage people to rethink the way that we treat chickens and grant these birds the respect and kindness that they deserve.’  
When cock fighting was banned as a sport, the pub changed its name to the ‘Fisherman’ in 1848. However it resorted to its original name and has been officially known as ‘Ye Olde Fighting Cocks’ since 1872.
At the time, Mr Tofalli said he had a responsibility for preserving the history and heritage of ‘the oldest pub in the country’.   
After surviving countless wars, plagues and economic crises over some 1,229 years of history, Mr Tofalli said this week the pub had been unable to generate enough profit to see it through Covid.
‘It goes without saying I am heartbroken: this pub has been so much more than just a business to me, and I feel honoured to have played even a small part in its history,’ he wrote on Facebook. 

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Turmoil pub had survived before Covid  

Norman invasion (1066) 
The Great Famine (1315-17)  
English Civil War (1642 – 51)
Great Plague (1665-66) 
Glorious Revolution (1688) 
Two World Wars (1914-18 and 1939-45) 
Spanish Flu (1918-19) 

‘Before the pandemic hit, the escalating business rates and taxations we were managing meant trading conditions were extremely tough, but we were able to survive and were following an exciting five-year plan and were hopeful for the future.
‘However the Covid-19 pandemic was devastating and our already tight profit margins gave us no safety net.’
M&B confirmed the pub would reopen, with Mr Tofalli telling the BBC he hoped the new landlord will ‘keep a bit of the soul and spirit going’.
Covid has ravaged the already struggling pub industry, with lockdowns and rapidly see-sawing restrictions keeping drinkers away.
In December, Fullers announced it would close 20 central London pubs ‘indefinitely’ as its chief executive, Simon Emeny, slammed the ‘pitiful’ level of support provided by the government.
Mr Tofalli said the pandemic had been the final straw after years of difficult trading.
‘Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going,’ he said.
‘However, the past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest to ensure this multi-award-winning pub could continue trading into the future.’
Last month, the pub was hit by vandals who were caught on CCTV stealing beer kegs and throwing them into the River Ver. 

Christo Tofalli, who runs Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans, Hertfordshire, said last week he was ‘heartbroken’ and had ‘tried everything’ to keep it open

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The pub reputedly has a tunnel leading to nearby St Albans Abbey that was used by monks, and Oliver Cromwell is said to have spent a night there

The pub is said to date back to AD793, which would make it the oldest in England, according to Guinness World Records. At one point it was known as ‘the Round House’ due to its shape 

CAMRA’s National Chairman Nik Antona said earlier this week: ‘It’s incredibly sad that Christo is leaving the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks and that the future of the pub is currently uncertain. 
‘We all know how hard he and his team have worked to keep the pub running through these challenging times, and it is clear that simply being able to reopen without restrictions post-pandemic isn’t enough to ensure pubs survive. 
‘The Government must provide greater support for these businesses, particularly with regards to easing the sky-high business rates.
‘Another rate revaluation is due next year which could see costs spiral again for many pubs, leading to even more closures over the coming months and years. We must act now to protect our pubs or risk losing them forever.’ 


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