Vegan Marathon Runner and Founder of Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary
Appearing on both days, Saturday 1pm and 4pm in the Deep Veganism Talks Room and Sunday 12pm in the Light Veganism Talks Room
Fiona hails from Chesterfield in Derbyshire and now lives in Essex where she runs Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary which provides a home for life to around 400 rescued animals, both domestic and ex-farm.
Vegan since the age of 6 years, Fiona is passionate about animals and works incredibly hard to care for all the rescues at her Sanctuary on her own with her partner Martin's help. However whilst the Sanctuary deals with the symptoms of abuse and exploitation, Fiona has created The Fiona Oakes Foundation to strike at the root cause of what she believes is the biggest single issue facing the world in which we live - sustainability.
At the heart of this issue lays the human diet - the ramifications of which are far reaching and have a huge negative impact on the environment and human health.
Fiona is positioning herself as a role model for the mainstream - the world is littered with fad and celebrity role models with whom the public have no ability to connect as their wealth and in many cases birth right facilitate what is an unachievable lifestyle for the vast majority. Fiona has no privilege; the daughter of a striking minor and whose mother was a nurse, she has had to make her own way in this world. With a debilitating illness during her early teenage years, resulting in the loss of a knee cap, it is perhaps with some irony that we now find that 30 years later she holds no less than THREE Marathon World Records. This coupled with her effective live long vegan diet is absolute proof positive that the body can get all it needs from a plant based lifestyle which will need to become mainstream if we are to protect the environment as well as bring to an end the suffering, misery and slaughter faced by billions of animals every year.
Fiona has broken five marathon course records - and still holds four to this day - The North Pole Marathon, The Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Ruska Marathon, The Dartmoor Vale Marathon and the Essex Championship Marathon at Halstead. She has completed over 50 marathons and a personal best of 2 hours 38 minutes.
In 2013 she became the fastest women in the history of the World to run a marathon on all 7 continents in terms of the total number of hours taken. She is also the fastest woman to run a marathon on all 7 Continents plus the North Pole - both in terms of the aggregate time and the elapsed days - an incredible achievement but made quite extraordinary given her disability.
Fiona is a patron of the Captive Animal Protection Society as well as an honorary patron of the Vegan Society and was invited to the Royal Garden party at Buckingham Palace in 2011 to be presented to The Queen and Prince Philip in respect of her charity work.
Fiona's animal Sanctuary costs around £10,000 a month to run and is home to 59 horses and 50 pigs as well as numerous other animals at five different sites in Essex. The charity pays no salaries or expenses meaning that 100% of any donations go directly towards the feed costs of the rescues. There are no volunteers either as Fiona does the vast majority of the work alone, making it rather unique in the world of animal sanctuaries.
The Sanctuary, which was founded in 1993, is funded by Fiona's partner Martin who worked for a Bank, her Mother who is retired and has around 300 supporters globally who donate on a monthly basis to help with the costs. The supporter base is still quite small as the sanctuary has no budget for advertising.
In 2012 Fiona became the first vegan female to complete the gruelling Marathon des Sables which is described as the ‘toughest foot race on the planet' involving running six consecutive marathons across the Sahara Desert carrying all your food and supplies for the week on your back. With temperatures going over 52 degrees this is not something for the faint hearted. Fiona ran this event again in April 2014 and each time Fiona has competed in this event she has forfeited her position in the race to help a fellow competitor in, what she believes to be, the true spirit of such an event - namely, compassion over competition. Most notably, in 2014, she held back in the longest and toughest stage of the race - a double Marathon - in order to help a fellow competitor who was struggling with the after effects of Leukaemia and the Chemotherapy drugs he was still taking.
Fiona was a nominee for the inspirational woman of the year award hosted by the Daily Mail in 2012, won the Vegan Society's Vegan Achievement in its Diamond Jubilee year, IFAW Animal Advocacy Award in 2012, was voted VegFest best Vegan Athlete in 2012 and best Vegan Celebrity in 2014. She has also given many radio and television interviews being the featured guest on BBC Breakfast news in April 2013 after she broke the course record at the North Pole.
The Fiona Oakes Foundation has been created as a conduit to raise funds from those keen to help Fiona promote her cruelty free lifestyle and to ensure that funds are segregated from those raised to help the rescues at the Sanctuary. Fiona is unique in that she really does walk the walk as well as talk the talk. She is working at both ends of the scale through treating the symptoms via the Sanctuary and striking at the cause through the Foundation.