Saturday 12 August: The Chester County Vegan Festival

Our local vegan crew in Chester County, Pennsylvania, known as CARE, founded an annual vegan barbecue back in 1991. On Saturday 12 August, the legend continues! Here is this year’s poster.

One of the big highlights is the food we offer, including the famous Chester County mushrooms, local corn and other late summer delights from Pete’s Produce, and samplings from local businesses including SuTao vegan cafe, where CARE volunteers regularly meet.

Summer CARE fest - food

The real cage-free deal: The food at CARE’s Vegan Festival is local, beautiful, and delicious.

If any of readers are around the area, join us on Saturday 12 August at Hoopes Park in West Chester from noon until 4 pm. Let me know if you’d like to have an exhibit for your group, vegan business, or animal-advocacy project.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

Because this is a local event, there will be plenty of time and space to just hang out with the presenters and exhibitors. Confirmed speakers at this year’s annual Chester County Vegan Festival are author Vance Lehmkuhl, Lydia Grossov of From A to Vegan, the American Vegan Society‘s Freya Dinshah, Eric Nyman, founder of Wildflower Vegan Cafe, and Liqin Cao of United Poultry Concerns.

Click here for Liqin Cao’s view of the trouble with the backyard chicken trend.

Much respect to these activists, who have been in the movement for decades and provide us with excellent models or vegan integrity, consistency and kindness. I look forward to enjoying the Chester County Vegan Festival with them—and you, if you can make it.

Since 2014, This Event Is Called the “Chester County Vegan Festival”

For years this annual event was called the CARE VeggieFest. CARE’s mission involves more than a diet, though, and that’s where the name change to vegan comes in.

The word vegan reflects a dedication to live as a conscientious objector to animal use. It takes into account the importance of fair food distribution, our personal physical and mental health, and the health of communities, including the entire bio-community.

The first people calling themselves vegan did so in 1944. The word itself was thought up by Dorothy (Morgan) Watson, then adopted by a group of about two dozen like-minded people who noted it contained the first and last letters of the word vegetarian. The founders of The Vegan Society essentially declared their commitment to the Alpha and the Omega of the vegetarian movement, which was historically ethics-based, and, when taken to its logical conclusion, frees all animals, the finned and feathered, the egg-laying, lactating, and honey-making animals…

Vegan. The word’s call to principles represents the best we can offer people who like to eat their vegetables, and take their vegetarianism seriously.

We do have a policy for the event that speakers and exhibited items are expected not to suggest that any given method or equipment used in animal husbandry is better than any other.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Vegstock: A Moving Vegan Festival

Vegstock: A Moving Vegan Festival is a concept developed by Eric Nyman of Wildflower, a restaurant in southern New Jersey. There’s an ethical oomph when the word vegan appears in a festival name, and Eric set out to make ethics central to the first South Jersey vegan festival, which will span a portion of a street in Millville, host cooking demos, and collaborate with a number of businesses along the same street.

When asked to speak I said: Count me in. I teach environmental law; I write law review articles about advocacy, bio-communities, and climate change. Yet here is Wildflower, offering a super-accessible educational opportunity related to some of these same topics.

People need no advanced degrees to understand how we got this human-dominated, climate-compromised planet, and how to live differently. But we do need ways to focus our attention and exchange ideas and inspiration locally. What kind of Saturday could be more enjoyably worthwhile than this? What’s cooler than a vegetable restaurant dedicating itself to the cultivation of community? And the inclusion of artists, chefs and events throughout the day in various local spots in the Glasstown Arts District’s High Street makes it uniquely exciting.

Before I go, I want to put three nutshells on Vegan Place describing the topics I’ll open at Vegstock this Saturday.

The impacts of `free-range` on the free-living. For years, animal advocates have operated under the belief that pasture-based or organic ranching, while not perfect, represents a step in the humane direction—but only looking at how domesticated animals seem to be affected. The best case scenario for achieving an advocacy victory involves the business that agrees to “give” the animals space and conditions that the advocates deem “natural” for the animals.

A general return to the family farm is implausible on an Earth with 7-billion-plus humans. And the more of Earth’s finite space and resources “given” to our domesticated animals, the less is available to communities of undomesticated animals who live in their own spaces, on their own terms.

The weight (mass) of the cows we breed to consume adds up to more than that of all free-living land mammals combined. Does it make any ethical sense to say we’re doing the most good when we focus on improving animal husbandry? Is it fair and accurate to claim more space or “natural” conditions for farm-raised animals constitute some form of animal rights or “a step in the right direction”?

I’ll also bring marine animals into the discussion, and the roles of the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace in assuring people that “sustainable seafood” exists while promoting the international commerce in fish raised on the mass corn and soy markets.

The current climate situation and the importance of dietary divestment from animal agribusiness. Halve your intake of animal flesh, and you could cut your carbon footprint by more than 35%, current research shows. Go vegan, and the difference could be 60%.

How important is commitment to veganism? Notice what climate change is doing to our planet and our prospects for living on it, for one thing. Overall, because of global warming, the planet could see about an 11% reduction in the number of days with suitable climates for plant growth, with some tropical regions facing a reduction of up to 200 days per year by 2100. That’s frightening stuff. If there ever was a time for half-measures, that time is over.

Internet memes in a social movement. This is going to be the hardest to do, as it’s an AV presentation addressing issues of sex, race, and class as well as other-than-human interests, and it’s important to do it without misappropriating perspectives and circumstances even as it explores them.

Is it respectful to rely on graphic images of beings whose lives we don’t know, of individuals who cannot give us permission, in order to make social statements?

Does the regular picturing of abuse prevent us from appropriately processing “adorable” interactions and “cute” Internet memes? Is it vulnerability we are often looking at when we look at these? Is it a vulnerability of our own making?

Overall, the impact of social media on knowledge-sharing can’t be denied. Listicles, buzzwords and memes (oh, my!) are ever-present for the half of the human population with access to a computer. How are we affected by the built-in convenience of these communication devices—whether as receivers or communicators?

I do not know if any of the above segments will be taped, though Eric Nyman has put a call out for someone with AV gear to handle that. If you’re reading and planning to attend, I hope you’ll let me know of any specific aspect of the above you’d find especially interesting, or something relevant that I might have overlooked.


Vegstock Moving Vegan Festival

Sat 12 September, 11 AM · Hosted by Wildflower earthly vegan fare · Millville, NJ

The London Vegan Festival 2014

Alison & Robin

Festival co-facilitators Alison Coe and Robin Lane.

The best of success to Robin and Alison with the London Vegan Festival on Sunday the 17th of August. My vegan tweeter friend Mary-Anne of Heavenly Organics will be there too, along with advocates from London Vegans and so many others I’d love to hug. Personal circumstances are preventing that, so this is a sort of blogged hug to all of you.

LVF Robin in the buzz

People arriving and setting up.

The London Vegan Festival made its debut in 1998. (In 1996, at the annual general meeting of The Vegan Society, Chris Sutoris and Robin Lane proposed Britain’s first annual Vegan Festival.)  The first year, in Conway Hall, the event drew more than a thousand people. In 2004 it moved to the multi-building Kensington Town Hall, which could accommodate all 1,500 festival-goers from morning until late in the evening. They came for veggieburgers and gourmet desserts, poetry readings, drum-jams and art workshops, strolling magicians and lessons in circus skills. There were fair-trade workshops, fresh juices, vegan beers and wines, aromatic massages.

The hall of educational tables, then and now, features everything from raw cuisine to human and nonhuman rights to networks for vegan runners. Some of the groups bring chefs and prepare fresh meals to order.

Details of the 2005 London Vegan Festival handout.

Details of the 2005 London Vegan Festival handout.

Typically the presentation rooms at the festival are filled to capacity. Some are cake-baking demos; some are psychological enrichment for long-time activists; some take on movement debates. In past years, I’ve presented talks on Whole Foods Market and whether that corporation’s influence in animal advocacy should be celebrated or resisted. Notably, the massive flagship store of Whole Foods Market in England is in Kensington, a stone’s throw from the festival venue. I’ve also given a presentation on the custom of pet-keeping from a vegan perspective, and at some point I’ll post the pet talk on this blog.

Festive and famous: the offerings of Ms Cupcake

Festive and famous: the offerings of London-based Ms Cupcake.

Early on, the London event was followed by an annual festival in Bristol, England; next, one in Sweden…. Now, vegan festivals are everywhere. They’re celebrations. They’re opportunities to stock up on vegan lip balm and clothing, the latest books on theory and advocacy, and, of course, cupcakes. They’re linking the word vegan with community.

Preparation takes most of the year, but current facilitators Robin Lane and Alison Coe—also the long-time co-ordinators of the London-based Campaign Against Leather and Fur (CALF)—say the work is well worth it. After all, anyone who works at an animal sanctuary would be greatly impressed by one person who has directly spared so many lives as each vegan does.

In my three decades of living vegan, plausible statistics say, I’ve spared some 7000 fish—a great many of them caught to feed farmed fish; 4650 shellfish—mostly shrimp; and 930 land animals—mostly chickens. I’m just one person, averting the trapping, the purpose-breeding and confinement, the slaughter and consumption of more than twelve thousand animals! True, the crops I’ve eaten took up land where other bio-communities could have thrived untouched. But nowhere near as much land as I’d be responsible for using had I stayed hooked to an industry that grows feed for farm animals rather than direct food crops for people.

My friend Doug Henderson, chillin' like a villain at the London Vegan Festival

My friend Doug Henderson, chillin’ like a villain at the London Vegan Festival

Significantly, I have also spared the foxes, coyotes, wolves, badgers and bobcats no one felt the need to displace for agribusiness, or kill because otherwise they’d have potentially eaten the farmers’ living stock. I’ve spared streams and oceans the consequences of the bodily waste of those 930 land animals and many farmed fish, and the antibiotics…all that fertilizer runoff from monoculture crops used to feed land animals and farmed fish.

T-shirt from The Vegan Society (spotted at the London Vegan Festival)

T-shirt from The Vegan Society (spotted at the London Vegan Festival)

In 1983, I wasn’t thinking of the numbers. I was in South London, at a concert, distracted by a leaflet on my seat. The holidays were approaching, and the leaflet explained how turkeys and geese would lose their lives for festive traditions; how puppies would appear under trees like toys, and how some, like toys, would be discarded in the months to follow; how the fur industry profited from the gift-giving custom; and many other things I must have always known yet never noticed. Who would come to a concert and put these leaflets on every seat?

And so I met Robin Lane. I’d never even heard of a vegan before, let alone met one. But as we stood in the auditorium lobby talking, it became clear to me that all the serious social and environmental activism I might do would fall short of its mark as long as my money went to the breeding and trading and storing and killing of other conscious animals. Through Robin, I became aware of the profound commitment that animal rights involves, and understood that I could be part of the problem, or part of the solution. With Robin’s help I became a vegan.

Robin Lane, leading a 2009 tour of the Dulwich area of London on behalf of London Vegans

Robin Lane, leading a 2009 tour of the Dulwich area of London on behalf of London Vegans

In the years since then, the movement I joined has succeeded remarkably. Vegan restaurants attracting celebrities in droves who want to be noticed at them. There are vegan events for athletes; take the V3K Ultra in the Welsh mountains—the first vegan ultra race. Started in 2012 by Kirsch Bowker, Chloe Vincent and Andrew Spencer Taylor, the event attracts runners who eat an animal-free diet for the race day, with aid stations offering vegan pizzas and cakes, sausage rolls and flapjacks, fruit and hot coffee and tea.

VON

The Vegan Organic Network, engaging London Vegan Festival-goers.

Two decades after I met Robin, we met again at the 2004 London Vegan Festival, where I also became a life member of the Vegan Organic Trust (now Vegan Organic Network). That year, farmers applying the vegan-organic method (no manure for fertility; no blood or bone meal) could, for the first time, have their produce specially certified. It was the debut of the Vegan Organic “stockfree” symbol. And a new book had come out: Growing Green – Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future, to show organic growers how to do it without using the side products of animal agribusiness in their growing cycles. Ploughshares without the swords!

Lee_at_London_Vegan_Festival

There again, in spirit.

At the 2006 London Vegan Festival, I met vegan cheese pioneer Keith Stott, whose exhibit for the Redwood Wholefood Company unveiled an array of the most wonderful vegan cheeses. They melted, and not with the look and smell of burning rubber). Hallelujah! Finally, I could admit I’d missed cheese. More than anything else, cheese—giving it up, that is—was the massive bane for many. No more. I filled my travel case with mature cheddar and gouda Cheezly, and Redwood’s game-changing take on traditional Lincolnshire sausages.

Each year I attended, I’ve heard return visitors thank the London Vegan Festival for inspiring them to actually become vegan. And this month, I’m a facilitator for our local Chester County Vegan Festival, just outside Philadelphia. Although I’ll miss out on the London Vegan Festival, I’ll be there in spirit, and, here in my local community, carrying it outward. Our county festival is unlikely to get as many people as London’s, but ours too has inspired other, similar festivals to sprout up around us. The success of vegan festivals gives hope to those who know what we do can change people’s whole worldview, along with sparing countless thousands of animals from human harm.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

Summer Festivals and the “V” Word

Veg*n. Veg. Veggie.

I’ve never figured out what any of those terms mean. Some friends say they mean this thing or that thing; but that’s the thing: people use them in various ways.

Then there’s plant-based diet, the term preferred by the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. And there’s former firefighter and triathlete Rip Esselstyn, with the plant-strong recipes of The Engine 2 Diet. These concepts have helped some change their eating habits. Once people have made such lifestyle changes, it is then up to them whether to also become part of a social movement.

Because a movement involves more than a diet. To advance a movement, people invest energy in an ideal.

How does this ideal go further than food? That’s where vegan comes in.

In addition to making a case for sticking with the word vegan in this post, I’ve got a few thoughts on two vegan festivals to be held here in Pennsylvania: the North American Vegetarian Society’s massive, week-long Summerfest in Johnstown in early July, and our local offering in Chester County on Saturday 9 August.

A principle is a principle

The word vegan reflects a dedication to live as a conscientious objector to humanity’s dominion over other animals. It takes into account the importance of fair food distribution, our personal physical and mental health, and the health of communities, including the entire bio-community in which we move.

The first people calling themselves vegan did so in 1944. The word itself was thought up by Dorothy (Morgan) Watson, then adopted by a group of about two dozen like-minded people who noted it contained the first and last letters of the word vegetarian. The founders of The Vegan Society essentially declared their commitment to the Alpha and the Omega of the vegetarian movement, which was historically ethics-based, and, when taken to its logical conclusion, frees all animals, the finned and feathered, the egg-laying, lactating, and honey-making animals, from the yoke of our dominion.

As a result of peaceful and effective direct action, the word is now in every leading dictionary of the English language and a few other languages as well. The word reflects the integrity and strength of the people who offered it to us as they imagined the ideal, and set out to bring it about. As Gandhi said, `A principle is a principle and in no case can it be watered down because of our incapacity to live it in practice. We have to strive to achieve it, and the striving should be conscious, deliberate and hard.`

The beginning of this work involves having a term that represents the principle, and communicating clearly.

Vegan.

Summerfest 2014

With hundreds of attendees, all prepared to live in dorm rooms for three to five days, the North American Vegetarian Society’s Summerfest is a highly popular all-vegan festival. It lasts from a Wednesday lunch-time through the following Sunday afternoon (this year, the dates are 2-6 July). Many participants take Amtrak to the University of Pittsburgh’s Johnstown campus from points west (including Cleveland and Pittsburgh) or east (New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC); others join carpools across the United States and Canada.

Rae Sikora at Summerfest

Rae Sikora at Summerfest

Some stay for the full five days; some for just the weekend (though given Amtrak’s current timetable with the early departure on Sundays, experiencing the event’s offerings into two days is not really feasible). It is, perhaps, the most significant North American opportunity to share ideas and optimism with vegan-organic consultants, vegan cookbook authors, sanctuary operators, and animal-rights advocates. The event culminates in Saturday night’s plenary “Hall of Fame” presentation. I’m not keen on halls of fame. Halls, yes. Fame, not so much. But now and then, such events transcend pomp and pageantry and become a form of well-deserved thanks. For example, last year’s Vegetarian Hall of Fame acknowledged the public activism of Rae Sikora—a kind and faithful proponent of veganism, social justice and ecological awareness. The “vegan” shirt I’m wearing here comes from Rae’s booth at Summerfest. (If you can’t make it to Summerfest, you can get one here.)Summerfest vegan shirt pick

Whereas the word plant-based indicates a vegetarian diet that takes no firm position on animals and ethics, and the word veggie falls into the cute category but again appears to avoid the ethic carried by vegan, it’s good to see and hear vegan often at Summerfest. The word’s call to principles represents the best Summerfest has to offer people who like to eat their vegetables, and take their vegetarianism seriously.

The North American Vegetarian Society has a policy for the event that speakers are expected not to laud any given method or equipment used in animal husbandry as better than another. Thus, as the national (and indeed global) egg industry makes plans ready to switch to a new standard layer cage, and is calling that new cage enriched, Summerfest has evolved as a zone of celebration for the ethics, health education, and social-movement principles of veganism. This includes arranging five days of exquisite meals facilitated by Chef Mark Reinhold of Vegan Fusion. Not a single egg—“enriched” or otherwise—is used in the making of those meals.

The Chester County Vegan Festival

I’m the VP of a local group in Chester County, Pennsylvania known as CARE. For many years, CARE hosted the sole “veg fest” in the Philadelphia area. One of the big highlights is the food we offer, including the famous Chester County mushrooms, local corn and other late summer delights from Pete’s Produce, and many samples from small vegan companies and local restaurants including SuTao vegan cafe, where CARE volunteers hold our regular meetings.

Summer CARE fest - food

The real cage-free deal: The food at CARE’s Vegan Festival is local, beautiful, and delicious.

Back to the vocabulary thing.

This year, another group announced the creation of an event called the Philly VegFest. The advent of another “veg fest” so close to our event could become confusing. The idea of asking the other group not to use that name popped up in our board’s discussion, but I’m happy to say that such a request was never made, as the CARE board voted instead to hold our event in a different month and change its name to the Chester County Vegan Festival. To avoid conflict, we changed—and, I think, for the better. CARE’s festival has always been completely vegan, and now we’ve named it accordingly. Will the new, bold name mean fewer people will attend? That question came up when we voted. I hope and expect we’ll do just fine as the Vegan Festival. If any of readers are around the area, join us on Saturday 9 August at Hoopes Park in West Chester from noon until 4 pm. Let me know if you’d like to have an exhibit for your group, vegan business, or animal-advocacy project.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

The Chester County Vegan Festival.

Because this is a local event, there will be plenty of time and space to just hang out with the presenters and exhibitors. Confirmed speakers at this year’s annual (and newly named) Chester County Vegan Festival are Liqin Cao of United Poultry Concerns and former beef and dairy farmer Harold Brown, returning after two years by popular demand.

Click here for Liqin Cao’s view of the trouble with the backyard chicken trend. And here is Harold Brown on peaceful transformation—both within the individual mind, and in our society as a whole—to vegan agriculture.

Much respect to both of these activists, who have been in the movement for decades and provide us with excellent models or vegan integrity, consistency and kindness. I look forward to enjoying the Chester County Vegan Festival with them—and you, if you can make it.

Love and liberation,

Lee.

 

Dictionary image source: Ning.com files. Spotted via ARZone.