The Growing World of Veg Festivals
Discover how veg fests across the country have grown in recent years.
From the time the ground begins to thaw until when the last leaves fall, veg societies and animal-rights organizations are hosting festivals and conferences at venues across the country. One of the primary goals of many veg and animal-rights (AR) organizations is outreach, and the events serve as a way to extend the message of compassion to the masses. More than informing the public, these gatherings are opportunities to construct and strengthen the veg and AR communities, while revealing to the world the passion, popularity, and potential of each movement. Sharon Graff, of the North American Vegetarian Society (NAVS), has seen an increase in vegan attendees at the annual Vegetarian Summerfest, and says, “There could be many reasons for this, such as a greater desire to create a sense of community, a realization that the problems caused by meat production require action, or it may reflect a growth in the number of vegans in recent years.”
Some of the pioneers recall the 1975 World Vegetarian Congress, hosted by the then-newly formed NAVS, as the impetus that began the current movement. Alex Hershaft, founder and president of Farm Animal Rights Movement, remembers the World Vegetarian Congress as a time when people from all over the world; regardless of dress, economic stations, age, or demographic; came together, with vegetarianism being the one thing bonding them. From that first meeting, local vegetarian societies were formed throughout the country. In 1981, Hershaft launched the first Action for Life conference, an event he remembers as, “a launching pad for the animal-rights movement,” and where People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals became a national organization. It wasn’t until 10 years later that Hershaft would begin hosting a conference again, creating the AR National Conference in 1997.
Since the 1975 conference, diverse groups have formed around the issues of veg lifestyles and animal rights. Dozens of festivals and conferences now take place across the country, all with different approaches and goals. President of the Boston Vegetarian Society, Evelyn Kimber, says when they planned the first Boston Vegetarian Food Festival 15 years ago, they did so with an “enthusiastic group of volunteers” and without the help of the internet. But the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival has grown since then, and like many festivals, Kimber says it has helped share the ideals of vegetarianism with mainstream audiences and made the lifestyle more accessible. The VeggieFest Chicago, hosted by the Science of Spirituality, tries to achieve accessibility through a friendly approach, striving to positively “emphasize the benefits for health, spirituality, ecology, and world hunger,” Michael Ribet, one of the founder’s says. Through strategies such as these, Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing, which along with the Vegetarian Society of DC revived the DC Veg Fest in 2009, says the public is learning and becoming aware of the issues associated with a meat-based lifestyle, but there is a growing number of people that still don’t know how to change. The DC Veg Fest, along with other festivals and conferences, provides resources and information on leading a healthy, cruelty-free life.
Taking outreach a step further, many festivals aim to inspire and empower attendees to take action once they leave the conference. Graff, of the NAVS Summerfest, says that in addition to providing a fun, educational atmosphere, the festival also hopes to equip those interested with the fundamentals for local activism. Michael Markarian, chief operating officer of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), says that the HSUS-sponsored Taking Action For Animals (TAFA) conference specifically seeks to help individuals become animal advocates through training in “outreach, lobbying, media interactions, working with corporations, and other hands-on skills.” Similarly, since its inception, the AR National Conference has had the same goal: “To share experience, to strategize, and to recharge batteries,” Hershaft says.
Festivals and conferences have seen steady growth in participation and popularity. When the VeggieFest Chicago began five years ago, it had less than 2,000 people attend. This past August, more than 22,000 people attended. The San Francisco World Vegetarian Festival has grown so much that in the past five years, it has moved to a larger venue and added additional days. The AR National Conference began alternating conference locations between Los Angeles and Washington, DC, to broaden the reach of its message and make the conference available to more people. And for the first time this past July, TAFA had a Student Summit track, “so we are cultivating not just today’s advocates, but tomorrow’s,” Markarian says.
The conferences and festivals continue to grow, extending days and expanding their reach. No matter the location or the method, festivals and conferences have blossomed to become an important staple in the veg and AR movements, bringing people together to strengthen a common goal. As Markarian says, “Our movement is fueled by human energy.”
UK's Largest Indy Retailer Promotes Vegan Fashion
ASOS explains the importance of vegan fashion in a blog post earlier this month.
Read More »
National Restaurant Chain Bans Bacon
"Simply put, you cant be a healthy food business and serve bacon," says Sweetgreen salad chain.
Read More »
Eight Best Vegan Meats Named by Top Millennial Site
From hot dogs and chicken tenders to maple-smokehouse bacon, meaty vegan proteins have PopSugar excited.
Read More »
Bleeding Vegan Burger Sells Out in One Hour
Customers flock to get their hands on Beyond Meats Beyond Burger at Whole Foods Market.
Read More »
World's First Vegan Lifestyle Series to Debut on A&E
More than 70 million subscribers of A&Es FYI Network have a new plant-based TV show to look forward to this July.
Read More »
- Vegan Butcher Shop Makes 6-foot Party Subs for Moby
- The Guardian Conducts Massive Vegan Taste Test
- Philadelphia Hosts Vegan Pizza Tribute to Pussy Riot
- Tyson Found Torturing Animals, Again
- Just Mayo Makers Reveal Massive New Product Line
- Vegan Chef Hopes to Feed Stevie Wonder at Napa Festival
- Forbes Profiles Vegan Startup, the Pandora for Food
- New Orleans Bakery to be Featured on Flip My Food
- Another UK Veg Fest Draws Massive Crowds
- Brazilian State Bans Cosmetic Animal Testing
- Vegan Product Labels Are Fastest Growing in Western Europe
- Bon Appétit Offers Advice to Help Veg-Curious Go Vegan
- Baileys Releases Vegan Irish Cream
- Sia Gives $100,000 to Animal-Loving Survivor Contestant
- UKs First-Ever Vegan Billboards Go Up
- New Documentary Follows People with "Veggie-Full Lives"
- First Vegan Burger to be Sold Alongside Meat Debuts
- Sweet Potato Soul Blogger Makes Vegan Crab Cakes for Today
- General Mills Invests in Kite Hill Cheese
- Justin's Nut Butters Acquired for $286 Million by Hormel