Left to Right: Daria, Anya, KD, Amanda, and Charleen
The entire YDV team was there, looking all cute in our YDV shirts, handing out some cute goat stickers (come on, you knew that was coming), and talking to everyone we could- speakers, folks manning the food tables and information booths, to the participants themselves. One universal theme of the entire day was that everyone was excited to be there. People wanted to learn more about living vegan, they wanted to taste great vegan food, and they wanted to meet other like-minded people. There was a palpable buzz in the air and it just simply drew you in.
YDV spent our day live tweeting from VegFest to highlight some of the day’s best moments:
Meeting the speakers was, of course, one of my personal highlights of the day. I just love meeting people I’ve admired for a long time. I mean, Ruby Roth, Harold Brown, Jenny Stein & James LaVeck y’all! I asked a few of the featured speakers/presenters the same question to see what kind of answers I’d get.
The first was, “What is the single most important advice you can give to someone who is attempting to go vegan, is a new vegan, or someone who whats to become vegan? Here’s what they had to say:
“Do it! It will change your life for the better. You will become healthier and happier. You will help yourself, animals, and the environment! You will also meet a lot of like-minded friends in the vegan movement. People will be there to support you and help you on the way.” – Betsy Traben, Speaker “On Raising Vegan Children”
“#1. Focus on progress, not perfection, Dr. Alan Goldhamer has a saying that “the reason so many vegans get headaches is from wearing their halos too tight”. Don’t try to be “veganer than thou”. The more vegan meals you eat, the better it is for your health, the animals and the environment. Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything. Anything you do in the direction of optimum health makes a difference.” – Chef AJ, Culinary Demo “Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Without Using Sugar”
“You are not alone. There are 7 million vegans in the US, and we are growing quickly! Look for support in online communities if there is no one in your community who is vegan. There are vegan meetup groups all over the country and Yummy Plants has a community forum and Facebook page where you can ask questions. You have support available to you; together, we will change this world. Also, and more basic – set yourself up for success. Replace the products you like least with yummy vegan substitutions. Save the hardest for last. By the time you get to them, your tastebuds may have changed so much that you don’t even like those old favorites anymore!” – Rebecca Gilbert, Speaker “The Yummy Plants® 101: Easy Transition Tips for a Vegan Diet At Work, At Home, and Out on the Town”
“#1. Keep adding new food items to your repertoire—especially superfoods (and research the benefits along the way)! This way, you’ll continue your food education, broaden the spectrum of nutrients you consume, and you’ll always experience the transition as abundant rather than restrictive.” – Ruby Roth, Speaker “The Transformative Power of Veganism”
“The vegan dietitian in me says, “Take your vitamin B12.” The ethical vegan in me says, “If you open yourself up to the suffering of others, you will never question your decision to go vegan.” – Anya Todd RD, Speaker “The Vegan Athlete – It’s Not an Oxymoron!”
The second question I asked was, “The vegan movement has made significant progress in the past few years in terms of becoming more mainstream. Where do you see the movement in the next five years?”
“I see the movement growing and growing! More and more people are concerned about where their food is coming from, and the impact it has on their health. People are becoming more compassionate and caring about how animals are treated in the industry. Most people are mortified when they see the abuse (from undercover videos) on factory farms and slaughterhouses. A lot of people see veganism as the answer to solving a lot of these problems….and it is!” – Betsy Traben
“In 5 years, I predict that Veganism will become even more mainstream than it is now. Recently I was in East Texas and all of the restaurants had a vegan option. In Albany, Georgia I was able to find quinoa, chia seeds, kale and almond milk. With powerful movies like “Forks Over Knives”, many more people are hearing about the miracles associated with eating a plant based diet. With more and more celebrities adopting this lifestyle it’s becoming cool to eat this way. But just for the record, I have been vegan for 36 years, so I was vegan before vegan was cool.” – Chef AJ
“Back in 2010, the Vegetarian Resource Group reported that there were 3.5 million vegans in the US. In their 2012 survey, the number of vegans in the US had jumped to 7 million! I’m not sure that the number will continue to double every two years, but I am sure the consumers’ tastes and preference s are changing. We can see evidence of the shift in the grocery stores: look at the increase in vegan items in prepared foods, frozen foods and packaged goods over the last few years! As more people shift to a vegan diet, it becomes easier for others to do the same. And vegan couples will raise children in a vegan home. People are choosing a vegan diet for many reasons, including food safety, the environment, health concerns and animal rights. If the number of vegans in the US grows at only 10% a year for the next 20 years, then we would have approximately 40 million vegans in the US by 2033. And that’s exciting! Think about how that would change this world.” – Rebecca Gilbert
“I see the number of children being raised vegan growing exponentially. Not only will these kids experience less chronic disease than their peers, they’ll have an early education in empathetic thinking, environmentalism, and the power of individual choices. Nothing can get in the way of this kind of education. As leaders, the new generation’s compassion will hopefully heal the ills we’ve inflicted on both animals and the earth in the past.” – Ruby Roth
“We have come a long way, but we still have so far to go. The whole “humane meat”/”cage free”/etc movement has certainly caused consumer confusion, so I think that is an issue we need to continue to work at exposing because death is still death no matter what you call it. I would also love to see more collaborations between activists within the vegan movement & other movements related to food justice, the environment, & human rights as there are so many overlapping goals & interests.” – Anya Todd RD
It’s hard to pick one moment of the inaugural Cleveland VegFest that defined it, every moment was a moment in and of itself. It could have been the powerful talks presented by inspirational speakers, the delicious vegan food from all over Cleveland, or even the simple joy of meeting so many like-minded people. I was even fortunate enough to meet long-time YDV readers, connecting with people I have regularly tweeted with over the years. Which, by the way, was so awesome. Thank you to anyone who came up and talked to me.
I talked to lots of people that day, lots. I talked to people after the presentations were over, I talked to them while they were eating, I took pictures with them (for real), and bent down to meet their children. First thing I heard folks say is that they had no idea the vegan community in Cleveland was so large. Usually it was followed up with, “but I’m so glad to know I’m not alone!” I met veg-curious folks who were learning how to give up cheese and others who decided to give up meat that very day. I was told that people were surprised that they hadn’t heard some of this information before (particularly after Harold Brown’s presentation). I was told how others were planning their own forays into vegan advocacy. I even met one person who told me that he was going to school to learn how to develop alternatives to traditional animal-based items (I’d tell you more but I don’t want to give away his plans, but they’re cool). I met so many people who care about the lives of animals.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone as a vegan. After all, we’re still hugely in the minority. Attending events like these not only help spread a positive message and break stereotypes, they help people feel a little less alone. I like that. I like that a lot. The Cleveland Vegan Society did such a fantastic job. I can’t wait till next year!
The event, as photographed by Charleen Angle, our resident photographer.