On Saturday, Sept. 24, Loyola’s own Animal Rights Club took a trip down to Washington, D.C. to experience VegFest. Loyola students got off the bus to begin the adventure, visiting over 130 tents filled with vegan and vegetarian food, products, speakers, and activities.
The D.C. VegFest is one of the biggest vegan festivals in the country. More than 20,000 people were expected to attend the event this year, and the crowded Yards Park surely lived up to the expectation. Crowds of people gathered in this one area to learn about and celebrate the vegan and vegetarian culture.
The event was held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.: a whole seven hours of meatless fun! It was free to the public, and everyone was invited — dogs, kids, and even your meat-loving friends, who were especially encouraged by sponsors to attend.
As mentioned before, the event offered a ton of food, and all of it was 100 percent vegan. And for your meat-loving friend who is asking: the term “vegan” means that all food is free of meat, egg, and dairy. More than 40 food vendors were selling their products, most of whom had free samples. Some of these restaurants included 3 Twisted Vegans, Treeline Cheese, and Tofurkey. There were hordes of people on lines waiting to try meatless hot dogs, cheesesteaks, mashed potatoes, and so much more. As one spectator said, the food is “every vegan’s dream.” There was even a vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck!
Along with food, there were more than 70 nonprofit and commercial exhibitors that were there preaching in what they believed. These included A Well-Fed World, VegNews Magazine, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Barnard Medical Center, Herbivore Clothing, the Washington Humane Society, and many more. Each organization had so much information to share, along with free samples of scrubs, soaps, and even yoga sessions.
There were even several speakers who came to share their ideas and reasons for living this lifestyle. A few of these speakers included professional race car driver and environmental activist Leilani Münter; Plant-Based Foods Association worker Elizabeth Kucinich; and vegan bodybuilder Torre Washington.
“It was really exciting and interesting to see how people live [when] they eat vegan foods all of the time,” Loyola First Year Serina Adona said. “Speaking from a vegetarian standpoint, I realized how easy it is to become vegan. And I seriously considered trying it after going to the festival.”
While the festival was full of fun and games, there was definitely more serious mission in mind as well. D.C. VegFest is presented by Compassion Over Killing (COK), a national nonprofit organization whose main goal is to protect animals by saving them from being killed and turned into food. This organization has been fighting since 1995 to end animal abuse through investigations, litigation, campaigning, and other programs. They started this festival to help spread awareness about animal abuse, especially in agriculture. Since the start, this festival has grown, and now there are countless of others events just like it. In fact, there are 36 different VegFests held in the U.S. every year.
COK is not the only organization working towards this goal. There are many nonprofits trying to end animal abuse, world hunger, and other environmental issues. But it all starts with the people at home.
“Not everyone is going to become vegetarian, but just cutting back on your meat intake can make a big difference,” Münter said in her presentation. “Maybe just give up meat for one day each week. Small steps make a big difference.”
Small steps do make a difference, and there are many steps you can take. Of course, you can pledge to become vegan or vegetarian, but that isn’t for everyone. There are other things you can do. You can donate to organizations such as COK, The Humane League, or The Vegan Society, become a part of VegWeek (not eating meat for one week), attend other VegFests, or join the Meatless Monday movement.
And if you missed out on this year’s VegFest in D.C., don’t worry. The Baltimore VegFest will be Saturday, April 30! “The Animal Rights Club at Loyola is excited to go to the Baltimore VegFest in the spring! It will be the club’s first time going to a VegFest in our own city,” said Elton, Animal Rights Club President. Be sure to attend to learn about other ways to be more conscious of your environmental impact.
All Photos Courtesy of Marley Scheld