In Wisconsin, Carl and I attended Vegan Fest with his dad, and I must admit I was a little nervous. I chowed down hardcore on some chicken less than an hour before walking through the event doors. Were they going to smell the chicken on my breath? Will someone ask if my makeup is cruelty free? Clearly I was overreacting and a probably a bit judgmental. Not only was it very friendly, it was very interesting. It’s led to some interesting experiments since our return from Wisconsin, so I figured I should take time to write a post about Vegan Fest.
It was very diverse
Majority of the people there you would pass on the street and not give a second look. These people don’t scream ‘I’m vegan!‘ and don’t carry around blood to throw on anyone they see eating meat. Every age, race, and family type was represented and it was awesome and it didn’t take long to feel comfortable. We all know that you don’t have to be a dirty hippy with dreads to be vegan, but I’m completely guilty of feeding into the stereotype.
Education was the focus
Understanding why to be vegan/vegetarian and the affect it will have on your body and animals/environment was the main focus of the event. They didn’t have depressing pictures of mistreated animals hanging around, but they did have a booth where you’d get paid a dollar if you watched a 5 minute video that went behind the scenes of a cow farm. Another booth had an actual steel stall that pigs are kept in and you could take the “challenge”. Basically you just get inside of it to experience how much space is available. They have a true to size cut out of the dimensions of the average sized pig. We didn’t have to get inside the stall to understand that it was NOT an appropriate amount of space. Also, I tried to find a picture to share what they looked like…but it would have been like watching a Sarah McClachlan animal commercial. Too depressing.
Several restaurants had booths where you could sample their vegan options. One booth had macaroni and cheese with “meat” and it was disgusting. The Herbivorious Butcher booth was our favorite. They had several samples that were DELICIOUS. They are a new and first of its kind. I’m anxiously awaiting them to be able to ship their products. You should definitely go follow them on literally all of their social media.
The booth I spent most of the time at was the Mercy For Animals booth. I have major dislike for PETA, but that’s a whole other issue for a whole other post that I probably won’t ever write. I was interested in Mercy For Animals’ approach and main purpose. I asked what their main focus is and how their working on that. Ideally their mission would obviously be to have a world where every one is vegan and no animals are harmed ever, but what are they doing realistically right now? The representative said their main focus is to expose the inhumane treatment of animals that many big name companies are practicing. They do a lot of undercover work at these companies and share it with the public. (Random side note: There was a whole big thing about Mercy For Animals not being able to use under cover footage because obviously the big company didn’t want that information out. The court ruled that the organization could use and present the footage. Woo!) So basically raising awareness for how the meat we’re eating is actually being produced and encouraging change is their big initiative.
There were also booths that offered vegan products. They mostly sold or were representatives of vegan beauty products. (Which, if you’re interested in, then you’d like this post.) I believe there were also soaps for sale. One unique booth was for a midwife company in Madison. I spoke with the woman there because I have a friend who recently chose a midwife for her birth experience. It was interesting to hear the education, certification, and experience they have as well as in what ways the company works with your insurance and the local hospitals.
Baby steps are worth it
I think my favorite aspect of vegan fest was is not preaching ‘you better stop using all animal products today or else!’. It was more about showing how to go vegan and all the ways it would be worth it. We left with SO many free handouts that were really great resources. Many were sharing information about vegetarianism and the steps you can take to cut out meat and animal products. Some of the handouts weren’t helpful because we don’t live in Madison, but several restaurants had menus that shared all the vegetarian and vegan options they had. If we were local it would have been super nice to have to help find more animal free food options in town.
Being animal friendly is not all or nothing
The biggest thing that stuck with me was that Vegan Fest didn’t even put out the message that you have to be vegan or you suck. There was a whole booth dedicated to Meatless Monday’s to share how big a difference you can make just by cutting out meat one day a week. A handout we received interviewed different individuals of different levels and one individual called himself “vegan before 5”. He focuses on a vegan diet for breakfast and lunches, but will allow himself to branch out in the evenings. He doesn’t go crazy and eat a whole cow, but he said it allows him to get the variety he needs in his diet while still supporting the lifestyle/cause. It was the first time it really settled with me that you don’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to a diet. (Hence our 80/20 Whole 30 haha.) It was also really motivating to learn giving up meat just one day a week really makes a difference.
Overall Vegan Fest was a phenominal experience. It definitely motivated and affirmed that Carl and I are taking the right steps with our lifestyle. I’m convinced I could never be vegan or 100% vegetarian, but it’s encouraged us to explore meat free options. I’m excited to share more about those options soon!