The speakers and organizations at this food festival were as informational and plentiful as the actual food. It’s only fitting that they include animal rights organizations as they are the ones that advocate on behalf of the animals that most folks only know as food.
Mercy For Animals had an incredibly compelling booth which hit you as soon as you walked into the main hall. They had a big sign that read “Get paid $1 to watch a four-minute video” along with volunteer who would approach fellow attendees asking them if they’d like to make a buck.
Mercy for Animals booth at the 2012 Vegetarian Food Festival
On the table, they had three mac computers set up, with two sets of headphones per computer (so you could watch with a friend), and chairs. On those computers they had a four-minute video, a compilation of footage of factory farms edited together that shows what chickens, pigs and cows are forced to endure in order to end up as food on your plate. I was fascinated by watching people as they watched the video… some you could see the shock and horror on their faces – appalled, with their hands over their mouths, sad eyes and physically wincing as they watched the footage. Some couldn’t finish the video, standing up saying it was too much for them to take. Some watched and not a blink of an eye, almost like they were watching something boring. At the conclusion, they were handed a vegetarian starter kit along with their dollar. More often than not, during the time I observed the booth, folks put their dollar directly back into the donation jar on the table.
Another advocacy group on hand was my personal favorite, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. This organization, hands down, is the reason I became vegan. They had a lovely booth set up, complete with their fantastic gear along with faithful volunteers ready to speak with you about the farm. Their latest big development is the opening of their new Bed & Breakfast, The Guesthouse at Woodstock Sanctuary, which is located right next door to the farm and available for members to stay at when they come to volunteer. Only two hours from Manhattan, WFAS is the perfect destination for a day trip, to get out of the city and meet your meat, and hopefully plant some seeds into adopting a plant-based diet. Hey, it worked for me!
Eat kale, not cow!
I had the pleasure of meeting Juno, Rescued Beagle. Juno’s story had a sad start, but the happiest of endings. Juno was formerly a laboratory beagle for household items and cosmetics. She had no name at that time, just numbers, tattooed in her ears that left a permanent reminder of her past.
Juno's mommy showing us her ear tattoos.
Juno’s mommy told us that her life changed forever when she was chosen to take Juno home as her adopted family! She also told us that when she first brought Juno home, she was very afraid, and still slept on the hard floor, backed into a corner, even though she was given nice fluffy soft beds to sleep on. It was from that point on that Juno’s mom decided she would do everything she could to educate folks about the importance of choosing cruelty-free products in their homes. They are working on a cruelty-free products app that you can download to your phone so you can have all of that information on hand at all times. For now, they have a comprehensive Compassionate Shopping Guide on their website that is print ready.
Juno is happy and safe now!
Ellen Jaffe Jones, aka The Veg Coach, gave a great talk on her book, Eat Vegan on $4 A Day.
Ellen Jaffe Jones
Her tips are simple and smart. Here are a few of my take-aways:
- Pay attention to the unit price. That’s the price that is usually in the little orange box when you’re looking at the price tag on the shelf at the grocery store.
- Join a CSA – Community Sustainable Agriculture or shop a local farmers market
- Shop the perimeter of the store.
For those who think being vegan is too expensive, consider this: 4oz of beans costs 10 cents. Beef costs 14 cents and OUNCE! Some are 17 cents, and tenderloin is 94 cents an ounce making the same sized portion $3.72 cents!
The two books I purchased at the festival.
I purchased her book which lays out her money-saving techniques as well as a comprehensive cookbook section. Each recipe even has how much it will cost you to make it! Highly recommended!
The speaker who I was most excited about seeing at the festival was Dr. Michael Greger. He is the founder of nutritionfacts.org which is my go-to site for nutrition facts and figures. He reads all the big medical studies that come out and presents them to us in laymen’s terms so we can understand them.
Dr. Michael Greger
I can’t recommend his website and videos enough! He presents the case for a plant-based diet time and time again. His presentations are witty, informative and most of all QUICK. In this day and age, no one ever wants to sit down and read anything, much less a study from a medical journal on information that is pertinent to everyone. His videos solve that problem completely. Here is one of my favorites, clocking in at a whopping 1 minute and 26 seconds.
The Special Saturday Night event featured a screening of Vegucated with the director and one of the cast members. This film is brilliant – it documents three meat eaters and challenges them to go vegan for 6 weeks. It chronicles their journey, their ups, their downs, challenges while being on vacation as well as trips to some farms and a vegetarian convention. After the screening we had a talk back with Marisa Miller Wolfson (Writer/Director) and Tesla Lobo (cast member). We were happily informed that all three of the folks featured are still enjoying a plant-based life today!
Marisa Miller Wolfson (Writer/Director) and Tesla Lobo (cast member) of Vegucated
Jenny Brown, one of the founders of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary gave a passionate talk after the film. She discussed the mission of WFAS, her experience and journey as a vegan and provided an honest and inspiring perspective into the lifestyle. I felt I was in vegan church! Jenny’s passion and drive is so apparent while watching her speak. It makes you want to join her plight, and speak up on behalf of the millions of farm animals in this world that are enslaved for food. I have visited WFAS on a yearly basis over the past 5 years so I’ve had the opportunity to see her speak several times and every time I’m left inspired. She also had some great news to share: she is coming out with a book! Entitled Lucky Ones, its is available for pre-order on Amazon, iTunes and other major booksellers. Congrats, Jenny!
Jenny Brown, co-founder of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (and my personal hero!)
And that, my fellow plant-based foodies, are my highlights from the 2012 Vegetarian Food Festival. I’m already excited for next year’s festival… who’s coming with me?