The London Vegan Festival this year took place in Kensington Town Hall, and was absolutely heaving. Usually, the odds of bumping into another vegan are slightly higher than those of two Esperanto speakers meeting, so hanging out in a hall packed full of them was a new experience – as was not having to ask ‘Is there dairy in this?’ at every food stall. Bliss.
Almost as soon as someone mentions becoming vegan, people start to get a panicked look on their faces and tend to begin listing reasons why they couldn’t possibly give up cheese. The general consensus is that a vegan diet is deprived and difficult. Just a quick glance over these photos ought to give anyone with that mindset pause for thought.
Never-mind having never been in a room with so many vegans before, I’d never been in a room filled with so much vegan cake! I ate my way around the festival, starting with a deliciously gooey chocolate brownie, discovered vegan crème eggs half-way round, swung by the Conscious Chocolate stall for my free samples and a bar of Choca Mocha Magic, then hung out with Redwoods comparing the Lincolnshire sausages to the hot dogs. (Hawt dawgs won, hands done.) Veggies provided me with some real food, in the form of a massive Cheezley burger, giving me the energy I needed to head to some of the talks.
Being vegan isn’t all about the food (though, let’s be honest. It is mostly about the food) and there was a wealth of information at the Festival ranging from talks on vegan nutrition (okay, food again), taking action against animal testing and extreme vegan sports (like regular extreme sports, but partaken of by vegans. Not like preparing scrambled tofu at 30,000 feet. Though, that would be something I would pay to see) to stalls run by the Secret Society of Vegans, animal rights groups and Active Distribution – a bookstall filled with vegan recipe books and anarchist ‘zines. There was information relevant to every level of vegan interest; aspiring, political, dietary…
There was plenty of entertainment too, in the form of magicians, musicians and comedians. (Never let it be said that vegans are without a sense of humour.) I saw Andrew O’Neill, a vegan comedian, who has recently come off the Fringe and was hilarious. Wibbling between whimsical and cruel, from the ‘scat-nav’ to “Kill a Fascist for Grandad” in replacement of the current “Hope not Hate” campaign, he had me laughing from start to finish.
So, why vegan? We already have McCartney pushing for Meat-Free Mondays, do we really need Dairy-Free Days of the Week as well? I’m on the ‘Yes’ side for that one. Going vegan reduces support for the livestock industry down to zero, on a personal level. (Y’know the livestock industry I’m talking about. The one helping out with Climate Change by about 18%.) If you’re serious about wanting to reduce your environmental impact on the Earth and already cycle everywhere, reuse and recycle, turn your taps off when brushing your teeth, then this is the next step in armchair activism. You don’t need to head up to London to protest, or write letters to your MP. Just start buying dairy-free marge approved by the Vegan society, switch to dark chocolate instead of the sugar-filled sweet stuff, experiment with vegan recipes (hundreds of which are on-line) and have fun doing so. Going vegan isn’t scary or hard, but it is inconvenient. Learning to live without dairy, however, is going to be a lot less inconvenient than learning to live without our planet’s natural resources. If you need any more persuading, I make the most delicious vegan cookies. Drop me a line, and I’ll be sure to hook you up.