Sunday, 30 October 2011

West Midlands Vegan Festival 2011

As a vegetarian/vegan, I think it's really important to regularly meet up with like-minded people and remind yourself that you're not alone.  Being a vegan can be somewhat isolating at times; many people view it as an extreme (and incomprehensible!) stance, whilst some see it as a position to ridicule.  There's always a sense of relief, as I've discussed in previous posts, when you go to a veggie restaurant and are surrounded by people that care about animal rights issues/environmentalism as much as you do.

So, with all this in mind, this year I thought I'd cut my Saturday lie in short and visit the West Midlands Vegan Festival.  It was great - you couldn't move for vegans!  (How often do you find yourself in that situation?!)

There were tonnes of food stalls, companies selling vegan products (I tried Kara milk for the first time, and I'm now definitely going to try to switch to this from soya), and lots of animal rights groups/animal sanctuaries providing information on the causes they were representing.

Change Kitchen
Forget-Me-Not Animal Rescue get extra points for effort!

Such yummy sweets!! Look them up (link below), they're great.

Goody Good Stuff - anything endorsed by a koala is fine by me.

I also got chatting to a woman who ran a sanctuary for rescued farm animals (author of ...And a Calf Called Reg), and she really emphasised the individuality of the animals she cared for.  Hearing her talk about the animals she'd saved (most notably the story of a mother cow and her calf, who were inseparable because the mother had had all her previous calves taken away from her after only a few days), really confirmed in my mind that I want to do something similar one day.  Though when I told Wenda this, she said to me:  'Make sure you live your life first, because it'll never be the same once you've committed to something like this!'  I found her story and her passion really inspiring (and I also appreciated her advice!).

Another thing the festival encouraged me to think about was the approach that we take as vegans when communicating our values to others.  There was a noticable difference between the majority of stalls, which were cheery and positive, and then those few which had 'meat is murder' t-shirts and bracelets and were offering leaflets with horribly graphic images on them.  I must admit, I found the latter stalls really off-putting, and I didn't stop to look at them.  I just don't think that that kind of aggressive approach does the cause any good, and in fact I wonder how much damage it does to the reputation of veganism - that 'angry vegan' sterotype came from somewhere, afterall.  If people think that becoming a vegan means wearing pictures of mutilated animals on their tshirts and passing out leaflets littered with aggressive slogans, then I can fully understand why more people aren't warming to the idea!

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for bringing the truth to light.  It's so incredibly important that people understand the extent of suffering and brutality in the animal industry, and that they don't close their eyes and ears to the pain they are inflicting by monetarily supporting factory farming.  Nothing is more annoying than someone refusing to hear what you have to say because 'it's too upsetting', ending the conversation with you and then making a trip to Tesco (boooooo!! You know how much I hate Tesco...) to buy burgers for that night's dinner.  As I discuss at length in my post 'The Urgency of Unity', the solution to this problem is so simple: Vote with the pound.

So, I totally sympathise with the frustration that most vegans feel.  Animal suffering is happening on such a huge scale that drastic and aggressive action seems the most obvious route to take.  However, it's in human nature to be drawn to positive imagery and ideas rather than negative ones, and thus it's common sense that charities bear this in mind when communicating their ideas.  Stories of what switching to a vegan lifestyle can achieve, images of happy rescued animals in sanctuaries, the availability of exciting food and fashionable clothes and cosmetics are all much more likely to draw people towards considering veganism as a compassionate, attractive, and practical way of life than bombarding them with upsetting images.  Most charity websites have now changed their approach.  The majority of the images used on the WaterAid website, for example, are positive ones that show the changes the charity has made to the lives of those it has reached.  That's something people want to be associated with and support.  When people are repulsed or upset by images, the natural reaction is to avoid everything to do with that image.  When people experience negative emotions when confronted by graphic images, they associate the distributer of that image with the same feeling.

But still, I know that those upsetting images do have their place and that they need to be seen.  But in what forum?  I guess it's all about having a sensitive and nuanced approached.  It's an incredibly complex topic, but one that I've been thinking more and more about lately.  I feel like veganism desperately needs an image makeover to make it more user friendly!  Ideas/thoughts on a postcard/in a comment, please, my lovely veggie readers.

Peace and love to you all.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Don't be a chicken - rescue one!

I discovered a lovely blog today written by someone who rescues battery farmed hens.  It's so inspirational to see people going up against factory farming in this way - I wish I took more direct action like this!

Check out the blog here:
Life with the Ex-Batts

At the end of one post, the author has written:
'So no matter how small a cog I am, if all of us small cogs work together, those wheels of change will slowly grind towards that free ranging happiness for all our hens.'

I love the sense of hope in this line, and the way it highlights that although we may feel alone, we are in fact part of a growing, passionate community, and together we can achieve anything, no matter what the odds.

(Unfortuantely, these days it costs considerably more than a tuppence a bag to feed the birds...)

The blog also reminded me just how much I love the quirky characteristics of hens.  Do hens and donkeys make good friends?  Because if not, I'll have a big decision to make when I get that huge piece of land in the countryside I'm dreaming of (attached to a vegan cafe and yoga studio, of course! Better get saving...)

Peace and love to you all, cluck cluck.

Sharing thoughts on peace, love, and vegan cupcakes!