The vegan movement is gaining momentum! In the last few years, I’ve seen more people than ever attend vegan events and more animal-friendly participation at mainstream events. This year, for instance, Farm Sanctuary fielded its first team to run for farm animals at the LA Marathon. I am always energized to meet other people who share an interest in running and sports and who demonstrate that athletic performance can be fueled by plant foods.
Farm animals are also gaining friends in the business community, where entrepreneurs are developing and marketing even more vegan substitutes for meat, milk, and eggs. And, during a recent visit to the Midwest, I saw farmers speaking out against factory farming at an anti-CAFO conference. Veg-friendly restaurants are popping up around the country, while books advocating plant-based lifestyles are topping best-seller lists. Individuals are lighting up social networks en masse with images and information about the wrongs of industrialized animal farming and the benefits of eating plants instead.
Plant-based living is not about deprivation and sacrifice. It is about living in a way that is aligned with compassionate values and healthy lifestyles. Vegan festivals have taken root in communities across the United States, welcoming attendees with food, entertainment, creativity, and enthusiasm. This spring, I attended inspirational events like Vegan Earth Day in Berkeley, California, and Worldfest in Los Angeles, which was held in an outdoor park with four stages, animal adoption booths, nonprofit and business booths, art displays, entertainment, and even a beer garden. I also stopped by VegFest in Charlotte, North Carolina, which attracted thousands and doubled its attendance from 2012.
Of course, I have a special love for Farm Sanctuary events like our annual Country Hoe Down that I just attended in Orland, California. At our Hoe Downs, participants hear moving presentations, eat yummy food, commune with rescued animals, and experience a peaceful setting and welcoming community. At the Orland event in May, I spoke with many people, including Seth Tibbot, founder and president of Tofurky, who has been a long-time supporter of Farm Sanctuary and plant-based eating. He was living in a tree and I in a bus as our fledgling organizations started in the 1980s. We’ve come a long way!
I often say that “vegan is normal” at Farm Sanctuary, and it’s also a place where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to learn about food issues to begin their own journey toward more compassionate and healthful eating. With better access to information, and with more veggie food options available, shifting toward plant-based eating has never been easier. And with veg fests and other awareness- and community-building events, compassionate living is becoming an increasingly attractive way of life. This summer, keep your eye out for veg events in your area and bring your friends along for the ride.
P.S. You can still make plans for our New York Hoe Down, August 3–4, 2013 at our Watkins Glen Sanctuary!