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Chicago VeganMania 2014

Chicago VeganMania hall

It was a feeling of connection, of being in the right place with like-minded people. On Saturday, October 11, about a dozen Minnesotans went to Chicago VeganMania 2014. This event is similar to our Twin Cities Veg Fest in that it has exhibitor booths, cooking demos, speaker presentations—but, well, it’s in Chicago. And it’s a little bigger. The event drew 4,000 to 5,000 people. We arrived early before the doors opened and enjoyed the beautiful weather waiting in line outside as locals handed out fliers and coupons to those in the crowd.

Where do you start at an amusement park? That was the feeling I had. There was so much information, so many things going on all at once. We visited some of the exhibits during the first hour. There were T-shirts, sweatshirts, bumper stickers, soaps, cosmetics, non-profits, toys, popcorn, nachos, and books. One of the book tables was even selling Mistress Ginger’s cookbook! (Mistress Ginger is local to the Twin Cities and gave a cooking demo at our own festival a few weeks ago.)

The hardest part was choosing what to do. Cooking demonstrations, speaker presentations, and panel discussions were all offered at the same time. We sampled a cooking demo – Paleo Vegan by Ellen Jaffe Jones –  to learn how to be “primal.” (I enjoyed a raw veggie salad.) We caught the last few minutes of a presentation with Robert Cheeke, the vegan body builder. (He made me want to go work out.) And we saw an interesting panel on the intersection of animal rights and other causes.

And then it was time for the food court. This is where it really hit home that I was in an all-vegan event in a city with numerous vegan restaurants. How do you choose one meal when a number of restaurants including Ras Dashen Ethiopian and Arya Bhavan Indian are all tempting you with their delicious vegan eats? We could choose from soul food, pizza, kale burgers, vegan buffalo wings, and so much more!  The dessert options included Sandi Swiss cupcakes, Chicago Vegan Foods soft serve ice cream, and Robin’s Frozen Fantasy raw ice cream. How does one choose?! The answer: you eat more than one meal.

Not everyone at VeganMania was vegan. I spent an hour staffing our CAA table and invited passersby to watch the 5-minute video showing some of the horrors of factory farming. One woman sat there sobbing as she watched. At the end, she said, “I’m so glad I’m already vegan.”  Most of the viewers were not vegan but said they wanted to be or were transitioning. The key thing was that many of the 4,000 to 5,000 people were either vegan or showed an interest in moving towards a plant-based diet.

The weekend was amazing not only because VeganMania was amazing but also because Chicago offers numerous vegan dining options abound in Chicago. For example, the after party at Dimo’s Pizza was another opportunity to eating more than once; the vegan slices included a Hawaiian slice, mac and cheese pizza, and even lasagna pizza, with a free vegan brownie for dessert if you posted a picture of their restaurant on social media. I was in Chicago for a total of about 36 hours, during which I ate at three different restaurants AND at the VeganMania food court. (I’m ready for that workout now!)

This weekend felt right to me. Respect for animals was a given. Veganism was normal, and I felt very much at home.

Bring Meatless Monday to the University of Minnesota

Pleading for Meatless Monday

The current state of the University of Minnesota dining halls, while diverse and comprehensive in most aspects, could do much more to encourage and enable a vegan or vegetarian diet. Not only is their lack of veg options a frustrating hindrance to vegetarian and vegan students who are required to purchase a meal plan, but it is also a significant road block for other students exploring the health and global benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.

For this reason, Compassionate Action for Animals has launched an exciting campaign to bring Meatless Monday to University of Minnesota dining halls. Over 146 campuses worldwide follow the guidelines for Meatless Monday, asking students to refrain from consuming meat and reducing the meat served in their dining halls one day a week. We think that the University of Minnesota should join the growing number of higher learning institutions that are giving students the opportunity to explore vegetarian options.

You can help make this campaign successful. Here’s how:

Sign the petition! It only takes two clicks from here to sign, and then you’ll have the option to share the petition via social media. Please do!

Like our Meatless Monday Facebook page! Support our online presence and share the posts with your friends.

Get informed! Learn more about Meatless Monday and understand why it’s such a great thing.

The university will listen if we can show them that there’s a lot of support for Meatless Monday. With the recent Meatless Monday Proclamation for Minneapolis, this campaign is clearly part of a growing trend. Now it’s your turn to show your support. Be an ambassador for the campaign and help spread the word in whatever ways you can. Programs like Meatless Monday support the transition towards a plant-based diet and help to create a more compassionate world for all beings.

Pay-Per-View Pays Off at Twin Cities Veg Fest!

Pay-Per-View At Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014

Our pay-per-view outreach efforts at Twin Cities Veg Fest paid off. In exchange for a dollar, almost 200 Twin Cities Veg Fest attendees watched a five-minute excerpt from Farm to Fridge. After viewing this powerful movie exposing the lives of farmed animals, participants received a pamphlet packed with ideas for cruelty-free eating. Through this outreach effort, we can show how everyone has the opportunity to make compassionate choices rather than supporting the industries responsible for millions of animals living and dying on factory farms.

Most participants were speechless after the viewing. Many were shocked but expressed their gratitude. They were not only thankful to have a better understanding of where their meat, dairy, and eggs come from, but they were also thankful to the volunteers who shared the video with them.

Anna and Candace, a couple festival attendees, remarked that the video gave them a lot to think about. Anna eats a vegetarian diet and was moved to consider adopting a vegan diet. She had the opportunity to talk to one of our volunteers about nondairy alternatives to cheese. Candace, an omnivore who cares about the welfare of animals, remarked that she is concerned about the vague and misleading “free range” labels.

Anna and Candace
Anna and Candace

At Compassionate Action for Animals, we value any steps taken towards a plant-based diet. Whether it’s participating in Meatless Monday or having one plant-based meal a day, whenever we choose not to buy meat, eggs, and dairy products, we decrease the demand for those products. As more individuals opt for vegetarian fare, fewer animals will be raised and killed.

Jessica and Ryan, another couple who stopped by the pay-per-view table, have been vegan for a couple years. They initially went vegan for health reasons, but have since realized the ethical motivations for choosing a plant-based diet. Both commented that they feel better as well as stronger. In fact, Ryan is a certified personal trainer and competes as a heavyweight body builder at 250lbs. He said that going vegan was the best thing he’s ever done for his fitness and body building career. He not only feels stronger and recovers faster from workouts, but also feels great that going plant-strong is also the most compassionate choice.

Jessica and Ryan
Jessica and Ryan

If you’d like to get involved with pay-per-view outreach opportunities with CAA, contact Grace Van Susteran at grace.vansusteren@exploreveg.org. If you haven’t already, watch the video and share with your friends. Videos such as this one are powerful tools for getting others motivated to take action for animals.

Autumnal Comfort – Vegan Cooking with AmyLeo

AmyLeo

AmyLeo Barankovich will be serving up some delicious autumn-inspired dishes at Valley Natural Foods at 13750 County Road 11 in Burnsville, MN on Wednesday, October 8, 6:00 – 8:00pm.

If you want to serve a delicious season meal or one for the holidays or simply have a great family meal without spending hours in the kitchen, this menu will delight you, your friends, family, and guests. These classic dishes with a hint of nostalgia will satisfy the desire for comfort food during the cold winter months.

For only $10 (Vally Natural Foods co-op owners) and for $15 (non-owners) you will get:

  • Lots of recipes to take home: Mock Chicken Ala Queen, Sour-Creamed Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic, and Almond-Crusted Pumpkin Pie with Cashew Cream, and Sesame Steamed Kale
  • Samples of all the dishes prepared to eat during the class! You will not leave hungry!
  • 10% off coupon for your next visit at Valley Natural Foods

Register today! 15 people must be registered by noon on Monday, October 6 or the class will be cancelled and all attendees refunded and/or notified.

 

 

Throwback Thursday: Remembering Why I Went Vegan

Matt with a chicken

One night in August 1995, I polished off a slice of pepperoni pizza. (Fine! I polished off four or five slices. I was 15 years old, okay?) I went out to a small patch of woods near my family’s house. And for some reason, the image of a pig popped into my mind. It became very clear to me that I had just eaten part of this pig.

Image of the author as a baby
Baby Matt getting frenched by the family dog

What do you do with that?! Nothing in my life had prepared me for that experience. I had eaten and enjoyed meat since I was a baby (see right). I had no idea how pigs were raised. (FYI, most pigs are raised on factory farms with thousands of other pigs. Conditions are, shall we say, not ideal for animals.) I hadn’t known more than one vegetarian in my entire life. All I knew was that a creature who didn’t want to die any more than I did had been killed so that I could have a pizza topping. That just didn’t seem right.

So I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about whether the pig in my mind had “rights,” or whether I’d eat it if I were starving and there were no other choice, or anything like that. I didn’t worry about what I’d eat instead. I just listened to my heart. I stopped eating pigs and cows that night, and chickens and turkeys a few months later.

Going vegan took longer. I knew that dairy cows and laying hens eventually were killed for their meat, which I didn’t like. But after months without eating eggs, I’d crack when the holiday cookies started coming out of the oven. And I never thought I could give up cheese.

Thankfully, I got to see Howard Lyman speak in early 2000. He’s the former rancher who got sued with Oprah for disparaging (read: telling the truth about) beef. After hearing his story, I went vegan and haven’t looked back for almost 15 years.

I love my plant-based diet. I enjoy so many different kinds of foods now that I never would have tried before. I don’t harm the planet as much as I would with an animal-based diet. And by eating plants, I keep animals from suffering and dying.

After almost 19 years without eating meat, I’m struck by how strange a mix this path has been. Several times in my life, I felt really inspired to make immediate changes in what I ate (no cows/pigs, then no chickens/turkeys, then no eggs/dairy). But it took me a while to get to each stage. This keeps me humble, and it helps me remember that even people who think they could never live without meat (or ice cream, or cheese…) might someday shift towards a plant-based diet. And really, even a gradual shift away from eating animals still prevents animal suffering and death. That’s a good thing because the animals that we eat aren’t imaginary, like the pig that put me on the path to veganism. They’re intelligent creatures with as much will to live as ours, and when we see them that way it’s better for them, us, and the planet.

Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014: Fun, Food, and Compassion

The exhibitor hall at Twin Cities Veg Fest 2014

Sunday’s third annual Twin Cities Veg Fest was a lot of fun and a lot of work. As usual, I was nervous about the event. This is Compassionate Action for Animals’ largest event. Those of us who planned the event invested months of effort into it, and we want this event to go well for ourselves, but more importantly, for the animals on whose behalf we do this work!

Well, my fears were (as usual) for naught. The event was a smashing success, with around 2,300 people coming to try delicious vegan food, learn more about animal issues, and celebrate compassion. We had a long line of people even before we opened, which was good because Minneapolis city council member Cam Gordon came by to read his Meatless Monday proclamation for Minneapolis. We’re so grateful to Cam for his support on this crucial campaign.

Once we opened the doors, the flood started. Based on the number of bags we gave out, more than 500 people entered in the first hour alone. Needless to say, it was crowded, and there were lines for all the delicious samples and food to buy. I was particularly excited to try a new donut from Glam Doll Donuts. They had a maple bacon donut with vegan bacon from The Herbivorous Butcher. It was delicious.

I also sampled some vegan cheesecake from Muddy Paws Cheesecake. If you haven’t tried their products before, you’re missing out. They can make almost every single one of their flavors vegan. I shared a slice of Chocolate Decadence with my wife and it sure lived up to its name!

I was thrilled with the cooking demos at this year’s festival. We’ve talked about this in past years, but we never felt like we had the resources to include them along with everything else. This year, we made them a priority and they were a big hit. Every session was done in front of a packed room, with latecomers getting stuck outside the door (sorry). I was lucky to catch some of Mistress Ginger‘s demo and her amazing food samples. What a great entertainer she is! Not only was she making delicious food, but she managed to keep the audience engaged and laughing the whole time.

And as usual, our speakers delivered. I sat down to listen to Taylor Radig’s powerfully moving presentation about her time as an undercover investigator. She gave us a firsthand account of the terrible cruelty that animals on factory farms endure. It was tough to hear, but as tough it is for us, it’s infinitely worse for the animals she told us about. Fortunately, events like Twin Cities Veg Fest are helping us all move toward a more compassionate world.

Of course, no event is perfect. It was definitely too crowded, and I’m sure all of you will be happy to hear that this was our last year at Coffman. We’ve very clearly outgrown the venue, both in terms of exhibitors and attendees, and it’s time to move on. This is the kind of problem we like to have, though. Next year we hope to find a venue that lets us have at least some access to the outdoors. You told us that on a nice day you want to be outside, and we hear you.

I’d like to thank all of our speakers, cooking instructors, and volunteers. All of these people came out to support this event because of their belief that animals matter, and we truly appreciate their hard work and dedication. Finally, a special thank you to all of my fellow planning committee members. Planning an event of this size is a truly epic task, and everyone on the committee worked diligently over the past year to pull it off. How amazing is it that people would commit such energy and time to this work for just the satisfaction of seeing it done? Even more amazing, some of these folks will sign up to do it all over again next year, just as they have for several years running.

I’m inspired and humbled to know so many people willing to go to such great lengths on behalf of animals. I’m also inspired to see how many people joined us at Sunday’s event. The endeavor to give animals the respect and compassion they deserve has been going on for many years, but I can see a day in the future when that endeavor has been completed. Events like Twin Cities Veg Fest get us a few steps closer to that day, and I’m happy I could help make it happen.

Dave Rolsky

Twin Cities Veg Fest Committee Chair

Twin Cities Veg Fest in City Pages and on Fox 9 News

Punk Rawk Labs (the makers of fine vegan cheese) will be one of the many exhibitors at Sunday's festival.

Word has gotten out! Twin Cities Veg Fest is happening this Sunday, September 28, 10:00am – 4:00pm at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. This family-friendly festival is free to attend and offers vegan food, cooking demonstrations, speaker presentations, a variety of exhibitors and more!

We expect to draw 2,500 attendees to our third annual Twin Cities Veg Fest, open to vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike. Record numbers! The popularity of this event is evident in some of the press we’ve been receiving:

City Pages recently posted a glowing preview of what you can find at the festival and said that “you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy.”

Also, one of our four chefs who will be giving a cooking demo at the festival made an appearance on Fox 9 News last week. Mistress Ginger showed how to make a Tie-the-Knot Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie and managed to veganize anchorman Tom Butler in the process. The self-proclaimed “pink-haired showgirl” will be showing how to prepare three simple yet delicious recipes from her cookbook at the festival at 3pm.

If you can’t make it to the festival on Sunday, be sure to tune in to Fox 9 News at 10:15am that morning as Elise Armani, a CAA volunteer leader, gives a three-minute interview about the exciting new Meatless Monday proclamation for Minneapolis.

What’s more, the Twin Cities Veg Fest Facebook page has nearly 10,000 likes! We are trying to make it to 10,000 by Sunday. Please visit the page, “like” it if you haven’t already, and then share it with your friends.

And speaking of your friends, you had just better bring them to the festival on Sunday. Come one, come all! Come, celebrate compassion!

 

Meatless Monday Proclamation for Minneapolis!

Cam Gordon

Cam Gordon, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, recently issued a proclamation urging residents to observe Monday as “Meatless Monday” to improve their health, protect animals, and protect the environment. The proclamation recognizes that if Minneapolis residents ate meat-free just one day a week, they would save more than 1.2 million animals from factory farms each year and support the city’s efforts to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

Cam is a longtime vegetarian and has been a member of the Minneapolis City Council since 2006. In his time on the City Council, Cam has focused on ecological sustainability, nonviolence, grassroots democracy, and social economic justice. Cam is the most recent city official to support Meatless Monday, an international campaign aimed at reducing our carbon footprint and lowering rates of preventable chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Stop by Twin Cities Veg Fest this weekend to learn more about Meatless Monday. Cam will announce the proclamation at 9:45am by the entrance to the Great Hall in Coffman Memorial Union. At the festival, you’ll have the opportunity to sample delicious vegan food and learn about how you can easily incorporate meatless meals into your weekly routine.

How are you getting to Twin Cities Veg Fest?

Coffman

Twin Cities Veg Fest is coming up on Sunday, September 28, and do you know how you’re getting there?

First, where is it? Again this year, the festival will be held on the campus of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in Coffman Memorial Union, located at 300 Washington Avenue Southeast in Minneapolis, MN 55455. You can walk, bike, or use transit instead of driving to the festival. Please see maps and directions from the University of Minnesota’s website.

Driving and Parking

We’ve created a custom Google Map for the festival that includes driving paths from the nearest highways. If you’d like to plot your own course, set your GPS for 300 Washington Ave SE in Minneapolis.We recommend parking in the East River Road Garage behind Coffman Union. Take the elevator to the top floor then head across the nearest street and up the stairs to Coffman.

Transit

You can reach the university campus from many different directions by using public transit, including the Green Line of the light rail system and the bus, including the 2, 3, 6, and 16. Check out the Metro Transit website for a trip planner, maps, and schedules. Your destination for the trip planner is 300 Washington Ave SE in Minneapolis. Please note that express routes are not available on the weekends.

Biking

Biking to the university is easy and there are many bike racks by Coffman Union. See the UMN biking info page for details, including maps showing available bike lanes.

However you get there, just travel safely and look forward to all the Twin Cities Veg Fest has to offer. The festival begins at 10:00am and goes until 4:00pm. We look foward to seeing you there.

 

 

Twin Cities Veg Fest is for EVERYONE!

Twin Cities Veg Fest

Twin Cities Veg Fest is happening on this coming Sunday, September 28, 10:00am – 4:00pm at Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota. This festival is truly for everyone. Sharing the wonders of all things vegan, we welcome not only those who consider themselves vegan or vegetarian but also (and most enthusiastically!) omnivores.

The festival is free and designed to be fun. We want as many people to be there and to experience how choosing vegan food doesn’t have to mean depriving one’s self of nourishing sustenance, sensory pleasures, or a joyful community. We have all of those things in a big way, as the festival goes to show.

We are offering an array of activities at the event, and attendees can pick and choose what they’d like to experience. Choose from:

  • Food, food, and more vegan food, either free samples or larger meals for purchase.
  • Cooking demos geared for those new to vegan cooking, with foods likely to appeal to the omnivore palette.
  • Speaker presentations ranging from information nutrition basics to harrowing stories from a former factory farm investigator.
  • Numerous exhibitors, all representing like-minded organizations and companies.
  • Pay-per-view. Watch a five-minute video about factory farming in exchange for a dollar.
  • And more!

Our most recent edition of our monthly podcast Exploring Veg reveals how one omnivore enjoyed last year’s event. In fact, she now considers herself a devotee of the nondairy cheese from Punk Rawk Labs, a local company who was a big hit at last year’s event and will be exhibiting again this year.

Remember, Twin Cities Veg Fest is free to attend! If you’re veg, bring your omnivore friends and family. They’ll be welcomed and have much to explore. If you’re omnivore, please join us and discover some wonderful new options, some of the ways to expand your diet to include more plant-based foods. All of us can come together at Twin Cities Veg Fest to discover and appreciate how varied and vibrant our compassionate community can be.

 

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