Veg Fest breaks down misconceptions

The event aimed to raise awareness of animal cruelty and to teach about plant-based diets.
Freshmen pre-architecture majors Nathan Manske and Lanie Hei taste free samples of non-dairy soy ice cream sandwiches on Saturday at Coffman Union.
October 28, 2013

Elise Armani thinks society has made progress in understanding vegetarianism and veganism, but there’s still work to be done.

“There’s a growing understanding of vegetarian and vegan diets, but it’s nowhere where I’d like it to be,” said Armani, a University of Minnesota art and gender, women and sexuality studies freshman.

In hopes of raising public awareness of farm animal cruelty and teaching community members how to have a plant-based diet, animal rights organization Compassionate Action for Animals held its second annual Twin Cities Veg Fest on Saturday in Coffman Union.

The event drew several hundred vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike, who learned about animal cruelty and sampled vegan and vegetarian foods.

Genetics freshman Veronica Diedrich said by attending Veg Fest, she discovered new types of food she’d never heard of, like vegan ice cream.

Diedrich, a vegetarian, said she might consider transitioning to a vegan diet once she moves out of her University residence hall. But for now, she said, it would be “nearly impossible” to find adequate vegan options in her dorm’s dining hall.

Though vocal performance junior Joni Griffith isn’t a vegetarian, she said she’s still concerned about food sustainability. She said she attended Veg Fest to explore new food options and learn more about alternative diets.

Griffith said she thinks vegetarianism has become more prevalent and socially accepted.

“People no longer have different, negative connotations, and people from all walks of life can be vegetarians and it’s more accepted,” she said.

Unny Nambudiripad, Compassionate Action’s executive director, said college students are generally receptive to the group’s message.

“People are looking at their food choices and how their values fit in with what they’re eating,” he said. “I think students are evermore curious and knowledgeable about the cruelty of farming, so this is an opportunity to take a stand against that and make different choices.”

Raven Dreier-Farr, a management information systems sophomore and the event’s advertising coordinator, said awareness of animal cruelty and alternative diets has increased, but societal pressure can sometimes portray those causes as “too activist.”

Dreier-Farr said he hopes Veg Fest and other Compassionate Action events will change perceptions and increase awareness among students.

“I think [students] have some awareness,” he said, “but it’s not necessarily at the level we want.”

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