What exactly is 'mainstream' about injustice?
Vegan Lifestyle Articles From All-Creatures.org

Vegan lifestyle articles that discuss ways of living in peace with humans, animals, and the environment.


FROM

Anika Lehde, Food Empowerment Project / Appetite for Justice
April 2016

I know that Seattle cares about justice, and I know that Seattle vegans see beyond the pallid version of veganism that VegFest offers. So to ensure that my fellow rad Seattle citizens get a better experience, we will be bringing lauren Ornelas to Seattle herself, for a completely free event, that will include a great talk, amazing food, and a version of justice that meets the needs of our future world.

seattle vegfest
The crew of the newly established Washington chapter of Food Empowerment Project...

I’m thrilled to be working on the issues that Food Empowerment Project addresses here in Washington State—from educating the public on issues with cocoa farmed in West Africa to supporting the Driscoll’s/Sakuma berry boycott in solidarity with Familias Unidas por la Justicia. But I have to share a story that illustrates the barriers that Food Empowerment Project has faced since its founding in 2006.

As a burgeoning chapter, one of our first tasks is to get the word out about Food Empowerment Project, helping folks expand their circle of compassion to human animals and non-human animals, which means tabling at our local Seattle VegFest. This event is ideal because we would be able to reach thousands of vegans and vegetarians with information about farm worker rights, child labor in the chocolate industry, etc., and also help the hundreds of omnivores who attend embrace veganism and animal liberation without dismissing human needs. There is no better event for us to table.

Which is why I was crushed when I was told via email that the event was full and we wouldn’t be able to rent table space. I was also extremely surprised, since I had contacted them more than a month before the event and, having attended many times, I knew that there were often empty tables near the other non-profits. I wrote them back, pleading: “Isn't there anything that can be done? Anyone cancelling? A wait list? Any spare tables in the back?” I didn’t want our new chapter to be left out of this community event and asked them if they could help in finding of any other way we could be involved. But I never received a response. Crickets, as they say.

Then, thankfully, a friend of Food Empowerment Project found a group that would be willing to share their table with us, since they were light on literature and thought having another group sharing the space might draw more people to the table in general. Problem solved! Hurray! Right?

Alas, when this arrangement was discussed with the organizers, they admitted to our friend that they didn’t want Food Empowerment Project at Seattle VegFest because we cover issues that are “out of scope” of the event. That’s right: a vegan food justice organization is not welcome at Seattle VegFest because we care about a multitude of related food justice issues. Mind you, this event lets Safeway and QFC table (last year handing out flavored bottled water), though these companies openly make millions from the exploitation of non-human animals. That’s right: corporations are “in” and Food Empowerment Project is “out.” To say we were frustrated would be an understatement.

This is a pattern for Vegetarians of Washington, the organizers of VegFest, who claim that they don’t want anything to detract from the mainstreaming of veganism. They actually don’t use the word “vegan,” even though their monthly dinners are vegan and many of the organizers are ethical vegans. How can we get our friends to embrace veganism for ethical reasons if even vegans are too worried about using the word? They believe that they are making veganism more palatable for Seattle citizens. Here is where I think they are sending the wrong messages to their enthusiastic audience.

If we continue to pretend that our fellow humans don’t care about one another and pretend that we should only focus on our own health and never mind the impact of our choices, we are disrespecting our fellow citizens. VegFest organizers think that they are making veganism easier and more mainstream, but they are actually making it harder for those in Seattle who care about wider justice issues. They are making veganism seem single-issue, personal-interest, and out-of-touch. In Seattle, food justice, anti-racism, labor rights, and environmental justice are all issues taken up by significantly more people than veganism or animal rights. VegFest organizers are turning their backs on the very people that vegetarian groups should be reaching out to – they are making veganism less palatable for Seattle.

I know that Seattle cares about justice, and I know that Seattle vegans see beyond the pallid version of veganism that VegFest offers. So to ensure that my fellow rad Seattle citizens get a better experience, we will be bringing lauren Ornelas to Seattle herself, for a completely free event, that will include a great talk, amazing food, and a version of justice that meets the needs of our future world. If you’d like to be invited, please follow the newly created Food Empowerment Project WA Chapter Facebook Page or email me at veganscore@live.com

Lastly, I am not saying that folks should avoid Seattle VegFest, but if you want to see them expand their concept of mainstream veganism beyond consumerism, be sure to give them feedback via email or social media. Then maybe next year we’ll see you there!


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