Veg Fest in Tampa

Total Culture Shock.  Some people think vegetarians and vegans have gone off the deep end, others applaud their efforts. Me? I decided that I would join them.

Now, the reactions I’ve gotten to my recent decision have been anything from “good for you” to “you’re going to get sick”. In fact, over the weekend my boyfriend and I went to a local IHOP. We were ordering pretty standard breakfast, which almost always comes with either sausage or bacon. When the waitress asked us which we preferred we both said “neither”.  After a momentary pause and look of utter confusion she blurts out “No meat?!”

The Veg Fest in Tampa appropriately addressed one of the most pressing issues in vegetarianism, a lack of information. It’s not just a lack of information about the diet, but about the treatment of animals in our society today. You see, few will contest that people can and perhaps should eat meat, but the way we go about it today is entirely unfair and wrong. Action For Animals was giving rather bold presentations, showing a movie and paying viewers $1 to encourage people to watch and further their knowledge. People were then encouraged to donate their $1 back to help Action for Animals further their cause.

Unfortunately, whether we choose to watch videos like that or not it will continue to happen. In this case, ignorance is not bliss, especially not for the animals. My boyfriend, who works for a call center, remembers calling up a potential customer at a slaughter house and he could hear the pigs screaming in the background. That is something that you can never forget. It’s something that makes you wonder if you really want that strip of bacon on your plate.

Vegan Outreach, another vendor at the event, had plenty of educational pieces. One of the greatest benefits I saw was providing recipes. It can be extremely overwhelming when you first become a vegetarian or vegan to find food that doesn’t contain meat. I love this this dietary change opens the doorways for me to try new foods that I’ve never had before. I especially love that the food is just as good, if not better than food with meat. I had a wrap from the Loving Hut and it was absolutely delicious. It also seemed to be a pretty popular menu item because as I walked around with my plate several people asked where I got it. I got so many recipes from the event that I had enough ideas to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole week (and I still haven’t tried them all). Vegan Outreach’s Guide to Cruelty-free eating was definitely a hit with me.

One vendor was giving away samples of dairy milk alternatives followed by a delicious vegan brownie. One lesson I learned early on in this adventure was that vegan baking is amazing. The food is usually better for you and it’s cruelty free! Honestly now, what could be better than that?

The Veg Fest wasn’t just about food, it was also about animals. There were rescue and awareness organizations, some with animals and others with great information and friendly faces. Save the Chimps really impacted me, especially the art that chimps created themselves. Some of it truly had some character. It just gave you an idea of the way we think of animals today. Unfortunately, many chimps are rescued from people’s homes who purchased them as pets, only to realize it was a task they couldn’t handle. Like the Save the Chimps employee said, you wouldn’t buy a baby tiger and try to keep it for a pet. It’s a prime example of how we are slowly losing our respect for nature and wild life, coming to believe that we have ownership over all we see.

I will close with this line from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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