Local nonprofit Compassionate Action for Animals welcomed area animal rights advocates and veggie enthusiasts to the University of Minnesota campus July 14 for the first-ever Twin Cities Veg Fest.
The event’s goal was to inform attendees about how to lead healthy vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, trace where foods come from and give people a taste of plant-based dining options, said Unny Nambudiripad, executive director of Compassionate Action for Animals.
“We sit down to eat breakfast, and we have some bacon and eggs, and we don’t really think about where our food comes from,” he said.
The festival hosted guest speakers, vegetarian and vegan vendors and tabling from animal rights organizations such as Mercy for Animals, Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection and Compassion Over Killing.
“We are really concerned that animals are mistreated and routinely confined and suffer greatly in modern farms,” Nambudiripad said.
He said he hoped people left the festival with the desire to change their diets.
“We have choices we can make in our diets that would have a big impact on [animal] treatment,” Nambudiripad said.
At the event, one of the 46 vendors screened video evidence of animal abuse at a booth.
A few booths away, MVAP distributed information regarding the Minnesota “ag-gag” bill to build support against it. The potential legislation would make it illegal for someone to view factory farm video tapes or record farm animals in their living conditions without the factory or farm owner’s permission.
Last year, they fought a similar bill which did not pass.
“We resisted strongly as did many others including the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota,” said Christine Coughlin, executive director of MVAP. “But these bills keep coming back year after year.”
While some of the organizations at the event promoted initiatives involving government action, others like the Seward Co-op directed people to gardening classes and community gardens.
Claudia Rhodes, an events coordinator for the co-op, said growing gardens at home has become more popular, and selling home-grown produce is on the rise.
“The closer your food is grown to your plate, the more nutritious it is,” Rhodes said.
Jenny Prokuski, a marketing senior and Veg Fest volunteer, said she was most excited about making people aware of healthy vegetarian options.
“It is obviously not a lifestyle for everyone,” Prokuski said, adding that advocating for people to go completely meatless may not always be feasible.
“But I think it would be really good to educate people on where their meat comes from.”