16 November 2011

16th Annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival - The Causes

My third and final installment of the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival coverage will be about a few of the advocates, activists, and speakers of the event. While the food and t-shirts were enough to motivate me into going to the festival the real reason all of us were gathered in the athletic center that day was because we all had something to say or something to share. Vegetarians and vegans are often seen to be a nutty bunch but I'll say one thing, we're organized, united and passionate about our chosen lifestyle. I loved seeing all the different issues and advocate groups so here are a few for you all to chew on too!

The New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS) caught my eye with this postcard for the Great Ape Protection Act which is also being supported and fueled by group like the Humane Society and Jane Goodall. Their goal is to pass legislation that will release all chimpanzees from laboratories and into sanctuaries and put a stop to further testing. It is not only the labs that are coming under fire here though - the entertainment business is directly linked to vivisection as their highly trained and adorable primates are sold to labs when they are no longer considered cute or worthwhile.

There are currently 1,300 chimpanzees being held in laboratories across the country according to NEAVS. These intelligent creatures are forced to do demeaning tasks under fear of punishment for years on end and are then sent to labs where they can endure close to 20 years of medical testing for such things as HIV, transplants, biopsies, decompression studies, crash tests, and breeding and hormone treatments.

NEAVS started in 1895, and while this organization is new to me, their message is not. Their mission: " to end the cruelty and waste of animal experiments and replace them with modern alternatives that are ethically, humanely, and scientifically superior." Some of their major campaigns include keeping retired greyhounds out of scientific experiments and dissections, saving cats from having holes drilled in their heads, and keeping rats out of unethical and inconclusive drug research. Stand with NEAVS and become a voice for the animals by donating, volunteering or writing on their behalf.

Since I was a kid I always knew about greyhound adoption, but as a child I wasn't really too clear as to what they were being saved from. Animal lovers of all kinds tend to advocate either personally or socially for the adoption of animals but the Somerville based non-profit GREY2K USA advocated for so much more. The use of greyhound dogs for sport and revenue is still being practiced in 7 states across the country. This may not sound like a lot but this number is a major step down from previous participation of states and it is steadily declining due to the work of this group of passionate individuals who formed in 2001 to not only advocate to protect greyhounds through stronger legislation but also to phase out the practice of greyhound racing entirely.

These advocates take issue to problems such as cramped living conditions for the greyhounds, cross country transport in flatbed trucks without ventilation, drug enhancement before races, unnecessary injuries and the termination of the animal when it is no longer profitable. These bring up terrible images of these poor animals but on an even more basic level GREY2K USA believes these dogs deserve the same kind of treatment as any other pet and that their exploitation for our enjoyment and monetary enrichment needs to end. Join their international effort!

The folks at For the Animals Sanctuary, located in Blairstown, New Jersey, were selling these great little pendants to raise money for their non-profit animal sanctuary farm. Most all of us know about Farm Sanctuary in New York but it is so great to see other sanctuaries popping up around the country. These new sanctuaries are great resources for their community and provide places where vegans and animal lovers alike can come bond. But, in order to give those animals the homes they deserve these sanctuaries need funding. Donate, volunteer or maybe hop over to etsy and buy some cute jewelry to help!

Want to get more hands on? Maple Farm Sanctuary in Mendon, Massachusetts, is in need of funds to run their farm as well but they're also in need of strong backs and eager workers! Any architects out there that want to donate a little brain power to helping the sanctuary build an eco-friendly education center? Check out their volunteer page for info. Also read co-founder Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis' inspiring story about how she came to a vegan lifestyle and came to open a sanctuary.

After a day at the festival of tasting, trying and perhaps a little crying, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the advocacy and sugar I had consumed. Mariann Sullivan and Jasmin Singer of Our Hen House were the last speakers of the day and their vegan-spirit pep talk was set to cover 10 tips for Shifting to a Plant Based Diet. "But I'm already vegan," I thought to myself. Nevertheless I went upstairs and grabbed a seat for the talk and I'm so glad I did. Their positive attitudes and straight-forward advice were not only good reminders but it was the kind of presentation that binds a community together without encouraging a community of high horse-ers. My favorite tips were number 9 (Understand why individual action is so important) number 2 (Don't feel the need to be a spokesperson) and number 1 (Find the best resources).

Follow their blog, download their podcasts and discover their website! Their site covers everything from food, art, animal courses on campuses, where and how to advocate, getting into the legal loop, the intersections of LGBT and animal activism, videos, pictures, cool vegan companies, book reviews, interviews, and my favorite - podcasts.

Also check out:

the Animal Legal Defense Fund to learn about the growing field of animal law and what issues need activism and attention to get better, more humane laws passed.

CEASE to join their Anti-Fur Campaign

Mercy For Animals to see where they are inspiring compassion next.

Don't forget to check out the posts about food and merchandise too!

Lacey Walker | @quinoaween
Lacey is a food photographing, French speaking, English teaching, travel enthusiast. She's been known to cut a rug. She's also been known to spend all day in bed eating vegan waffles and talking to her cat Hibou. Follow Lacey on her blog and Flickr.

Photo credit: Lacey