I went to the capital region veg expo yesterday and I wanted to stew on my experience for a little while before I wrote up my review. I went last year and had mixed feelings but an overall good experience from the expo. This year I left the expo feeling disappointed and discouraged. Part of the difference in my interpretation of the veg expo probably has to do with my own personal growth, and part of it is in changes in the expo itself. Lets just say it seems we are growing apart.
First of all lets just say that I’m not the only that I see a problem with the labelling of an expo as “vegetarian” rather than vegan. Almost all of the booth participants (AR related at least) and from what I could gather most of the presenters were themselves vegan. If that’s the case why not just call this thing what it is. This is a recurring theme in the animal rights movement were there is fear to use the term vegan because you might scare people off. Well as far as I’m concerned if you don’t ever use the term vegan than its just going to continue to be scary. The only way you will normalize a term is to start using it. In a sense we are our own worst enemies when it comes to this. In the grand scheme though, this wasn’t really the most upsetting thing.
This years expo and to a lesser degree last years had a heavy slant away from animal rights and towards “health food veg*ns”. Every single presentation except for one (which was really about environmental issues) were about health issues and how veg*nism is good for your health. The expo program talks about animal advocacy but, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the presenters.
People come to vegetarianism for a number of different reasons ranging from religion, to health, environmental, to ethics. Veganism on the other hand always seems to involve ethics. How can I make this broad sweeping statement? Veganism is about the abolition of using animals for our own uses. It is the complete abolition of animal products and and animal testing in your day to day life to the greatest extent possible. If you are “vegan” for health reasons, you probably aren’t going to have a problem wearing leather shoes or using a leather belt… and in my opinion you are strict vegetarian not vegan.
Okay Mr High N’Mighty but why do you care?
I care for two reasons, firstly if you succeed in convincing someone that veganism is a good idea for their health it was a missed opportunity. Someone who stops eating meat, eggs, and cheese because they don’t want to die a premature death is missing the point. Your efforts are better spent on helping to educate people about the cruelty to which, most people continue to bury their head. Health food vegans are also more likely to “cheat” when its not going to affect their health “that much”. A health food vegan isn’t likely to care if there is some gelatin (ground bones and cartilage) in their food, or carmine (ground up bugs for coloring), and they definetly aren’t going to think twice about weather a rabbit was tortured so they could feel more beautiful when they put on their make-up in the morning.
Secondly, calling yourself vegan and then eating animal products (cheating) or wearing animal products sends out confusing messages to the masses about vegans. How can we get upset with people who prepare food and use soy cheese with casein in it when they have seen other “vegans” eat the same cheese. Call yourself what you are or better yet stop the nonsense and go vegan.
It was also a little mind boggling to see some completely non-veg*n vendors there. I’m not even talking about your middle of the road kind of, sort of, if you looked at them sideways could be seen as maybe veg related… I’m looking at you on this one hannaford. I’m talking about booths that had flat out nothing what-so-ever to do with animal rights or even “health food vegans”. We had an architect, curtis lumber and a psychic reading boot at the expo. Seriously WTF.
There was good news at the expo though, I met a number of people (some old some new) who look like they really want to try and make a difference. There seem to be a lot of people in the capital region who really want to help in the animal rights movement they just don’t know who to contact or wht to do. That to me is a really positive sign, its at least a start. A number of these booths shared a lot of my concerns and I hope that we will start to see a real change in the capital region.