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Vegfest UK: reassessing veganism

Online Editors Harry Bunting and Natalie Keffler reflect on the growing trend of veganism after attending the vegan-centric festival 'VegfestUK' in Bristol last month

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Veganism is a fast growing trend across the UK, so it’s hardly surprising that vegan-centric festivals have popped up across the country in the last few years, with a particularly prominent one being ‘VegfestUK’, which we recently attended for the day in Bristol. Food stalls filled the arena, with our particularly favourites being ‘Box food’ specialising in vegan Caribbean food and ‘Booja Booja’ whose vegan ice cream and Wes Anderson-style van was a true delight. There were also cooking demonstrations run by Shambhu, where we were shown how to make healthy vegan sweets, which we can confirm tasted wonderful.

However, despite the incredibly positive atmosphere of the event, there was a sour undertone that manifested itself in a slogan that stood out to us both; a man wearing a top with the words “vegan because I give a s**t.” This consequently made us think about the outward impression veganism can sometimes present, that of superiority and righteousness. Although it’s likely he was trying to make the point that this choice to become vegan is a correct one that many make for ethical or environmental reasons, this outfit was also incredibly condescending and critical of those who are not vegan, a choice which may not necessarily be viable for financial, health or other reasons.

why pursue one lifestyle for moral reasons when you condemn those who may not be able to maintain a vegan diet?

In light of Jamie Oliver’s recent attempts to increase the price of fatty foods, which is in theory a good idea, this fails to recognise that for many families, traditionally less nutritious foods are all they can afford.

Veganism is the most environmentally friendly diet, but why pursue one lifestyle for moral reasons when you condemn those who may not be able to maintain a vegan diet? Global poverty means that there are millions of people who are unable to afford a vegan lifestyle, which often consists of expensive ingredients or specialty foodstuffs which are difficult to come by. Those living in poverty may have to choose cheaper, more mass produced options which are often meat-based. Viewing yourself as ethically superior purely for being vegan alienates those who can’t afford to be vegan because they’re worrying about where their child’s next meal will come from, not where their nearest artisan tofu restaurant is.

living a moral life is a multi-faceted task

With both of us being vegetarian we do advocate the ethical and environmental benefits of cutting meat out as much as possible. However, living a moral life is a multi-faceted task. Cutting out animal products is not enough to make you “give a s**t” if you are unable to look beyond your own bubble of privilege and towards the lives of those less economically and socially advantaged than yourself. VegfestUK celebrated positivity and progressiveness in the food industry, but to truly lead an ethical life, people must look beyond diet alone.

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