“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”- Albert Schweitzer.
Going to NEVFEST last year was so much fun! I still remember all the yummy foods and friendly people I've met. I've been keeping an eye out to see when the tickets would go on sale so I would experience the North East Vegan Festival all over again this year. However, last year, because I didn't know what to expect or what I was getting myself into, I feel like I didn't enjoy or take advantage of the festival as much as I should have. For example, I didn't attend any of the lectures or seminars at the event. My visit was pretty much based around food: trying vegan food and hoping to connect with and chat to a few people, ultimately learning more about what a vegan lifestyle really is and get to know more about this awesome vegan community that keeps growing each year.
This year, however, I found myself attending as a much more mature, more educated 'me'. The truth is, much of this vegan journey of mine was about finding 'me'.
I was determined to change things around and attend a couple of the lectures this year, at the event. As soon as I booked our tickets, I had access to the program, and a few lectures caught my eye straight away: Fighting cancer with a raw diet was one of them. This lecture was about the true story of Syd Barnes, a man who was diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 mouth cancer and given a prognosis of just 6 months. He was alone with 2 young children aged 14 and 4. He turned raw vegan and fought for his life and eventually got the all-clear-July 27th, 2018. I was also particularly curious to see what Alex Lockwood's had to say in their 2pm session about Going Vegan, Staying Vegan, and what the science and research says about how to stick with vegan lifestyles. What sparked my interest in this session was the opportunity to learn about what keeps us going as vegans: what motivates us for our diets (health, animal protection, disgust of animal products, environment and taste), but also how strong the evidences of links between meat and cancer truly are.
“For as long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” - Pythagoras
The seminar with Dr. Alex Lockwood was incredibly interesting! From analysing research that shows that 84% of vegans and vegetarians go back to eating meat and animal products due to the fact that this 'diet' makes them 'stick out from the crowd', or because they don't identify with the diet as part of their identity. The reason for this? These people are doing it for the wrong reasons. Veganism is not a diet, it's a lifestyle. If you look at it as a diet, you're not doing it for the animals.
After clarifying the definitions of veganism, Alex moved onto the concept of 'vegan identity' and 'social group identity', as he mentioned some stereotypes associated with veganism: from the thoughts that vegans eat nothing but lettuce to the misconception of the iconic 'protein deficiency' excuse from non-vegans.
“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” - Joaquin Phoenix
One of the other things that were super interesting to discuss in the seminar was the social pressures that we feel from family or friends, and how is best to live aligned if you know in your heart that you've got vegan values, and also how to approach the obstacles in your life that are blocking your vegan journey.
We also discussed how the concept of identity doesn't change overnight. You can change your clothing style overnight, but not so much your identity. Diet, on the other hand, can change overnight. Since Veganism is not a diet, although there are aspects of the vegan lifestyle we can change overnight, changing your identity can be really scary.
“Your perception of meat being nice is blurred by the likely fact that you are excluded from participating in, or even witnessing the untimely mortal demise of the animals you gluttonously devour.” - Mango Wodzak
During the seminar, we also talked about Veganuary, and how our brains are wired to be able to maintain a vegan lifestyle even after the 31 days of January, since that's how long it takes for our bodies to embrace and get used to the change. We talked about values, morals, and how one is most likely to stick to a vegan lifestyle if one does it for the right reasons. Finally, we discussed the morality of having animal products if one does not notice that a certain product contained an animal product, and how to overcome these setbacks as a vegan.
I was very impressed with this seminar, because it wasn't the usual 'here's-a-video-of-a-slaughterhouse', now watch and weep type-thing. Instead, it was an educational, open-minded seminar, where it didn't even matter if you were vegan to begin with. The goal was to take something from it away with you, and do with it whatever you wanted. Whether that meant bury the subject in the depth of your mind and continuing being a meat-eater or becoming a vegan activist instead, it was entirely up to you.
After the seminar, it was time to head down to the room where all food was. Bruno also found the seminar really, really interesting, and he even had a chat with Alex at the end. In fact, Bruno found the seminar so interesting that he had a couple of ideas about what subject to choose for his dissertation next year. He asked for some advise and was given a few tips, which was nice.
It was now time to go through all the different stalls and decide which foods to eat! I ended up going for the same burger as last year. And let me tell you...it was worth it!
We then split a vegan Biscoff and 'white chocolate' truffle that was to die for! All the food was really cheap as well. The burger came to only £5 and was serves with dressing, coleslaw, vegan cheese, and more toppings! Definitely worth your pennies...I devoured the truffle without even taking a photo first...woops.
All around the room, there were different stalls with different foods: tacos, crepes, burgers, vegan sausage rolls; and also, of course, yummy-looking desserts: flapjacks, brownies, energy bars, cookies in all flavours, including peanut butter! It was an awesome way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
We left the festival at around 4:00 pm. Driving home, I reflected on everything that I was taking with me from the event: more knowledge, and a huge sense of accomplishment that despite all the judgements I sometimes have to face, whether these come from family or friends, I AM doing something that I am proud of. I am sticking with my morals; moreover I am living ALIGNED WITH MY MORALS. And that is something that I am incredibly proud of...because veganism is not about being perfect. It's about doing the least harm and the most good.
“Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory – disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.” - Jonathan Safran Foer