Vegan Life Live – Alexandra Palace, London

So this weekend saw the first event by hugely popular magazine ‘Vegan Life’. Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of Vegan Life magazine – I’ve had a few of my articles about sanctuary visits published here, plus have had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved who have attended Essex Pig Save Vigils (read about my most recent experience at Essex Pig Save here). So I knew I was going to be in safe hands attending this event. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Alexandra Palace was heaving with people eager to sample some tasty vegan food and maybe learn a thing or two. Here are a few of my highlights from Saturday 7th January.

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The Food Court

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Baking Bad

Baking Bad was my first stop earlier on in the day. I’d heard great things about their cupcakes (and also thought they had a pretty cool name). I was a little upset that my go-to cupcake favourite ‘Ms Cupcake’, based in Brixton (check out my blog about Ms Cupcake here) were not making an appearance, but this was something I thought made the event as a whole a little different to VegFest. There were a lot of new companies that VegFest regulars may not have visited before, so the awesome chance to check out a whole new range of vegan companies. The cupcakes from Baking Bad were beautifully decorated and incredibly tasty.

 Mex It Up

This was another newbie for me. With so much choice in the food court, options from all over the world, and firm favourites like ‘What the Pitta’ with a never-ending queue, I decided to try the vegan world’s answer to Mexican street food – ‘Mex It Up’. Thoroughly recommended! The loaded nachos were great, accompanied by jackfruit and some vegan nacho cheese – what’s not to love?! I also had the New York Cheesecake, a vegan version of the world renowned desert – amazing!

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Vita Coco Kitchen

There seemed to be lots of interesting stuff going on here. I watched ‘Quick and Easy Weekday Dinners’ by Chef Day Radley where she made an interesting combination of butter bean mash and tempeh. You can find the recipe for this and a whole host of other quick, healthy vegan recipes on her website here.

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Palace Suite

Another special mention has to go to Toni Shephard – Executive Director at Animal Equality – who spoke about the realities for animals living on factory farms. Animal Equality are one of my favourite organisations and I really admire the work they are doing. Essex Pig Save teamed up with Animal Equality’s iAnimal campaign – showing people virtual reality footage inside factory farms – earlier this year (read about it here).

Cruelty-Free Shopping

  1. Love Libby X Necklace – I love this brand! I already have a few of their necklaces and bracelets, each one hand-made and unique. Check out their website here.
  2. Wear Your Voice ‘Vegan Power’ Vest – As designed by vegan marathon runner and all round superhero for animals Fiona Oakes (read about when I met Fiona and the animals at Tower Hill sanctuary here). £5.00 from the sale of every vest goes directly to the Fiona Oakes Foundation. Wear Your Voice also have a whole host of different animal rights clothing – check out their website here.

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3. Create & Case ‘Kiss of a Panda’ Clutch Bag – This was another brand new vegan company for me, and I’m so glad I found them! This 100% PETA approved clutch bag is one of many unique and ultra-cool vegan bags and purses. This design was one of my favourites, you can buy one for yourself here.

Overall, I think most people will agree that the first Vegan Life Live event was a great success, and the perfect way to kick off 2017! Taking their own spin on vegan exhibitions that we have grown to love such as Vegfest, I was really impressed with how the event was organised. I’m so pleased that more events like this seem to be popping up all over the place, showing that the demand for vegan products is higher than ever!  I hope to see this event back in London next year.

If you aren’t already familiar with Vegan Life magazine, be sure to check out their website here.

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2016 – Animal Activism Year in Review

In the world of animal rights, 2016 has definitely seen some positive changes worldwide. More people are vegan than ever before, and also many vegans have turned to activism to use their voices for animals. It has been my first full year of animal activism, and taking action for animals has became a huge part of my life. Here are some of my proudest achievements from 2016…

Essex Pig Save’s First Vigil

Read about it here.

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This was my first ever save vigil of any kind, and it was in my home county! I have always been a huge supporter of Toronto Pig Save, and was so happy that the Save Movement was expanding to the UK. This was the first of many vigils which went on to occur every month, with a growing team of activists. Our numbers have pretty much doubled since this very first vigil. We were able to bear witness to pigs entering Cheale Meats in Brentwood, Essex, and offer them comfort in any way we could. The next Essex Pig Save vigil will be held on 16th January 2017 – check out the Essex Pig Save Facebook page here for more information.

I Stand with Anita

Read about it here and here.

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This year I got to spend some time with Anita Krajnc and the rest of Toronto Pig Save as I attended a series of vigils in Canada. I also got to cover Anita’s court case, where she was put on trial for feeding water to a pig dying of dehydration. People around the world were horrified that Anita had been charged for simply an act of kindness. The trial talked about a lot more than this one incident, and ended up putting animal agriculture as a whole on trial. The case will be continuing in March 2017. Working with Anita has been a great honour this year, and I look forward to doing a lot more in 2017 to show the world that compassion is not a crime.

Japan – The World is Watching You

Read about it here.

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At the start of this year I took part in the London Against Taiji Dolphin Massacre March. We marched through the streets of London to the Japanese Embassy, using our voices to stand against this barbaric tradition that happens every year in Taiji. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have meant a huge fall in profit for companies such as Seaworld. It’s so important that people know that every time they buy a ticket to a marine park that uses animals for entertainment, or partake in swim with dolphin programmes, they are actively paying for this yearly dolphin slaughter. The workers seek out the ‘Flipper’-like dolphins that have become so popular, while the rest are trapped in the cove to be slaughtered the following morning, and sold as dolphin meat. Many people in Japan don’t even know this is happening. Please don’t be part of it. Boycott Seaworld, marine parks and all swim with dolphin programmes.

Fearman’s ‘Pork’ Show No Mercy

Read about it here.

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Not long after returning from Canada myself, I watched this heartbreaking event live, as it happened, outside Fearman’s ‘Pork’, where I had protested earlier this year. Although the events of that day were completely incomprehensible, the stories of the pigs who died will never be forgotten. The incident gained worldwide media coverage, and people began to question whether eating meat can ever really be humane. A special thanks to all the activists who were at Fearman’s that day, and later organised a candle-lit memorial for all those who suffered such cruelty, all because of human greed.

Vegfest London 2016

Read about it here and on The Vegfest Express.

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In the build up to this year’s Vegfest London, I interviewed some of the speakers appearing at the Vegan Activists Summit – including Kate Strong, Rebecca Fox and Marta Zaraska. I’m so pleased that Vegfest is just getting bigger and better every year. I thought the speakers this year were particularly inspirational, and it was great to listen to such heroes as David Smith MBE talk about how a plant-based diet has changed their lives.

Ink Activism

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This year I also got my first ever tattoos which have been great conversation starters, and have also enabled me to visit some of the best vegan tattoo studios! My first was the animal liberation symbol, which I had done at Fifth Dimension in London. My second was the word ‘compassion’ which I had done at James Spooner’s Monocle Tattoo studio in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I do have the tattoo bug now and have heard of some other great vegan tattoo studios which I plan to check out in 2017!

Protesting with Emily from Bite Size Vegan

Read about it here.

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I attended an Essex Pig Save vigil with popular American YouTuber and blogger – Emily from Bite Size Vegan this summer. This was a very hard day as we said goodbye to truck-loads of pigs entering Cheale Meats to be slaughtered. But later on, I went to London to watch Emily’s speech, and my dedication and hope for animals was truly restored. Emily talked about the importance of bearing witness, and not turning away from what is happening to animals, but instead doing all we can to change it. I’m a huge fan of all the work Emily is doing.

Fiona Oakes – For The Animals

Read about it here.

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Also at the start of this year, I got to meet champion marathon runner and all round superhero for animals – Fiona Oakes, along with all the animals at Tower Hill Sanctuary. It was great to hear Fiona’s story and how she has managed to achieve so much for animals. Tower Hill looks after over 400 rescued animals, which is no easy task! She also uses her extreme marathon running (she has run a marathon on every continent, and the North Pole) to promote the vegan lifestyle… destroying the stereotypical view of vegans as ‘weak’.

Other mentionable animal activism achievements this year include attending the first East London Chicken Save vigil, meeting Renee and all the friendly folk at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, Texas, and volunteering at Piebird Farm Sanctuary in Canada. Overall, I’m really pleased with what I have accomplished this year, the world is definitely beginning to wake up to the realities that so many animals are forced to endure at the hands of humans. The Save Movement has grown rapidly in 2016, there are now 24 groups in the UK alone! It seems that ignorance is no longer bliss. I am looking forward to achieving much more for animals in 2017.

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Vegfest London 2016 Round Up!

There’s been so much hype surrounding this year’s Vegfest London. I’ve been lucky enough to talk to some of the inspirational speakers and athletes including Kate Strong, Rebecca Fox, Marta Zaraska and Fiona Oakes. All in all, I had pretty high expectations for the event which I wrote about last year and the year before. It turns out, this year’s Vegfest completely excelled my expectations, and was bigger and better than any of the previous years!

This was partly due to space – this year the whole of London Olympia was hired out to accommodate around 13,500 visitors and a whole host of vegan businesses. This meant a lot more space throughout, and each talk had it’s own conference room, which really did make a huge difference.

The stalls were great, and I was introduced to so many vegan businesses I didn’t know about before. Some of my favourite purchases from new (well new to me, at least!) businesses came from Veggie Pets (for my newly converted vegan cats and dog), Love Libby X, Ananda Foods and Ethics & Antics. Plus I couldn’t resist a few buys from some of my old favourites – Ms Cupcake, Viva La Vegan and Hillside Animal Sanctuary! There really was something for everyone, and it was great to see so many unique, high quality products from 100% vegan businesses.

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Adorable necklace from Love Libby X.
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Ananda Foods Orang E-Tang.
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Vegfest isn’t complete without a visit to Ms Cupcake!

But the thing that made Vegfest extra special for me this year was the amazing speakers. It’s easy to get carried away with the awesome vegan food and shopping downstairs to forget about the talks, but I really would recommend catching a couple. I managed to listen to Christine ‘Peanut’ Vardaros give excellent advice for thriving on a vegan diet to fuel regular exercise and Tim Shieff give an interesting talk about water, something I hadn’t thought too much about before. But one person whose talk I’m always going to remember is David Smith MBE. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after David shared his incredible story of battling illness and how veganism changed his life. I felt so moved by his story; it really hit home how precious every day is, and it was a real privilege to listen to him share this important journey.

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Overall, I’m sure everybody attending will agree Vegfest London was a huge success! It’s so great to see so many new businesses and more people attending every year, which just goes to prove how much the movement is growing. I’m already looking forward to seeing what next year has in store. 🙂

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Kate Strong

When gazing at her list of achievements, you may wonder if there’s anything Kate Strong hasn’t done – World Champion triathlete, multiple-award winning entrepreneur, multi-linguist, globe-trotter, philanthropist, author, engineer and of course vegan! I caught up with Kate this week to find out what we can expect from her at Vegfest London.

What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I am looking forward to meeting 14,000 other positive individuals who are all committed to making a positive change in the world! I want to meet as many people as possible from the business owners, the cooks, chefs, vegans and people interested in this movement!

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When and why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I’ve been vegan for over 2 years. Initially, the choice was motivated through me ‘feeling better’ when I was eating fruit and vegetables and eliminating dairy and animal products, yet after having researched and read more about the impact on other species, the environment and other communities, I am 100% committed to whole-food plant-based diet as I see it as the answer to saving the world.

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You’ve had some pretty amazing achievements! What would you say has been your biggest challenge in your athletic career?

Thank you :). My biggest challenge in my athletic career occurred last year when I started hanging around quite a few successful athletes, yet their attitude was one of ‘Have to achieve’ and comparing results to others. I started to do the same, which led me to loosing my passion for the sport and the reason why I started in the first place: because I love it!
Breaking free from this group and investing time into rekindling my passion to strive for excellence without any ego attached meant I’m back on track and raring to go!

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What’s next for you?

At VegFest, we are arranging for me to attempt to break a World Record on a static bicycle, so for the next month or so, I am gearing up for this. Afterwards… who knows! I want to help more and more people transition into a more positive and conscious state of living and working, so there will be courses, books, seminars and events rolling out under my brand very soon so watch this space!

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An exciting time indeed! You can find out more about Kate and her incredible achievements here.

Don’t forget to catch Kate’s talk on Saturday 22nd October – Vegan Athletes Summit – 4pm – Vegfest London.

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Rebecca Fox

Rebecca Fox is another speaker that will be appearing at VegFest London’s Vegan Activists Summit on Saturday 22nd October. Rebecca is part of the team behind the blog Reasonable Vegan (www.rvgn.org) – ‘Promoting skeptical inquiry in vegan spaces, confronting irrationality everywhere.’ I caught up with Rebecca this week, and here’s what she had to say about VegFest (and vegan cheese!).

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What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I’ve been attending Vegfest for a few years now and have always thought of it as a place to try out new foods and products, (I have in the past threatened to bring my own extra-long cocktail stick to reach through the crowds to the vegan cheese tasters!) but also as a place to be exposed to new ideas and reinvigorate my commitment to veganism.

So, I am looking forward to presenting ideas that are new to many in the vegan community but will support and inspire people to be better advocates. 

When I’ve spoken to groups of vegans about critical thinking skills in the past I’ve found them to be receptive and thoughtful (which is probably why they became vegan) so I also look forward to meeting and connecting with compassionate people and discussing how we approach the world as reasonable vegans.

…and what do you hope to achieve from it?

I’m hoping that my talk at Vegfest will give me the opportunity to share my passion for veganism and give the audience the opportunity to learn some of the critical thinking skills that I find useful and important. I want to empower vegans to use reason and evidence to support their message of compassion and make our movement stronger.

I’m also hoping to try some new brands of vegan cheese!

When and why did you become vegan?

When I was ten years old I realised that meat was made from animals, well, I kind of knew that before but at age ten I think I began to understand what that really meant. And so I became a vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian until in my mid twenties I was introduced to scientific skepticism, which is basically a method for understanding the world built on the principles of reason and evidence. I realised that a lot of things that I believed about the world and myself were ‘unreasonable’ (not based on reason and evidence). So I started thinking about my beliefs one by one and changing or discarding the unreasonable ones.

Then I came to my vegetarianism… and I realised that the reason I was vegetarian was because I didn’t want to cause unnecessary harm to animals… but there was plenty of evidence that the dairy, eggs and other animal products I consumed did cause unnecessary harm.

So I had to give them up, and I became vegan.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be even though at the time I was living in Australia and had to negotiate many a barbecue somewhat awkwardly. As a vegan I’ve travelled through many different countries and I’m finding it’s getting easier with every day as I learn more about food and as more and more people learn about veganism.

Recently I was at a vegan braai in Cape Town and couldn’t help reflecting on how far I’d come from those first awkward barbies where I often found myself drinking too much on an empty stomach!

What are your future plans for ‘Reasonable Vegan’?

RVGN started as a blog, my partner a few skeptical friends and I dreamed up as a place to host articles by and for reasonable vegans. We’ve published a lot of interesting articles and interviews over the last few years and met a lot of fellow reasonable vegans. 

We’ve been discussing what we think the vegan community needs and what we can do to spread the vegan message. We have decided that we want to focus on giving vegans the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills in order to make them better advocates and presenting a solid evidence backed resource to help convince non-vegans to go vegan!

So our new project is building a site and maybe an app that will help vegans become more reasonable and reasonable people become vegan. It’s in the very early stages of development (in fact you are among the first to know) but you can keep up with our progress by following us on twitter.

So there you have it, a VegFest exclusive about the future plans for Reasonable Vegan! If you’d like to find out more, be sure to catch Rebecca at the Vegan Activists Summit at 3pm on Saturday 22nd October! Can’t wait till then? Be sure to check out www.rvgn.org

VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Marta Zaraska

So as the countdown to Vegfest London continues, this week I got to talk to Marta Zaraska – Science Journalist and author of ‘Meathooked’. ‘Meathooked’ takes a look at the human obsession with meat, and questions why humans eat meat at all. So I decided to find out a little more about what exactly Marta will be discussing at VegFest.

“I’ll be talking about why so many people find it difficult – or simply don’t want to – try vegetarian diets. Despite all the data we now have about the negative effects of meat-based diets on our planet and health (and the animals, of course), meat consumption is still going up, even in developed countries. Just a few days ago there was new data released that showed meat consumption in US in 2015 – it went up again, reaching a staggering 193 lbs/year, up from “just” 184 lbs in 2012. In my talk I’ll address all the reasons that keep people hooked on meat – from its taste (a unique mixture of umami, fat, and the flavors of the Maillard reaction), its role in our evolution, culture, history, etc. I’ll also look for solutions – how can each of us use science to make it easier for ourselves to reduce meat consumption, go vegetarian or vegan? What can be done on the level of a society or a country to lower meat consumption considerably?”

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Marta also explains how she has something for everyone, as her talks target meat-eaters, vegetarians and vegans. Everyone can feel like they’ve taken something away after listening.

“I’ve had everyone in the public from meat-lovers to vegans. For meat-lovers it can help them understand why they found it so difficult to let go of meat, and find strategies (if they so wish) to reduce their consumption. For vegetarians and vegans it can help them realize why not everyone follows in their steps, and why so many people react with anger if prompted to let go of meat.”

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‘Meathooked’ was released in February of this year, and is introduced as ‘The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Years obsession with Meat’.  So is Marta happy with the feedback she has received so far about the book?

“I am. There were some critical voices, of course, there always are. But I’ve had great reviews in big outlets such as the Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Discover magazine, New Scientist, etc. And last but not least – my book was named by the prestigious journal Nature as one of the top science picks in the spring.”

What a fantastic achievement! So what’s next for Marta and ‘Meathooked’?

“I’m mostly writing articles these days, for the Scientific American, the Washington Post. And soon Meathooked will be coming out in Japan and then in Poland, so I’ll have more work once again.”

You can find out more about ‘Meathooked’ here.

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Catch Marta on Saturday 22nd October, 12pm, at the Activists Summit at VegFest London!

VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Fiona Oakes

It’s that time of year again! London VegFest is just around the corner, and this year it’s set to be bigger than ever!

I absolutely love the excitement around VegFest. I wrote about my top finds from last year’s event here, obviously this had to include a glorious vegan cupcake from my favourite London bakery – Ms Cupcake!

VegFest London Countdown!

This year I’m going to be blogging about some of the guest speakers at VegFest so you can plan out exactly who you want to see. You can view the list of appearances on the VegFest website.

For my first instalment, I have written about Fiona Oakes – vegan athlete who completely defies the common misconception of vegans as weak.

Check out my top five reasons why you should definitely go and see Fiona on Saturday 22nd October!

VegFest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Fiona Oakes

One of the speakers at the Vegan Athlete Summit on the Saturday of London VegFest (22nd October) is dedicated vegan athlete, extreme marathon runner, sanctuary owner, and all-round wonder woman – Fiona Oakes!

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Here are five reasons why you should definitely go and watch Fiona’s talk at VegFest London:

1. Thinking of starting running? Fiona is the fastest woman in the world to run a marathon on all seven continents, she has even completed marathons at the North Pole! Who could be better to talk to?

2. Vegan since the age of six, Fiona has broken five marathon course records; the North Pole Marathon, the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the Ruska Marathon, the Dartmoor Vale Marathon and the Essex Championship Marathon. All together, she has completed over fifty marathons!

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3. Need some motivation? As a teenager, Fiona was the victim of an illness resulting in her losing a knee cap, which just makes her incredible achievements even more inspiring!

4. Fiona set up The Fiona Oakes Foundation, which enables people to support her marathons, so she can continue working hard to destroy the false image of vegans as ‘weak’. Why not learn more about how you can support her important mission?

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5. At the heart of everything Fiona does, is the animals. Along with her partner Martin, Fiona cares for over 400 rescued animals at Tower Hill Sanctuary in Essex. I visited the sanctuary and had the amazing opportunity to meet Fiona earlier this year, you can read my blog about it here. And just to confirm, she does all this as well as running every single day…something to make you feel incredibly lazy!

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So after you’ve had your fill of all kinds of delicious vegan food, why not go and see Fiona Oakes – the lady who will show you exactly what hard work and sheer determination can achieve. If you need extra convincing, watch this short documentary, ‘Fiona Oakes – For The Animals’:

For more information about Fiona, check out the following sites, and make sure you keep an eye on the VegFest programme to find out what time you can catch her at London Olympia!

http://www.towerhillstables.com/

https://www.facebook.com/towerhillstables

http://www.fionaoakesfoundation.co.uk/