Last week my wife dragged me to a vegan festival. I went only because I was curious to see what vegans looked like…
I mean, I’m all for eating healthy and I want to encourage local production so I was appalled that people would want to eat food from a distant solar system. And I had never seen little green people up-close…
Oh… You mean Vegan are not actually people from Alpha Lyrae, a.k.a. Vega? So why are they also called the green people? Umm. I was wondering why someone would bother to import food from a place 25 light-years away. Now it makes sense. My mistake.
So I stand corrected: Vegans are practitioners of veganism and therefore abstains from consuming any animal products like meat (including fish and seafood), eggs, dairy and all their derivatives (might even includes honey!). It also sometimes goes as far as opposing the use of any animal products (like leather) and advocating for animal wellfare. They must not be confused with vegetarians, who abstain only from consuming meat, but can sometimes be called vegetalians (because they consume only food from the vegetal order: seeds, vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, etc.). For some it’s not only a diet, but a philosophy, a religion even.
I am a very tolerant person and believe that people can do whatever they want as long as they don’t bother me with it. Lives and let live. I think that we should consume locally-produced food as much as possible and that we should be very careful with what we eat: avoid eating too much red meat for example and avoid processed food. However, I really don't understand those vegans.
More on this after the jump >>
Humans have been omnivores for thousands of years and we are doing well. Why change? We’ve started having unhealthy lives only in the last century or so when a wealth of energy sources has lead to excesses (too much meat, sugar, corn by-products and processed food) and laziness. I don’t see why we should radically change our diet. We just need to be careful and moderate. Besides there are so many tasty food around: why deprive our tasting buds from this pleasure? There are so many varieties of meat (beef, lamb, pigs, large varieties of poultry, fish, venison, etc.) and so many great milk by-products (yogurt! thousands of kinds of cheeses!), we would be crazy to avoid such gastronomical experience.
Those vegan people seem to have a special hatred for cows. Why? What cows ever did to them? Some might think they’re cute and relatively intelligent, but we have been hunting and eating such animal since the night of time. It’s in our nature and they are tasty. And their milk is very nutritious and useful (it gives butter, yogurt, cheese, etc.). Why deprive ourselves?
When we were killing animal in the wild, this was not a consideration, but when we rise them in herd for slaughter I admit that we have to be considerate for the animal. In primitive society they had a great reverence for nature, its wonderful bounty and the animal they were killing for their sustenance. They were regularly giving thanks for that as part of their belief system. We now have to avoid any cruelty and make sure they live a life as confortable as possible. Therefore I am in favour of free range rearing. However, we are carnivorous predators and we have to assume what we are. We need to eat meat… in moderation. I admit that eating too much meat is not only unhealthy, but producing the gernomous amount necessary to feed the excessive appetite we have for meat is hurting the planet. We could ourselves easily eat the food produced to feed those cows… But that’s no reason to avoid eating meat entirely. No?
Anyway, I went to the vegan festival with an opened mind and great curiosity.
The Montreal Vegan Festival was held at the Bonsecours market (333, rue de la Commune, near métro Champs-de-mars) from November 4th to 6th. There were many exhibition booths showcasing a cornucopia of vegan products, as well as lots of culinary demos and conferences given by numerous guests. See the website for details.
I have assisted to a conference on The Unbound Project, on the duty to bear witness and on vegan urban agriculture (bio-agriculture using no animal-byproduct as fertilizer).
I’ve also seen a few interesting or intriguing products. I was particularly impressed with:
- Veggemo, a non-diary beverage made from veggies (pea protein, tapioca and potato) that looks and tastes like milk!
- Oat & Mill, an ice cream made with oat!
- Rawsome, a “cheese cake” made with cashew!
- Tout cru!, store and workshops about pickled and fermented food
But also noticed:
- many natural beauty products (and toothpastes !) from The Green Beaver or Druide
- various natural juices from Enzymes or Dose
- plenty of vegan restaurants or stores like Végo, Copper Branch, Crudessence, Paradis Végétarien, Chef Veganessa, Gusta, Cha’s Organics or Les Jardins d’Ambroisie
- The Association Végétarienne de Montréal has produced a guide on how to eat well as well as a directory of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Montreal
However, I was disappointed by what I did not see at the vegan fest:
- I heard that you could produce syrup not only from maple trees but also from birch trees. I’ve been looking for birch syrup ever since without success. I was really hoping to find some at the Vegan Fest. Unfortunately not.
- There was only one exhibitor with animal-free clothing (which excludes leather, fur, feathers and wool): Wully Outwear. Their coats are made of poly-cotton (Cotton-polyester blends), flannel and Primaloft insulation, an environmentally engineered fabric (whatever it means). However, I was particularly hoping to see clothing made from the milkweed silk (in Quebec it generated several ventures: Monark fiber and coop, Encore3), an interesting alternative to synthetic fibers, like those produce by Quartz [see reports from Radio-Canada and Salut Bonjour].
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