It seems the Vegan stereotype has been outgrown. I was initially surprised by the length of the entry queue to the Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival, although it quickly became clear why the hoards were gathering. The £3 entry fee, which went towards Animal Welfare Charities, was just the start of an event which was all about positivity, ethical values and moral responsibility. The Main Hall in particular was crammed, making access to the vast number of stalls sometimes frustratingly slow. However, there were also more relaxed spaces with the live talks and seating areas making the atmosphere one of courtesy, leisure and friendliness.
The content of the festival demonstrated how Veganism is far from limiting. From enticing chocolate truffles and cakes, to oils, spices and teas, it was easy to forget that it wasn’t a typical Food Festival. The sights and smells were similar, yet the familiar BBQ, standard of any festival, was this time providing Vegan hotdogs. The companies and stall owners were all passionate in explaining their unique products, which offered ethical and often healthier,Vegan alternatives. For example, the Vegan cheese made with Soya milk had both strong flavour and texture, and offered a realistic alternative for cheese lovers reluctant to give up dairy. The stands showed just how creative people can be in creating innovative products in order to change their diets and lifestyles. My personal favourite were the Tacos which used mince made from Jackfruit. Overall the stalls displayed diversity and experimentation, rather than the usual connotations of blandness and restriction that Veganism can incite.
The Festival also offered a whole alternative lifestyle, with vegan clothes, make up and health products. I felt a sense of guilt in realising how much of what we consume and use daily (outside of food) still has such strong issues of animal welfare and environmental impact tied up in them. Products that had never occurred to me to be damaging appeared to be so, such as commonplace Paraffin candles which can easily be replaced with Eco soy wax candles which are more ethical and don’t have health risks. If anything, the Festival demonstrated how many sins we unknowingly commit in the consumerist world.
The only problem was money, or lack of, in the case of students. Sadly, to feel you are making a difference and partaking of the full ethical Vegan lifestyle you need to be willing to spend a bit of extra money with each item. In this sense, Veganism still seems to be marginalised as something expensive and out of reach. However the impressive scale and turn out of the Yorkshire Vegan Festival seems to indicate that hand-made, cruelty free and all importantly Vegan products don’t have to be a novelty and could potentially be made widely available for all.
(Image: Leeds List)