By Aimee Souka

Crowds gather around the 40+ vendors at VegFest 2017

More than 2,300 Manitobans were at the Axworthy Health & RecPlex building on September 16, 2017, to kick off the first annual Winnipeg VegFest. Everyone gathered to listen to keynote speakers, try all sorts of vegan foods, browse the 40+ local vendors and show the city how beneficial a meat-free lifestyle can be.

Winnipeg VegFest is an initiative of the Farm Animal Compassion Committee of the Winnipeg Humane Society. The event focuses on the positive effect a meatless lifestyle has on not only oneself but on the entire planet. A study by Springer Nature shows the production of red meat will emit anywhere between 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse gasses than vegetables and grains. Many vendors were selling a variety of eco-friendly alternatives to things like soap, makeup, and clothes; showing how important sustainability is to this community.

Keira Nichol, 18, stayed at the event for the whole day, intrigued by the number of speakers and the promise of a Mac ‘n Cheese cook-off. Keira has been a vegan for two years.

“I can’t imagine any other lifestyle. It feels really guilt-free,” she said.

Leanne Cutler, 18, is always excited when people tell her that they’re going vegan.

“Global warming is a big deal right now, it really helps when people cut meat out of their diet,” said Cutler.

Both Cutler and Nichol agreed that the lifestyle isn’t nearly as expensive as it’s made to be.

“It’s easy to spend a lot, but if you’re smart about it you’ll be fine,” said Cutler.

Living meat-free might even prove beneficial to students living on a budget. The average pound of ground beef costs around $5.00 and the average can of black beans costs around $1.00, you wouldn’t have to break the bank to save the planet (and yourself).

The event also brought light to the cruel conditions animals are kept in before they’re killed and consumed.  The Winnipeg Humane Society has been fighting for animal rights since it was founded in 1894. There were several activist organizations at the event, including the Manitoba Animal Save. This organization brings love to the animals on transport trucks in their final moments.

“There are so many vegans out there, but so few activists,” said Cheryl Sobie, 33, a member of the organization.  She says animal rights go hand-in-hand with being vegan and encourages vegans everywhere to become involved in a local activist organization.

This was the first annual Winnipeg VegFest. Much more will follow and continue to teach about the importance of living a meat-free life.