VegfestUK returned to Olympia last month, welcoming a host of ‘utterly delectable vegan food, drinks, clothing, footwear, cosmetics, skincare, jewellery and magazines. The two-day festival ‘encourages everyone to follow a vegan way of life’ through a variety of talks, live performances and cookery demos. VegfestUK is a haven for those wanting to explore the principles and practices of a vegan lifestyle and philosophy.
Instagram @artfullyvegan, @artwithethics, @artofcompassionproject
A vocal point of VegfestUK was the art exhibition hosted by the Art of Compassion Project. It’s an ‘international art collective that aims to support the compassionate lifestyle of veganism by donating 100% of proceeds from various art projects to non-profit vegan organisations’. The artists aim to reconnect the consumer with the brutal reality of the animal products they are buying. This includes the meat, dairy, fish, egg, beauty and clothing industries.
This form of political activism helps the consumer visualise the reality of animal agriculture in a direct and straightforward manner. As consumers, we are reluctant to confront the individuals we are abusing. Every rib, breast, leg and thigh once belonged to a sentient being. Have you heard their screams?
The impact of animal agriculture on the environment was also central to VegfestUK. Here’s what the experts had to say:
Dr. Joseph Poore & Dr. Helen Harwatt: Moving to a plant-based food system: What do the experts say?
What are the effects of animal agriculture on climate change?
‘In relation to the contribution of global greenhouse gas emissions, the latest estimates from the UN puts it around 16.5%. It’s a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. Beef alone contributes 6% to total global greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the same amount as the entire country of India. For perspective, that means one food group is equivalent to an entire populated country’
Dr. Helen Harwatt, Researcher at Harvard University Law School
‘A vegan diet is the single biggest way to address almost all our environmental problems. If you look at the map of the world and plot all the areas for farming animal products on that map, animal products would occupy a size of land equivalent to North and South America. That’s around 3-5 billion hectares. If we free up that land by changing our diets, trees would regrow, and natural vegetation would establish. By adopting a vegan diet at a global level, there would be a 30% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, in the UK, that’s more like 35%.’
Dr Joseph Poore, Researcher at the University of Oxford
Health and Nutrition
In recent years, several medical studies have investigated the relationship between food and our mental health. A plant-based diet has proven to improve mood and reduce rates of depression. Here is what Dr. Gemma Newman had to say:
Dr. Gemma Newman: Mental Health and Nutrition. How Does What We Eat Affect Our Thoughts and Feelings?
‘The food we eat is really information. Our gut bugs change the most but are also extremely vulnerable. This can affect our mental health far more than you can imagine. We must protect and preserve them by feeding them right. We feed them with prebiotics, which is essentially dietary fibre. Fruits, vegetables, wholefoods, herbs, spices, etc feed your gut bugs. Antibiotics exposure can damage and wipe out our gut bugs. The main dietary source of antibiotics is intensively farmed meats and farmed fish. These animals have been crammed together, so by necessity have been given antibiotics to treat and prevent infections. When you eat these foods, you are also taking in traces of antibiotics. Antibiotics have been found to disrupt your gut microbes for up to two years.’
What do the studies say?
‘In America, a wholefood plant-based intervention was carried out. It was done in an insurance company. They gave people an education session about the sorts of foods to eat more of and a plant-based option for lunch. They weren’t compelled to eat the option and there was no control over what they ate at home. This was rolled out over ten cities and involved three hundred people. Predictably, they found, there were reductions in their weigh and risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. They also got more well mentally, they had much better mental health scores and productivity scores. These people were doing better at work because of what they ate.’
‘A study involving elderly Taiwanese people found that the more vegetables they ate, their risk of experiencing depression was reduced by 62%’
If you’re interested in veganism, attend the next VegfestUK. You won’t be disappointed!