VegFest 2016 a Scrumptious Success!
Swansea VegFest 2016 proved a stunning success – from fresh and scrumptious food, jewellery, ethical clothing, live music, talks and even vegan muscle building products there was so much to see taste and enjoy. Organiser, Deby McCloy explains her passion for promoting veganism and it’s growing popularity.
What does being vegan mean for you?
To try and live in a way that is free from harm or causes as little harm as possible. It’s part of a bigger thing of trying to buy ethically and being aware of the cost of things. It’s a three pronged thing for me; it’s people animals and environment.
The recent VegFest at Brangwyn Hall in Swansea was highly successful. Is it growing?
This was our third summer of doing it. We started in the Environment Centre. Last year we had a few hundred people come and we could just about fit in. We needed a larger venue. We started a Christmas Market last year. So we’re now doing 2 large events a year. We’ve also done film nights and other events as well.
How many people make it happen?
We’ve got a core team of 15 people. People do what they can timewise. We share our experience and the various skills we have among us. My sister Karen and I are the main organisers. Many of us have vegan businesses as well. That’s been good from the perspective as organisers because we understand it from the trader’s point of view. It’s also a good way to meet people and help each other out.
“I’ve done campaigning and demonstrations. I could see a surge in veganism. I wanted to do more. “
What were you doing before all this started?
I’ve done campaigning and demonstrations. I could see a surge in veganism. I wanted to do more. I thought it was a good to promote veganism and help people who want to try it out. For some people it can be isolating or they aren’t sure how to do it properly. Promoting veganism itself is a combination of issues. For example you can split animal welfare into hunting, the way animals are cared for and caged egg production. Promoting veganism tackles all of this head on in a more holistic approach.
How did you publicize the VegFest in Swansea?
We were lucky. We spent little on advertising. We just had print costs on flyers and posters. It’s a team effort from everybody who volunteers and more people distribute flyers in places like health food shops. Also businesses promote it themselves. Social media is good as well. We’ve got a website that gets good hits. We’ve also had information stalls in town and a bake sale. People get attracted by the food!
What is your top tip in arranging a public event such as this in this wonderful city?
It could only happen because people are interested in it. It’s what people want. After we saw the demand last time we went with that. We try to get people involved by asking for suggestions and feedback. We can always improve. Having a team of volunteers who are the target market is good, as is listening to people who are passionate about it. There’s no point in doing it if no one is going to come!
What is your main job?
I’m a dressmaker. I actually have a vegan business technically. I do commissions and sell my own designs online. They are recycled and use no animal fibres. It makes me able to do things I want to do.
Are you looking for more volunteers?
Always! They can contact me via Facebook or email.
How easy is it to be vegan when so many of us lead so called busy lives?
I think everyone is different. People have different kinds of circumstances. I do think there is a way to make it work for most people. I don’t spend much time cooking. I’m not very good at it (Laughs) but I manage get by. There is a way to do it!
What change in our diet would most help the planet?
It’s hard to separate it out because our diet has an impact on every aspect of the environment. Livestock farming has a huge impact on emissions of CO2 and methane and then there is the land use aspect and forest clearing. There’s the waste the animals produce. Overall, I’d say dairy because it’s both the amount of dairy we produce and the amount of emissions contributing to climate change.
What personal experiences have informed your quest or mission?
I know lots of people have a horrendous experience, or see something horrible like an animal being killed. For me, I think it was mostly meeting other vegans and realizing it was possible. All I’d been told was that we had to eat meat to live, it was normal and there wasn’t any other option. The idea that not only was it not necessary but that it was much better for you was completely new. Once I found that out I started to learn and investigate.
It was meeting some vegans and getting some booklets from them that turned me vegan first of all. I became vegan for ethical reasons because since I was a kid; I always loved animals.
“We currently grow enough food to feed ten billion people yet we only have close to seven and half billion.”*
Do you think the way we treat animals is improving?
I don’t feel like it is. Sometimes it seems like it with new standards being introduced such as battery cages going but then they turn into barns full of chickens instead. That’s not much better. Consumption levels aren’t changing. We’re killing ever more animals. Some improvements are just a way of making consumers feel a it better.
What effect do you think veganism could have on food security across the world? Does it link up?
Veganism is the most efficient way to feed people. We currently grow enough food to feed ten billion* people but we only have close to seven and half billion. Yet we feed a lot of food to the animals that we then eat. That’s really inefficient. It makes more sense to be vegan based. I don’t think we have to eat a lot of exotic or imported food. It’s perfectly possible to grow what we eat here. Even, things like quinoa are being grown here now.
We are living in what has now been termed the Anthropocene geological period where humans are the main influencers on the planet. What is your reaction to this?
I think that’s quite disproportionate. I feel like we’ve unbalanced things. Are connections with nature have progressively been changed by urban living. All sorts of things have changed that connection.
How can we reconnect with nature? Would that assist in some shape or form?
I think the idea of veganism is seeing animals not as a resource but as something to coexist with. That goes along with living in balance with nature rather than clearing land and farming animals and doing things like culling wild animals because they interfere with what we do or overfishing which has a massive effect on the ecosystem. It almost feels like if you once you go down that road you keep going and going and making the problem worse. If we had a vegan way of living I think those problems would be very different.
“We can go back a step, eat more plant based food and have the same effect but much more easily.”
What do you think about genetically modified crops?
So far there’s no evidence it’s bad for your health but maybe we haven’t had long enough to test that. People say that it’s going to be the way we solve world hunger and look after people in the future growing enough food for everybody. We can go back a step, eat more plant based food and have the same effect but much more easily. I think the worst thing is it seems to cross contaminate into neighbouring plants easily. It’s not easy to stop once you’ve started. Also the idea of companies like Monsanto patenting things and owning them. Its another example of a technology that could be useful but within a capitalist system it’s just going to be used in a way that’s isn’t helpful to most of us.
What interests you for the future?
Carrying on with vegan festivals and events. Definitely doing more in Swansea, outreach and helping people learn about veganism.
Can you list some of your favourite food shops and restaurants?
Health and Herbs (5 – 7 Picton Lane, SA1 3BH) – Great for vegan and organic products.
Holland and Barrett (10, Union St, SA1 3EF) – Good general range.
The Choice is Yours (Swansea Market, SA1 3PQ) – A brilliant range of fruit and veg. They have a organic range now and do deliveries.
Urban Zen (2, Little Gam St, SA1 3HY) – New vegan café and yoga studio
Govinda’s (8 Craddock St SA1 3EN) – Great range of vegan options. The cheesecake is really good there!
Mosaic (11, St Helen’s Road, SA1 4AB) – Lots of vegan options there.
For further Swansea VegFest information:
Swansea VegFest website:https://swanseavegfest.wordpress.com
* “Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture” by Seufert, V., Ramankutty, N. and Foley, J. April 25, 2012. Nature. 10.1038/nature11069
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