Get ready to eschew eating animals

Vegan Festival in Ramat Gan promises entertainment and enlightenment.

Vegan movement founder Omri Paz: ‘Veganism is becoming more mainstream.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
Vegan movement founder Omri Paz: ‘Veganism is becoming more mainstream.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The world’s biggest Vegan Festival will take place on Monday in Ramat Gan. Some 100 booths will offer vegan products, from food, cosmetics and vitamins to dog food and even condoms.
Vegan clothing and shoes – i.e., items made of materials free of leather or wool – will be available for sale as well.
To keep spirits high throughout the event, 10 bands will be performing.
Children are more than welcome.
There will be performances for the little ones, inflatable castles and gymborees, ball pools, puppet shows and other fun activities. Clowns will walk around the grounds, engaging any willing participant in banter and doing tricks.
Drawing and coloring workshops will attract older kids and keep them entertained while their parents visit booths or attend lectures. The program offers a rich roster of 40 lectures and talks touching on subjects such as the environment, sports, health, diet and personal issues in vegan life.
The talks on personal issues include topics such as veganism and family relationships. Consider the difficulties that a vegan might contend with in a non-vegan family. Presumably a vegan has to acquire some diplomatic or assertive skills to maintain peace at home.
There will be vegan stand-up comedy.
And a holistic health area will offer yoga sessions, shiatsu and Pilates. And, of course, there will be culinary workshops where home cooks can learn dozens of vegan recipes, from well-balanced main dishes to luscious desserts.
Given that Israel has an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 vegans – the world’s highest percentage in a national population – it is no surprise that the festival is being managed by 500 volunteers.
Says Omri Paz, the creator of the festival and founder of the vegan movement in Israel, “I want to show people the abundance of the vegan lifestyle with this festival. Last year 10,000 people attended. This year we’re expecting 15,000, which would make it the biggest vegan festival in the world.
Representatives from 20 animal organizations, such as SOS, will be present.
We’re even going to have a faux trial where people in animal costumes ‘sue’ humans.”
In such a context, the animals will predictably win the case.
“It’s a bit biased.” Paz admits, “But the main purpose of the event is to show that everything you do in your daily life, you can do the vegan way. And animals don’t have to suffer.”
Until two and a half years ago, 32-yearold Paz was a promising law student at the Hebrew University and comfortably omnivorous. Then one day, friends persuaded him to watch some YouTube videos on animal rights and the mistreatment of animals in factory farms.
Disturbed by what he was discovering, he sought more information. He took a week off from school to read dozens of books on veganism and watched more than 100 YouTube videos on the topic.
Fired with enthusiasm, he gave up his studies to dedicate all his time to promoting vegan activism.
At the time, Israel’s vegans had no unifying organization, so he created the nonprofit VeganFriendly movement.
He also hosted the first Israeli vegan BBQ last year, grilling vegan burgers and vegetables in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park to promote animal-free barbecues.
Another first-time vegan event was last year’s cheese-free Shavuot festival.
“Veganism aims to take care of the environment, promote human health and ensure the well-being of animals,” says Paz. “I always had pets and considered myself an animal lover. I volunteered for Jerusalem’s animal rescue SOS organization for four years. And I ate everything – meat, dairy, fish, eggs. But after I saw videos of animal rights activist Gary Yourofsky, I understood that animal rights involves much more than hugging and petting them. Animals are fine on their own. In their natural state, they don’t need humans,” he says.
“Today’s factory farm methods of raising animals for food are as backward, in terms of animal suffering, as they were 100 years ago,” he continues.
“One of our goals is to make the vegan lifestyle easier, with vegan menus in restaurants and vegan labeling on supermarket food products. Today there are 250 restaurants that have agreed to make their menus at least 25 percent vegan. We issue them a VeganFriendly certificate and a sticker with our logo to put on their front window,” he says.
“Our Facebook page has 62,000 members, mostly Israeli, and 1,500 vegan products are advertised there. Veganism is becoming more mainstream. People are beginning to realize that all the nutrients a human body needs are available in fresh produce, grains and pulses.
And no animal needs to die to keep you well fed and healthy,” he asserts.
Unlike some animal rights activist groups, VeganFriendly avoids using shocking images and videos of gruesome animal abuse. The movement’s focus is on the positive side of obtaining more animal-free food sources.
“That’s why it’s been so easy to become accepted in Israel,” says Paz.
“With fun events like our mega-festival, we hope to raise even more consciousness about the benefits of veganism.”
Judging from the promotional video of last year’s vegan festival, it certainly looks like the festival will live up to its promise of fun and a lot of thought-provoking information.
You can watch the video on the VeganFriendly website at the address below.

The Vegan Festival will take place at Ramat Gan’s National Park on October 13, from noon to 11:30 p.m. NIS 50 adults; NIS 30 children. NIS 150 for families of two adults and two children. NIS 25 for a full vegan meal.
For more information about the Vegan- Friendly movement and to order tickets for the festival, visit www.vegan-friendly.co.il or call (03) 613-3556.


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