London Vegan Festival 2009

By Amelia Wells

The London Vegan Festival took place on Sunday 6th September in Kensington Town Hall, just up the road from Wholefoods. The programme boasted much; from Andrew O’Neill, a vegan comedian, to talks on ‘Why should vegans and vegetarians be opposed to racism and fascism?’ passing ‘A beginner’s Guide to Vegan nutrition’ and ‘Taking action against animal testing in Europe’ along the way. I, however, went for the sweet stuff. Baked goods were prevalent in abundance with Vegan Volumes and Heavenly Cakes proving that being cruelty free doesn’t mean going cake free. The place was heaving, so despite my aim, there were just too many people around the chocolate stalls to get a free sample out edgeways – though once the crowds had died down I managed to snaffle a bar of Choca Mocha Magic from Conscious Chocolate. Yum.

Instead of battling through the masses, I went to see Andrew O’Neill, who’s as funny as he is dairy-free, which is to say 100%. Three thumbs up. He’s a gothic-looking fella who occasionally gets informed that he looks like a f*cking woman – to which he replies ‘Gosh, your mum must be ugly.’ He’s the perfect blend of whimsical and just plain mean, resulting in top-calibre comedy. I particularly enjoyed the scat-nav, a musical interlude, and when he got the whole room to put their fingers and mouths and make them pop – ‘the sound of an octopus pulled off a lino floor’.

All the hilarity stirred up my appetite, so I headed to the highly recommended Veggies stall for a Cheezly burger. Absolutely top quality food coming out of that hatch, and freshly cooked, with oodles of salad also stuffed into the giant bun. Yum. Perhaps the highlight of the day for me was discovering vegan crème eggs, homemade by a woman running her own stall, so probably not available on the internet. However, if she can make them, so can I.
While licking my way through the egg, I browsed Active Distribution’s bookstall, picking up a few ‘zines on anarchy, then had a gander at the Secret Society of Vegans who were doing a roaring trade in T-shirts and stickers. (They had skulls and unicorns on. I’m there.) Spent a bit of time at the Redwoods’ stall as well, tasting all the free samples. Though I usually eschew fake meat, the hot dog style sausages were fairly close to their probably-made-from-meat counterparts.


After filling myself up, it was time for a sit-down, so I went to the workshop on ‘Veganism, anarchism and pacifism; living compassionately’ run by Gerard Ban – who, I discovered, comes from the South East, like me, and who got me in touch with some local vegans. I had hoped the workshop would be quite led, as I wanted to learn more about anarchy, but Gerard treated it more like a seminar, asking leading questions but leaving it up to us to provide the content. This led to quite an interesting discussion about a point which often crops up when talking to non-vegans – the accusation that vegans and animal rights activists care more about animals than they do humans. Most people agreed that this wasn’t always the case, but that it is speciesist to afford more value to human lives and comfort than to animal deaths and suffering. A large part of the problem in this area is that people see animals as inferior, precisely because we have the ability to control and kill them. Most vegans, it was decided, are against harm of any kind coming to any creature – humans included – but since animals don’t have voices of their own, it is important that someone stands up for them. It was also pointed out that many animal issues are human issues, for instance, the feeding of grain to animals instead of people in Third World countries, and the deforestation occurring in order to grow animal feed. A decrease in factory farming would save human lives as well as animal. Everybody wins.

I didn’t necessarily learn much about anarchy in the workshop, but it was made pretty clear from people’s points that the current system is not working and it’s hugely important that people becomes more aware of the alternatives to the consumer driven cruelty-heavy lifestyle which has become the accepted norm all over the world – and which affects both humans and animals negatively.

If you couldn’t make it this year, do make an especial effort to get to it next year, or to the Midland Festival later this year. It’s worth it just to be in the same room as so much vegan cake, the talks and utter wealth of vegan information available is just an optional extra.


Photos By Amelia Wells