Most of the animal rights activism I take part in aims to raise awareness of the cruelty inherent in animal agriculture. But recently, my local animal rights group decided to try something a bit different – we organised a food taster stall. The aim was to show people how delicious plant-based food can be, using food as vegan activism. Many people think they could never go vegan because they would miss certain foods too much. We wanted to show them that we don’t miss out on anything!
We loved the idea of giving away food for free – it attracts more people, and besides, it’s nice to share food! However, we didn’t use the word ‘vegan’ on the signs, thinking that people may have some negative preconceptions.
Our stall was loaded with delicious food like cakes, pastries, flapjacks, veggie sausage rolls and houmous. We also had a selection of leaflets on animal rights issues. Needless to say, we attracted a lot of attention! People quickly approached us and began sampling the food.
The reaction we got was overwhelmingly positive. Nobody was rude or disrespectful about veganism, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. Many people were surprised by how tasty it was. No-one could tell the sausage rolls weren’t made with real meat, and several people incredulously asked us how we made cakes without eggs!
Once people had tried the food, they often started chatting to us about veganism. Almost everyone was interested, and many said they’d been thinking about changing their diets. It was great to be able to answer their questions and give them some relevant information to take away with them. Virtually all the food disappeared within a couple of hours.
The most striking thing about the event was the positive reception we got. It can be hard to talk about veganism in a way that doesn’t make people defensive, as they tend to feel as if their personal choices are being attacked.
The method of activism we do most often is the Earthlings Experience, which involves showing factory farm and slaughterhouse footage on the street. Though this is very effective, and has no doubt convinced many people to change their diets, not everyone reacts well to it – some people can become confrontational or aggressive.
The taster stall was different in that we reached people who may not have stopped to watch our footage in the street. Better still, the act of giving away food made people view us – and therefore veganism – in a positive light.
I think more outreach like this is exactly what the world needs. I’ve said before that it would be incredible if the world viewed vegans as generous and compassionate instead of angry and militant. We need to make veganism seem ordinary rather than cult-like.
If you like the idea of food as activism, consider organising a similar event in your area. But if you aren’t able to do that, don’t despair – there are many other ways of going about it. You could offer to cook something delicious for your family, host a plant-based dinner party for non-vegan friends, bring some vegan cakes to work or tell people about all the junk food that’s accidentally vegan.
It’s a great feeling when you give someone some food and they can’t believe it’s vegan – from their point of view, avoiding animal products suddenly seems much more accessible. One girl came up to our stall, ate a chocolate cupcake and said “Maybe I should go vegan”! That’s the power of food as activism, and I can’t wait to do more of it.