I just returned from the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s 29th Annual Vegetarian Food Festival and I am on a high! So excited and inspired by all the wonderful people I saw and met. Surrounded by other Vegans all weekend. Not having to explain why I don’t eat animal products or where I get my protein from!
Of course, one of the benefits of this fabulous event is the opportunity to eat so much great tasting vegan food. I was particularly spoiled this year, because as a volunteer I was assigned to assist the celebrity chefs’ prepare their demos. I met the charming Roberto Martini, personal chef of Ellen Degeneres and Portia Rossi, as well the talented Allen Roettinger. I also had a chance to talk to Del Sroufe author of the Forks Over Knifes cookbook, which I bought at last year’s food festival. Del made some delicious black bean soup and a tropical salad, both of which will be in his new cookbook, to be released in December.
Today I watched as vegan strongman Patrick Baboumian set a new Guiness World record for the strongest man. He carried 550kg! (1213 lbs) on his back 10 metres across the stage! He did this to prove to the world that you can be healthy and strong on a vegan diet, and after accomplishing this amazing feat the first words out of his mouth were “Vegan Power”. Not only is the strongest man in the world vegan, but so are several other world class athletes, including former NHLer Georges Laraque, UFC champ James Wilks and ultra-marathon star Rich Roll, who all joined Patrik on stage after this. Rich Roll who in 2010 completed 5 ironman triathalons on five different Hawaiian islands in under a week, is ranked one of the 25 fittest men in the world. So, if you think you can’t be fit and strong on a vegan diet, these men are clearly proving you wrong!
By far my favourite part of the entire weekend was listening to the men and women who founded farm sanctuaries like Gene Baur, Kathy Stevens and Jenny Brown. Not only are they saving the lives of discarded and tortured farm animals, they are changing the way people perceive of these animals. Showing us that they are living, feeling, beings, with unique personalities. They matter. They have the right to live full, happy lives and are not commodities for us to use and abuse.
Gene Baur is my new hero. He co-founded Farm Sanctuary, the first sanctuary for farmed animals, 28 years ago and in spite of the horrors he sees he believes that most people are compassionate and if educated and shown another way, many will make the choice to live in such a way that reduces the pain and suffering to animals. And make no mistake. It is a choice. Every day how you choose to eat affects the lives of these farmed animals. Choose compassion. You have the choice. They do not.
I bought Gene’s book Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food in the hope that I can learn from him and make a fraction of impact that he does every day.