This weekend was the 4th edition of the Veg Fest near my home town of Cesena in Emilia Romagna. This has been an annual event for the past five years (one year was skipped as the original venue fell through).
For the past two years the festival has been held at Parco Fellini in Gambettola, a small town situated midway between Cesena and Rimini.
The organisers are the local group Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV) whose broad goal is to promote Vegetarianism/Veganism as a more humane lifestyle choice.
I attend as one of the converted, having been a vegetarian for almost 40 years now. These days, I count myself more as a demi-vegan. To fall short of being a full-on vegan as this would mean the stiff challenge of foregoing most beers, wines, cheeses, cappuccino, dairy ice cream etc. etc. I’m working on it!
It is interesting to note the social changes over the past five years using this Veg Fest as a subjective indicator of some subtle ways in which attitudes are shifting.
I think the main thing I’ve noticed is that the campaigning has become less confrontational and that a gentler form of propaganda is in evidence.
Previously it was common to be confronted by horrific posters taken at slaughterhouses, laboratories or at hunts. These pictures of animals, or what was left of them, were designed to shock complacent carnivores out of their routine consumption of meat.
I was never a great fan of these tactics even though I shared the outrage of the protesters. These photos are so stomach churning and hideous that you can’t really look at them for long and it seems to be an overly aggressive form of persuasion. A small percentage may change their eating habits as a result of being exposed to such images but most will just simply look away.
A better strategy is to advocate a compassionate and eco-friendly lifestyle which is not built solely on guilt over this needless suffering.
This also seems to be the thinking behind Funny Vegan, a glossy bi-monthly magazine based in Milan which launched in September 2012. This is pitched at an Italian readership but it is also possible to download an ‘International Edition’ in English by consenting to share your e-mail address.
The magazine has, as you would imagine, a lot of features on food and drink but you’ll also find articles on holidays, exercise, gadgets, cosmetics and fashion. The aim of the publishers is to show that living without cruelty can be stylish, simple, healthy and, above all, fun. By these means the writers hope to reshape the conventional image of veggies as ragged radicals who sacrifice pleasure for the sake of their principles.
In the not so distant past a publication like this would have been closely tied with organisations like Friends Of The Earth, Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, advocating activism above consumerism.
Funny Vegan is not aligned to any campaign group so any association with protest tends to more cultural than political. In other words, they are more likely to run a feature on John and Yoko’s bed in for peace than report on the covert operations of the Animal Liberation Front.
This magazine seems to mirror the changing character of the Veg Fest.
Those attending the 4th edition seem to have more of a smart hippy mindset and dress code than the first edition where anarcho-punks were more prominent.
In my wildest dreams I see this is an indicator of a gentle revolution whereby a wholesale shift in the nature of society occurs simply by virtue of the fact that veggie sympathisers are the coolest people!