This is your third year leading the festival planning committee. It’s a lot of work! What keeps you motivated?
The festival is a lot of work, but it’s also the biggest advocacy event for farm animals in the state. On top of that, the feedback we get from attendees is incredibly positive. It’s exciting to be part of something like that.
I also enjoy seeing it go well each year. Every festival has gone quite smoothly, without any major problems. If I believed in fate, I’d be worried that I just jinxed it with that statement, but fortunately for me I’m a skeptic.
How do you think this festival fits in with the animal advocacy movement?
This festival does a lot of the things that I think are most important for the movement. First of all, it attracts a lot of people to come try tasty vegan food and learn more about animal issues. We provide a number of learning opportunities, including speakers, literature free for the taking, and our Pay-Per-View table where people are paid $1 to watch a four minute video on factory farming.
It also helps build a stronger animal-friendly community in the Twin Cities. I really think as a movement we need to spend a lot more time thinking about how we can support people after they take their first steps towards helping animals. Right now the movement spends a lot of effort on encouraging those first steps, which is obviously crucial, but if people don’t feel well supported then it’s quite likely that they’ll go back to their old habits. The festival shows people that they can be part of a fun, lively community of people who share their belief that animals deserve respect, compassion, and consideration.
What have you enjoyed most so far?
We have food at all of our committee meetings and I’ve learned that our committee members are great chefs! I, on the other hand, was lazy and bought us some pizzas when it was my turn.
What are you most looking forward to at the Veg Fest?
I’m very excited about our new cooking demos. This is something that attendees have consistently asked for. When I’ve attended other festivals I’ve seen that these demos are quite popular. These demos add another dimension of education to the festival and give us an excuse to hand out more free food samples, which is always good.
What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?
The overall consumption of animal products has finally started shrinking, after decades of growth. Surveys consistently show that vast majority of Americans agree that animals should not suffer, and more and more people are taking action on that belief.
I’m also optimistic just from seeing all the great volunteers who help Compassionate Action for Animals out. Recently I went with a great group of CAA and The Humane League to leaflet Warped Tour in Shakopee and we handed out over 13,000 leaflets to attendees! We also have a great group of festival planners this year. These people are willing to spend the better part of a year putting this event together without getting paid. That’s amazing!
Imagine you’re talking to somebody who isn’t vegetarian and is, um, a little afraid of you. What would you say to them to convince them to come to the festival?
I can see why they’d be afraid of me. I am a well known mega badass motherbleeper. But once I’d gotten them in my headlock of love, I’d tell them that the festival is a great place to meet fun people, try delicious food, and that no one will be forcing anything down their throat. We make all of the learning activities at the festival strictly opt-in.
What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?
Are there other hobbies?
I love traveling to other cities (to devour tasty vegan food). When I’m at home (and not devouring tasty vegan food) I like reading and playing video games. I don’t have any really interesting hobbies like building robots or trapeze performance.
What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?
When I was at the Animal Rights National Conference in July I had an opportunity to visit the Gentle Barn sanctuary in Santa Clarita. We met a lot of great animals that are often considered “useful” just for meat or wool. When I was walking around the barnyard visiting some of the goats, pigs, sheep, and turkeys, I noticed that Duchess the llama was following me around. Several times, I turned around and said hello, but she was quite shy. She sniffed my hand but wasn’t really ready to let me touch her, though she was perfectly happy to stare directly at me from about two feet away. It was like having a shy, adorable stalker.
What’s your favorite vegetable?
I’ll go with collard greens, but I like pretty much all leafy greens except iceberg lettuce.