Unny Nambudiripad

Unny is a co-founder and the Executive Director of Compassionate Action for Animals. Please see his biography.

Meatless Monday Proclamation for Minneapolis!

Cam Gordon

Cam Gordon, a member of the Minneapolis City Council, recently issued a proclamation urging residents to observe Monday as “Meatless Monday” to improve their health, protect animals, and protect the environment. The proclamation recognizes that if Minneapolis residents ate meat-free just one day a week, they would save more than 1.2 million animals from factory farms each year and support the city’s efforts to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

Cam is a longtime vegetarian and has been a member of the Minneapolis City Council since 2006. In his time on the City Council, Cam has focused on ecological sustainability, nonviolence, grassroots democracy, and social economic justice. Cam is the most recent city official to support Meatless Monday, an international campaign aimed at reducing our carbon footprint and lowering rates of preventable chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Stop by Twin Cities Veg Fest this weekend to learn more about Meatless Monday. Cam will announce the proclamation at 9:45am by the entrance to the Great Hall in Coffman Memorial Union. Attending the festival, you’ll sample delicious vegan food and discover ways that you can easily incorporate meatless meals into your weekly routine.

Meet Raven, the Advertising Coordinator for Twin Cities Veg Fest

Raven-Dreier-Farr

How did you get interested in advocating for animals?

I was raised vegetarian for ethical reasons and remain interested in animal advocacy to this day.

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

Animal advocacy is continuously evolving for the better. There are a lot of very bright people developing and adopting innovative, evidence-based methods for conducting advocacy.

Imagine you’re talking to somebody who isn’t vegetarian and is — um, a little afraid of you. How would you convince them to come to the festival?

We have a large and diverse crowd at Twin Cities Veg Fest. It’s free and open to all. You don’t have to commit to anything by attending. Just drop by for 15 minutes or hang around for several hours and check out whatever you please.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

Movies, traveling, and most of all learning and experiencing new things.

What’s your favorite vegetable?

Just about anything other than zucchini is fine by me, and even then, I find zucchini bread and tempura pretty good. So I suppose any vegetable cooked properly is a favorite.

An Interview with Taylor Radig, Former Undercover Investigator

Former undercover investigator Taylor Radig was the most recent addition to the Twin Cities Veg Fest schedule of speakers. Those of us who attended the Animal Rights National Conference last July got to hear Taylor Radig speak about her experience as an undercover investigator filming animal abuse on factory farms. We were so moved by Taylor’s firsthand account of the cruelty she witnessed that we wanted to bring her to the Twin Cities to share her powerful story with our local community.

I got to interview Taylor recently about how she got started in animal advocacy, her thoughts on the movement for animal liberation, and what she enjoys doing with her time when not speaking out for animals.

Can you tell me about yourself?

I was raised in California, and just graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology. After interning for The Humane Society of the United States, I was an Outreach Intern for Compassion Over Killing, until later becoming one of their undercover investigators. Personally, I like to think of myself as extroverted, friendly, caring, and curious. I’m extremely interested in the intersection between Christian philosophy and animal advocacy, a topic I wish to pursue more fully in the near future. I just recently moved to Denver, Colorado with plans of starting an intentional community and to continue being active for animals. Overall, my main passion is creating a more loving and compassionate world.

How did you get involved in animal advocacy?

I was 17 years old when I first saw an undercover investigation from PETA, something that changed my life forever. It was only a week later that I baked over 300 vegan cookies to give out with leaflets in the middle of my high school campus. From that moment, I started to more fully internalize the idea that for animals, we’re their only major defense. Being vegan is amazing, but the animals needed more from me. Later, I got involved with some amazing activists in Los Angeles and Orange County who took me under their wing.

What makes you optimistic about the future of the movement?

Though there are many exciting things that have happened in our movement recently, I’ve seen a revitalization of the importance of effective advocacy, “Nick Coonian” style [editor: Nick Cooney was a speaker at the 2013 Twin Cities Veg Fest], something that I find drastically important for our movement’s growth. I also see a new surge of alliance building by grassroots organizations, a tactic that has historically been extremely effective for a variety of movements. Lastly, I’ve seen more people building strong communities from their activist circles, something that I think is important for the vitality of the movement.

What’s your favorite food?

As stereotypical as this my sound, I LOVE salad, but I also love a good sandwich!

What hobbies do you enjoy?

On a typical weekend, I find myself reading non-fiction, hiking, doing vegan outreach, and watching documentaries. I also really enjoy trying new things. Some of the things I’ve tried lately are cliff jumping, pyrography, rock climbing, and making hard vegan cheeses! For the last couple years, I’ve applied my love of trying new things to my own personal growth; I find myself continuously trying personal experiments that help me gain new perspectives and skills. Some are small and silly, like smiling at more strangers, and some more complicated.

At the festival on Sunday, September 28, Taylor will be speaking at 2:30pm about how she became an undercover investigator. She’ll talk about the emotional challenges she endured, and she’ll share stories of the animals who she encountered. She will also tell you about how she was ironically charged with animal cruelty and outed after an investigation of a calf-raising facility in Colorado.

All speaker presentations will be held in the Mississipi Room on the third floor of Coffman Memorial Union.

Meet Brita, Our Social Media Coordinator

Brita Bengtson

Twin Cities Veg Fest has seen an explosion in our social media this year, and Brita Bengtson is behind the magic. Let’s get to know her!

How did you get interested in advocating for animals?

I first went vegetarian at age twelve and then vegan a few years after that. Back then, I thought animal advocacy had to involve memorizing lots of facts like how many pounds of wheat it takes to make a pound of meat. I wasn’t very successful in my efforts, and for many years I decided to be content with the fact that I was eating a plant-based diet and minimizing how I was personally harming animals.

For various reasons, I decided to get back into animal advocacy in 2011 which led to me being on the committee for the very first Twin Cities Veg Fest. I’ve been involved with TCVF and various other CAA projects since then. Through my work with CAA, I know now that animal advocacy is not about memorizing and spouting mind-numbing facts; it’s about engaging with people about the compassion that’s already in their hearts and showing them how easy and rewarding it can be to embrace their empathy and live their compassionate values.

What have you enjoyed most so far?

Oh, the food, for sure. Should I also admit that I attend committee meetings for the food? The one I missed was the one with vegan donuts. I learned my lesson and won’t miss anymore.

What are you most looking forward to at Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I’m excited to see if the attendance numbers double or triple. Are we ready? [Editor: YES WE ARE!]

What are some of the ways people can use social media to promote the festival?

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest. RSVP to the event on Facebook and invite your friends. Like and share our posts. Create your own posts about Twin Cities Veg Fest, hashtag them #TCVegfest2014 and #CelebrateCompassion. We also encourage people to take photos of their favorite food products and local restaurant food they want to see at Twin Cities Veg Fest and hashtag those posts #TCVegFestWantsYou .

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

I think it’s cool that billionaires like Bill Gates and others are investing heavily in compassionate companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods. (Look for their products Beyond Eggs and Just Mayo!) They recognize that “the future of meat is vegan.” Being in the animal advocacy movement these days is like riding a wave, and it’s a lot of fun.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

Would it be weird to say one of my hobbies is social media? I love posting to my own personal Instagram account @britamaia and that highlights most of what I do in my free time… go to music shows, bike around, take in the sights, travel, enjoy my companion animals, and of course I also take photos of delicious vegan food (which I then devour).

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

I try to go to animal sanctuaries whenever I get the chance. Luckily, we have one right here in Minneapolis called Chicken Run Rescue. At my last visit there, I spent some time with Cal, a rooster who lost his feet to frostbite. It was clear to me that he loves his life, and I enjoyed sharing part of it with him, if only for an afternoon.

What’s your favorite vegetable?

I really like them all except for green beans. I guess I would say avocado is my favorite even though I know it’s technically a fruit.

Meet Our Media Outreach Coordinator

Megan Kosse

Megan Kosse is new to the Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee this year and handles our media relations. Let’s get to know her.

How did you get interested in advocating for animals?

Going vegan three years ago sparked my interest in advocating for animals. As I learned more about veganism and animals used for food, I wanted to help others interested in following a compassionate lifestyle. I started exploring volunteer opportunities and met some of the wonderful activists in the Twin Cities animal advocacy community.

What have you enjoyed most so far about being on the festival planning committee?

I’ve really enjoyed learning about all of the great things happening in the local animal advocacy community. It’s been great to see how many businesses in the area offer vegan options. As an added bonus, we have awesome vegan food at every committee meeting!

What are you most looking forward to at Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I’m really excited to see what new products and samples our exhibitors bring. The Twin Cities Veg Fest is a great way to find new companies and try out new products.

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

I’m optimistic about the animal advocacy movement because more and more people know about veganism and the issues affecting animals used for food. It seems like there are far more vegan options and products available than even just a few years ago. There are tons of companies selling products that make being vegan easy and exciting.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

Blogging about tasty food! In my spare time, I’ve been veganizing some of my family’s recipes and posting them on my blog. My grandmother has been the preeminent baker in my family for years, and I’m slowly working through her repertoire of recipes. When I’m not revamping recipes, I spend a lot of time playing with our two rescue dogs.

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

One of our dogs, Whitney, was rescued from a puppy mill last July. She was scared of everything when we adopted her, rarely moved around the house on her own, and certainly didn’t play like a normal dog. In the last few months, she’s really started to open up. She’s now roaming freely around the house and initiating play with us and our other dog, Jack. I was even greeted with a tail wag! While it was sad to see how shut down she was at first, it’s been a fun experience to watch her personality blossom.

What’s your favorite vegetable?

I absolutely love sweet potato, although kale comes in as a close second. Sweet potato is the perfect vegetable any time of year: it’s great on the grill in the summer or in stews in the winter. It’s also ridiculously easy to cook, which is always a plus.

Interview With Unny Nambudiripad

Unny Nambudiripad

My name Unny Nambudiripad, and I’m the Executive Director of Compassionate Action for Animals. I’ve been interviewing the festival committee members for this blog, and I almost forgot about me. I’m also on the committee, so now it’s time to interview…myself!

I sat down with myself (as I always do, since I have no choice) and asked myself about myself.

What have you enjoyed most so far?

I’ve enjoyed the feeling that I’ve helped organize Twin Cities Veg Fest before. Of course, there’s plenty of time for everything to fall apart, but I’m confident that the committee knows how to plan this event and can handle unexpected challenges.

What are you most looking forward to at the Veg Fest?

I look forward to being completely overwhelmed talking to so many people who I care about and who care about animals. Well, I guess I don’t exactly look forward to being overwhelmed. Maybe I dread that. But I do look forward being immersed in a crowd of people who care about animals.

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

Young people! Who says the youth are lazy or apathetic? Just look at our young volunteers and supporters, and you’ll understand why I find them inspiring, motivated, and — yes, even wise.

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?

It’s easy to blend in at this event. You don’t have to talk to people much if you don’t want to. You can sample food, attend cooking demonstrations, listen to speakers, and match the wallpaper if you want. You can still get a lot out of it even if you’re shy and not sure why you’re there.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

I enjoy playing cards. My family plays this ridiculously difficult game called 56. It takes months of learning just to be a mediocre 56 player. It’s a team game typically played three against three and involves a lot of strategy. We enjoy jostling and competing with each other.

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

I’m not going to answer your question, Unny. Wait a minute — I’m Unny! I’ll make up my own question. I’ll tell you about an unpleasant experience I had with a non-human animal. I once met a very good-natured dog with a stomach problem. He farted a lot. His caretaker is an attractive woman, but when I think of her, all I can think of is her dog’s farts. Despite this, I do not advocate cruelty or even death to this dog. That’s compassion, right?

What’s your favorite vegetable?

Broccoli! It’s not as hip as kale, but it goes great in replacing green beans in this spicy peanut eggplant and shallot stew. Yum!

Meet Our Cooking Demo Coordinator

Chris Homsey

Chris Homsey is a wonderful addition to the Twin Cities Veg Fest planning committee. She is coordinating our cooking demos, and we’re excited to work with her!

How did you get involved in planning Twin Cities Veg Fest?

I attended Veg Fest for the first time last year and had a great time trying the food samples and listening to the excellent presentations. Then one day I saw on Facebook that a committee was forming for this year’s festival, and I decided to get involved!

What have you enjoyed most so far?

Working with a very creative and talented group of people on the committee. Everyone has their own unique backgrounds and skills that they bring to the table, and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work on a common goal with all of them. Plus we always have delicious food at our meetings.

What are you most looking forward to at Twin Cities Veg Fest?

The cooking demos! This is the first year that chef-instructors will be demonstrating recipes and handing out samples, so I am excited to see how it all turns out. A lot of the recipes will be appealing to those who are not necessarily vegetarian, and we welcome everyone no matter where they fall along the dietary spectrum.

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

Compared to even a few years ago, there are so many more mainstream restaurants, shops, and companies that offer food and fashion with no animal components. Vegan/vegetarianism is becoming less of a “fringe” niche, and companies realize it is in their interest to offer options to those who wish to avoid meat and its by-products.

This is the first year we’re doing cooking demos. What do you think it will add to the festival?

More opportunities to eat. 😉 Aside from that, it’s a great opportunity to show the audience that vegan food can be easy to prepare, as well as tasty. There’s no need to worry about going hungry or missing out if you decide to reduce or eliminate meat from your diet. In fact, vegan food can sometimes be pretty indulgent.

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?

There is no reason to feel intimidated! The festival is not designed for vegetarians only. The exhibitors and organizers are a very welcoming bunch, so just come and check out whatever aspects of the festival you find interesting. There are so many experiences and activities to take in, including food samples and vendors, cooking demos, inspiring speakers, and even a kids’ area.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

I’m a bit of a tennis freak. I never really played as a child but took a lesson a few years ago, and now I’m hooked! In addition to the physical exercise, I love the mental aspects of it. When I’m not playing tennis or captaining tennis teams, I enjoy biking the trails near my house, walking with my dog Mika, and playing word games.

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

One that really stands out is getting right in there with the pigs at Farm Sanctuary in Upstate New York (my husband and I spent our honeymoon there). Some of the pigs are very gregarious, and close to a thousand pounds! It can be a bit intimidating when they approach you to have their backs scratched, but they are very friendly and love attention. A common misconception is that pigs by nature are mean or dangerous, but in reality they are very gentle when treated well and given enough room to freely move about. Can you tell I really love pigs???

What’s your favorite vegetable?

I love orange starchy vegetables like winter squash and sweet potatoes. And it may be a vegan cliché, but I honestly adore kale.

Interview with Celeste Hill

Celeste Hill

Celeste Hill has been an animal activist since the 1990’s. This year, she joined our social media team and coordinates our Pinterest and Tumblr accounts. Let’s hear from her!

How did you get involved in planning the Veg Fest?

After attending the past two years, and I believe it is an excellent way to provide people with the resources to follow a compassionate vegan lifestyle. When I was at the festival, I ran into Unny, CAA’s Executive Director, and told him I was interested in helping at the next one.

What have you enjoyed most so far?

It is always fun getting to know the volunteers involved with Veg Fest. I’ve learned so much about all that goes into organizing one. Along with that, there are many new vegan-friendly vendors and restaurants I’ve discovered in the Twin Cities through the planning process. The list just keeps growing! Most importantly though, I think it will be fantastic to see the reach of the festival grow, as it has each year.

What are you most looking forward to at the Veg Fest?

Every year, what I look forward to most is the food from vendors and the samples. There are always new ones to try out! It is also inspiring to see so many people interested in veg options.

You’ve been involved in animal advocacy for many years. What makes you optimistic about the animal movement?

It is so easy to follow a vegan lifestyle these days. New businesses and options pop up so quickly it can be hard to keep up. It makes me optimistic to see the success of these new ventures, and their popularity continue to grow each year. I believe this demonstrates the message is reaching people, and they are making positive changes.

What’s the easiest way that a supporter can get the word out about the festival?

Share, share, share on social media. That includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Twin Cities Veg Fest has a presence on all of these platforms.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

I love spending time outdoors – it could be gardening, hiking, swimming, birding, camping or having a vegan cookout (which does involve devouring vegan food). When I’m not outside, I love to read, bake, volunteer, and spend time with friends and family.

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

I visited the local Chicken Run Rescue. It was amazing to learn about the social lives of the birds there. Each and every chicken has their own personality and I enjoyed spending a little time getting to know them.

What’s your favorite vegetable?

It would be a challenge to choose only one. I love butternut squash, zucchini, kale, and bell peppers, all of which I have growing in my garden this year.

Interview with Dave Rolsky

Dave Rolsky

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.

Meet our Speaker Coordinator

At Twin Cities Veg Fest, we host several speakers who speak about animals and legislation, plant-based nutrition, animal ethics, and more. Meet our speaker coordinator, Annette Gaudreau, who recruits and schedules these wonderful advocates. We don’t have a picture of her, so if you want to see her, come to the festival!

How did you get interested in advocating for animals?

I became a vegetarian at 17 because I hated the idea of killing animals, and became vegan 2 years ago.  I’ve volunteered at animal shelters for years and joined CAA four years ago.  I wanted to raise awareness that you can eat a delicious, nutritious, fully satisfying meal without contributing to harming animals.

What have you enjoyed most so far?

Meeting so many wonderful people who also care about animals welfare.  Also, vegan chocolate candy!

What are you most looking forward to at Twin Cities Veg Fest?

That’s a toss up between the speakers who are always informative and compassionate, the food which just gets more amazing every year, and the oh so friendly people who attend.  I love handing a non-veg attendee a vegan food sample and seeing their reaction (“wow, I didn’t really know what to expect but this is really good!”).

What makes you optimistic about the animal advocacy movement?

The Vegan/Vegetarian movement is growing.  The cause of animal welfare is being heard at a political level unlike even 10 years ago. More people are becoming aware of the plight of farm-raised animals and even non-veg folks are starting to speak up about this injustice.

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?  

You won’t believe how tasty vegan food can be.  It’s not all granola and raw carrots.  There is food from so many countries and so tasty you won’t even miss the meat (and you’ll say “wanna bet?” and I’ll say “just try it”).  You won’t believe the variety of vendors!  There are tons of cool and clever t-shirts for sale. Body/bath products!  Baby products!  Free food samples galore!  Everyone is truly welcoming and you won’t feel out of place at all.

What hobbies do you enjoy (besides devouring tasty vegan food)?

I scuba dive, ride my bike (bike trail 1/2 block from my house), ride horses (helps that family members own some), refinish furniture, reading (I upload new books to my Kindle so often I don’t think I’ll ever read all of them!), cook (I have several friends who serve as willing guinea pigs for new recipes).

What’s a fun experience that you’ve had with a non-human animal?

While diving I got to hold a shark!

What’s your favorite vegetable?

One?  OK, well that’s not even a fair question!  Grilled asparagus wrapped with soy bacon, roasted tomatoes filled with quinoa, nutritional yeast and spices, eggplant and tomatoes cooked with red wine and vegan mozzarella,  broccoli and cauliflower in an alfredo sauce.  Ok, thanks,now I’m hungry.