Today Western Animal Rights Network is holding their annual VeganFest, giving you the chance to chow down on some delicious grub and feel okay doing it.

The free event in the Viking Union features vegan food, live music, games and information on veganism and animal rights. VeganFest is co-sponsored by the Associated Students Environmental Center.

Corey McCartney is the president of the Western Animal Rights Network.

“It’s a club of students that aim to educate the community on animal rights,” explained McCartney.

“There’s a lot of things that go on every day that we support– like when we buy products and eat food– that people just aren’t aware of. I think the biggest thing is that it’s just not well known because the factories and companies that are doing these things don’t people to know about them. So we kind of work as a group to make things like that public and well known, so people can make more informed decisions.”

McCartney describes animal rights as a “needy cause.”

“A lot of people just don’t think about it, really. We get to make a difference. We talk to people, hand out information. We see a lot of people consider things they learn from WARN when they go about eating and [shopping].”

In the 1940s, two United Kingdom animal rights advocates became disenchanted with fellow vegetarians’ consumption of animal byproducts such as milk and cheese. They formed the first vegan society, condensing the word “vegetarian” down to what founder Donald Watson called its “logical conclusion.”

VeganFest has been the premier campus event of its type for a number of years, and this years’ offerings seem to destined to equally satisfy. WARN and their co-sponsors, the Environmental Center, canvassed far and wide for donations and deals. Big name sponsors include the Bellingham Co-Op, the Alternative Baking Company and Tofutti.

McCartney hopes the event will help to dispel some common misconceptions concerning the vegan lifestyle.

“I think a lot of people get the idea that it’s not healthy, not natural or good for your body; that it’s kind of pointless. I think it’d be good if people understood that if you do it right, it can be extremely healthy. You’ve just got to know what to eat.”

To that end, VeganFest features a variety of animal product-free foods, ranging from burritos and veggie burgers to delicious desert options.

“People don’t know you can have this dish that is good and vegan and healthy for you and it just tastes good at the same time.”

According to McCartney, students can swing in, try a dish they like the look of and leave happy, full and informed.

“There’s going to be some awesome tasting free food that anyone can enjoy,” said McCartney.

“If you’re even halfway considering what goes on with animal rights, you could come back and check it out.”

VeganFest 2005, presented by the Western Animal Rights Network and the Environmental Center, is Monday, May 23, starting at 6 p.m. in Viking Union room 565.