By tuli alexander.

AS Club Western Animal Rights Network (WARN) is holding its annual VeganFest from 6 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 14 in the Performing Arts Center. This barbecue-themed gathering will feature bands Rise N’ Shine, Rooftops and Addition. Tickets, which can be purchased at the event, are $4 for Western students with ID and $6 for general admission.

WARN features this annual event to promote awareness about the millions of animals that suffer horrible existences and die every year for human consumption, said WARN President Rebekah Kraft.

VeganFest is the biggest WARN event of the year, said club member Casey Knowles, who has been vegan for five years.

“It’s a showcase to the rest of the student body that vegan food is delicious no matter who you are,” she said.

WARN member Cassie Rothenberg, who has been vegan for about a year, said she did it for environmental reasons.
“I’m really against factory farming,” she said. “It’s not just a matter of eating meat, it’s wrong just how it’s done.”

Knowles said she was vegan for moral reasons.

“It just seemed to me the only logical thing I could do to align myself with my values,” she said. “I’ve always had pets. If I didn’t like the idea of eating a dog or cat, why should I like the idea of eating a chicken or a cow?”

Kraft, who’s been vegan for two and a half years, said she’d been vegetarian for five years prior to that before she learned more about vegetarianism.

“I learned how ‘dairy cows’ suffer the same fate as ‘beef cattle’ once they stop being profitable and how chickens live such horribly dirty, cramped lives are all eventually sent to be slaughtered,” she said. “After that, to me it seemed that if I thought vegetarianism was right, it became more of a question of how could I not be vegan?”

Vegan options are available in all three of the campus dining commons as well as in the retail sector, said Lisa Philbrook, director of business development for University Dining.

In the last five or six years, campus dining services has made an effort to carry labeled vegan options because there was more of a student demand for it, Philbrook said.

Although consumption of vegan products on campus is relatively small, Philbrook said it was part of the dining services’ responsibility to serve the needs of students.
Students are always welcome to give feedback or submit their favorite vegan recipes either by submitting a printed or online comment card or by telling a manager on staff, she said.

Some of the food cost for VeganFest was offset by a donation through University Residences. When students support aspects of the university’s mission, there’s an account through campus dining services that allows some of the food costs to be offset, said Willy Hart, director of University Residences.

According to Kraft, Hart agreed to donate the money because the event will help promote diversity on campus and because veganism supports Western’s mission statement to support a sustainable campus.

The foods featured at VeganFest will be soy-based burgers and hot dogs, vegan potato salad, grilled vegetables, and vegan apple pie and dairy-free ice cream.

The barbecue theme was chosen to show people that they don’t have to give up their social attachments to food if they choose to eat vegan, Kraft said.

Knowles said she is worried that meat-eating people will poke fun at the group and say that because they’re serving tofu hot dogs and burgers, they’re trying to simulate eating meat.

“I would argue against that,” Knowles said. “It’s about the experience and memories of childhood barbecues.”