It has just gotten easier to go Vegan in Manchester. On Wednesday 8th October, Humanities in Public (HiP) hosted the first Veggie Fair, in which Manchester Metropolitan University societies and local animal rights campaigners came to the university to promote and raise awareness of all things animal loving. Co-convenor of the event, Gervase Phillips told us, “This is about the humanities meaning something and going beyond the walls of the university”, which they succeed in doing by bringing in outside voluntary animal rights groups and vegetarian groups to talk about animals and how an everyday student of MMU can help animals.
In the building stood around ten stalls, all with their own attractions and activities. The RSPCA stall promoted animal welfare in shelters and advertised their new charity shop, selling jazzy shirts, located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, as their representative told me, whilst the MetMunch and Cordon Vert, as an offshoot of the national Vegetarian Society, both offered food cooked on the stalls themselves, filling the atrium with an amazing smell of home cooked food. MetMunch in particular put a Victorian spin on the event by cooking recipes from nineteenth century cookery books, which were also on display at the Special Collections stall.
Also in attendance was the new campus VegSoc, who as well as hosting socials, gather together campus Vegetarians and Vegans to go to animal rights panels, similar to the ones at the centre of the event. One MMU student, Francesca, said, “I didn’t know about the wide range of vegan and vegetarian things you can actually eat!”
There were two panels and a few speakers coming in to talk about veganism and animal rights. The first panel consisted of Martin the Mod of the Manchester Vegan Society, Lynn ‘Veganchick’ Mottershead, and John Robb from the bands Membranes and Gold Blade, who were there to talk about veganism and the vegetarian lifestyle, answering a few questions on going vegan and the rumours surrounding veganism. On the rumour that being a vegetarian is expensive, John Robb blamed the meat corporations, arguing that ‘they come up with little handy slogans like ‘vegetarianism is expensive’ and they make it up, so we have to counter accusations that aren’t even true.”
In my interviews with the stalls I found that the vegetarian and vegan societies were keen to promote the cause, of course, but also to dispel the argument that being vegan is weird. Lynn Mottershead of Manchester Vegans told me “We don’t want people to see Vegans as other, we’re you! We just happen to be Vegan.” In addition to promoting veganism, Unicorn Grocery of Chorlton’s stall offered ethical and locally grown produce, from fruit and vegetables to hand made moisturisers.
As well as vegan stalls, there were also a host of animal rights activist groups, most of which gave talks on their charities and hosted the second panel, such as Captive Animals Protection Society whose work is currently focussing on Animal Captivity in Zoos, Sea Shepherd who focus in civil disobedience and on the ground group action and The Blackfish who concentrate on overfishing.
After the second panel, Dr Dan Lyons gave a talk about his work for Centre for Animals for Social Justice. He said, “Our aim is to conduct research and promote advocacy for animals to be recipients of social justice. The problem that animals face at the moment is that their welfare is not considered in public policy, never mind protected.”
The event concluded with a screening of the affecting and harrowing documentary Blackfish, which tells the story of the orcas in SeaWorld who are badly mistreated in their conditions in captivity. This documentary I found to be a perfect ending to the event, showing evidence for vegetarianism and animal rights on screen.
Overall, the event was a huge success and as the co-convenor for the event, Wahida Khandker, said, “Today has been amazing. There’s a lovely atmosphere, there’s lots going on, there’s a good turn out and its just been really successful.”
Photographs by Callum Willmott