By Emily Newsome
AROUND 3,500 people flocked to the Leeds Town Hall for the Great Yorkshire Vegan Festival on Sunday, which featured 150 outdoor and indoor stalls.
The festival encouraged visitors to support various local charities, animal welfare and vegan groups, and provided information on how to get involved.
The event also hosted an array activities and demonstrations, such as a yoga demonstration and a cooking demo from Ben Howard, in addition to entertainment such as face painting for children.
The event organiser, Victoria Bryceson, said: “The festival began three years ago when I decided I wanted to do something to help promote healthy and ethical living.
“This year we had 3,500 visitors. Last year we had 2,000 so it was a huge increase, I was absolutely amazed!
“I became vegetarian at the age of nine, 21 years ago and also stopped eating eggs.
“I did this as soon as I fully realised what meat was, where it came from and the cruelty involved in the meat industry.
“I then stopped consuming milk and became fully vegan six years ago when I came to terms with the fact that the dairy industry is if anything worse than the meat industry.
“I hope that lots of existing vegans visited the event to find new foods and products that they can enjoy and I hope that lots of non-vegans visited to see how affordable, healthy, fun, easy and enjoyable living a vegan lifestyle can be.”
The stalls at the festival provided samples and testers of all of their products – ranging from cosmetics to catering – in an attempt to not only sell their stock but also to ensure those debating veganism were able to try the products.
Justin Kerswell, campaigns manager for Viva!, an animal welfare organisation with two stalls and also partner to the festival said: “I was absolutely thrilled with the attendance, we saw people were lining up around the block which was great.
“A turnout like this really shows a growing interest in veganism and also a massive amount of interest all across the country.”
PETA UK Director, Elisa Allen, said: “This vegan festival is cause for celebration!
“Of course, you don’t need to go to a vegan festival to try vegan foods, as plant-based meals are now readily available at restaurants, cafés, and supermarkets.
“There’s a vegan revolution happening, as a record number of people – including David Haye, Ellie Goulding, and Pamela Anderson – are ditching flesh and blood in favour of delicious plant-based foods, which are kinder on our bodies, the environment, and, of course, animals.
“The United Nations has called for a global shift toward a vegan diet to combat the worst effects of climate change.
“The top killers in the UK include heart disease, cancer, and strokes – which can be linked to eating meat and dairy foods – and billions of animals are needlessly killed each year to satisfy our meat addiction.”
Tanya Keele, 23, of Skipton Road, Keighley said: “I travelled to Leeds especially for this festival for a few reasons actually.
“I was hoping to find the festival vibe here, but also to experience new things.
“I’m currently a meat eater but I have been deeply considering going vegan recently due to the things you hear at the moment, especially online, about the ethical, health and environmental benefits about going vegan.
“A big thing holding me back is the taste of the food, I’ve eaten meat all my life and it’s a big change.
“But I’ve tried a lot of vegan cheese and sweets today and I’m feeling like making the change is very possible for me.”
All proceeds from the volunteer run festival are donated to animal welfare causes.
People can learn more about the benefits of going vegan and order a free vegan starter kit at PETA.org.uk.