Monday, May 18, 2009

76 Pea Pods in the Big Parade...

On Sunday we went to a giant parade! But this was no ordinary parade. This, my veg curious friends, was none other than New York City's Veggie Pride Parade! As you might be able to guess, this parade featured no elephants or horses, no clowns, no tiny cars.

What it did have was a seven foot tall pea pod vixen, hundreds of dedicated vegetarians and vegans, and a guy on a unicycle... among other zany characters.

Sunday the 17th marked the 2nd Annual Veggie Pride Parade here in NYC - a chance for the young and old of every creed and color to hit the streets and sing the praises of the veg lifestyle. The parade started off in the West Village and wound its way over to Union Square, a place with a decades-long history as a site of subversive, radical, and otherwise dissenting and forward-thinking gatherings (Emma Goldman, anyone?).

I arrived in Union Square shortly after 12:30 pm to await the arrival of paraders and get a first glance of the tablers set up in the square. Represented were a relatively wide range of veg interest groups. The different information presented was as varied as are reasons for vegetarianism, and included angles such as religion, boycotting of factory farming, environmental concerns, cruelty to animals, and personal health. Among the groups represented were Farm Sanctuary, Vegetarian Resource Group - a group I'd not heard of previously and who had quite an impressive spread of educational materials, Mercy for Animals, and Veggie Brothers Caterers from here in the NYC area. And then there was this table - Raw Revolution - one of my favorites because they gave me awesome (free raw vegan gluten free) snacks!

The Square was fairly quiet before the parade landed, which gave us a chance to look at the various groups tabling. There was a really great range of vegetarian and vegan information available, and it was presented in many different ways. One of the most interesting displays, and definitely the most eye-catching, was this one from United Poultry Concerns. Sadly, this depiction of a battery cage is nowhere near as gruesome as the real thing - good thing for me, though, because if it was I wouldn't have been able to look at it, much less photograph it! One look at even a photo of the real thing is most definitely enough to put any sentient person off of his or her fried egg breakfast...

Yes, it was a slow affair on the Square before the parade made its entrance. But when it arrived - what a ruckus! I could barely get a snapshot in edgewise. Paraders ran the gamut, from middleaged folk in windbreakers walking their cute puppydogs, to those in elaborate costumes leading pro veg (or anti meat) chants. And of course there was room for everyone in between, many of whom carried sign posts and bearing images and slogans from simple to complex, from pleading to accusing.

The most incendiary sign I saw was one showing images of farm animals, as kept in a CAFO, shown side-by-side with an image of a populated WWII concentration camp. While I understand that the metaphor is somewhat apt, I did not photograph it; it does not strike me as appropriate. It goes to show, however, how strongly people feel about what is happening in the food industry today - largely so that we can have chicken nuggets and hamburgers on a 99 cent menu.

Once the parade had rolled into the Square and really filled out the joint, two main things happened. One, speakers took to the stage. Sadly the sound system was not the best and I couldn't really hear any of them. Two, the crowd got down to doing what vegetarians (probably) and vegans (definitely!) do best - eating! Various tabling groups provided pizza, sandwiches, and even cake, and all of the food to be gotten was vegan - total score! Yeah we had some pizza. Yeah it was covered in potatoes. Yeah it was freaking awesome! Vegan pizza is pretty much always a rockin' good time, and this was doubly plus so what with being surrounded by hordes of people all totally psyched about the world of veg.

I was super excited to see how many parents had brought their kids out to the event - start 'em young, raise 'em vegan! A few of them were even in costume, and all of them were totally digging on the excitement around them. Kids are so brilliant, and so observant of the world around them - how often is it that kids naturally make the association between animal foods and where they come from? They have to be forced to disassociate the two. And it's so great to see that unnatural forcing not happening! To instead see a whole group of people who want to teach their children the truth about where their food comes from! It does my heart good. All you veg mamas and daddys out there, give yourselves a pat on the back, your kids a big fat kiss, and then celebrate your beautiful veg family with a vegan bar-b-q!

All in all, despite what might have been considered sub-par weather, it was a gorgeous day for living green here in NYC. Vegetarians and vegans from all over the metro area came together to tell the city why we've got such a problem with animal consumption, what can be done about it, and why we think vegan food is so damn good anyway. Who knows, perhaps knowledge gained at the 2009 Veggie Pride Parade has already changed someone's life. Or at the very least, perhaps it has planted a seed.

Until next Monday,

Melissa Bastian.

Post Script - Hey Vegan Etsy team! There are totally enough of us in the NYC area to get a table at this event next year. Who's in?


VeganCraftastic said...

Very cool!

veganessa said...

Wow, looks like a fantastic day.