Written By Sason Bishope Parry
Photos by Sason Bishope Parry
The San Francisco World Vegan Festival rolled into beautiful Golden Gate Park on October 22nd and celebrated its 24th year of championing the vegan lifestyle. The award-winning festival kicked off at 11 a.m. and featured everything from food to nonprofits to vegan fashion and eco-friendly brands. It’s incredible that this forward-thinking festival that caters to everything vegan has been going strong for twenty-four years since it debuted in 1999. The festival, organized by the San Francisco Vegan Society (SFVS), is one of the largest and longest-running vegan festivals in the United States.
“For over two decades, SFVS has staged the World Vegan Festival to educate folks about the many advantages of a plant-based diet and to inspire people to adopt an ethical, healthy, and sustainable way of life.” Said San Francisco Vegan Society President Christy Griffin
Thousands of vegans and non-vegan patrons alike brazed the fall rain to attend the festival and learn more about Veganism and, of course, sample and check out all the vegan offerings. SFVS and all of its amazing volunteers did an incredible job of turning the iconic county fair building into an indoor and outdoor massive educational vegan haven of excitement for fans to explore. The festival featured exciting demos from top vegan chefs, vegan panels, music, a variety of sustainable cruelty-free vendors, and more than 30 vegan food vendors. There were awesome and enticing vegan food and products at every turn.
Some of these included plant-based Salvadorian food from Nixta Foods – their vegan pupusas were over the top * Instant and healthy vegan oatmeal by Health Bear * A variety of tasty mushroom elixirs and mood-enhancing tonics by Sporgy Mushrooms * Incredible vegan ice cream by local favourites Eclipse and Mr. Dewie’s that’s so good you would never miss dairy * Mouthwatering vegan and gluten-free banana pudding and other signature desserts from Raydiant Vybes * Raw vegan brownies, cookies and cheesecakes from Pings Raw Foods * Healthy and immune boosting cold-pressed vegan juice from Mossed Juicery and cold-pressed lemonade fusions from the Limonada Ladies * Seltzer water from Polar beverages, that seemed to be in everyone’s hand’s since they were free * Plant-based honey from Mellody – yes no bees exploited and absolutely delicious. Some of the cool eco-friendly brands included KoolGyrl, which showcased their sustainable kitchen products * Beautifully designed cruelty-free bags from Luna Bags and handcrafted vegan candles from Yani Made It that looked and smelled great.
Of course, no vegan festival is complete without animal rights organizations and environmentally conscious groups on hand to educate patrons on compassionate, cruelty-free living and the plight that animals face in our world. These included inspiring groups like Dharna Voices for Animals, a Buddhist organization that teaches compassion for all living beings * The Captain Paul Watson Foundation, which is the new nonprofit organization founded by ex-sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson that continues its efforts to protect marine wildlife * Coffee Companions was another inspiring company that sells coffee and uses proceeds to benefit rescue dog organizations. I noticed that many of the vendors often frequent other vegan festivals as well, and it was nice to see a lot of familiar brands and faces, which brought an energy of community spirit.
“Veganism is compassion in action. If you care about animals, if you care about social justice, if you care about the environment, if you care about your health, and the health of your community, GO VEGAN.” – Christy Griffin – President – SFVS
In keeping with its core mission, the festival also featured a few stages with an enlightening array of presentations and panels covering essential topics such as health, environmentalism, social justice, and animal protection. Fans could ask questions, engage, and learn about living more compassionately from many activist and inspiring vegan experts and influencers throughout the day. It was all smiles and good energy all day, and by the looks of all the overflowing SFVS bags, it was safe to say patrons got more than their fill. Veganism has grown leaps and bounds since the World Vegan Festival’s inception, and given how much there was to explore this year, the World Vegan Festival could easily expand to two days in 2024 – hint hint!
I had the opportunity to sit down with SFVS President and longtime vegan Christy Griffin at the World Vegan Festival in San Francisco and learn more about the San Francisco Vegan Society and her thoughts on this year’s 24th edition.
Sason Bishope Parry: How are you, and how is life?
Christy Griffin: Exhausted but happy! World Vegan Fest is a huge undertaking, and it kicks my butt every year, but it’s 100% worth it. It’s so wonderful to see old friends and make new ones. World Vegan Fest is a labour of love.
SBP: How long have you been vegan?
CG: 20 years! I went vegan in 2003 after being vegetarian for almost 13 years.
SBP: You’re the President of the San Francisco Vegan Society. When and how did that journey start?
CG: I have collaborated with SFVS off and on for the past 20 years with other nonprofits I worked for: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, In Defense of Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Duo Duo Project, and California Congress for Animals. I became President in 2019 when my friends Greg and Patly Rohrbach retired as President and Vice President. The Rorbachs were hand-picked to lead SFVS in 2015 by Dixie Mahy, who retired after being President of SFVS since 1975!
SBP: Tell us about the San Francisco Vegan Society and what the mission is.
CG: The San Francisco Vegan Society has been promoting a plant-based diet and a healthy, ethical, and sustainable way of life since 1968! In 1968, Frederick Baldus placed an ad that said “Vegetarians Unite” in the San Francisco Chronicle. This gathering of 34 people was the first unofficial meeting of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society. The San Francisco Vegetarian Society evolved into the San Francisco Veg Society in 2010 to reflect that we shifted to promoting Veganism instead of vegetarianism due to the superior health, environmental, and ethical benefits of Veganism. We have just evolved once more, and now our name truly reflects our mission: we are the San Francisco Vegan Society. And that initial group of 34 caring individuals has blossomed into almost 5,000 members and supporters. I am so excited about our organization’s evolution and growth!
SBP: SFVS organized the San Francisco World Vegan Festival, which celebrated its 24th year on October 22. How did that go?
CG: World Veg Fest celebrated its 24th anniversary on Sunday, and it was our first World Vegan Fest! It was the first time in the event’s history that it rained, ha! But that did not stop our loyal fans from coming out to support our wonderful presenters, chefs, artists, vendors, and exhibitors. We had over 3,000 attendees! We are so thrilled to be continuing our long tradition of progress and welcoming all – vegans, vegetarians, and veg-curious folks of every variety. We want to encourage as many people as possible to celebrate compassion and explore Veganism!
SBP: How much preparation goes into organizing the festival?
CG: It takes me 6-8 months to organize World Veg Fest every year. We want to provide our attendees with a unique and specifically curated lineup of renowned educational presenters, demonstrations from top vegan chefs, lively entertainment, cruelty-free exhibitors and vendors, and a wonderful variety of delicious food.
SBP: How much has Veganism grown since you started with the San Francisco Vegan Society?
CG: We have gained 1,000 supporters in the five years since I took over as President. In the 20 years that I have been working with SFVS, vegans went from being less than 1% of the population to almost 2% of the population! I know to most people, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but think about it, the number of people who identify as vegans has more than doubled in the past 20 years! That’s fantastic! And the amount of people who identify as flexitarians, veg-curious, and part-time vegans is growing every day!
SBP: What is your favourite vegan food and product?
CG: I always joke that I am a “fake meat” and potatoes kind of vegan. I love anything made out of seitan!
SBP: What do you say to non-vegans who frown on Veganism?
CG: Nothing tastes as good as compassion feels. I think one of the best quotes about this is from Sir Paul McCartney, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegan.” By choosing Veganism, we are not only protecting animals and improving our health, we are also fighting climate change and the inherent injustices for people working in and living near animal agriculture. Veganism is much more accessible than ever, with vegan alternatives available in almost every grocery store. Even national fast-food animal chains are catching on and offering vegan options, and the prices of vegan alternatives are coming down, too. It’s a great and easy time to GO VEGAN!
SBP: What was the best part of this year’s World Vegan Festival?
CG: My favourite part was the vegan drag queen story time featuring Fay Ludes, who is a longtime vegan activist, the African Violet fashion show, and, of course, THE FOOD!
SBP: The SFVS is a nonprofit organization. Where do the profits go?
CG: The funds we raise go directly into producing more outreach events. We are on a mission to encourage as many people as possible to go and stay vegan.
SBP: How would you describe Veganism to those wanting to learn?
CG: Veganism is compassion in action. If you care about animals, if you care about social justice, if you care about the environment, if you care about your health, and the health of your community, GO VEGAN.
SBP: How does one become a member or volunteer for SFVS?
CG: Visit our website, sfvs.org. There, you can sign up to become a member and/or join our email list. We have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year, and we let folks know about those via our emailed newsletters.
SBP: What other events does SFVS have planned?
CG: We just had a sold-out group dinner at the famous Millennium Restaurant in Oakland, and last Sunday, we hosted a screening of the Rowdy Girl documentary at The Roxie in San Francisco. Rowdy Girl is about Texas cattle ranchers who go vegan and transform their beef operation into a farmed animal sanctuary. Upcoming are always posted to our website calendar and updated frequently (www.sfvs.org). Of course, I’m already thinking about our big 25th anniversary of the World Vegan Festival next year!
SBP: Do you also have other work, or is SFVS your sole job?
CG: SFVS is a volunteer-run organization. I’m also the Director of Campaigns for DuoDuo Project (an animal welfare organization focused on ending the dog and cat meat trade in China), the Social Media Manager for Kinship Circle (an organization focused on disaster animal rescue), and I am an in-home dog and cat sitter who specializes in senior and animals with special needs.
SBP: How can people support or donate to your cause?
CG: Become a member, attend our events, follow us on social media
SBP: What’s next for Christy Griffin and SFVS?
CG: Our next big event will be our annual Vegan Vegan Holidays cooking show, which is a live Zoom event happening on November 17. And in January, we are hosting San Francisco’s first Vegan Chef Challenge in collaboration with Vegan Outreach. My passion and mission for Veganism never end!
THE SAN FRANCISCO VEGAN SOCIETY
San Francisco Veg Society (SFVS) is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization founded in 1968
We promote the adoption of a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle for healthy, ethical, and sustainable living. Based in the historically progressive city of San Francisco, we offer a community for people to meet, learn, exchange ideas and information, and interact with others interested in compassionate living for a better world. Together, we can make this movement grow and encourage a way of life that is better for your health, better for the well-being of animals, better for the environment, and better for humanity. We couldn’t do this without the support of our members, so please join us today! San Francisco Veg Society has been at the forefront of plant-based living for over 50 years. In 1968, the year following San Francisco’s Summer of Love, a group of compassionate people decided it was not enough to only preach peace and love for our fellow humans. They decided to advocate kindness to all animals and the protection of the beautiful planet we all share.
Visit www.sfvs.org to learn more about San Francisco Vegan Society’s milestones, presidents, and board members, the folks who keep San Francisco Veg Society alive and thriving.