South Australia, Rundle Park
Written By Sason Bishope Parry
Australia has been touted as one of the biggest vegan destinations in the world with its growing demand for plant-based foods, a healthier lifestyle, and helping the rights of animals. South Australia’s food scene is said to be one of the best in the country. With the rise of plant-based eating everywhere and its growing popularity among dedicated vegans and food lovers alike, it’s no wonder that the award-winning Vegan Festival Adelaide, which has drawn upwards of 18,000 people over two days, has been one of the most popular food-related events on their calendar. Now, the same organizers and its passionate director are doing a compact version just in time for Christmas entitled – Vegan Picnic. This one-day festival will be held from 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday, December 10th, 2023, and taking place at Rundle Park/Kadlitpina, East Terrace. Over 50 vegan vendors and brands will be on hand to serve up a wide variety of everything vegan, including delicious vegan food and desserts, eco-friendly products, and vegan fashion. There will also be music and key-note vegan activists, animal liberation organizations, and influencers taking the stage to educate people on the urgency and importance of a vegan lifestyle.
Vegan Picnic celebrates the creativity of South Australia’s plant-based food scene. Organizers plan to give vegans, the V-curious and begrudging sceptics, the opportunity to enjoy the best of local vegan food creations among like-minded friends in an environment that promises lots of good vibes and at a fantastic parklands venue, smack dab in the centre of town. Picture this: a lush, sun-drenched park, a gentle breeze rustling through the trees, and a spread of mouthwatering vegan delights that will make your heart skip a beat. That is the scene described by longtime vegan of 32 years and director Lea McBride. The inspiring vegan describes herself as an animal rights activist, first and foremost, who organizes major events in South Australia, helping to educate and celebrate the vegan lifestyle. In 2015, McBride was a new volunteer who just wanted to help change something in the world, and now, as director of the Vegan Festival and Vegan Picnic (since 2017), she is beyond proud of all this event has achieved.
“Why go vegan, you ask? Well, besides the fact that you’ll be saving cute animals one delicious meal at a time, you’ll also be doing your part to combat climate change and promote a healthier planet for future generations. It’s a win-win-win situation: great food, a fantastic atmosphere, and a chance to make a positive impact on our world.” – Lea McBride – Organizer Vegan Picnic
There are many reasons to adopt a vegan lifestyle or a plant-based diet today, from better health to climate crises and, of course, saving the lives of our animal friends. Vegan Picnic plans to show you how easy and fun a vegan lifestyle can be. With more than 20,000 edible plants worldwide, the options to make enticing vegan food for every palate are almost infinite and getting easier every day. This year’s stellar food line-up at Vegan Picnic will include renowned vendors like Staazi & Co (ranked in the top 10 vegan food trucks worldwide), dairy-free cheese, plant-based burgers from sponsors Lord of the Fries, gluten-free donuts from OMG! Donuts and refreshing alcohol-free mocktails. Chocolates, ice cream, dumplings – if they’re made out of plants, chances are you’ll find them among the 50+ vendors at the Vegan Picnic.
“Animals will be off the menu at Vegan Picnic, but rest assured, nobody, including non-vegans, will go hungry or be disappointed with all the delicious vegan options we will have.” – Says Lea McBride
There will also be many activities for the kids and the chance to chill with friends under the beautiful trees. So, grab your picnic blankets, sunscreen, and your sense of adventure, and get ready to veg out together with thousands of other like-minded folks – Vegan Picnic promises to be the place to be! And don’t forget it’s the Christmas season, so Vegan Picnic is a great chance to pick up many vegan Christmas gifts to give to family, friends, and those you want to inspire to go vegan.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the inspiring and passionate Lea McBride, Event Director and organizer of Vegan Picnic Adelaide, about the upcoming edition, the vegan scene in Australia, and more.
Sason Bishope Parry: How are you, and where do you reside?
LM: Hey Sason, I’m really good, thank you. Getting excited for our Vegan Picnic! – Peace begins on your Plate! The event will take place in Adelaide, South Australia on Sunday 10 December.
SBP: Are you vegan? And if so, what inspired you to go vegan?
LM: I am most definitely, proudly, vegan! Knowledge is key. The more I learned, the less I could justify my consumption or use of any animal products. It has been over 32 years since I ate an innocent animal’s body. I had ‘dabbled’ in veganism on and off as a vegetarian until my conscience could not justify eating eggs or dairy any longer. No matter how ‘greenwashed’ I was about free-range chickens or happy cows, the reality of the animals suffering meant much more to me than the mere moments of pleasure on my tastebuds.
SBP: When did your vegan journey start?
LM: 2013 New Year’s Day. My New Year’s resolution was to never be a reason someone else suffered. It was the best decision I ever made, and as with other vegans, I wished I had done it sooner.
SBP: You’re involved in organizing the Vegan Picnic in Australia. What exactly is it?
LM: Picture this: A lush, sun-drenched park, a gentle breeze rustling through the trees, and a spread of mouthwatering vegan delights that will make your heart skip a beat. Why go vegan, you ask? Well, besides the fact that you’ll be saving cute animals one delicious meal at a time, you’ll also be doing your part to combat climate change and promote a healthier planet for future generations. It’s a win-win situation: Great food, a fantastic atmosphere, and a chance to make a positive impact on our world. Vegan Picnic is a one-day spin-off event from the hugely successful Vegan Festival Adelaide. Held in the lead-up to Christmas for the past two years, we want to show the public that peace really does begin on your plate. Vegan Picnic is set in the beautiful Adelaide Parklands right in the middle of the city and is a place for vegans, V-curious, friends, and family of all ages to come along to celebrate in our vegan bubble.
SBP: How did the idea happen for the vegan festival?
LM: The Vegan Festival was founded in 2007 and started as a small event in a school hall with around 1,000 attendees as more of society became aware of a vegan lifestyle. Over the years, the event evolved into a 2-day festival with approximately 18,000 attendees with many off-shoot events.
SBP: I once heard that Australia is the vegan capital of the world. Is that true?
LM: According to Google Trends data – Australians have the world’s biggest appetite for learning about all things vegan. An analysis of searches from around the globe shows Australia has the highest percentage of searches for the word “vegan.” Statistics released show that In Australia, 42 percent of people are eating less meat or none at all in 2019. Trends definitely are changing, and we hope that events like ours help to showcase just how easy a vegan lifestyle can be. We are really thankful that not only are there a large number of fully vegan restaurants but that pretty much every café, pub, or restaurant that you go into has a large vegan selection. Demand for vegan food is rising, and venues are meeting this demand. Supermarket ranges are sensational, with the growth of plant-based products available enormous. The “vego” in me from 1991 is very envious of how easy it is for people to choose this lifestyle now, as it was not that easy back then.
SBP: Tell us about this year’s Vegan Picnic and what fans can expect?
LM: We invite guests to bring along a picnic rug, chair, their friends, their appetites, and their dogs! This year, there are around 60 stalls with 100% vegan food, products, retail & services. We encourage people to use this day as their pre-Christmas get-together, do their Christmas shopping, and see how much delicious fun it is to live a cruelty-free, compassionate lifestyle. (More on the other activities later).
SBP: What excites you most about the vegan lifestyle?
LM: The possibilities! More and more plant-based products are being created. More of the public are caring about the environment & and, hopefully, will make the connection between climate change and animal agriculture soon. More cosmetic companies, clothing companies, accessory makers, etc., are using plant-based products and understanding the demand not to test their range on animals. There is hope like never before. I know it is not moving fast enough for the animals, but in my time living a cruelty-free lifestyle, it is changing like never before.
SBP: Did the coronavirus help or hurt your business?LM: I don’t think the coronavirus helped anyone (except pharmaceuticals). It was incredibly hard to navigate our way through those years, but we were lucky enough to pull off a few significant events that snuck their way through the lockdown periods. It did change the way we operated, and we ran the event in 2020 & 2021 as a hybrid festival, streaming some of our guest speakers onto giant screens in the park. It was logistically challenging and, overall, financially draining with all of the extra precautions we had to take. But we were determined to go ahead, strongly believing that if the world were to go vegan, we would avoid many of the pandemics as the root cause comes from animal agriculture. We sold facemasks that said ‘Tofu Never Caused a Pandemic,” which were pretty fun to wear in public and sparked many conversations.
SBP: Do you think veganism is growing?
LM: YES!!! Absolutely yes!!! When I stopped eating animals, there were so few items available. As a long-term vegetarian, I didn’t really hear about veganism. Now that I know what I know, I want to share the information on the awful treatment of animals, the effect animal agriculture has on our planet, and the health benefits this lifestyle can have on our bodies.
SBP: How do you argue or debate with non-vegans?
LM: Honestly, it really depends on the situation, who I am speaking to, how open they are to receiving information, and how much of an ‘angry vegan’ day I am having. I think I have learned to adapt my conversation to suit. I like to come from the assumption that everyone is vegan, which sort of throws people off. When I get the “Are you vegan?” question, my response is generally with a smile: “Yes, aren’t you?” making it sound totally ludicrous not to be.
SBP: Do you have a favourite vegan food?
Lea McBride: My favourite things change all the time as more amazing products come out on the market. I think over the years, my preference has been toward more whole food and plant-based foods. I genuinely love salad, and despite what the Simpsons say, you do make friends with salad!
SBP: How do your organization and the festival support animal liberation?
LM: While I am a festival director, I think I describe myself as an Animal Rights Activist firstly. Over the past nine years with the Vegan Festival, I have used my platform and connections on a large scale to engage the public, gain wide mainstream media attention, and showcase how easy it is to be vegan. And most importantly, Why we should be. Each year, we donate part of the proceeds to animal charities and encourage organizations that care for or advocate for animals to participate in our festivals. Not only do we run major festivals, but we also participate in protests in our city, from street protests and activism to flash mobs, allowing us to engage with the public directly to talk about animal liberation. I see our festivals as the biggest form of animal rights activism our city has each year, and I will never stop trying different ways to get the public to listen and live with compassion.
SBP: Kangaroos are such amazing animals, but a law passed allowing them to be used as food. Why do you think Australia doesn’t protect them?
Lea McBride: The general public is told that kangaroos are ‘pests,’ that they destroy the land, and numbers need to be culled. There is a lot of research on this, which shows that native wildlife numbers are declining, and kangaroos are not in the high numbers we are told. The land is the kangaroo’s home; humans have taken this over for farming and generally animal agriculture, so the painful truth of their needless deaths is even harder to accept. A great documentary called Kangaroo outlines the reality of these beautiful and majestic creatures’ unfortunate plight. https://kangaroothemovie.com/
Not only are these stunning animals used as food, but their skins are used by companies such as Adidas for their products, something animal rights groups are currently fighting to have banned. It is just awful what we do to our iconic native animals, they are both admired and hated for doing nothing more than existing in their own country.
SBP: Where will this year’s Vegan Picnic Adelaide take place?
LM: The Vegan Picnic is being held at Rundle Park/Kadlitpina on the east end of Adelaide, South Australia. It is a stunning spot in the natural parklands with easy access to public transport and lots of shady trees right in the city centre.
SBP: Besides fantastic food and vegan vendors, will you have other attractions?
LM: This year, we will have a stage with live entertainment from talented vegan performers & bring back aspects of our main festival. There will be three 15-minute talks from vegan fast-food founders to ocean protectors, animal rights activists & documentary makers. Kids can participate in craft activities, giant chess games, a visit from Santa, or simply roll down the grassy hills for old-fashioned fun! There are some fabulous giveaways at the gates and information booth, so come say hi to our amazing volunteers.
SBP: Are you planning any other events after Vegan Picnic?
LM: Each year, we run a variety of events, from cooking demonstrations to Vegustation fine dining experiences and a biannual foodie’s event called Vegan Palooza. In 2021, we held Australia’s first-ever Vegan Film Festival and are always looking to bring these back to the public.
SBP: Is there anything additional you would like to share with readers?
LM: Be Vegan.
SBP: What’s next for Lea McBride and Vegan Picnic?
LM: It has been a massive undertaking over the years, but this has, without a doubt, been one of the best things I have ever done. It is exhausting, the expectations, commitment, and responsibility are enormous, but we do it all with love and one goal in mind. TOTAL ANIMAL LIBERATION. We love the 2-day Vegan Festival and hope to bring this back one day, but we are really happy with the smaller events that capture our city’s hearts, minds, and stomachs. I just want to change the world, one giant party at a time!
For more info on Vegan Picnic Adelaide, visit: