BY JANA EISENBERG
Along with Albert Brown and Melanie Pasinski, Sara
Rogers, thirty, created Western New York VegFest
( wnyvegfest.org) in 2014, to connect and educate people about plant-based diets and lifestyles. VegFest and
the Tofurky Trot 5K run happen the first weekend in August at Riverside Park.
VegFest has really taken off.
The festival has been extremely successful—
inclusivi-ty, a central city location, and access are important to us.
The multicultural food court has both menu and ethnic
diversity. We make sure that everybody can find something they want to eat or try. We also have speakers, vendors, and performances. It’s family friendly, and everyone
You’ve been vegan for nine years. How did that
I lived on a military base when I was younger, during
Operation Iraqi Freedom. I heard returning veterans talking about their horrific experiences—pregnant women
and children being killed. It really made me start to appreciate life.
I also started thinking about how many things that
make us feel cozy and comfy cause mass slaughter. If
you want a bowl of soup, something was killed to make
it. To create a fire, a tree is knocked down. People don’t
want to think or talk about slaughter. They turn a blind
eye to how meat is produced, the suffering. But they
want to eat meat at every meal.
The way we live now is not sustainable. To produce a
vegan diet takes about one tenth the land that an omniv-
orous diet requires.
Many don’t realize that most of the world’s starving
people live in countries that are paid to grow grain for
livestock, which will be consumed by Westerners. Instead of feeding their own people, they’re feeding our
I realized that it’s part of the world, and that I want to
be able to change it. Yet, I can only change myself; I can’t
What about restaurant vegan options?
There’s so much here that we can eat. At Handlebar,
you can get a vegan cheese platter, which you couldn’t
years ago. Ashker’s, which is a VegFest sponsor and participant, always has vegan stuff. The staff at Taste of Siam, and many other ethnic restaurants, will make vegan
food for you upon request.
Where do you stand philosophically?
As a vegan, I’m willing to go “without” a lot. I don’t
have milk in my coffee; I don’t buy clothes made of leather. And it’s not for myself. I’m more concerned about the
bigger picture. Why does anything need to suffer or hurt
just for me?
Are there health benefits?
Yes! You never consume cholesterol—no red meat,
no eggs, nothing. If you’re concerned about cholesterol,
then don’t eat it. Nutrition is so important and we’re still
figuring it out. Everyone can agree that if you eat a lot of
fruits and vegetables, of course you feel better. So, what
if you eat only that?
Freelance writer/editor Jana Eisenberg is a frequent
contributor to Spree.
The way we live is