Writing by Quincy Malesovas
Since the Brits tragically devastated indigenous Australia in the late 1700s, the country has had an identity firmly rooted in culture and ideas adopted from the UK. As the country has aged and globalization/digitization have ensued, Australians have become even more engrossed in a specifically “Western” culture. This includes European and American-inspired entertainment, fashion, and of course, food.
I live in Melbourne, which is essentially the foodie capital of Australia. If someone’s not Instagramming their fairy floss-coated pancakes, they’re mouth-gasming over their matcha- maca cocktail or blogging about the hottest new paleo café.
So it’s only natural that Melbourne would be home to Australia’s largest vegan food festival. The event is World Vegan Day, in commemoration of the international holiday by the same name. Since 2003, vegan exhibitors, artists, speakers, and athletes have graced the Melbourne showgrounds with their presence and plant-based knowledge. World Vegan Day itself has existed literally as many years as I’ve been alive. It was conceived in 1994 by Louise Wallis, who was once the chair of the UK Vegan Society as well. While the concept of veganism may have been trademarked overseas, Australians have embraced the lifestyle with open arms and empty stomachs.
Part of veganism’s success in Australia can be largely contributed to social media. #vegansofmelbourne brings up over 57,000 hits on Instagram, and World Vegan Day’s personal account boasts thousands of followers. But the event provides a better outlet for community than any social media channel. It attracts vegans and the veg-curious from all over Victoria (and even other states) into one arena. The vibe is fun, warm and compassionate—as to be expected given the crowd.
This year, World Vegan Day Melbourne is predicting an attendance of over 5,000 guests, plus 220 stalls and food samples galore. In addition to the abundance of vegan eats you can expect to try (I’m talking mock meat, non-dairy cheeses and yogurts, the best vegan chocolate you’ve ever had, and much more), you can also anticipate a healthy dose of information on vegan living.
There are presenters scheduled throughout the day, talking about a wide range of topics from nutrition to fitness to activism. There are vegan bands set to perform, group pilates and yoga classes, dance parties, and demos of both the edible and visual persuasion. There’s art on display and even a vegan fashion show highlighting the best in cruelty-free garments and accessories.
The event spans a very large portion of the Melbourne showgrounds and could easily keep you occupied for hours. I attended World Vegan Day last year with the intention of dropping by for a bit, and ultimately ended up spending the whole day there. It began with rounds of Loving Earth tasters and Lord of the Fries raffles (and a sneaky second round of tasters). I sat through a fructose-friendly cooking lesson with Evelyn of Nourish Not Punish and wandered into a vegan bodybuilding session. My day also included a picnic on the lawn with both Kirtan chants and political pop-punk filtering through the background. I left very full of delicious food and positivity towards the state of veganism.
With even more attendees expected this year and a whole slew of new products available, it’s current standing seems to be better than ever. No matter what your reasoning is for reducing animal product consumption, whether it be ethical, environmental, spiritual, nutritional, or all of the above—or even if you’re just curious about veganism—World Vegan Day has lots to provide.