It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit and windy, but veganism created a hot spot at the heart of Montreal. Organizers of the Montreal Vegan Festival estimated that on November 7th, over 10,000 people were attracted to the rows of vegan product-sampling booths, mouth-watering culinary demonstrations, and eye-opening stories that transformed lives around the world.
To most people in Montreal, China is both familiar and unfamiliar. Media coverage about China’s growing meat consumption can easily worry our vegan friends in Canada, but the reality is still far beyond reach. Through the lens of film director Jian Yi, the audience was directly exposed to the social and environmental complexity on the other end of the globe, as well as the discussions and changes that are taking place at the moment.
Through the documentary and dialogue, the audience found answers to several questions about which they were concerned:
Are Chinese people very carnivorous? No, the traditional Chinese diet is mostly plant-based and the culture does not encourage people to eat a lot of meat.
Are Chinese people aware of the problem of animal-based foods? Yes, and there are hard-working activists in China, diligently spreading the latest news, research, videos, and opinions that promote a healthier and happier life.
Is the government trying to stop you in any way? No. We see our goals in line with several priorities of the government – public health, environment, and food security – and there were local officials coming to our screening event in China!
Do people in China care about animal suffering? Of course yes. We are all human beings. When we are exposed to the ugly facts, we have the same feeling of sadness, and the same desire for putting the cruelty and violence to an end.
Yes, we are all humans, and yet, every encounter is always full of surprises. Exclusively volunteers, without even one full-time paid coordinator, organized this big festival. Local vegan magazine, Versus, was very impressive with its pleasing artistic designs and professional print quality, presenting in-depth analytical articles, moving stories, fashion sketches, and delicate recipes.
In Montreal, a food movement is in full gear. This can be seen in the long lines outside the vegan festival site, in the airplane stickers on farmers’ market price tags indicating imported vegetables, in numerous vegan restaurants serving delicious and creative foods, and in beautiful young women who reach into dumpsters without hesitation to rescue slightly scratched pumpkins.
All of these are the hope of a food system full of love and consciousness. When we break down stereotypes and exchange hope, we begin to feel the commonality in each other, no matter how great the distance is between us.
Photo Credit: Montreal Vegan Festival & Wanqing Zhou