The annual Dublin VegFest is returning on the weekend of the 23rd and 24 of September; Caroline Kelly and Ilaria Riccio evaluate its contribution.
From humble beginnings in 2015, the Dublin VegFest has grown exponentially, and will now take place at Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines on Saturday and Sunday, September 23rd and 24th, between 11am and 6pm. An annual occurrence, the VegFest is expected to attract thousands of visitors for its 2023 edition.
Event coordinators remark that this event is a chance to “indulge in a variety of plant-based cuisines from local vendors and renowned chefs in our Food Village.” Indeed, the marketing for this year’s edition of the VegFest emphasises the variety of cuisines within the 100% vegan food village. The offering for this year includes plant-based delicacies from Asia, The Middle East, Europe, Africa and Latin America: “From mouthwatering comfort foods to decadent desserts, we've got your taste buds covered. Discover new flavours and find your favourite vegan dish!”
The VegFest thus represents an opportunity to learn about the versatility of plant-based produce through firsthand interaction with an extensive range of vegan recipes from all over the world. Alongside centring veganism and vegetarianism from a nutritional perspective, the VegFest also aims to raise awareness on environmental issues. Specifically, the programme of the event includes panel discussions from climate activists - the option to register as a speaker is still open through a form on the VegFest website. Announced speakers include journalist Christopher Sebastian, host of the Radicals & Revolutionaries podcast Jake Conroy (aka The Cranky Vegan), NARA campaigner and animal rights activist Laura Broxson, and many more. The sustainable purpose of the VegFest is further stressed by the availability of cruelty free cosmetics and zero-waste products including clothes. Whilst admirable, the overall mission of the VegFest does not appeal to everyone: in a conversation with the University Observer, two UCD students who wish to remain anonymous expressed their doubts on the marketing of the VegFest, whilst also commenting on its lack of accessibility.
Alongside centring veganism and vegetarianism from a nutritional perspective, the VegFest also aims to raise awareness on environmental issues.
For instance, one of the sources believes that the emphasis put on the environmental aspects of the VegFest results in the event being primarily targeted at environmental activists rather than “the average person” - that is, someone who is vegan/vegetarian or simply a food lover who might be interested in what the VegFest offers. On this matter, it is significant that the sources, who are both vegetarian, were unfamiliar with the event until it was brought to their attention. Additionally, both sources have doubts on how effective the environmentally-friendly goals of the events are. Indeed, a source acknowledges that “being a vegetarian is also bad for the environment” due to the chemicals that go into growing vegetables, alongside plant-based food often being more processed than animal products.
Another issue is that the sustainable pledges of the VegFest seem to be undermined by the inaccessibility of the event. A ticket for the event is 13€, to which visitors need to add the food and other products they might buy on site. One of the sources commented that, in this way, the VegFest “builds this conception of the elitism of vegetarianism and veganism. If it’s really for social ... and environmental change, there would be less barriers to entry.” The promotion of a zero-waste lifestyle feeds into this issue due to the exorbitant price of zero-waste products.
A ticket for the event is 13€, to which visitors need to add the food and other products they might buy on site.
The expensiveness of plant-based products could explain why, this past year, several vegan businesses have shut their doors all around Dublin. As reported by Dublin Live, Vegan Sandwich Co closed all its Dublin stores in October 2022, with WokeCup Coffee in Smithfield following suit in March 2023. Dae Ice-cream is the latest addition to this list, having shut down business in August 2023 as reported by Lovin Dublin. These closures were primarily due to the rising cost of living, which were exacerbated by the costs of running a plant-based, zero-waste business.
Events like the VegFest could be useful in allowing plant-based stores to continue their business amidst those closures. Nevertheless, as things stand, the VegFest appears to confirm the expenses that go into conducting a plant-based lifestyle, which fuel the assumed elitism of being able to afford following a zero-waste lifestyle. Making the VegFest more accessible with regards to pricing - ticketing, but also the products offered on-site could be a first step towards the event accomplishing its goals whilst also reversing the misconceptions about the elitism of plant-based diets.
As things stand, the VegFest appears to confirm the expenses that go into conducting a plant-based lifestyle, which fuel the assumed elitism of being able to afford following a zero-waste lifestyle.
The VegFest is undoubtedly a popular event for the Dublin vegan and vegetarian community, and its sustainable mission is a source of praise for the event. Nevertheless, increased accessibility could further improve the appeal of the VegFest, whilst also making plant-based diets more appealing to the general public.