Are you vegetarian (or vegan) and proud? If so, you might enjoy the chance to celebrate your lifestyle choice with the same vigour that gay people have been doing for decades, and take to the streets for some true veggie-loving zeal.
'Veggie Pride' is still a fairly new concept here in the UK, where we tend to be a bit more reserved about our eating habits than our American and European cousins, but that's all changing, says Paul Ridden, reporting from France (where I thought they still ritually burned vegetarians at the stake).
Read on for more info on how you can take part!
In October 2001 some 200 or so veg*ns (that's a handy bit of terminology that refers to both vegetarians and vegans -- ed) stomped around Place des Innocents in Paris to proudly affirm their presence to the world. Encouraged by the amount of people who attended and the unexpected media interest, another one was arranged for the year after. And so Veggie Pride was born....
Last year Veggie Pride broke out of Paris for the first time, also being held in Rome and New York, the latter adopting a more carnival atmosphere. And this year it's grown again, with the addition of events in Prague and the UK. So what's it all about?
I'm glad you asked! It's a public celebration of lifestyle choices which aim to cause the least suffering possible to the creatures we share the earth with. It's about respect for life. It's an expression of the ethical and environmental benefits of vegetarian and vegan living. It's a coming together of friends in conscience, buddies in ethics and companions in vision. And above all it's positive, it's fun and it's family friendly.
Since 2002 Veggie Pride has been held on the third weekend of May and the 16th May this year will see events in Lyon, Milan, Prague and the UK. The Americans join the celebration the day after, parading their message through the streets of New York on Sunday 17th.
Those wishing to attend Veggie Pride in Lyon on May 16th should make their way to the Place des Terreaux for 2pm. If Milan is your parade of choice the you'll need to be at the Piazza Missori by 2pm. Similarly, you should head for Palackého Námestí for 2pm if you're in Prague. More details of these events are available at www.veggiepride.org. City specific info is but a click away at www.veggiepride.fr for Lyon, www.veggiepride.it for Milan and www.veggiepride.xf.cz for Prague.
Let's skip briefly over the pond to the New York event and before returning to the UK for a more indepth look. American Priders should head to where Little West 12th Street and 9th Avenue converge (the old meat packing district apparently) between 11am and 12noon on Sunday May 17th, the parade kicks off at 12noon. Information about the New York gathering is available on the parade website, www.veggieprideparade.org.
And so to the UK... It's the first Veggie Pride event to be held in the UK and it's going to be in the heart of Birmingham. As well as its relatively central location, Birmingham was chosen for Veggie Pride UK in recognition of the very important role the city has played in the progress of veg*nism in the UK over the last 100 years. Did you know that vegetarians in Birmingham formed one of the very first local branches of the Vegetarian Society in 1853? Or that the first vegetarian restaurant in the city was opened as long ago as 1896? Or that this same restaurant not only gave birth to the UK's first vegetarian hotel but also to one of the largest health food empires in the world? More recently, the Vegan Society has made Birmingham its home. Anyone left in doubt about the city's veg*n credentials? No?
Good, then let's move on. On Saturday May 16th, in Victoria Square in Birmingham City Centre there'll be information stalls, veggie products on sale, lots of food, live music and entertainers, a vibrant and colourful carnival procession, contests and competitions and lots more besides. The fun is due to start at 10am, where visitors will be invited to browse the information and product stalls, sample the scrummy food and sit back and enjoy the live entertainment. A samba band will lead the carnival procession through the city streets at 1pm, with the aim of attracting the attention of thousands of weekend shoppers. Participants are encouraged to wear bright costumes and wield placards. Even if costumes "aren't your thing" then bring a banner or a placard (no gory images please, the event is about celebrating life)! And don't worry about leaving the kids behind, there's a special kids block where children can march together.
Colourful and inventive costume or banner designers could well be in with a chance of winning a prize in a special competition to be judged after the procession ends. The city centre event will wrap up at 6pm but those with stamina are also invited to attend an evening benefit gig at a pub in the city centre. For more information than you can shake a stick at, head over to the event website: www.veggiepride.org.uk