The Toronto Veggie Pride Parade Creates Visibility for Vegans

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The Toronto Veggie Pride Parade Creates Visibility for Vegans

The vegans are coming! The vegans are coming!

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The marchers looked like they were suited up for a Halloween party as they took to Bloor Street: adorned in pig costumes, dressed up in bright orange carrot ensembles. “Let’s go veggies, eat your broccoli,” they chanted. “Lettuce, turnip, the beet.”

The crowd convened for the annual Veggie Pride Parade, hoping to shed light on the realities of vegan Torontonians. “As we go along the street we see restaurants everywhere advertising meat, it is in your face and we feel it everywhere,” says parade organizer Jenny McQueen. “So we are coming along with the alternative message and you know what? Veganism is coming.”

The Toronto Veggie Pride Parade was founded in 2009 by animal activist Holly Larson, and sees hundreds cross Bloor Street to Church, and head back up Yonge in the name of veganism. About four per cent of Canadians are vegan or vegetarian.

For Sarah Laffin and Dylan Micallef, the parade was their first foray into activism. The Grade 12 students at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton say they waited an hour in line at a school barbecue this spring only to find out there were no veggie options for them.

“More and more young people are going vegan, they understand it more,” Laffin says. “The older generation grew up knowing meat eating as normal, but young people are starting to realize that it is not okay.”

But the march isn’t just about personal preference; many parade goers say veganism is inherently political.

“It is important for Torontonians to know that there is a relationship between their diet and climate change,” says Ray Kowalchuk of the Climate Vegan contingent. “It is something that governments and NGOs don’t talk about.” The Climate Vegan group’s short-term goal is to make animal rights activists go green and get environmentalists to go vegan.

A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006 claimed animal agriculture contributes 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere—roughly as much as all forms of transportation combined.

“I believe in practicing the golden rule and treating others how I would like to be treated,” says John Sakars, donning a dairy cow costume. “If I were a farm animal getting tortured and murdered I would hate that.”

“I’m vegan because it is healthy,” says Kim, 7. Her brother Tom, 6, adds: “And the animals don’t die.”

“I’m vegan because it is healthy,” says Kim, 7. Her brother Tom, 6, adds: “And the animals don’t die.”

“You don’t need to like animals, you don’t need to love animals, you just need to believe in social justice,” says Susan Banks, marching with the group Direct Action Everywhere.

“You don’t need to like animals, you don’t need to love animals, you just need to believe in social justice,” says Susan Banks, marching with the group Direct Action Everywhere.

Vegan YouTuber John Sakars hands out literature on Yonge Street outside Taco Bell.

Vegan YouTuber John Sakars hands out literature on Yonge Street outside Taco Bell.

 Laura Lee is anti-dairy because dairy cows are kept pregnant to produce milk and their babies are taken from them to become veal.

Laura Lee is anti-dairy because dairy cows are kept pregnant to produce milk and their babies are taken from them to become veal.

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Parade organizer Jenny McQueen pulls a speaker system on a bike-trailer.

Parade organizer Jenny McQueen pulls a speaker system on a bike trailer.

“I represent the vegan gay army,” says Tom Tkach as he gives literature to Jerardo Flores on Church Street.

“I represent the vegan gay army,” says Tom Tkach as he gives literature to Jerardo Flores on Church Street.

For Dylan Micallef and Sarah Laffin, the Veggie Pride Parade is their first experience with activism.

For Dylan Micallef and Sarah Laffin, the Veggie Pride Parade is their first experience with activism.

 “Support veganism and love animals” says Nga Ma marching with the Supreme Master Ching Hai Meditation Association.

“Support veganism and love animals” says Nga Ma marching with the Supreme Master Ching Hai Meditation Association.

The Climate Vegans.

The Climate Vegans.

Photos by Zach Ruiter.

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