A year after becoming Vegan my partner and I decided we would go to the Vegan Camp-Out at Newark Showground, a two day (and only one full day on the Saturday) festival event that promised great talks, like minds, all-Vegan food, activism, music and stalls.
We’d had a very difficult week prior to Camp-Out and didn’t know if we’d make it (mainly due to a poorly hen who has thankfully recovered). So what turned out to be not a three, four, but five hour drive on little sleep meant we were a bit wired by the time we finally parked up and joined the sizable queue to get through the ticket gate and into the event. Luckily everyone was chirpy, and even the guy on the ticket thing was pleasant, despite the fact there were literally only two people and a security lady to deal with seeing people in and out and checking everyone’s tickets!
I felt equal parts trepidation and excitement at the idea that we’d be surrounded by Vegans, but left feeling weird about the fact most people outside of Newark showground on that particular weekend aren’t. I suppose I worried that some of the Vegans we met would be great, but some would be super-uber judgemental in a way that everyone seems to be on Facebook and shoots you down for not being absolutely perfect all of the time (which of course, nobody is. Most of us live in houses, use central heating and shop in supermarkets). I couldn’t have been more wrong: everyone seemed friendly and stoked to be there. Knowing we were in a queue and later a field full of people who at least shared something of what we’re about – and something more fundamental than a film or some songs, felt quite life-affirming.
We’d bought along a bottle of rum and a 2 litre bottle of coke so we didn’t need to buy any alcohol all weekend – splendid! On the Friday night I had one of the best nights sleep I’d had in ages followed by the Saturday night where I had the worst nights sleep I’d had in ages (others need less beauty sleep than I and there was neverending tent music and chit-chat. Then I realised we both needed about 5 more layers each as the chills crept in). Swings and roundabouts!
Talks and Activism
The great thing about the talks was that most people weren’t born Vegan and had no real plans to become Vegan until some big life event (usually watching a documentary like Dominion or Land of Hope and Glory). Most spent a little time reciting the story of how they came to be speaking in front of us.
If I was to sterotype, Matt Pritchard (of Dirty Sanchez and more recently Dirty Vegan fame) would not be my first suspect in an all-Vegan line-up. Pritchard, who is a massive foodie and all-round lovely bloke (if you can get pass him peeing on Dolph Lundgren), provided a sort of flipside to Earthling Ed, who entirely looks the part and is also a lovely bloke. Both were captivating in their own right, and prove that anyone can be Vegan regardless of our pasts (after all, most of us profess to love animals).
Through the course of the camp-out we also heard talks from the following:
- Mic the Vegan – utterly fantastic, and I plan on listening again as his facts and figures came thick and fast
- That Vegan Couple (only the tail end, sadly), but they sounded great, and you can see their talk here.
- James Aspey – the sort-of headliner, who had us all shouting en masse by the end (in a good way)
- Juliet Gellatley from Viva! gave an impassioned speech, showed some of the horrors of commercial farming on-screen and spoke extensively about Hogwood Farm, which had the “Red Tractor” seal of approval and was sold by Tesco (ex- Tesco board member Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe was appointed chairman at Red Tractor in 2017), but Tesco later withdrew all of their products based on pressure from Viva! and their exposure of the terrors of Hogwood. Unfortunately there’s a whole lot of corruption and poor legislation that often means conditions for animals are abysmal. On a purely dispassionate level we’re effectively eating animals that are often stewing in their own faeces, disease and other dead and maimed animals, some of whom are cannibalised or attacked due to environments that are so incredibly unnatural and cruel (and of course there are so many other arguments to boot). People talk about buying “free range” – and I wouldn’t trust the labels if I were you* – at the end of the day it’s all sentient beings dying massively prematurely for a quick snack. The dairy industry is just as bad. **
- Dóra Hargitai (from AxR / Animal Rebellion), delivered one of the most hopeless and yet uplifting talks of the weekend. Despite the grim stats on climate change, she and the folk of Animal Rebellion remain optimistic. Of course we need to act now, but sadly until it’s law or affecting people directly in their homes I fear direct action won’t make the general populous (I hear someone mention Vegan’s are around 2-3% and growing, but ideally need to be at least 10%). We should be doing everything we can. We should be talking about it. Unfortunately a lot of powerful people and meat, dairy and fuel people won’t see the benefit in going green.
- Anonymous for the Voiceless gave a great talk on what they are about, how to join them and what to do (you may have noticed the V for Vendetta masks and “cubes” of people standing back-to-back dressed in black and holding muted laptops open showing upsetting animal abuse scenes.
- *, ** – again, see Land of Hope and Glory for more info.
- Alex Hershaft gave two of the best talks I’ve ever heard. His speech at the main stage brought us on his journey from a Nazi deathcamp as a child, through to present day and how he became Vegan. Comparisons with deathcamps is kind of a no-no when arguing your point as a Vegan, – it’s too charged and often seems OTT to the unnitiated. Alex lived through a holocaust but even he mostly wont talk about it when attempting to argue the merits of Veganism. The strength of this speech came mainly in that he presented all of the facts and did not dwell on the horrors of his past. He is the most incredibly open-minded eighty-four year old I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to and puts most half his age to shame.
- Alex argues that opression starts with animals as the most defensless victims on Earth and acts as a sort of gateway drug – permission for us to do other terrible shit as we’ve done throughout history. Also comparing the oppression of people to animals which he thinks is the wrong way of looking at things.
- Alex’s follow-up at the Activism stage – “Vegan World Through Social Change” dealt with a number of different issues including appropriated/ taken on views, mental frames, anecdotal evidence and cognitive dissonance. Basically the things that often stop people from becoming Vegan or even entertaining that it’s not a wholly bonkers concept in the first place.
Following all of the talks there was plenty of Q&A time to tackle differing points of view and awkward questions.
“ZeBadger”: a fantastically generous Youtube user has uploaded videos of several of the Camp-Out talks on Youtube, which are well worth a watch.
While at Vegan Camp out we indulged in “filthy vegan junk food” (the name of the stall, and how you could define most of the stuff we ate there), pancakes, burgers from Vausages Vegan Diner (twice, for breakfast). The “healthy” vegan food was relegated to the furthermost two stalls, offering fresh fruit and smoothies. We tried these and they tasted brill, but honestly we’d come to the festival to unwind and eat crap, in lieu of no longer really being able to get takeaway food as a treat as we used to in our pre-Vegan days. I know this was problematic for some and I understand, but I expect to see the alternative healthier options grow in the coming years. The simple fact we didn’t need to check what we could actually eat felt fantastic!
The Main Stage had in previous years been what was now the Activism Stage. Outside were a number of clothes stalls including “Heartcure” an Anonymous for the Voiceless stall and several more. There were also several charity stalls and the option to try the VR experience “iAnimal“. There were also plusher boutique-esque stalls for home furnishings. I managed to grab (and pay for!) some badges, patches and stickers (from “The Hectic Vegan”), so was pretty happy.
Music and Wellbeing
We didn’t spend a lot of time watching music or at the wellbeing tent, although both had packed schedules. Shikari Sound System headlined the main stage on the first night, and there were a number of other artists – mainly a mix of DJs, grime, hip-hop and bands.
My partner did some outdoor Yoga by the wellness tent on the last morning and really enjoyed it.
Every interaction we experienced felt genuine. I’m sure had we needed help there’d have been someone at Vegan Camp-Out willing to.
As it’s a small festival, there were some logistical things that weren’t so great. I know these things have been mentioned on Vegan Camp-Out’s Facebook (queues, mainly), but honestly nothing that would spoil the weekend.
At times it could be a bit difficult to hear the speakers, but again, we mainly just had to move a little forwards. It makes me sound old but I do like a sit down when I’m listening to a talk, so being able to appear with our fold-out chairs, rum-and-coke in hand, felt pretty awesome.
It felt great to be part of a shared cause/moral code, and among mostly well-mannered people, who were proud but not preachy. All-in-all, Vegan Camp-Out feels like any festival but kinder, and it feels like you can help to make a difference.
Nothing is for sure, but I’d be quite surprised if we didn’t head to the camp out again soon. Hopefully by that time, the movement will be closer to that crucial 10% and we’ll all be doing something about climate change too.