I have attended Chicago VeganMania for the past couple of years, and it has always been pretty crowded.
I was a little surprised by the big turnout my first year, considering that vegans account for such a small percentage of the population. But it is encouraging knowing that a good number of the people wandering by the various vegan-related booths and listening to the presentations may still be consuming some animal products, but are at least curious about the alternative.
With this in mind, I was shocked to drive to Indianapolis last weekend for Indy VegFest and find I had to wait in a pretty long line just to get through the doors. Once inside, I found myself shoulder to shoulder in a huge crowd nearly filling the large conference room.
I could not believe that right there, in the middle of animal agriculture country, I was having to shuffle my way through a dense crowd to get to the various vegan edibles and other items being offered by the many vendors taking part in the annual event.
Katelin Rupp, who took over the event this year with her husband, Joe, and a large team of volunteers, estimated that more than 4,500 people walked through the doors during the seven-hour day.
This was one of those rare times when I was happy to see a crowd and stand in a line. It showed that there is a big interest in veganism... and right here in Indiana.
Do you know how many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) you pass while driving along Interstate 65 between Northwest Indiana and Indianapolis? There are many. Try to keep count sometime of all those long buildings right near the highway that feature large pools of waste nearby from all the animals squashed together inside.
It was a nice shot in the arm to spend the day with so many like-minded people. I came away refreshed and encouraged.
But I was reminded of just how much work remains when, during the event, a group marching to draw awareness to climate change walked up to the conference center, and I was unable to find in the sea of signs even one that pointed out that animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouses gases than the transportation industry.