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Health and compassion: Virtual vegan fest promotes plant-based diet, kindness to animals

Red & Green VegFest Albuquerque eventgoers attend a presentation at a previous event. (Courtesy of Nancy Arenas)

The pandemic has forced many to rethink how they live and how they eat.

For that reason, Red & Green VegFest Albuquerque founder Nancy Arenas was determined to put on her event. She decided to go virtual with the event after receiving numerous emails and texts from past eventgoers and vendors hoping to be part of festival this year. The event on Saturday, Sept. 12, and Sunday, Sept. 13, will feature a number of presentations, cooking demonstrations and virtual walk-throughs of Santuario de Karuna in Tijeras and Steampunk Farms Rescue Barn in San Diego.

“It’s all about continuing the conversation, especially during this pandemic, which started with zoonotic disease caused by animals back in China, and how it affects not only us here in New Mexico but the whole world as we can see with this COVID spread,” Arenas said. “And that is the same that happens when we consume all these animal products, that lends to these diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, all those kind of things that can be managed, for the most part.”

Arenas changed to a vegan diet 6½ years ago and never looked back.

Positive Links members show off their booth at a past Red & Green VegFest Albuquerque. The organization works to raise awareness about the connection between animal abuse and human violence. (Courtesy of Nancy Arenas)

“I went vegan for the animals, but a month after I went vegan, I no longer have fibromyalgia,” she said. “My migraines were gone. My joints used to swell. They no longer swell. For me, it was eye-opening. … It seems like the whole world is sick. Well, this is a way to get unsick.”

Carol J. Adams, author of “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” will do a presentation called “The Pornography of Meat: Why Does It Matter?” Seb Alex, originally from Lebanon, will talk about “Animal Rights & Logical Fallacies.” Dr. Sailesh Rao, who worked on projects with Al Gore regarding climate change, also will be part of the event. Michigan cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn will present “Beans, Beans, Good for the Heart.” Kahn is a advocate of vegan and whole, plant-based foods diets that promote heart health. Tammy Fiebelkam with Positive Links will discuss the connection between animal abuse and domestic violence.

Registered dietitian and University of New Mexico graduate Gabriel Gaarden will do a cooking demonstration on how to make nature’s candy, as well as a presentation titled “Game-Changing Nutrition for Creating a New World.” Another cooking demonstration, by Sheena Comer, will show viewers how to make a cashew cheese sauce. Local chef Paul Roybal will conduct the presentation “It’s All in the Sauce.” JL Fields, a cook and the owner of a vegan cooking school in Denver, will present “Vegan Umami: Three Quick Ways to Add Flavor to Your Plant-Based Cooking.”

Attendees at a past Red & Green VegFest Albuquerque sample vegan-friendly bites at a past event. (Courtesy of Nancy Arenas)

Vegan artists who write and make music based on veganism will perform, including singer-songwriter Sami Sarkis and the band Scarlet Rescue. The public can submit photos of their beloved animals for the “Cutest Companion Contest.” People have sent photos of their pigs, turkeys, cats, dogs, chickens, peacocks and other creatures. Viewers can also enter the “Fashion Face Mask Showdown” and show off their best masks. A panel of judges will rank contestants’ masks.

The event not only focuses on helping people change to a healthier diet but also encourages them to contribute to a healthier world.

“There’s a slew of individuals that can attest to the fact that we need to move to a plant-based diet for our health, but also the planet is crying out for help, and going to a plant-based diet kind of addresses that and, of course, to end the mistreatment and torture of the animals which we ingest,” Arenas said. “We need to start taking personal responsibility to take our own steps to move that way in order to continue the momentum. … Let’s not continue as it always has been. Let’s move forward for our kids and our grandkids by giving them an Earth they can live on, by making them healthier so they can live on this Earth, and by extending our compassion to all living beings, whether they’re human or nonhuman.”

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