Veggie Pride

This past weekend, vegetarians and supporters dressed as cows, watermelons, bananas and various vegetables gathered on the corner of Washington and Centinela for Los Angeles' first Veggie Pride Parade. Enthusiasts gathered on Sunday afternoon armed with signs, megaphones and colorful costumes in an attempt to "get their veg on" by marching in a 5k walk through the neighborhood of Venice. Attendees marched with dogs dressed as vegetables and parents pushed zucchini costumed babies in strollers.

According to Animal Acres, an the organization that coordinated the parade and rally, participants walked to "educate people about the health, environmental, and animal welfare benefits of a vegetarian diet. And also to provide 'veg' living resources, tips and information."

"Vegetarians Against Animal Exploitation," an annual parade in France now in its ninth year, inspired Lorri Houston, founder of Animal Acres to begin planning the historical event.

She said, "Last year New York had the first Vegetarian Pride Parade in the U.S. and now Los Angeles is following suit." Houston continued, "This is something we really wanted to do. The vegetarian community has really come together to support us today."

Vegetarian friendly organizations such as the animal rights organization PETA, United Poultry Concerns, vegetarian summer camps for children, plant based cosmetic companies, vegan snack lines and various vegetarian friendly restaurants were present at the post-march rally.

Amanda Fortino, a PETA campaign coordinator said, "Events like these are the first step in treating animals better. It's nice to see so many vegetarians here. It's hard in a city like L.A. to connect with other vegetarians. L.A. is so big."

According to Houston, Animal Acres is "a farmed animal sanctuary and compassionate living center" located 45 minutes from L.A.

The organization takes in animals in need of rescuing and these animals are sponsored by donations. In addition to giving animals a home, Animal Acres is involved in public education and outreach, mainly through farm tours and coordinating events to raise awareness that allow for human contact with animals.

Cathy Petrosky, an Animal Acres board member and volunteer, says, "Volunteering at the rally is like living my values."

She continued, "We have a certain vision of the world. Our actions are reinforcing that vision of a world of compassion for all beings. Meat eating is the number one cause of global warming."

Petrosky also said, "The clearing of land to house cattle has been a major cause in depleting the country's forests.

"Also, methane produced by cows, transportation in transporting farm animals and the dairy industry are some of the negative consequences of meat consumption that cause global warming."

Anne Pevlir, a 22-year-old vegan, drove nearly an hour and half from Ontario to march with other socially conscious Californians. She said, "I'm trying to be more proactive about animal rights. It's really cool to be around people who are very passionate. It inspires me to become more passionate about things I care about."

Cars honked and drivers waved their hands in support as the crowd marched the streets of Venice.

Although the majority of attendees were self claimed vegans and vegetarians, many supporters also took the streets with signs and megaphones.

Patrick Shipstad explained he did not identify as vegetarian but attended the march to support his vegan wife and friends.

Shipstad said, "I'm here because I don't need to be a party pooper. I eat 90 percent less meat than I did last year, but vegan is a little hard for me. But I do understand the motivation to be vegetarian and vegan. I'm happy to support my wife and friends in what is important to them."

Gabrielle Harradim, an attendee dressed as an eggplant, explained that she has been a vegetarian since the age of 17 after quitting her job at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

She said, "I like animals and I don't want to eat them." She continued, "I have a much smaller footprint on the earth since I'm not eating meat." She also mentioned the health benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. "Being a vegetarian is also healthier. Vegetables are easier to digest."

After the march, attendees enjoyed a rally that celebrated vegetarianism with performances by social action rock group, Truth on Earth.

The event also hosted special guest speakers such as Rory Freedman, author of the New York Times bestseller "Skinny Bitch", vegan samples from restaurants and a costume contest.

With the city's growing eco-friendly and health conscious population, the turnout of vegetarians and supporters was no surprise this past weekend.

Andy Hoang, an attendee of the rally said, "It's hard to find people that share the same beliefs. In the future, I would never think twice to come out to an event like this."

Whether vegetarian or not, the march served as an example that L.A. is a city with countless networks and opportunities for people wanting to show pride in their choices and lifestyle. Fittingly, attendees enthusiastically exclaimed throughout the afternoon, "Say it loud! Vegan and proud."