Reviewed by Ian Mowll
This festival was held at Bicester, Oxfordshire 28th – 31st July 2023. I am currently pescatarian and vegan curious and I’ve been cooking more vegan meals lately so I thought it would be a good idea to check out this festival to find out more about veganism and I was so pleased that I did.
There are various reasons people become vegans: animal welfare, reducing carbon emissions, health reasons and care for the planet with animal welfare predominating.
The festival included talks, music, mind and body activities such as yoga and a whole range of vegan food stalls. I tried the vegan versions of fish and chips, hogless roast, kebabs, Ethiopian food, ice cream and cakes. They were all of a high standard and by the end, I felt that vegan food really has ‘come of age’ in terms of providing a wide range of really good, tasty food for the western palette.
One of the food stalls at the event
Veganism can be an emotive subject because not only is food a necessity, it can also be influential in social bonding, cultural identity and health issues. It is also a place where animal rights activists often connect. Because of all of this, some people can find the overzealous attitude of some vegans off-putting. But this is one of the big reasons I enjoyed the festival so much. I was put at ease by the maturity and openness of the speakers – all of the speakers I heard had not always been vegans and they understood that people can be on a journey in their food choices. One speaker openly admitted that no-one has all of the answers and mistakes can be made. The festival aimed to inspire and encourage, not to criticise and condemn. And actually, that is often one of the best ways to influence people, providing an emotionally safe space, allowing people to find out for themselves and to go at their own pace. I gave the festival full marks for doing just that.
It was the talks that inspired me the most. There were activist protestors such as Juliet Gellatley, Tash Peterson and Joey Carbstrong all putting their personal safety at risk to show the world appalling animal abuse on farms. But my highlight was a talk by a vet – Alice Brough. She was a pig vet, hoping to reform the system from the inside but found the system too intransigent to change so she stopped her veterinary work and became vegan. It was her personal testimony as an insider that I found so compelling; I found her to be honest, thoughtful and compassionate.
There was a music stage which included Sam Ryder (who came second in Eurovision 2022) – he was wonderful – a real showman. And Mobius Loop who are little known but I loved their music. There was comedy too by the well known Romesh Ranganathan – although I love comedy, I did not enjoy his set.
Sam Ryder during his set
In any movement, there is always the good and the bad. To my mind, Vegan Camp Out represents the best I have seen of veganism with a mature, thoughtful and compassionate outlook, whilst maintaining the fierce love that is needed to continue the journey towards a better world. I can thoroughly recommend this festival to anyone who is vegan or is vegan curious.