Grant Park Vegan Food Festival COVID-19 policy sparks uproar
Vegandale, one of Chicago’s biggest foodie events takes place this weekend at Grant Park. It features around 40 food vendors from across the country serving meat and dairy free foods to the delight of the estimated 18,000 crowd expected on Saturday, September 11. However, festival organizers sparked controversy on Wednesday. when they announced their COVID-19 security policy.
Despite an Instagram post who states otherwise, Vegandale will not obey all Chicago city rules recommendations for large outdoor events. The festival will not require proof of visitor vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. These are the requirements that festivals like Lollapalooza and the next Riot Fest have been set up. Vegandale organizers also host events in Austin, Texas; THE; New York; and Toronto. For Chicago, the festival imposes the masks and ambiguously asking ticket holders to “limit substance use”, with references to “alcohol or substances” that “may make you less likely to follow COVID-19 security measures.”
The city health department “recommends checking documentation of vaccination or negative test status, if possible. If the vaccination or negative test status cannot be verified, the CRPD recommends that all participants, regardless of their vaccination status, wear masks whenever social distancing cannot be maintained. “
Three food vendors withdrew from the festival due to the policy: Liberation donuts; Pie, Pie, Pie Mon Chéri, and Vegan Vagabond Club. All three suppliers told Eater that representatives for Vegandale said organizers were not asking for proof of the vaccine because they claimed the vaccine was not vegan.
Vegandale organizers did not respond to a request for comment, but their policy reflects a long-standing argument within the vegan community on the ethics of vaccinations, with a vocal group denounce them as non-vegan due to animal testing and because some vaccines contain animal by-products. This includes the voices of conspiracy theorists like german author of vegan cookbooks Atilla Hildmann. In fact, in England, vegans are considered by law to be a protected class, enjoying the same exceptions as those who say religion prohibits them from certain practices, including vaccinations. This has led to some British anti-vaccines feign veganism as a strategy to avoid a jab.
None of the three US-approved COVID-19 vaccines contain animal products, however laws require animal testing before the drugs hit the market. Animal rights activists and veganism supporters at PETA advised vegans to get vaccinated because there is no better option right now and staying healthy is the best way to continue supporting animal rights. Although groundbreaking cases are possible, health experts point to data showing that vaccines reduce the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and the death of about 90 percent, even as the most contagious delta variant wreaks havoc across the country.
Natalie Slater of Liberation Donuts in West Town has been asking questions about Vegandale’s politics since June. While she is grateful that Vegandale organizers chose to make masks mandatory, she believes ignoring the other recommendations at a big event is irresponsible and risky and that Vegandale made her decision to bow to a party. Loud and aggressive anti-vax from the vegan community who would boycott the event and affect sales.
“Someone I was talking to had the perfect description,” says Heather Bodine-Lederman of Pie, Pie, Pie My Darling. “It was almost as if they were emboldening COVID deniers and anti-vaccines. “
Marc Bannes of the Vagabond Vegan Club is hosting pop-ups all over town with his wife, Meg McGrath. Bannes was frustrated with the festival organizers: “I’m only interested in working with people who I think are doing the right thing,” he says.
Slater, Bodine-Lederman and Bannes all say they don’t wish any harm to sellers who choose to participate. However, they couldn’t justify sending their teams to a busy festival where workers might be at higher risk of contracting the disease.
Liberation Donuts sells its reserved donuts for party online. He received anti-vaccine critics who commented on the company’s social media pages after announcing his intention to withdraw from the event. Slater says she understands that vegans are naturally wary of government regulations because their diets and diets differ from what health experts have traditionally prescribed. But with so many deaths and hospitalizations across the country – especially in less vaccinated areas – Slater says this noisy faction shouldn’t be dictating the terms of a public event. “Can’t you just show us that you don’t currently have COVID to participate in this event?” ” she says.
The three also took issue with Vegandale waiting three days before the event to announce the policy. Festival policies varied for each city, and no Chicago policy had been announced before. They argue that the changes did not give vendors enough time to make an informed decision, as many of the ingredients purchased were sold to festival patrons. Bodine-Lederman says she spent around $ 1,500 on the festival, including fees. Although she has her own bakery to sell her products, not all businesses have this luxury and many cannot afford to eat the expense. Representatives for Vegandale have told Slater, Bodine-Lederman and Bannes that they have no plans to reimburse.
Rodolfo Cuadros owns Bloom Plant Based Kitchen in Wicker Park and made 1,000 curried arepas for the event. All members of his team are vaccinated. He has two children aged 5 and 8 who are not vaccinated. He walks through the festival, but says he would have retired if it hadn’t been for the mask requirement.
The festival is important to his business, and after a difficult pandemic where restaurants have struggled to survive, he is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to showcase food from his newly opened restaurant to hungry customers. He has had discussions with friends about vaccines and he mocks excuses for putting children and those with underlying health conditions at high risk.
“As long as the vaccine is not vegan?” he says. “If there is a better option, let me know. “