Compassion Files: Niagara VegFest Co-Founders - Keri Cronin & Laurie Morrison

This week I’m once again excited to feature wonderful ambassadors of compassion, the co-founders of Niagara VegFest, Keri and Laurie. Niagara VegFest 2012 was the first VegFest I had ever attended and after attending was really inspired by the community you instantly felt a part of upon entering the festival. This festival was part of what inspired me to organize Niagara VegFest and Keri and Laurie have been kind to share information and insights into their planning process. You’ll want to mark June 1 on your calendar so you can check out this event.

About Keri, Laurie and Niagara VegFest
Keri Cronin and Laurie Morrison are the co-founders of Niagara VegFest, an annual event in St. Catharines, Ontario. Niagara VegFest has grown by leaps and bounds since it first began in 2012, and the third annual Niagara VegFest takes place on Sunday, June 1st.

Niagara VegFest was founded as a way to celebrate and showcase the growing interest in veganism in the Niagara region. We had noticed that more and more people are interested in learning about bringing more plant-based options into their lives, but that they sometimes weren’t sure how to go about doing that. VegFest brings together businesses, not-for profit organizations, animal rescue groups, sanctuaries, chefs, restaurants, and internationally renowned speakers so that people can not only learn from one another but also can celebrate the many benefits of bringing more plant-based, compassionate options into their lives. In addition, Niagara is one of the best growing regions in the country, so it just made sense to us to host a festival celebrating a plant-based lifestyle here!

Niagara VegFest has vendors, exhibitors, speakers, workshops, activities for families, prizes, and, of course, delicious food! This year we are kicking off the weekend with two additional events:

  • Friday, May 30 we will be hosting a special screening of the award-winning documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine. Both the film’s director, Liz Marshall, and the film’s human star, Jo-Anne McArthur, will be in attendance for the film and will be doing a Q&A afterwards.
  • Saturday May 31 we will be having a festival kick-off party featuring live jazz by the Shea D Duo.

More details about the festival and these two events can be found on our website: www.niagaravegfest.org

Niagara VegFest Photo Credit: Terry McKenzie-Trzecak

Niagara VegFest
Photo Credit: Terry McKenzie-Trzecak

What does compassion mean to you?

For us compassion means making choices that do the least amount of harm. In our daily lives this means veganism. It also means to be mindful about being compassionate to other humans, including those who may not see the world the same way as us.

What motivates you to make compassionate choices in your daily life?

We do it for the animals. Meeting rescued farmed animals at places like Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary and Farm Sanctuary proved to be the tipping point for us. More than reading about the ways in which animals are treated or seeing graphic images of cruelty, it was the face-to-face contact with rescued animals at sanctuaries that really set us on this path.

Keri with Chickpea at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary Photo credit: Laurie Morrison

Keri with Chickpea at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary
Photo credit: Laurie Morrison

Why is living a compassionate life important to you?

We feel it is important to live in a way that is true to our core beliefs, and one of those central beliefs is that, as a society, we need to rethink our relationships with other species. On another level, we have also found that the more compassion we extend to others, the more patient and gentle we are with ourselves. It loops around infinitely. It is one of the first insights we shared when moving to a vegan lifestyle.

Can you share some examples of how you choose to be compassionate throughout your day?

This is an interesting question because as an ethical vegan compassion for all species is what drives so many of our day-to-day choices. Thinking about how our choices are always connected in some way to the lives and living conditions of other beings is compelling — once you start to see the world this way it is really difficult see it in any other way. However, equally important is to extend the same sense of compassion to people who might not see the world the same way we do. We try to think as carefully about our interactions with others as we do about the food we choose to eat or the clothes we choose to wear. This is not to say that we are perfect (far from it!), but we try to be mindful that people are coming from different experiences and backgrounds, and that reacting with hostility and aggression towards ideas and approaches that are different from ours is harmful on many levels.

Laurie welcoming guests to Niagara VegFest Sip & Savour fundraiser Photo Credit: Jill Mitchell

Laurie welcoming guests to Niagara VegFest Sip & Savour fundraiser Photo Credit: Jill Mitchell

What are some tips you can provide to people looking to practice compassion or live compassionately?

I think the best thing to do is to spend time out at a sanctuary for farmed animals, places like Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, or Farm Sanctuary. Getting to know the animals as individuals is a life-changing experience. These are peaceful places where the sometimes abstract idea of “compassion” becomes most meaningful.

More information about Niagara VegFest can be found at www.niagaravegfest.org You can also follow us on Twitter (@niagaravegfest), Instagram, Pinterest and on Facebook. If you have any questions, you can email us at niagaravegfest@gmail.com.