FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. — The State Fair was back this year with some big new vendors and a variety of more inclusive food, including vegan items.
Of the nine new vendors, four serve vegan options, including the ChoriPop at Midtown Global Market’s Andy’s Garage, falafel at Baba’s, cauliflower florets at La Floretta and beverages at Summer Lakes Beverages.
“They’ve come a long ways in the last couple of years. It used to be pretty slim pickings if you didn’t eat meat,” said Mary Montoya, a vegan of St. Paul.
The vegan food additions sparked several conversations among the vegan community about the ethics of going to the State Fair — which showcases animal agriculture — when living a vegan lifestyle.
Laura VanZandt, a vegan blogger from St. Paul, has a yearly tradition of going to the fair with her sister. She then publishes a blog post with the vegan finds at the fair, which she says is one of her most popular posts of the year.
VanZandt is attending the fair to support the new vegan vendors, although she isn’t fully on board with some practices that the State Fair has, she said.
“I don’t know that I can say that I’ve fully reconciled with it myself, just because I know that my money is supporting things that I don’t agree with,” she said.
Because of her blog, she feels that her going provides a service to others and ultimately many animals.
“If I can help promote the vegan items that are there, knowing that people who are sharing those posts are really interested in it then, I know in the end there are animals being saved because of what I’m doing,” she said.
Montoya echoed VanZandt’s thoughts about the demand for vegan items.
“If we don’t support vegan vendors at the fair, then there’s no reason for them to do it. And obviously, something’s changing, if we’ve gone from like two or three things we could eat … but now there’s a whole list,” she said.
While Cari Lombardi, a vegan from south Minneapolis, is impressed with the vegan options, she wants the fair to focus on educating people about animal agriculture and its impact on the environment.
Other vegan activists, like Ashley Lane, the campaign manager for The Animal Rights Coalition, want the fair to discontinue some practices like the butter carving and eventually stop showing live births.
“I would love just to see them not to do these births anymore because it’s incredibly stressful on these animals. And I don’t think it’s fair that they’re induced to give birth on display just so people can see it,” Lane said.
Regardless of a person’s decision to go to the fair, the vegan options mean a lot to many vegans.
“That means something to me,” Lombardi said. “It makes me happy to have that included. It’s a representation of our changing demographic that way, and that people are more curious about and interested in non-meat options.”
Other vegans would prefer to support pop-up events instead of buying a ticket at the fair.
Janet Elliott, of St. Paul, has only gone to the fair a couple of times in her life. While she’s happy about the vendors having more vegan options, she still won’t be going, she said.
“I think it’s really cool that some of the vendors are going out of their way to make vegan options. However, I feel like even because there are those new options there, that I personally would not pay money to go to the fair because it is all about animal exploitation. And I feel like everywhere you turn there, there’s either animals being used as food or animals being used as entertainment; it’s just all around you when you go to the fair,” she said.