(This is a guest post by the always charming Gary Loewenthal of Animal Writings and Compassion for Animals. He’s heading up the first Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale, which you’ve hopefully heard about by now. I asked Gary to write a guest post to talk a little bit about the bake sale, which has gathered an awful lot of steam since he first told me about the project a few months ago. It’s a great example of what one person with one good idea can do.)
It’s my honor and privilege to be taking up valuable bandwidth on the premier animal rights and vegan blog of the Internet. Many thanks to Ryan. (ed. note: No neet to butter me up, Gary, you’ve already got the guest post spot. :) )
My life lately has been gradually consumed by the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale (WVBS), culminating next week, so hopefully I’ve learned a few lessons and have some impressions that may be of interest to a few readers or more.
In a nutshell… The WVBS concept is simple: Groups (or individuals) around the world hold vegan bake sales around the same time – June 20-28, to be exact. It’s not a strict requirement that participants have to have a bake sale during that time period, but having a bunch of vegan bake sales across the globe in the same week makes it feel more like a festive, impactful event.
The idea is very unoriginal. It’s based on similar projects such as the Great American Bake Sale. The main difference – besides being vegan – is that participants can do whatever they want with the proceeds. That’s turned out to be a great feature, but the original reason for that decentralization was to make the project easier to organize. Speaking of which, the coordinator of the event as a whole is Compassion for Animals, a small DC-area grassroots animal group that a few of us started last fall. (The website will be finished as soon as I get a break from the WVBS!)
I randomly hoped for 30 bake sales the first year. Right now we have 75. Participants include an LA City Councilmember’s office, a preschool, a radical left sci-fi convention, vegan businesses, vegan food bloggers, local veg*an groups, internationally known animal protection organizations such as Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing, and ad hoc collaborations of friends. Proceeds are going to a river cleanup effort, an anti-discrimination program, a children’s shelter, a free mobile spay/neuter service, humane societies, farmed animal sanctuaries, Food not Bombs, Food For Life, and animal-related groups ranging from the Sea shepherd Conservation Society to Vegan Outreach – and many more places. One bake sale is a fundraiser for a sanctuary employee who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Lessons I’ve learned (or am learning) – which may be old hat to anyone who’s organized anything, or may just be common sense, but I’ll put them out there in case they’re useful to others who are thinking of embarking on an activism project:
“You can do it.” I’m not a great baker and I have almost no experience at bake sales or putting together events, yet I’m heading up a global vegan bake sale. I forget who said that the secret to writing a book is to start writing, but I think it’s the same thing with big projects: Just start doing the first steps, then the second steps, and so forth. Don’t worry that you’re not an expert or that you make mistakes along the way – we’ve made a ton. You learn from your mistakes and gather knowledge along the way.
If the project seems too big, scale it back. As mentioned before, we made the WVBS participation rules short and simple partly to save time on our end. You also might also be able to enlist help. I feel like I cashed in all my chips on this endeavor, but hopefully that’s ok – if we all help each other, it should come out even in the long run.
Prepare for success. The WVBS isn’t a household name, and it’s nowhere near the scale of, say, Meatout (shout-out to FARM, BTW, for their promotions of the WVBS), but compared to my low expectations, it’s a huge success – and the workload has expanded accordingly. In hindsight, I should have asked myself, “What kind of infrastructure and time commitment will we need if we get a lot more respondents than we’re expecting?”
Cupcake activism is powerful! I was slow to realize the power of introducing skeptics to the deliciousness and variety of vegan food. I may have been too vested for too long in trying to craft the perfect pro-vegan arguments to see that vegan chocolate chip cookies have their own persuasiveness which may go beyond words. I’m finding out that the positive, friendly atmosphere of vegan feed-ins and bake sales are somewhat disarming and conducive to productive conversations; non-vegans attending these events seem more open, more honest, less defensive, less inclined to play “stump the vegan.” Food is an amazing activism tool. And it tastes great!
Perhaps the most gratifying part of the WVBS is witnessing the enthusiasm and creativity of all the participants. They’re the ones doing the heavy lifting and are the reason that the project is a success; I can’t give them enough props or gratitude. Not only will the bake sales feature an assortment of cookies, cupcakes, pies, brownies, breads, and muffins; they’ll also include danishes, cinnamon rolls, scones, donuts, cheesecakes – you name it Some bake sales will be combined with jewelry and crafts, or music shows by national acts or local groups. And check out these amazing posters for Atlanta, Ithaca, and Auckland bake sales! The hard work and amazing output from the organizers and bakers for all the local bake sales has been nothing short of inspiring. If you get a chance over the next couple weeks, stop by one or more of these bake sales if they’re in your area. Take home some wonderful goodies and help out worthy causes in the process. And know that the offerings on the bake sale tables all over the world are not only produced with flour, sugar, nondairy milk, and other cruelty-free ingredients; they’re also made with love – which can be quite an effective outreach tool.