The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.
Our Picture Book
(Rae, Robbie, and Joan at Summerfect 2001) Rae Schlecht, Roberta Schiff, and Joan Zacharias at the North American Vegetarian Society's Summerfest that was held in Johnstown, PA at the University of Pittsburgh campus.
By Joan Zacharias
“What’s a nice vegetarian like you doing in a place like this?” people asked when they saw our booth at last year’s Columbia County fair – not exactly the perfect venue for human herbivores. But it was exactly where we wanted to be: in the midst of 65,000 hot-dog eating, monster tractor-loving fairgoers. People took loads of vegetarian literature, signed up for our mailing list and expressed interest in learning how to eat healthier. Not everyone was thrilled to see us, however, as we witnessed some of our literature being “barbecued” on a grill over at the 4H dairy barn.
Despite living in one of the most beautiful rural areas in the nation – with dozens of organic farms and abundant outlets for fresh-picked fruits and veggies, people are fat and sick here, like everywhere else in America, from eating the standard meat and dairy diet. One look at the school lunch menus here and it’s not hard to see where they got their eating habits – or what their children’s arteries are going to look like down the road.
Still, I thought we’d take it slow and start small. But at our first event, a July 4 barbecue, over 100 people showed up from as far away as New York City and Saratoga, proudly bearing gorgeous dishes – many made with ingredients from their own gardens. It was a perfect day: people from every generation, lots of dogs, frisbees, lovely traditional Irish music, a watermelon seed-spitting contest, pickup basketball games, good food and good vibes. We’ll do this every year.
In a few short weeks, we’ll be back at the county fair – a place that didn’t feel so welcome a few months ago when fair organizers told us we were banned after the dairy and cattle farmers complained about our “anti-agriculture” literature. With the help of vegetarians everywhere, local free speech supporters and a good lawyer, we made peace with fair officials and will have our booth this year, just like last year: right across from the American Legion Hot Dog Booth.
Some folks will love us, others will loathe us, but we feel strongly that people have a right to the full range of information they need to make important decisions about their health. Vegetarian societies like ours are like a great “nutrition underground” – disseminating truth kits against the big fast food/junk food empire. What’s frightening to the dairy and cattle folks is that people are starting to see that the emperor has no clothes – and he’s all blubber! People are tired of being sick and tired. They want to get off their medications and start living again. That means turning their backs on meat and dairy, which scares those who make a living pushing these products.
In this rural area, we are told that we must choose between animal agriculture and development. In other words, animals must be killed in order to keep our open spaces. But farms like Huguenot Street in New Paltz are thriving by using “green (plant-based) manure” and soybean meal instead of slaughterhouse byproducts or animal feces. Not a single animal was harmed to produce their vegetables. Vegan organic farming methods – as old as the ancient Romans – must be taught once again.
Besides our cooking classes, restaurant outings, potlucks and picnics, we hope to encourage dialogue in the community about some of the “traditions” that foster unhealthy attitudes toward animals, including pig roasts, 4H and fishing contests. We will also enthusiastically support Farm Sanctuary’s new campaign for recognition of farm animals as sentient beings.
See you at the county fair!
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