Brother Wolf Animal Rescue founder Denise Bitz has a much broader view of what it means to be an animal lover than just rescuing dogs and cats. “We advocate for compassion to all animals,” she says, pointing to the no-kill shelter’s upcoming Asheville VeganFest as a public exhibition of the organization’s mission.
“As more and more folks add vegan options to their diet, they learn that a plant-based diet is not only more humane, but it’s also better for the environment, as well as our own health and well-being.” Bitz says she is also hoping that the new event will raise awareness about plans for the new Brother Wolf Animal Sanctuary, an 82.5-acre, special-care facility the group is developing in Leicester to provide long-term, specialized rehabilitation for cats and dogs suffering from abuse and neglect. Guests at the festival will be able to view plans for the facility, and memorial bricks for the sanctuary’s grounds will be on sale to raise money for the project.
At least a dozen vendors will be serving vegan foods and beverages at the inaugural event on Sunday, Aug. 16, some of whom see the festival as an occasion to win over converts. Eric and Veronica Walsh, the couple behind soon-to-open vegan lunch delivery service Veganized, hope to convince their customers that eliminating animal products from their diets doesn’t mean missing out on comfort foods. “We are offering a product that is indulgent and reminds you of the meals you grew up loving — without the guilt of harming animals in any way,” Walsh says. “We believe that Asheville’s plant-based food scene should offer a wide range of choices.”
When Veganized opens for business on Tuesday, Aug. 18, it will offer vegan interpretations of classic, hearty dishes such as stuffed peppers, a loaded cheeseburger and chicken Philly cheesesteaks.” Our meals should also serve as an easy step for anybody transitioning into a vegetarian or vegan diet as the tastes, textures and types of food we serve will not be a huge jump from those they are currently eating,” says Walsh.
Charles Foesch, owner of Bean Vegan Cuisine, says he sees a wide variety of motivations behind the customers eating his fare. “People come to veganism for so many different reasons,” says Foesch. “Health, compassion for animals, environmental reasons, spiritual beliefs and the culture they were raised in, to name just a few. We’ve also found that about 70 percent of our customer base does not identify as vegan or vegetarian at all. They just like the food.”
VeganFest will also offer educational sessions on the benefits of a plant-based diet, which Bitz says is “not only more humane for animals, but also reduces greenhouse gases and global warming.” In addition to aiding weight loss and bodybuilding, she claims a vegan diet is beneficial in preventing such diseases as cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. “[It] even helps support the spiritual journey,” she says.
Leading up to the festival, Brother Wolf enlisted 38 Asheville residents to take part in a 14-Day Health Challenge. Participants agreed to eat a plant-based diet for two weeks, taking health screenings before and after the challenge, in an effort to see how the diet affected major health indicators including blood chemistry, blood pressure and weight loss. At VeganFest, Amy Lanou, chair of the Health and Wellness Department at UNC Asheville, will announce the results.
Brother Wolf will have dogs and cats available for adoption, and arts and lifestyle vendors will showcase their vegan-friendly artwork, crafts and services.
Food vendors will include Bean Vegan Cuisine, Plant, Farm to Fender food truck, Coconut Organics, Veganized, Mela Indian Restaurant, Roots Hummus, Smiling Hara Tempeh, No Evil Foods and more. Food samples will be available at many booths, and all vendors will have vegan food for sale. The Hop and French Broad Chocolates will offer vegan desserts. Beer will also be available from Sanctuary Brewing Co. and Catawba Brewing Co.
The event takes place noon-5 p.m. Sunday, August 16 in Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville. VeganFest is a free event and is open to the public.