Although the national diet of Turkey has for many centuries heavily included vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains, veganism as an alternative lifestyle was slow to catch on. That is changing, however, with a growing interest in the concept from the younger generation, who once they have tried it are eager to spread the word. At the end of April, crowds turned out as Turkey celebrated its first vegan festival in the small town of Didim.
Organisers of the Festival of Life, the Vegan, and Vegetarians Association of Turkey, say we all have a responsibility to the planet we live in and all the creatures we share it with. They started Turkey's first Vegfest with enthusiasm to raise awareness of the vegan concept in the country. The program covered two days and included shows, dancing, stalls, advice and featured slots by key members of the vegan movement in Turkey. Running from the 29th to the 30th of April, sponsors included the European Vegetarian Movement.
Citing many reasons for people to be vegan, they say, people's meat and dairy eating patterns do not only affect their health, but also leave a footprint that also affects the whole planet. Nowadays, livestock is the number one cause of the greatest human-induced carbon emissions released on the earth. Industrial livestock activities also destroy the vast majority of clean water resources. The negative effects of animal products on human health are another important factor supporting the vegan lifestyle.
Basing their centre in the Sultanahmet district of Istanbul, TVD (Vegan and Vegetarians Association Turkey) is the first and only vegan / vegetarian lifestyle NGO in Turkey that has been operating since 2007. It is a partner in the European Countries Vegan Development Project and a full member of the International Vegetarians Association (IVU) and the European Vegetarians Association (EVU).
Such is their influence, Didim Council, where the festival was held has promised to organise educational activities, provide appropriate alternatives for vegan council workers, and prepare a city map for vegans and vegetarians visiting the town.
Since the significant rise of veganism in Turkey, the only store of its kind is also receiving media attention for all the right reasons. The store called Vegan Dukkan operates from the Cihangir district of Istanbul, and they say, this way of life is not hard at all. They want to help people adopt the environment-friendly and sustainable way of life, by making the products easily attainable.
Founded by a vegan entrepreneur, they sell only vegetarian/vegan, ecological/organic, nature and animal-friendly products. Those with lactose intolerance and food allergies can also buy food items and they take a firm stance against animal exploitation. With festivals, stores, and even books being released, it will not be long before the veganism in Turkey becomes widely known and practised throughout the districts.