Confusing Vegan and Environmental Messages at JAINA 2011

Despite the support of many Jain leaders and JAINA convention attendees, there was no clear response to our call for on all vegan menu. At one point, we heard there would be one all vegan day, then a few all vegan meals. An email came out to all attendees prior to the convention regarding the need to sign up for vegan meals, and letting them know to register. I emailed back to suggest that since they had invited vegan speakers, and people may be convinced to try vegan items, to have some excess capacity. But there was no reply, and at the actual event, several people who were persuaded by talks such as Prof Gary Francione’s, and Dr. Neal Barnard’s were turned away from the vegan line. Unfortunately, for those of us who did sign up before the convention, it was difficult  to ascertain what was vegan even in the vegan lines.The volunteers had a lot to handle at this convention and this is not intended to downplay their efforts, but it was very disappointing that they didn’t know what was vegan, and I think the the convention leaders could have been more clear,so that the meals and the message of the talks could have been consistent.
Another disappointing vision was the ubiquity of plastic water bottles, which, even if recycled, create unnecessary environmental resource use, and in many cases were not recycled. Also, as seems to be the norm for JAIN events, there was  egregious use of styrofoam plates with a milk compartment used to serve meals(as pictured on a previous post here about the Jain Center of GA). If we as a community are doing so well financially and hold ahimsa so dear to our ideals, why can’t we figure out a way to replace styrofoam with washable or at least compostable or biodegradable alternatives?

We did appreciate the efforts of Asha Jain to make the meals healthier and all the volunteers’ work. We certainly did not leave hungry or thirsty. Bringing our own water bottles and food containers to the conventions, we participated in the events, without generating so much waste (washing our plates with Dr. Bronner’s soap in the hotel room and reused them for each meal). We met friends and family and had a nice time at the convention.
We will post some of the talks on this site this week to inspire or reinspire our readers!

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