‘Vegucate Yourself’

GVL / Courtesy - Tyler Konell

GVL / Courtesy – Tyler Konell

Ty Konell

Many people might believe implementing a plant-based diet into their lives would be too difficult. Cage Free, a vegan lifestyle advocacy student organization at Grand Valley State University, is hosting a program called “Vegucate Yourself” to help change that belief system.

Vegucate Yourself consists of three documentaries surrounding the topic of meat consumption and plant-based diets from the focal points of health, environment and ethics. Cage Free will screen the second film in the three-part program Thursday, March 16, titled “Forks Over Knives.”

Members of Cage Free said film is an effective way to spread the word about veganism.

“It condenses the most vital information about the benefits of a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle that a single activist trying to convince someone would not be able to convey as vividly,” said Celisse Pennington, member of the club. “A film series for a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is effective because there is often a disconnect between the farm and a consumer’s plate.”

In addition, participants in the club believe showing the films allows for a wider understanding of the many reasons behind choosing a plant-based diet, including protecting the planet.

“The first documentary we showed was called ‘Cowspiracy’ which really opens the door to the environmental side of veganism, which is huge,” said Jessyca Stoepker, vice president of Cage Free. “Factory farming is the number one contributor to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it also has a lot to do with pollution from animal waste.”

Stoepker said the films were influential in her decision to go vegan, as it highlights the positive health changes that choosing a plant-based diet may offer.

“I first became a vegetarian when I was really looking into the health benefits, because I was in a rut and didn’t really know what to do,” Stoepker said. “So the health benefits really drew me in, especially watching ‘Forks Over Knives.’ I immediately went vegetarian.”

Moreover, other club members said a passion for animals directed them toward a meat-free diet.

“Even at a young age I had an enthusiasm for animal rights, it felt immoral to eat a living being that I felt sympathy for, so I gave up meat and haven’t eaten it for 11 years,” Pennington said. “Eating a cruelty-free and plant-based diet is important for me because it allows me to live a lifestyle that I feel confident in and feel at peace with.”

Members of Cage Free said they hope screening the films will open up conversations about accountability.

“One of the biggest things I hope for is open mindedness and just seeing things for what they are rather than just falling back on habits, because that’s what a lot of us do,” Stoepker said. “You get there at your own pace, but we really want to open up that dialogue.”

As result of the screening, club members hope it encourages those who attend to transition out of meat consumption.

“I hope that attendees of the showings will gain knowledge on where their food comes from, which is one of the most relevant aspects of their life,” Pennington said. “I also hope they gain the encouragement to obtain a higher quality of health by transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.”

Cage Free will be showing “Vegucated,” the last film in the program at 5:30 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center’s Area 51. All film showings are LIB 100 approved.