KNOWLEDGE POD: Winnipeg VegFest: Compassion for Animals and the Planet



Dr. Jason Hannan, Associate Professor, Rhetoric and Communication, University of Winnipeg
Dr. Jonas Watson, Board of Directors, Winnipeg Humane Society

On September 16, 2017, the Farm Animal Compassion Committee of the Winnipeg Humane Society hosted Winnipeg’s first-ever VegFest, a one-day festival designed to foster compassion for animals and the planet. This event featured a vendors market, children’s activities, yoga, meditation, an art gallery, a hobbyhorse contest, and a mac ‘n cheese contest. However, the central feature of the event was a series of talks by prominent intellectuals promoting a unified message of compassion for all living beings. Winnipeg VegFest brought together a diverse group of people — animal activists, environmentalists, and health advocates — under one roof and one message. The event turned out to be an overwhelming success, with five times the expected attendance. In this presentation, we discuss the power of VegFest to greatly expand compassion for animals and reach new demographics.


  1. Intersectionality: Winnipeg VegFest brings together people who care about animals, the planet and people. A plant-based diet is a great way to unite these different groups under one large umbrella.
  2. Community: Winnipeg VegFest has built a community around compassion for animals and the planet. Concern for animals can be the basis of strong communal bonds.
  3. Join the Party: How do you get people to care for animals and the planet? It turns out that preaching isn't very effective. But creating a fun and lively festival is a great way to bring people into the movement.


Dr. Jason Hannan is Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Communications at the University of Winnipeg. His research and teaching focus on animal ethics, medical humanities and democratic communication. His books include Philosophical Profiles in the Theory of Communication (2012) and Truth in the Public Sphere (2016). He is currently working on two books: Meatsplaining: The Rhetoric of the Animal Agriculture Industry and Speaking for Animals and Nature, which examines the legacies of Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle and Carol J. Adams. He is the Co-Chair of Winnipeg Vegfest, a committee of the Winnipeg Humane Society.

Dr. Jonas Watson is a companion animal veterinarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His interest in providing veterinary care to underserved communities has taken him from Canada's north to the forests of Madagascar. Dr. Watson serves as a Director on the Boards of the Winnipeg Humane Society and the Canadian Animal Blood Bank. He is a regional Co-Director of Community Veterinary Outreach, a program that uses a One Health approach to the provision of veterinary services to homeless and marginally housed citizens. In 2018, he was elected President of the Manitoba Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Watson is a Co-Chair of Winnipeg Vegfest, a committee of the Winnipeg Humane Society.