Members of a Meetup-group pet Casper the cow at the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Wash. Photos courtesy of Christina and Fernando Cuenca
Members of a Meetup-group pet Casper the cow at the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Wash. Photos courtesy of Christina and Fernando Cuenca
The need to be more conscientious about consuming animal products could not be greater than it is today. Factory farming, considerations of personal health and environmental preservation are all excellent reasons to reduce your consumption. So if you have ever considered trying a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it turns out you are in the right part of the world for success.

Recently, Bill Gates spoke publically about the unsustainability of meat and dairy production as the world population grows. Gates, a leader in promoting human welfare, was offering a solution that one would expect from an activist of animal welfare: “try meat alternatives.”

On his website, GatesNotes.com, Gates presents the argument for plant-based proteins as a genuine opportunity to reduce environmental degradation and address human poverty, noting in an interview that 51 percent of global greenhouse gases come from the mass production of meat, dairy and eggs.

In March, I gleefully watched Justin Timberlake’s “Saturday Night Live” “Veganville” sketch in the hopes that the tofu-costumed, hip-hop artist would remind people that animals suffer in our factory-farming system. Like Gates, Timberlake was an advocate for animals that night. His on-stage arguments about animal suffering were inscrutable, and nowadays many people, like Bill Gates, know that vegetarianism is a sustainable lifestyle — particularly in Seattle, where, instead of ‘Veganville,’ we have Vegan Haven at Northeast 55th Street and University Way Northeast.

Spreading the word
Earlier this year, the Vegetarians of Washington, a nonprofit education and support group, hosted the 12th-annual Vegfest at the Seattle Exhibition Hall. The group’s president, Amanda Strombom, and vice president, Stewart Rose, told me that it would be the “best Vegfest ever,” and then 17,000 people attended this food festival. Vendors from across the United States gave out vegetarian and vegan samples until folks were stuffed.

Vegetarians of Washington volunteers also work year-round to provide monthly dinning events at the Mount Baker Community Club in Seattle. Dinners feature food from a local restaurant and are a reminder to omnivores and vegetarians alike that reducing meat consumption is an achievable and very tasty goal.

Additionally, Rose and Strombom host classes on vegetarian solutions for personal health, environmental recovery, global hunger and animal suffering. The class includes cooking instruction and tips on eating vegetarian. Vegetarians of Washington has published four books in recent years to guide people on these issues, including “Vegetarian Pacific Northwest” and “The Veg-Feasting Cookbook.”

Sharing with like-minded folks
Even humane-conscious parents can find kindred spirits in Seattle. One recent Sunday morning, I met Christina and Fernando Cuenca and their son, Luciano, at the The Wayward Vegan Café in the University District for brunch.

The Cuenca family is vegan, and three years ago, they started the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Meetup Group to meet other parents and children who follow a plant-based diet. The Cuencas started the group in 2011, after Luciano was born, because they had questions about navigating the world of conventional food as new vegan parents. Although longtime vegans themselves, the Cuencas hoped to exchange ideas with other parents about raising vegan or vegetarian children.

The Cuencas and other members of their Meetup group plan veg-friendly outings for parents and children. Previous Meetup events include potlucks, camping trips and restaurant meals, all structured to be both kid-friendly and veg-friendly, too.

During my brunch with the Cuencas, 3-year-old Luciano recounted his visit with the Meetup families to Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Wash., just the day before. He told me he met a big cow named Casper and some bunny rabbits and a turkey. The children also met a donkey named Margarita and a sheep named Miranda at the mountain-side farm. The Cuencas were joined by three other families with children ages 2 to 4.

Christina Cuenca explained that group events are a safe place where the kids can meet other kids who are like them, and they can share the same foods as kids like to do. Currently, more than 80 families are members of the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Group, with new members weekly.

Anika Ledhe, founder of Seattle’s VeganScore.com (a source for all things Seattle, vegan and new) reminded me in a recent interview that humans need community to thrive, and being vegan or vegetarian can be isolating regardless of your honorable intentions.
Luckily, here in Seattle, good food, motivation, education and especially a genuine supportive community are not far away if you are ready to take the first step toward vegetarian- or veganism.

To connect with the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Group on Meetup, visit www.meetup.com/Seattle-Area-Vegan-and-Vegetarian-Families-Group.

To learn more about the Vegetarians of Washington, visit www.vegofwa.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org. She also hosts the new “Living Humane” radio talk show on KKNW 1150AM. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.