Whether or not you’re vegan, the second annual Circle V—a food and music event that aims to celebrate animal rights and inspire compassion for animals—was the place to be on November 18 in downtown Los Angeles! Thousands of people came together to eat delicious vegan food, learn from a stellar lineup of panelists, and, of course, listen to some great music. Mercy For Animals, Spaceland, and musicians and longtime vegan activists Moby and Tony Kanal produced Circle V, with a portion of the event’s proceeds benefiting MFA.
The festival kicked off at noon. Attendees sampled from an incredible selection of vegan food and beverage vendors, including Ridiculous Baking Co., Little Pine, Donut Farm, Plant Food for People, Mama's International Tamales, Word Of Mouth Truck, Señoreata, Baby Love Sweetery, Clean South LA, Charlie's Brownies, Yoga-urt, Cup My Cakez, Madame Shugah, Alpha Foods, Veganics Catering, and Pizzanista.
Passionate vegan activist couple Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara came to check out the vendors for themselves.
Activist and actor Mena Suvari wore her support for animals on her sleeve, while Tony Kanal declared himself a member of The Vegan Club.
Musician Weird Al Yankovic stopped by to enjoy some vegan eats, and Mýa hung out with MFA founder Nathan Runkle.
Inside The Regent Theatre, the panels were also star-studded.
First up was a panel of vegan athletes, moderated by dancer and activist Tonya Kay. “This is what 40 looks like!” Kay said glowingly of several members of the fine and fit panel. The athletes talked about how their recovery time and performance are better than ever on a plant-based diet. Olympic medalist Dotsie Bausch discussed her inspiring #XMilk campaign, which persuades athletes to ditch their dairy milk sponsorships in favor of healthier and more humane plant-based sponsors.
Athlete John Lewis (aka BadassVegan) let loose some pretty big news—apparently, he and Cowspiracy co-director Keegan Kuhn are working on a new documentary about the ways veganism intersects with food justice for communities of color. Tentatively titled They’re Trying to Kill Us, this is a film we can’t wait to see!
The Inspiration Panel, featuring Rich Roll, Kip Andersen, Simone Reyes, Lu Parker, and 11-year-old vegan activist Genesis Butler, truly lived up to its name.
Genesis shared her advice for kids who want their families to go vegan. “Places like Mercy For Animals have pamphlets you can order, and you can give them those. Show them those and they’ll think, ‘If my daughter or son can do it, I can too.’” She also shared her vision for the near future: “I think very soon the whole world will be vegan, the animals will be free, and there will be no slaughterhouses.” Genesis for President, 2050!
Instagram influencers Tatted Vegan, Sweet Simple Vegan, and VeganFatKid advised aspiring social media gurus on how to get their message out there. “Vegans are just regular people doing regular things, but we’re just trying to do it in a more compassionate way,” Tim Moore (VeganFatKid) said. “People think going vegan means giving things up, but we can show it’s not about living a life of restriction; it’s about living a life of addition.”
Next came the Vegan Social Justice Movement Panel packed full of activist all-stars, including MFA founder Nathan Runkle, PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, Animal Hope and Wellness Foundation founder Marc Ching, and entrepreneur and vegan activist Kat Von D.
“Animal rights is the social justice movement of our time, certainly of our generation,” Nathan said. “If you look at the number of individuals who are suffering and exploited for their bodies and futures—almost 300 animals killed every second. Those being exploited and abused can’t sit up here and boycott or contact their representatives themselves. They need us to speak up and speak on their behalf.”
The panel of celebrated vegan cooks was surprisingly funny and entertaining, thanks especially to Chef Babette, the famously energetic owner of LA’s Stuff I Eat. “Before I was vegan, I was a mess! I had gas, rashes, eczema, brain fog,” Chef Babette said. “I decided overnight to become vegan—for selfish reasons—and it was the best decision I made in my life.”
Private chef Roberto Martin told the story of how he became vegan after he started working as the personal chef for Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. He described how he used to idolize Anthony Bourdain and love meat until he started eating vegan five days a week for his unexpected job as a vegan chef. When his son went off dairy for his asthma and got better, Chef Martin decided to go all vegan, and now he appears on Ellen to help people learn to cook plant-based. “I was surprised the flavor profiles didn’t suffer. Nothing suffers.”
Finally, a panel of vegan food entrepreneurs assured us that the future of food is cruelty-free.
“We don’t wax poetic about the landline now that we have cell phones,” Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown said. “We need to create products that are so good people don’t miss the meat.” Luckily, such massive social change has occurred throughout history. Before the invention of the car, for example, horse-drawn carriages were everywhere. Ethan said that thanks to vegan entrepreneurs like fellow panelists Miyoko Schinner (Miyoko’s Kitchen), Dominique Barnes (New Wave Foods), and Bruce Friedrich (The Good Food Institute), soon it would “make as much sense that anyone would walk into a horse-drawn carriage at the end of tonight as it would for people to grow crops to feed animals so we can eat animals.”
According to Ethan and The Good Food Institute's Chris Kerr, every major meat company sees the vegan writing on the wall. Now the main issue is scaling in time to meet demand. “The consumer is so ready for this,” Ethan said. “We can’t fail them. We’ve got to deliver. So that’s exciting but daunting.” Tyson Foods itself has a stake in Beyond Meat, and Chris added that every major meat company he meets with is extremely interested in investing in a plant-based future.
As the night began, it was time for music. ANML, Moon Honey, and Raury opened the evening in style, while comedian Reggie Watts showed us his musical side with his set.
As Moby began to play, he certainly didn’t mince words. “Even if you hated animals, you should still be a champion of animal rights,” he told the audience, referring to the environmental destruction factory farming brings.
"Animal agriculture is the apocalypse we are suffering through. Just stop raising animals for food and everything goes away."
Dreamcar, fronted by Davey Havok and featuring Tony Kanal, rocked the house next.
Finally, headliner Waka Flocka Flame took the stage for his highly anticipated set, and the crowd loved it.
The party kept going until early morning, with a VIP after-party deejayed by Moby himself.
There’s truly nothing like Circle V! If you’re sad you missed this year, not to worry; you’ll have another chance to go in 2018. All of us at MFA are so grateful to our food and retail vendors, amazing speakers, and incredible musicians—but most importantly, to everyone who bought tickets and attended. See you next year!