Old City: National Vegan Center Celebrates its First World Vegan Day

Vance Lemkhul, director of the American Vegan Center, reads Mayor Jim Kenney's proclamation declaring Nov. 5 Philadelphia Vegan Day. (Kent Kuo/PN)

Story by Kent Kuo

The American Vegan Center, the first vegan center in the country, opened its doors to Philadelphians on Sep. 9 and celebrated its first World Vegan Day on Nov. 1.

Vance Lehmkuhl, the director of the American Vegan Center, planned many events to celebrate the week.

“We’re actually going to be doing several special occasions, so we are gonna be open for some period on Monday and Tuesday of that week,” Lehmhuhl said. 

Besides World Vegan Day on Nov. 1, the organization also celebrated the birthday of the American Vegan Society’s founder Jay Dinshah on Nov. 2. The day is also called Dynamic Harmlessness Day, in honor of one of Dinshah’s core beliefs. 

“By calling it dynamic harmlessness, not harming is not just sitting back in the easy chair and never going anywhere,” he said. “It’s actually going about your life and choosing to do the least harmful things in every possible situation that you find yourself in.” 

Emmett Freeman, a Temple student who has been vegan and vegetarian for 4 years, said that he went vegan because he wanted to actively harm animals less. 

“A lot of people I follow on Twitter and Instagram were posting things about being vegan and about the animal agriculture industry in the U.S.” he said. “It just made me feel really guilty and ashamed for eating animal products when they suffer so much.”

On Nov. 5, Mayor Jim Kenney proclaimed that the day would be known as Philadelphia’s  Vegan Day. To celebrate the proclamation, the Vegan Center offered  samples of vegan cuisine attendees to try, hopefully learning that a vegan diet could also be tasty. 

Inside the American Vegan Center. (Kent Kuo/PN)

The American Vegan Society was founded in 1960 to help create a national network in support of veganism. The organization helped other young vegan organizations to get started and published the first vegan cookbook in the US. 

When choosing where to establish the first and ever vegan center, Philadelphia seemed like a  great place to start.

“Right here, we are meeting people on the street, literally, and trying to connect with people wherever they happen to be, and inspiring their interest in veganism,” Lehmkuhl said. 

Lehmkuhl said Philadelphia is the place where the first vegetarian movement and later vegan movement actually got started.

“We’re getting great responses from people, saying ‘I just have no idea how much history in Philadelphia is around vegetarianism and veganism’,” he said. 

Jason Lee, who has been vegetarian since he was born, thinks the center is beneficial for all vegans and vegetarians. 

“An organization promoting vegan diet and knowledge is always something we cannot get enough of,” Lee said.  “Now that Philadelphia has a center that educates the public on vegan knowledge, I think that’s a great achievement.”

Lee mentioned that promoting vegan/vegetarian diets isn’t about persuading people to become vegans or vegetarians. It is about giving knowledge to others. 

“We might have limited power to change everyone’s diet, but we do have the responsibility to tell the innocents the importance of a plant-based diet,” he said. 

Please email any questions or concerns about this story to: editor@philadelphianeighbors.com.

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