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Asheville Declares First Ever 'City-Proclaimed' Vegan Challenge in U.S.

The famously artsy and progressive city of Asheville, North Carolina declared the week of June 4-10 as the nation's first "city-proclaimed" seven-day vegan challenge.

The initiative—organized by the City of Asheville, regional hospital Mission Health and no-kill shelter Brother Wolf Animal Rescue—aims to promote the vegan diet as a means to combat climate change, mass species extinction and animal cruelty, and to improve human health, a Brother Wolf spokesperson told EcoWatch.


Mayor Esther Manheimer signed the proclamation last week. The document makes points such as:

  • More than 70 billion animals are bred and slaughtered each year, making global animal agriculture the leading cause of animal cruelty worldwide,
  • Global animal agriculture is the leading cause of global deforestation, rainforest depletion, soils degradation, water scarcity, desertification and ocean dead zones,
  • Scientists say we are in the midst of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction of Species, with more than 200 wildlife species lost daily, and humans are the leading cause due to global deforestation and climate change,
  • The leading causes of human mortality and escalating healthcare costs are heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and the leading driver of those diseases is the consumption of animal-based foods.

The Brother Wolf spokesperson said 225 citizens have already signed up for the challenge. The goal is to reach 500 participants by June 4. At the end of the challenge, the organizers will use the number of people who signed up to calculate the environmental impact of their effort. The following will be measured in terms of the amount saved: Gallons of water, square footage of forest, animals lives, pounds of grain and pounds of CO2.

"We want to show the United States that as a community, we can come together to create real change for the animals, the Earth, and us," said BWAR founder and president Denise Bitz, in a statement.

Asheville has become a plant-based haven in recent years, with more than 80 restaurants serving vegan options and not one but two festivals celebrating the lifestyle—the Asheville VegFest organized by the Asheville Vegan Society, and the Asheville VeganFest organized by Brother Wolf, according to VegNews. Mayor Manheimer even declared "Vegan Awareness Week" in 2016 and in 2017.

The inaugural vegan challenge will lead up to the three-day VeganFest from June 8-10. The organizers expect a record crowd of more than 15,000 attendees this year.

From left to right: Jason Sellars – chef and owner of Plant Vegan Restaurant; Brian Haynes, Asheville councilman; Mayor Esther Manheimer; Paul Berry, Brother Wolf executive director. Brother Wolf

Giving up meat and animal-based products might not be easy for omnivores but the organizers behind the vegan challenge have created a free and accessible guide that includes recipes and a shopping list of ingredients for the week.

The meal plan was developed by Dr. Garth Davis, the medical director of Mission Weight Management, and his team.

"I've just moved to Asheville, and I'm so impressed that the city has issued this proclamation," Davis, who was featured in the documentary Forks over Knives and stars in the TLC show Big Medicine, said in a statement. "My team and I are very excited to be working on this amazing opportunity with Brother Wolf."

Davis and his team will also stream live cooking classes and plant-based health tips on the VeganFest Facebook page.

Brother Wolf has partnered with local grocery stores and restaurants to highlight vegan options during the week.

"We are very blessed to have so many great restaurants in our community, and most all the chefs offer wonderful vegan options," Bitz added. "Our local grocery stores have abundant selections of vegan foods, too. We're working with local restaurants and local grocers to offer discounts on their vegan foods to encourage participation in the challenge."

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