Boston Veg Food Fest 2021 Speakers

Presentations aired live on Saturday, October 23, 2021

Watch a recording of the event. Our theme is Bringing the World to Boston, with a roster of speakers (see below) from around the globe who could never be assembled at an in-person fest. Learn from climate and health scientists, chefs, authors, animal advocates, and international activists who are changing the world for good.  This is a lively two hours of short, 3-12 minute talks to share key concepts and introduce speakers who you may want to follow.

Order of 2021 Speaker Presentations

  1. Seb Alex
  2. Philip Lymbery
  3. Shara Ng
  4. Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl
  5. Glenys Oogjes
  6. Ayesha Sherzai, MD & Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD
  7. Melanie Joy, PhD
  8. Nicola Kagoro, a.k.a. Chef Cola
  9. Jian Yi
  10. Brenda Davis, RD
  11. Joshua Kirkandi Mufabule
  12. Dragana Vucic Dekic, PhD

Seb Alex – Lebanon – Born and raised in Lebanon, Seb Alex has traveled throughout Europe giving lectures at universities and schools on animal and vegan advocacy. He left a career as an international coordinator of projects for an architecture firm in Barcelona to pursue a greater calling to dedicate his life’s work to animal rights advocacy. After the massive Beirut port bombing in 2020, Seb launched a food relief campaign in collaboration with Lebanese Vegans to distribute plant-based food boxes and meals to people in need. He helps run the Lebanese Vegan Social Hub in the heart of Beirut, offering free workshops and documentary screenings. They placed huge LED billboards in key locations in Beirut and on major highways raising awareness on the link between pandemics and the way humans treat animals. Seb believes that every person has something to offer to help animals, people, and the environment. He has just launched a podcast to talk with game changers who are fighting in their own ways to make the world a better place.


Brenda Davis, Registered Dietitian – Canada – Brenda Davis is a pioneer in plant-based nutrition and an internationally acclaimed speaker, featured at medical and nutrition conferences in over 20 countries on five continents. She is the lead clinical nutrition specialist for the diabetes research and intervention project in the Marshall Islands. As a prolific nutrition and health writer, she has authored/co-authored 12 books with nearly a million copies in print in 15 languages. Her most recent works include Nourish: The Definitive Plant-based Nutrition Guide for Families (2020), Kick Diabetes Essentials (2019), and The Kick Diabetes Cookbook (2018), as well as the classic Becoming Vegan (2014.) Brenda is a past chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Brenda’s talk is on the hot topic of Carbohydrates: Setting the Record Straight, and she addresses the common claim that carbohydrates are at the root of the obesity and chronic disease epidemics. She provides evidence for favorable effects of healthful carbohydrates, and practical tools for selecting carbohydrate sources that are highly protective. Brenda joins us from Alberta, Canada.


Dragana Vucic Dekic, PhD – Croatia –  Dragana is an author of humorous short stories, poems, and vegan-friendly children’s picture books. She holds a PhD in humor theory and stand-up comedy, and has worked as a TV presenter and a cultural program producer. Dragana is a professor of literature and has launched drama workshops that foster a sense of humor in children. Her children’s books promote empathy toward all animals while encouraging creative thinking to dispel the various prejudices that exist in the modern world. She has won an award for her humorous travel stories, which are published on her blog. Dragana will speak on Writing About Violence in a Nonviolent Way, including the function of humor in children’s vegan literature, and how to bring veganism closer to children in an emotionally acceptable way. Dragana joins us from Zagreb, Croatia.


Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl – Denmark – Rune-Christoffer is a Danish anthropologist and an expert on the relationship between sustainability, climate change, agriculture and food. As Secretary-General of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark, he and his colleagues have just this month (October, 2021) achieved a groundbreaking, historic achievement from their work with Parliament— the Danish government announced over 1.25 billion kroner in funding to advance plant-based foods, as part of an unprecedented climate agreement for food and agriculture. Rune-Christoffer will share in his talk how they achieved this national action plan for plant-based foods and its specific objectives, as well as why the shift to plant-based foods is essential in fighting the climate crisis. Rune-Christoffer has worked as Assistant Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen and as External Lecturer in Sustainable Food Systems at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, and has conducted field research on agricultural development in Eastern Africa. He joins us from Copenhagen, Denmark.


Melanie Joy, PhD – Germany – Melanie Joy is a Harvard-educated psychologist specializing in relationships, communication, and social transformation. She is the award-winning author of six books, including the bestselling Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows and Getting Relationships Right: How to Build Resilience and Thrive in Life, Love, and Work. Joy is an internationally recognized speaker and trainer who has presented her work in fifty countries across six continents. Joy is best known for her groundbreaking theories on the psychology of violence and nonviolence, building healthy relationships, why people engage in behaviors that harm other people, animals, the planet, and themselves—as well as how to change this pattern. Her work has been featured by media outlets around the world, including the New York Times, BBC, NPR, and ABC Australia. She is the eighth recipient of the Ahimsa Award—previously given to the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela—for her work on global nonviolence; and she also received both the Peter Singer Prize and the Empty Cages Prize for her work developing strategies to reduce the suffering of animals. Joy is the founding president of the international organization, Beyond Carnism. Originally from Boston, Joy now resides in Berlin, Germany.


Nicola Kagoro, a.k.a. Chef Cola – Zimbabwe – Chef Cola is a pioneering female Zimbabwean vegan chef at the helm of African Vegan on a Budget, founded in 2016 to showcase Chef Cola’s cuisine and culinary development as well as to promote the reality that people can thrive on a healthy plant-based diet on a budget. Chef Cola is a hospitality management graduate whose journey took her not only to veganism, but also to being on the culinary frontlines of presenting vegan food and lifestyle in Africa and advocating its great benefits—both nutritional and environmental—and giving people the tools and knowledge to integrate plant-based eating into their lifestyles. Her projects range from working with corporate and individual clients, to a mobile dining concept in Harare and Cape Town, to her founding in 2021 of Chef Cola’s African Inspired Kitchens, a project that develops plant-based kitchens in rural and urban Zimbabwe.

Chef Cola is Executive Chef and Project Manager for the kitchen for AKASHINGA, preparing entirely vegan meals and ration packs for the all-female anti-poaching ranger force. AKASHINGA, the pioneering vegan conservation program of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF), is Africa’s first armed, plant-based, all-women anti-poaching unit that is revolutionizing the way that animals are protected – and arresting poachers without firing a single shot. Chef Cola joins us from Harare, Zimbabwe. Try her recipe: Zimbabwean Traditional Dish: Peanut Butter Greens


Philip Lymbery – England – Philip Lymbery is Global Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, Visiting Professor at the University of Winchester, President of Eurogroup for Animals, Brussels, and founding Board member of the World Federation for Animals. He is an award-winning author, ornithologist, photographer, naturalist and animal advocate. His talk for us will be on the subject of his book, Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were, which focuses on how industrial animal agriculture is a major driver of wildlife declines worldwide: from mammals, to sea life, birds, reptiles and insects, the loss of biodiversity, and why that loss threatens humanity. Philip has played leading roles in many major animal welfare reforms, including Europe-wide bans on veal crates for calves and barren battery cages for laying hens. Philip works extensively on issues relating to industrial animal agriculture (factory farming), and is a recognized thought-leader and media spokesperson on these issues, and a renowned public speaker, having spoken on platforms in over 20 countries globally. Philip’s first book Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat was a The Times Writers Book of the Year. He joins us from West Sussex, England.


Joshua Kirkandi Mufabule – Democratic Republic of the Congo – Joshua’s passion for helping animals began in the fifth grade, when he recalls spending most of his time watching animal documentaries. After high school, he chose courses that would allow him to be alongside animals, and he studied animal morphology and learned more about their life and manners. With this knowledge, he joined environmental and animal rights associations, and has been working with them since 2012. His taste for veganism began in 2015, when he reflected on the resemblance between wild, domestic, and aquatic animals and humans. He concluded, “The defender of animal rights cannot be the one who is at the origin of their suffering,” In 2018 Joshua founded the Forum des Amis de Developpement et la Protection de l’Environnement (FADPE) and established a program on environmental education, still ongoing, which is carried out in the City of Goma and in the schools and villages around the Virunga National Park.

In 2021, he and his team of volunteer animal protectors inserted Vegan Lifestyle Mobilization into their Awareness Program on Environmental Education, and have joy in finding their message welcomed in schools and villages. They have hope in children as future decision-makers, and show them the trauma and threat that animals experience daily, environmental degradation and the consequences that human activities have caused as climate change and warming. Joshua set up a reforestation project, with a nursery to provide 10,000 seedlings, planting trees in schools and distributing tree seedlings to the community. Joshua joins us from Goma, Congo.


Shara Ng – Hong Kong – Shara Ng is Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Vegan Union and founder of the Hong Kong Vegan Association, and has been a vegan activist in Hong Kong since 2006. Shara is the founder of Meat Free Hong Kong, an on‐going meet‐up every Monday (Meat Free Monday) and also on weekends to explore vegan dishes in vegetarian restaurants all over Hong Kong. Shara is the founder and organizer of Hong Kong VegFest (which looks like so much fun!) since 2013, in collaboration with nine Hong Kong veggie organizations. The VegFest each year attracts thousands of visitors and helps many vegan businesses to promote their products to over 6,000 visitors. As one of the educational programs for Hong Kong Vegan Association, Shara has published GOVEG magazine since 2014,  promoting a plant‐based diet in Hong Kong and China. Shara will share about the vegan advocacy scene in the Asia Pacific. Shara joins us from Hong Kong.


Glenys Oogjes – Australia – Glenys Oogies is the long-standing CEO of Animals Australia, popularly considered the most effective animal protection organization in Australia. They conduct investigations and public awareness campaigns on a range of animal issues, including two that we have little knowledge of in the U.S.: live animal exports, and how sheep are treated by the wool industry. Glenys will share her expertise on these two issues with us. Glenys grew up on a dairy farm in Australia, subsequently gaining 30+ years of experience in animal advocacy. She has contributed to numerous national reviews of Codes of Practice/Standards and animal welfare laws in each State and Territory, served as an instigator of the (former) Australian Animal Welfare Strategy, and has represented the animal movement on the Australian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and similar bodies. She leads public awareness campaigns to inspire kindness to animals—particularly focused on farmed animals—and provides funding and support for emergency response such as in the summer wildfires. Glenys joins us from Melbourne, Australia.


Neurologists and researchers Ayesha and Dean Sherzai will speak on their specialty—the diet and lifestyle choices to preserve brain health that are the best defense we have to fighting cognitive disease and dementia. They are Co-Directors of the Alzheimers Prevention Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where Ayesha leads the Lifestyle Program for the Prevention of Neurological Diseases. They authored two best-selling books, The Alzheimer’s Solution (2017) and The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution: The Definitive Food and Lifestyle Guide to Preventing Cognitive Decline (2021) to share their research and approach to brain health.

Their background in Afghanistan – Ayesha and Dean met in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2003, Ayesha having lost her grandfather, a former Prime Minister of Afghanistan, to Alzheimers, and Dean having the same loss of his grandfather, a former Secretary of State for Education. They married in 2004, and spent the next three years in Afghanistan working to empower 10,000 women in midwifery and other disciplines in Taliban-controlled areas. After studies in the U.S., Dean was recruited by the World Bank to lead the healthcare efforts of a newly developed government in Afghanistan. He was subsequently asked by President Karzai to help rebuild the healthcare system as the Deputy Minister of Health. Ayesha, a recent graduate from medical school, volunteered with Doctors Without Borders in refugee camps near Kabul. Today, the neurologist couple are specialist in brain health and have developed a diet and lifestyle-focused approach to preventing dementia.


Ayesha Z. Sherzai, MD, MAS – Afghanistan— California – Ayesha is a vascular neurologist and a research scientist. After completing her medical residency, she completed a fellowship in Vascular Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center Neurological Institute, and holds a Masters Degree in Advanced Sciences from UCSD. Knowing the importance of empowering her patients and their communities, she completed an extensive plant-based culinary training program in New York and teaches large populations how to make tasty, easy, and healthy meals for their brain health.


Dean Sherzai, MD, PhD, MPH, MAS – Afghanistan—California – Dean is a behavioral neurologist / neuroscientist dedicated to behavioral change models at the community and population level. Dean finished his medical and neurology residencies at Georgetown University with a subsequent fellowship in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, followed by a second fellowship in Dementia and Geriatrics at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He holds two master’s degrees in Advanced Sciences at UCSD and in Epidemiology from Loma Linda University. He has a PhD in Healthcare leadership focused on community empowerment from Loma Linda/Andrews University. Finally, he completed the executive leadership program at Harvard Business School.


Jian Yi – China – is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker and founding president of the Good Food Fund, under the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) in Beijing, China. He served on the core leadership team of the Action Track 2 of the UN Food Systems Summit. Jian Yi is a Yale World Fellow, an India-China Fellow, an Asian Cultural Council grantee, and visiting fellow to Cambridge University. Jian’s films have won international awards and been shown around the globe including at New York’s MoMA. Under his leadership, the Good Food Fund has become a leading voice in China’s food systems transformation, and has co-founded the Food Forward Forum with Yale Hospitality, along with The Culinary Institute of America, University of Massachusetts, Harvard, University of Connecticut, and Google. Jian earned masters degrees from Beijing Broadcasting Institute and the University of Notre Dame, where he received a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2015. He is currently a Mid-Career MPA student, a Mason Fellow and a Gleitsman Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. In May 2021, Jian Yi founded the China Vegan Society. He helped lead a contest to create a Mandarin character for “vegan,” which could not be translated into Mandarin until now. He will speak on From the Frontlines of the Vegan Movement in China. Jian Yi comes to us from Beijing, China.


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Food Fest Speaker Archive
See video of the 2020 speakers, and a complete list of speakers going back to 2005.