Major vegan festival Vegandale has raised eyebrows after hiring American rapper Rick Ross as its headline act for 2023.
The annual event describes itself as an “experience that encompasses visual art, music, food, and spirits.” All food, beverages, and merchandise sold there are free from animal products, and more than 150 vendors are partaking this year.
The Vegandale website states that attendees “will realize the moral imperative of veganism and a world that can exist without exploiting animals. Veganism is the now, and the future.”
This year, Vegandale is coming to six North American cities. The Chicago event took place in June, while New York City, Toronto, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Miami will play host to the festival later this year, in that order.
Rick Ross named headliner of Vegandale 2023
Vegandale’s choice of Ross as headliner came as a surprise to many fans of the festival.
The nine-time Grammy nominee is the owner of nearly 30 US locations of Wingstop, a Texas-based food chain that primarily sells chicken wings. The rapper, whose real name is William Leonard Roberts II, is also frequently photographed wearing animal fur. On his Instagram page, where he boasts 18.3 million followers, Ross has shared images of bull riding and videos promoting his chicken shops.
A video showing Ross holding a crab by their legs and joking about eating them is currently circulating on social media.
“Vegandale totally missed the mark on this,” vegan activist Soul Eubanks commented on the post. “I know most popular entertainers aren’t vegan but they could have looked into his background to see he owns a chicken franchise, has admitted to having animals on his property for tax purposes, and how having him as a headliner wouldn’t be a good fit for the values they promote.”
Vegandale responds to criticism
Similar comments have appeared on Vegandale’s own social media posts.
The festival has defended its decision, responding: “Our apologies that you don’t approve. We’ll just be over here ensuring thousands and thousands more people come to our event to embrace the moral importance of veganism since our mission is changing the world for animals forever. Sorry not sorry.”
Another comment by the organization reads: “[Rick Ross] may not be vegan… yet. But his thousands of fans coming to Vegandale might leave that way.”
Others in the space share Vegandale’s view. Vegan chef Charlise Rookwood, creator of The Black Vegan Cooking Show, says Ross’ involvement is an opportunity.
“The bottom line for me is we have to stop making all these vegan events and spaces only vegan-friendly. We’ve gotta open up the doors,” she said to Plant Based News. “And if it means getting the last person on Earth that would be vegan, Rick Ross, but it gets in all his fans and all those youngsters that follow him and they’re there all day. They’ve gotta eat, and they’re gonna stand in line and get their vegan burgers and their vegan hot dogs and their vegan fried chicken sandwiches and they’re gonna love it. They’re going to have an amazing experience.
“When would that experience ever have happened for them? It would never have happened, because they wouldn’t walk into a vegan restaurant,” she said. “So this is going to be perfect. I think it’s very very clever.”