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Thousands around the world celebrate spring by going meatless for a day

Members of a Toronto animal rights group dished out free vegan treats to University of Toronto (U of T) students during the lunch hour on Friday.

At noon, they set up a table at the corner of St. George and Harbord Streets, in the heart of the University of Toronto's downtown campus, and handed out as many vegan deserts, sandwiches and reading materials as they could over the course of an hour.

Click here to see more photos from Friday's Meatout event.

"Everything is without animal products," said Katie Barber, an animal rights activist. 

"We're promoting veganism not only to help the animals but to help save the planet. We need our generation to fight."

This year's Meatout fare in Toronto included tofu "egg" salad sandwiches topped with a vegan mayonnaise, kale and hummus sandwiches, vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, zucchini bread, shortbread cookies, ginger apple spice muffins, coconut treats and sweet and salty cookies.

"If people can try out free samples of vegetarian or vegan food, they might be inclined to buy it or make it for themselves," said Pia Stein, another animal rights activist.

Since 1985, thousands around the world have celebrated the first day of Spring by eating vegan for the day in a huge international event called Meatout, coordinated by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), a U.S. based nonprofit organization working to end the use of animals for food through public education and grassroots activism.

Every year, Meatout raises awareness of the benefits of eating vegan: helping animals, achieving great health, and saving the planet.

According to FARM, one person going meatless for a day spares 0.5 animals a year, preserves 148 square feet of rainforest a year and saves 3,700 gallons of water a year.

In Toronto, Friday's event was organized by Toronto Pig Save (TPS), a grassroots animal rights vegan group. TPS co-founder Anita Krajnc said she became a vegetarian when she was a student at U of T.

"We wanted to reach U of T students," she said. "They're on their own, no longer controlled by their parents' menus and they're at a time of life when they're very open to exploring new ideas and being critical. A lot of people go vegetarian in their early 20s."

Francesca Hannan, a third-year student work towards an Environmental Studies and Economics degree at U of T, picked up a few items off the food table. 

"I've become very aware of the fact that we can't feed the world if we continue to eat as much meat as we do," said Hannan, a vegetarian for two years. "Everybody's individual actions are the key to solving these problems."

Sarah Levy is the president and founder of the Trinity Protection of Animal Welfare Society (TPAWS), a community at Trinity College dedicated to promoting compassion and advocating for animal rights and welfare.

"This event shows people how delicious vegan food can be," said the fourth-year Ethics, Society, & Law and Environmental Studies major. 

"This sort of thing is much more likely to get people to come over to your side rather than being pushy and trying to guilt people into it."

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