Talks – meet the speakers

We are delighted to bring you an exciting line-up of passionate and capable guest speakers from around the country who are looking forward to sharing their stories and expertise with you. See our line-up of speakers for January 2022 below (check back later to find out who will be at the November 2022 expo):


10:30am – From dairy farm worker to animal rights activist

Jessica Strathdee

Former dairy farm worker Jessica Strathdee will talk about her experiences as a dairy farmer and her consequent journey to being an animal rights activist. Whilst the dairy industry likes to paint a picture of idyllic farm life, Jess will talk from first-hand experience about the systemic abusive farming practices necessary to participate within the dairy industry which led her and her partner to leave it and to educate the public about the horrific realities of Aotearoa’s dairy industry.

11:15am – Meet the animals

Sharlene Wilson, Canterbury Tails Animal Rescue founder

Canterbury Tails is an animal rescue and sanctuary in North Canterbury. It all started when Sharlene was contacted about a much-loved pet pig who had outgrown his home and sadly there were very few options for him. It was then that Sharlene realised how at risk these unconventional pets are. Paul now lives with Sharlene at Canterbury Tails.

The rescue, which became a registered charity in 2020, now helps other unconventional pets and abandoned animals find safe forever homes.

Sharlene shares stories of the animals she meets to show that these “pets” are no different than the animals people eat.

“I’m passionate about animals and education. As we rescue and rehome more and more animals I’m concentrating on education and telling the stories of the animals we’ve met,” Sharlene says.

“Creating awareness is the key to reducing the suffering of animals. Every animal is an individual.”

12pm – Healthy vegan living at all ages

Sophie Weenink

Sophie Weenink is a teenage vegan from Nelson who has a passion for helping animals, people and the environment. Sophie will speak about how easy it is to live a healthy vegan lifestyle and the many reasons why we should choose a cruelty free way of life. She hopes to teach families that being vegan is a positive move for their health – regardless of age. You can find out more about Sophie on her Facebook and Instagram pages called Ecogirl NZ.

“I know I will be vegan for the animals for the rest of my life,” she says.

12:45pm – Make your vegan diet your best medicine

Dr Martyn Williamson

Dr Martyn Williamson moved to New Zealand from the UK in 1986. He has spent the last 35 years in rural general practice, mixing this with a teaching and research role at Dunedin School of Medicine.

He has always been passionate about helping people thrive, and over the last five years has turned his focus to helping people prevent, reverse and cure their chronic illnesses. He and his wife Liz were nominated plant-based practitioners of the year for 2019 and in 2020 they both obtained an international certification in Lifestyle Medicine.

Martyn is committed to raising awareness about the power of whole food plant-based nutrition to treat disease, so people have a choice to regain some control over their health.

1:30pm – 30+ years a vegan – A survivor’s tale

Yolanda Soryl

Yolanda Soryl recently celebrated her 30th anniversary of going vegan. Join her on an entertaining look back on 30 years of veganism and what it takes to go vegan and stay vegan. Yolanda will share tips, vegan history and stories and will take a humorous look at being vegan at a time when even the vegans didn’t know how to pronounce the word.
About Yolanda:
Yolanda Soryl is a butcher’s daughter who went vegetarian aged 18, vegan at 26 and raised her four children from birth to adulthood as vegan too. She is a founder and president of the Christchurch Vegan Society – Te Rōpū Whēkana o Ōtautahi. Yolanda has created resources, groups, organised events such as the Christchurch Vegan Expos, Vegan Triathlons, Vegan Film Festivals, Vegan Camps and written and spoken on vegan issues both in NZ and internationally.

2:15pm – Climate in crisis: What difference would a vegan diet make?

Dr Anthony Raizis

Globally, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing at the rate of ~2.5ppm per year. Actions that are most likely to have the biggest effect in reducing emissions or increasing sequestration will be discussed along with the greenhouse gas efficiencies of different food groups.

Dr Anthony Raizis received his PhD at Otago University. His research interests are in cancer genetics research and diagnostics, the molecular mechanisms associated with the onset of cancer, genetic diseases, nutrition and ageing. Dr Raizis also has a keen interest in environmental issues, and sustainability. Dr Raizis has spoken at the Vegan Expo before on the clash of neo-liberal capitalism and environmentalism, and about identifying fuels for cancer and cancer prevention.

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