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Pledge registration has filled up and is now closed. Please sign up for our email alerts to stay in touch about future VLPs!

April 15th - May 13th, 2023
Saturdays, 1:30-4:30pm
Held at University United Methodist Church, 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY
d Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY

Want to go vegan, but need some help and support? Be a Vegan Pledge in the Syracuse Vegan Living Program! The Vegan Living Program (VLP) is a FREE educational program that covers the how’s and why’s of living vegan, including the ethical and environmental considerations of veganism, nutrition, cooking, meal planning, and living vegan in a not-yet-vegan world. Participants pledge to live vegan for the duration of the program, with the help of volunteer Vegan Coaches and our educational program. Pledges receive a binder full of resources and recipes, a VLP tote bag, and free vegan stuff to make the transition easier and more fun!

It’s clear that more and more of us are interested in addressing animal exploitation, tackling climate change, and concerned about our own health. In fact, according to search engine giant Google, the search interest for “vegan” is on the rise, increasing 32% in recent years. Whatever your motivation, the Vegan Living Program is designed to provide you with the support you need, and to build a community of like-minded individuals.


The Vegan Living Program was held with overwhelming success from 2011-2019 in Long Island, NY (in conjunction with the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College), Syracuse, NY, Baltimore, MD, Rochester, NY (in conjunction with Animal Rights Rochester), and Pasadena, CA. We took a break from 2020-2022 due to Covid-19, and are thrilled to bring the VLP back to Syracuse and Long Island this year!


Join us for this free, life-changing program!

Registration and Ways to Get Involved

Registration is now closed for both Pledges and Coaches, but if you'd like to volunteer to lend a hand at one or more of the sessions, please contact us at

The 2023 Syracuse VLP Schedule:

The Vegan Living Program sessions are 100% required attendance for Vegan Pledges and Coaches.


All sessions except Session 4 (sanctuary trip) will be held at the University United Methodist Church (UUMC), 324 University Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210. On May 6 (Session 4), we'll meet at Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen, NY 14891. Carpooling on May 6 is encouraged, and we try our best to facilitate finding rides for those who need one.

SESSION ONE - April 15, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Intro to Veganism, Cooking Demos & Coach-Pledge Intros 

Vegan Coaches & Pledges meet and get acquainted. Intro to Veganism with Syracuse Vegan Living Program Organizers Emily Doucet, Jim Thompson and Shelly Bornemann. Cooking Demo by Stefanie Heath, who has spent 7 years in the foodservice industry helping some of the largest companies transition their menus to more plant-friendly fare. Cheese Demo by VLP Coach, Dan Williamson and VLP Organizer, Emily Doucet where participants will sample a variety of vegan cheeses that are either homemade, locally-produced, or found at local and national grocery stores.

SESSION TWO - April 22, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Vegan Nutrition & Human, Animal and Plantetary Health

Vegan Nutrition with board certified oncologist, Dr. Steven Duffy. Where do you get your protein? Is soy bad for you? Learn about healthy, vegan nutrition and get your questions answered. Dr. Duffy will speak about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and provide data pertaining to health and nutrition.


Dr. Duffy will be followed by Conservation Biologist, Melissa Fadden who will give a presentation titled, “A Wild Approach: One Biologist’s Journey to Veganism.” This presentation will explore how the health of wildlife, domestic animals, humans, and the environment are all intertwined. It will delve into zoonotic diseases, the “humane myth,” displacement of wild animals, destruction of the environment, and how it can have serious consequences for all life on earth. By understanding the complexities of the One Health approach we can make more informed choices that promote the health and well-being of all aspects of the ecosystem.

SESSION THREE - April 29, 1:30-4:30pm: 

The Environment & Veganism at Any Stage of Life

This session will begin with a presentation titled "Veganism is Environmentalism" by Demosthenes Maratos. Demosthenes is the Communications Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University and was featured in the film Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (streaming on Netflix). He will speak about the environmental impact animal agriculture has on our planet, and discuss the ethical reasons for living vegan. 


In the second half of the session, Eric Lindstrom, Executive Director of Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), and author of “The Skeptical Vegan” and “The Smart Parent’s Guide to Raising Vegan Kids" will give a presentation titled "You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks." Growing up in an all-female Italian household, Eric was nourished to obesity on meat and dairy. Decades later, overnight, Lindstrom became a vegan—on a bet. A bet he still refuses to lose ten years later. Eric’s talk inspires anyone, at any age, to make the change to vegan—for human health, the planet, and the animals.

SESSION FOUR - May 6, day trip with tour at 2:30pm:

Field Trip to Farm Sanctuary 

Held at Farm Sanctuary, 3150 Aikens Rd., Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Nestled in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the rolling green pastures of Farm Sanctuary’s 271-acre New York shelter are home to more than 500 rescued farm animals. They are located next door to Sugar Hill State Forest, just west of Watki
ns Glen. We will meet there for a tour, get acquainted with the resident animals, and learn about their lives before rescue.


Not open to the public, but Pledges and Coaches may bring friends and family with advance RSVP to Spots are limited, so be sure to RSVP for any guests. Farm Sanctuary requests a $15/person donation for the tour. 100% of the tour donation goes directly to Farm Sanctuary.


Carpooling is strongly suggested. Allow enough time and plan to arrive early, as the tour is scheduled to begin promptly at 2:30pm.


SESSION FIVE - May 13, 1:30-4:30pm: 
Graduation Celebration

Cooking Demo by Chris Cooney, creator of The Vegan Zombie and co-author of the award winning cookbook, Cook & Survive, and a celebratory potluck vegan meal for Vegan Pledges and Coaches, with certificates of completion presented to Vegan Pledges!

Please Note:


Vegan Living Program educational content is not meant to be construed as health advice, or take the place of a consultation with a medical professional. All Vegan Pledges will be given a release form indicating as much at the first meeting on April 15, which MUST be signed in order to participate in the program.​

All educational sessions will be documented with video and/or photography, which will be posted online and/or used in promotional materials for the program. Media may be invited to some sessions. Submitting a registration form for the VLP indicates your acceptance of these terms.


Speaker Bios:

Shelly Bornemann  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Shelly began attending animal rights events in the mid-2000s. She’s participated in vivisection, circus, factory farming, and anti-fur demos organized by local grassroot organizations. She’s donated time to help local animal sanctuaries with cleaning stalls and other labor. She was the Volunteer Coordinator at the 2019 Syracuse Vegfest. During that time, she also participated in Vegan CNY’s Food Share cooking and serving lunch for anyone needing it.

Currently Shelly is focusing on vegan education and support by co-organizing her third Syracuse Vegan LIving Program. Her passions include taking endless photos of her fur-kids, Betty, Polly and Xander, creating vegan dishes to share with friends and family to show how easy and delicious vegan cooking is, nature walks, gardening, and renovating her home with her fiance, Dave. She also works at a local credit union where she’s on the Environmental Advocacy Team and a member of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. 

Shelly 2023.jpg
Emily Doucet  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Emily has been volunteering with homeless cats and dogs at local animal shelters since 2001, and in 2014, became the Volunteer Coordinator at Cuse Pit Crew, a pit bull advocacy group in Syracuse. She made the connection between the companion animals she was advocating for and farmed animals in 2012, and has been happily vegan ever since!

Emily still volunteers with Cuse Pit Crew and Syracuse's new shelter, B&R Bunkhouse, and has recently taken on the Vegan Menu Project, working with local restaurants to encourage them to offer more plant-based options on their menus. She was a vegan coach at last year's Syracuse Vegan Living Program, and is excited to be a co-organizer at this year's VLP!

She works as the Program Coordinator at CancerConnects, a nonprofit which provides programs and services to adults going through treatment for cancer. When she's not working or volunteering, Emily loves reading, hiking, swimming and taste-testing (and posting on Instagram) all the fabulous vegan food created by her partner Dan!

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Jim Thompson  
Syracuse VLP Organizer
Speaker Session 1

Jim currently serves on the board of Vegan CNY, where he has been involved with organizing Syracuse Vegfest, coordinating the weekly Vegan Food Share program, tabling local events, and generally spreading the word on vegan living. He was a vegan coach for the Syracuse VLP back in 2018, and is excited to be involved this year.Jim lives with his wife, two vegan kids, and pit mix Ringo. When he's not volunteering with Vegan CNY, he works for the state as a Vocational Counselor and trains for marathons in an attempt to prove that he's not really turning 50 this year.

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Stefanie Heath  
Speaker/Cooking Demo Session 1

Stefanie Heath of The Humane Society of the United States has spent seven years in the foodservice industry helping some of the country's largest companies transition their menus to more plant-friendly fare. With the demand for sustainable and healthy menu options on the rise, Stefanie helps food service operators create more humane and healthy menus. She has partnered with Cornell University, Montefiore Healthcare  system and several K12 schools in creating an effective program tailored to meet the needs of the partnering institution. She's worked with the United States Army to support high standards of  health and sustainability for soldiers and the military community. Stefanie lives in New York with her husband, two toddlers and beloved rescue pit bull named Chase.

Stef Heath headshot kitchen .jpg
Dr. Steven Duffy  
Speaker Session 2

Dr. Steven Duffy is a hematologist and oncologist at the VA Medical Center in Syracuse. He is a board certified physician in internal medicine, hematology, and medical oncology. He will speak about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and provide data pertaining to health and nutrition.

Melissa Fadden  
Speaker Session 2

Melissa is a conservation biologist currently working in the field of wildlife health, with targeted education and experience in herpetology, veterinary diagnostics, and wildlife forensic sciences. She previously worked in general, emergency/specialty, and exotic small animal medical practices, at a farmed animal sanctuary, and as a field technician for our state wildlife agency monitoring protected species.


Her background and professional tract has been instrumental in continuing to shape her personal beliefs about human-other animal interactions and the world that we all share. Melissa believes that how we treat the earth and its inhabitants matters, and that we should all live with intention and make active choices based on education.

Demosthenes Maratos  
Speaker Session 3

Demosthenes serves as the Communications Director at the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University. Demosthenes has worked in the field of environmental and public policy since 1989. He began his career with the Long Island Neighborhood Network, the New York region's largest and most active environmental advocacy organization. There, in addition to many successful efforts, he campaigned for the two most significant pieces of pesticide legislation in New York State history - the Neighbor Notification of Pesticide Spraying law and the Safe School Grounds law.

With the Sustainability Institute at Molloy University, Demosthenes is part of a team that provides community education and fosters informed debate on key issues related to sustainability. His work also includes integrating concepts of sustainability, environmental ethics, and veganism into the curriculum, operations and culture at Molloy University and the larger Long Island community. He is featured in the 2014 documentary film, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret that is currently streaming on Netflix.

Eric C Lindstrom  
Speaker Session 3

In his role as Executive Director of Farm Animal Rights Movement, Eric manages the 501(c)3's programs, personnel, budget, and operations. After founding a successful vegan advertising and marketing firm, Eric officially started his career in the animal rights movement as the Program Director for Farm Animal Rights Movement (2016-2018) and then served as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Animal Outlook (formerly Compassion Over Killing). He has penned two best-selling books on veganism, The Skeptical Vegan and Raising Vegan Kids (Skyhorse Publishing) and resides in Ithaca, New York.

Chris Cooney  
Speaker/Cooking Demo Session 5

Chris Cooney, born and raised in Syracuse, NY, is the creator and host of the popular YouTube channel, The Vegan Zombie. He is a longtime vegan and also the co-author of the award winning cookbook, Cook & Survive. Along with his sidekick, Indy the German Shepherd, he puts his spin on his love for film, horror and his vegan lifestyle to teach and inspire others to live a healthy compassionate life.


"I recommend this excellent program to anyone who is interested in learning more about the vegan perspective. The presentations are informative and practical. Myths are dispelled here. Yes, it is possible to get enough protein on a vegan diet, and vegan food can be delicious! More importantly, people who care about the impact they have on their fellow beings, and on the environment, come together to explore the possibilities for change."


~ Pamela Kenley-Meschino

Vegan Living Program participant, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018


Stay updated on news about our Vegan Living Programs and other events!

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