Tag: animal rights

We’re veganizing the south of France!

Arranging incredible meals for all our vegan travelers is 10x easier in Rwanda than it is in France.

We have officially sold out of our December 2020 Botswana trip (where it’s ALSO easier to eat plant-based than France — especially rural France). Which is why…our Summer-in-the-South-of-France Vegan Trips in June/July 2020 are going to be off the hook!

Everything non-vegans eat vegans will eat BETTER! We mean EVERYTHING that is seasonal and regional, we arrange vegan versions of!

We also take over our very own 4-star villa. We visit the world-famous Lascaux cave to see the replicas of 17,000 years-old animal paintings!!! We have a special private visit the first European elephant sanctuary! Castles, river boat ride, wineries and vineyards, and so much more!

Our Summer in France trips are now starting to sell out, and I hope you visit the details on our website to see if you can join us. There’s one more month to sign up, and if the trip is not a go, of course you get 100% of your money back. It’s a win-win situation!

For the animals…CPG

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How Rwanda Unites

Rwanda is considered the cleanest and greenest country in East Africa. It’s not because Rwanda employs more street sweepers, gardeners, and road crews than other countries, and it’s not (only) because of the decade-long ban on plastic bags.

It’s also because of a monthly communal ritual called Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” Military service isn’t compulsory in Rwanda but Umuganda is — for able-bodied people ages 18 to 65 — and it takes place on the last Saturday of each month.

Because expatriates and visitors are welcome to participate and because — on our Joyful Vegan Trips to Rwanda — we scheduled our to be there on the day of that month’s Umuganda, we arranged to visit a local village to join them build a road.

Umuganda in its current form was reintroduced in 1998 as part of the effort to rebuild the country and to nurture a shared national identity after the 1994 genocide.

As a U.S. citizen in a deeply divided country, it’s not a huge leap to draw parallels between the past divisiveness in Rwanda and the present divisiveness in my own country. If that sounds dramatic, then consider this:

A recent survey (referenced in this op-ed) asked both Republicans and Democrats, “Do you ever think we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died’?” Some 20 percent of Democrats (12.6 million voters) and 16 percent of Republicans (7.9 million voters) said yes.

When asked, “What if the opposing party wins the 2020 presidential election. How much do you feel violence would be justified then?” 18.3 percent of Democrats and 13.8 percent of Republicans said violence would be justified on a scale ranging from “a little” to “a lot.”

Over a 3-month period in 1994 in Rwanda, this very sentiment manifested itself into a methodical massacre in which approximately 800,000 citizens were brutally killed by their fellow citizens—neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and friends.

If Rwandans can heal, unite, and forgive after such a massive atrocity, anyone can. We have much cleaning up to do in our own country—both literally and figuratively, and we must take it seriously.

Garbage clean-up anyone?

Photo Credit: Jennifer Hadley 

How Wildlife is Recovering After Genocide

The 1994 genocide against the Tutsis devastated this beautiful country, its people, its wildlife, and its wild spaces. But with vigilance, persistence, vision, courage, and strength, they are recovering.⁠ When Akagera National Park was created in 1934, it was one of the best wildlife reserves in all of Africa. ⁠

⁠Once spanning almost 1,000 square miles, sadly, in 1997, it was reduced in size by almost 50%. A large portion of the land was reallocated to refugees to Rwanda after the genocide. Before 1997, many refugees returning to Rwanda settled in the area, and the conservation area was harmed by poaching and cultivation. ⁠

⁠I so look forward to telling you more about the work they’re doing, the animals they’ve reintroduced, the conservation measures they’re taking, and the rhinos (!) who have just safely arrived from zoos in three different countries who will now live out their natural lives in the wild. ⁠

⁠On our first trip to Rwanda, we didn’t have the chance to visit Akagera, but we were so thrilled to make it part of our CPG Vegan Rwanda Trips. We saw zebra, warthogs, impala, cape buffalo, waterbucks, and many more mammals and birds. The highlight of the day was probably seeing a ⁠pod of hippos emerge from the water to the beach. ⁠

⁠People can heal. Animals can recover. Land can be restored. Rwanda teaches this lesson better than any other country I’ve seen. ⁠

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*Birds, waterbuck photos by Julie Morgan
*Hippos, zebra, impala, and alligator photos by Lynda Kluck
*Hippos, zebra, impala, and elephant photos by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

My Husband Wasn’t Vegan When I Met Him

No, my husband wasn’t vegan when I met him. I was pescatarian on the verge of vegetarian, and he was a meat-eater. If I hadn’t dated David because he wasn’t vegan, I would have missed out dating and then marrying the most giving, generous, compassionate, kind, patient person I know (25 years ago). Because of those qualities, he became vegan a few months after I did. ⠀

Don’t let someone “being vegan” to be your barometer for getting to know them or for dating them. You will narrow down your pool considerably. Let character, integrity, compassion, and openness be your barometers. And, likewise, be as open, compassionate, and full of integrity as you expect others to be.

The first-EVER vegan tours to the south of France!

People often ask me how to find plant-based cuisine while traveling around the world, and I often remind them that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, lentils, herbs, and spices are kind of universal. They’re not just for vegans. 

I also assure them that cities (more than rural areas) always have international restaurants at which you can find delicious animal-free meals. 

However, one region that can be particularly difficult to enjoy  culinarily without feeling deprived is the south of France. While Paris (as most cities) is more progressive than the rest of the country when it comes to vegan restaurants, shops, and attitudes, the south of France … less so. Although you won’t starve (your best bet is to rent a house with a kitchen so you can prepare your own meals), your food choices will be very limited when eating out. The above said plant foods are tainted by dairy-based cheeses, animal-derived cream, fish sauces and pastes, and animal fat, particularly fat from ducks.

Marseille is the seafood capital of Provence (hence, bouillabaisse), lamb and beef are the most popular meats from land animals,  foie gras is common everywhere, and duck fat is the preferred cooking fat—ruining even the favorite default of every desperate vegan: french fries.

That’s where CPG Vegan Trips / World Vegan Travel comes in. We have JUST RELEASED to the public our Summer 2020 trips: to the enchanting Dordogne region and to the charming Provence region.

Aside from the 4- and 5-star accommodations, incredible excursions, outdoor adventures we will be enjoying, our travelers will also get to partake in the local cuisine—animal-product-free. Of course where are a few local dishes that are already plant-based by default, such as ratatouille and pistou, but we go above and beyond to feature vegan versions of the dishes that make this region famous, such as:

  •  bouillabaisse
  • tapenade
  • salade nicoise
  • tarte au citron
  • ‘faux’ gras
  • various cheeses
  • and so much more!

Partnered with my good friends and travel aficionados World Vegan Travel, I am so thrilled to offer these two exciting trips—the first-EVER vegan tours to these regions. You can sign up for each separately or sign up for both and get a discount. 

All of the details are on the websites below, where you can also see and sign up for our last vegan trip for 2020: to beautiful Botswana and Cape Town (only a few spots left)!

Dordogne, France (June 2020)
Provence, France (July 2020)
Botswana & Cape Town (December 2020)

These trips sell out very quickly, so don’t delay! By securing your spot TODAY, you have ONE YEAR to prepare for these 2020 trips! Visit WorldVeganTravel.com to learn more, ask questions, and secure your spot! 

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PREVIOUS AND ONGOING CPG VEGAN TRIPS:

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Our vegan trips are all about ANIMAL PROTECTION, DELICIOUS REGIONAL PLANT-BASED  CUISINE, LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE, JOY, and SO MUCH LAUGHTER. We’re all about spoiling you! You can get a sense of the awesomeness of our 5-star trips watching this video from our Thailand trip.

5-Star Vegan Travel (Join Me!)

Partnered with my good friends and travel aficionados World Vegan Travel, our vegan trips now span several continents! With the trips we’ve added for 2019 and 2020, you can now join us in Africa, Europe, and Asia! 

Alsace, France (December 2019)
Dordogne, France (June 2020)
Provence, France (July 2020)
Botswana & Cape Town (December 2020)

We sold out of our 2019 trips to Rwanda within a week, so don’t delay! By securing your spot TODAY, you have ONE YEAR to prepare for these 2020 trips! Visit WorldVeganTravel.com to learn more, ask questions, and put your deposit down for one of our trips! 

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Our vegan trips are all about ANIMAL PROTECTION, DELICIOUS REGIONAL PLANT-BASED  CUISINE, LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE, JOY, and SO MUCH LAUGHTER. We’re all about spoiling you! You can get a sense of the awesomeness of our 5-star trips watching this video from our Thailand trip.

DON’T MISS OUT THIS TIME! BOOK TODAY!

Best Vegan Backpack Ever!

(READ TO THE END TO GET YOUR 10% DISCOUNT!)

I’m not a girlie girl. I don’t like purses or clutches or anything that feels fussy. I like cross-body bags and backpacks, but the cross-body bags I was wearing started hurting my shoulder, so it was time to return to backpacks.

I have a very practical one from REI I like a lot, but it’s a little too casual for every occasion, so before I left for our first Vegan Paris / Alsace group trip in December 2018, I started shopping for a vegan leather backpack that was stylish as well as functional and ethical. I couldn’t find anything I liked and didn’t want to risk paying for something online that would be expensive to ship back. Alas, I ventured to Europe with my cotton backpack and figured I’d keep looking another time. (I hate shopping.)

One of the features of our Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip is a vegan / food walking tour in the Marais region of Paris, and as our lovely guide told us about the history, walked us around, and pointed out various relevant sites, she casually called our attention to a vegan leather bag shop as we walked past it. Well, far be it from vegans to pass up such a shop, so we all doubled back to see if it was open. It was closed. As we pressed our faces against the glass peering into the minimalist shop, the owner sat at his desk peering back probably wondering who this hoard of nosey Americans were. He was kind enough (and lucky enough) to open his doors for us, and it was heaven…especially for me.

This isn’t simply a vegan leather bag shop. It is a family-owned shop that specializes in one brilliant product: an animal-free, ethically made BACKPACK that comes in 3 different sizes and 10+ different colors. I couldn’t believe it. The vegan gods had smiled upon me. The bag is stylish, functional, and designed for security. (The zipper closure is hidden when closed so pickpockets can’t pick!) It’s even won awards for this design!

Truly, everything I wanted in a backpack is in this bag. It’s very stylish, very comfortable (it fits like a vest so the weight is equally distributed all over the back), lightweight, waterproof, and large enough to fit a laptop (and I got the small size!). They’re also unisex! They’re not cheap, but that’s the point: this is an ethical bag made from an environmentally friendly material that’s meant to LAST!!

The most difficult part was choosing a color. I picked a neutral dark gray color, and 4 other of our travelers bought their own: in taupe, black, teal, and mustard. 

When we returned to Paris for our 2019 Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip, we made sure a visit to Arsayo was built into our walking tour, and this time we got to see their new line of cork bags (which is what they’re focusing on now since the material is more environmentally friendly than the synthetic leather). 

NOW YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN with a 10% discount by visiting Arsayo.com and entering joyfulvegan as the coupon code! 

Our travelers in 2019 fell in love with them as well and can’t wait to use them as advocacy tools — gifting the bags to friends and family to demonstrate how you can be fashionable AND ethical!

Which is YOUR favorite color?

The Animals Among Us

The wild animals who live among us are part of our communities; they’re residents and contributors — not outsiders or intruders. Our assault on them can be viewed as harbingers of our larger environmental destiny. If we can’t attend to the animals in our own backyards, the long-term chances for biological diversity in the rest of this world are bleak.⠀

Every animal whose space we share in our neighborhoods — from the diurnal deer (like Atticus here!), squirrels, bees, and birds to the nocturnal foxes, skunks, rats, raccoons, mountain lions, and opossums — face challenges that threaten their very survival every day: noisy leaf-blowers and unleashed dogs, speeding cars and light pollution, rampant habitat loss, and a human species so hostile to their existence we install non-native landscapes they can’t eat, delicious plants they love but are hindered from or punished for eating, and fences that inhibit their ability to travel freely to find food, water, or shelter. ⠀

Biological diversity is declining at alarming rates, and since the underlying cause is easy to identify (human behavior) the underlying solutions are equally apparent. ⠀

A few changes can make all the difference. We can:⠀

*Give plant-eaters a break. Newly planted trees and shrubs WILL be tested by hungry deer, but just keeping new plants protected for the first few years means they can withstand a little nibbling once they’re more mature. ⠀

*Stop poisoning rats. If not because there are more humane ways to deal with uninvited critters in our homes, then because rat poison hurts everyone in the food web. ⠀

*Create wildlife corridors to allow animals to move freely through our yards without risking the dangers of the road. ⠀
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Everything we do has an impact on something or someone else. It’s not that we CAN make a difference in this world. It’s that we DO make a difference. The question is: do we want that difference to be negative or positive?⠀

What are you doing today to make a positive difference?

The Vegan Police: How to Speak Up for Animals without Talking Down to People

A small subset of opinionated, passionate, well-intentioned people perpetuate the stereotype of the angry, self-righteous, perfection-focused animal rights vegan when they spew invective at anyone who is not “vegan enough” in their eyes. They are otherwise known as The Vegan Police.

Of course I’m very well aware of how judgmental people can be — we’re all guilty of it — and nothing tastes better than sweet self-righteousness, especially when it exists in the name of justice. But self-righteousness,  arrogance, and meanness are just ugly regardless of what inspires them. And of course I’ve been keenly aware of the existence of the perfectionist vegan for as long as I’ve been vegan — probably since before I was vegan.

But I’ve been seeing it so much more invective on social media – not much of it directly because I won’t venture into territory that is filled with self-righteousness and piety and name-calling.  But I’m hearing about it a lot more because my audience comes to me and tells me what they see and hear, and frankly…forgive my naivete,  I find it shocking. I’m shocked at the things people say and how they say them. These comments are filled with so much scorn and unkindness, and I have to believe that the people writing it aren’t aware of how toxic it is for everyone — including for the animals.

As I see it, this toxic self-righteousness is coming from two groups — and this is a broad generalization, but there seems to be:

  1. some well-intentioned ethical vegans who are concerned that veganism as an ethical way of living is watered down by the media and celebrities who position veganism as a temporary, trendy diet. Hooked on the ideology, the badge, the label, the purity, this is the group that acts as if veganism is the end rather than the means to an end. 
  2. some well-intentioned health-oriented plant-based eaters who excoriate the consumption of oil, sugar, flour, wheat, gluten, or soy.  This is the group of dietary purity that scorns anyone as a “junk food vegan” who doesn’t fit their prescribed notion of what vegans should eat (and look) like. 

I bring up both of these groups because I see policing on both sides. It’s really more than acting like the police; it’s also playing judge, jury, and executioner. Today, I’m going to talk only about the first category and save the second for an upcoming podcast episode.

In the first category, those folks attack:

  • Vegetarians who are not yet vegan.
  • People who identify as vegan but who “cheat” or eat animal products occasionally.
  • People who identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons. The feeling is that if they’re not doing it for the animals, then they shouldn’t call themselves vegan.
  • People who don’t identify as vegan but who have stopped eating animals and animal products for health reasons and thus call themselves “plant-based.” The feeling is that if they’re just “plant-based,” then it’s not about the animals and they’ll still be contributing to animal exploitation.
  • Non-vegans (including celebrities) who have vegan companies or sell vegan products. (Even though many of us live in the real world where we buy vegan products from non-vegan grocery stores and plants harvested by non-vegan farmers and eat in vegan restaurants owned by non-vegans, when a non-vegan celebrity (ahem, Beyonce) announced that she’s creating a vegan food delivery service, the Interwebs went nuts — accusing her of appropriating the vegan ethic.)

But it’s not just the non-vegans who are targets of their scorn. It’s also vegans — it’s vegans who are pregnant or who have children (“breeders”). Vegans who have companion animals (“perpetuating animal slavery”). Vegans who are religious. Vegans who celebrate Christmas. Vegans who celebrate Valentine’s Day. Vegans who aren’t intersectionalists. Vegans who aren’t activists. Vegans who share recipes. Vegans who aren’t angry all the time. Vegans who aren’t Level-5 vegans.

In a famous Simpson’s episode called “Lisa the Tree Hugger,” Lisa meets animal/enviornmental rights activist, Jesse. She falls head over heels in love and wants him to notice how conscious and ethical she is.  

Lisa: Oh, the earth is the best! That’s why I’m a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that’s a start.
Lisa: Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
Jesse: I’m a level 5 vegan — I won’t eat anything that casts a shadow.

Ah, yes. It’s funny because it’s so true.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love people who have opinions. I’m one of them. I love people who stand up for what they believe in. I’m one of them. I love people who speak up for the animals and act on their behalf. I’m one of them. But we can do all of that without being cruel. I feel like I’m constantly talking about walking the line between this and that: walking the line between speaking up for what we believe in and not being attached to the outcome. Walking the line between asking for what we want without being demanding. Walking the line between expressing our opinion without attacking other people. We can do it all. We can. It takes practice, and it takes time, but it can be done.

I think we humans — especially opinionated or justice-oriented humans — are not good at living in the grey areas or at least areas we feel are places of contradiction. For instance, I think what happens for so many animal rights activists and ethical vegans is that we feel so acutely aware of how much animals are suffering that we think if we don’t demonstrate outrage about this fact all the time, then we’re not being true to them. We’re not being good advocates. I think we think that if we’re not in a constant state of anger about how animals are treated, we’re letting the animals down. We feel that if we don’t speak UP for animals, we’re letting them down, but speaking up for the non-human animals doesn’t mean we have to speak down to the human animals. 

I understand the urgency. I understand the desperation, the outrage, the anger. It’s why I talk about this in the podcast series I did called The 10 Stages You Go Through When You Stop Eating Animals (and it’s the subject of my upcoming book The Joyful Vegan’s Guide to Life). It’s not that we shouldn’t be outraged and motivated and angry, but I think some people lose the plot. Or maybe they haven’t lost the plot at all. Maybe the problem is they see nothing but the plot, but that’s a problem because when you see only one thing through one lens, you become incredibly myopic. Animals are victims of horrific violence at our hands for the sake of our pleasure and convenience. That is true. That is real. But that’s not all that’s real. That’s not all that’s true. As human beings, we don’t live in a vacuum.

We are complex people who live in a complex world with many, many inputs determining who we become and what we do and what we believe and what we buy and who we eat. Forces are in play every day conditioning us, reinforcing belief systems, influencing our decisions, and affecting our relationships.

It’s neither realistic nor fair to expect everyone to see through the same lens we do. And as advocates, we want to speak up and help guide people toward embracing their empathy and compassion for animals and not contribute to this violence. In fact, the word “advocate” is built from the word “vocare” – to call – which is related to the word “vox” – voice. As advocates we MUST use our voices in order to be voices for animals, but we have to be mindful of HOW to use our voice so that we’re not only compassionate but effective. We must speak up, but we don’t have to be cretins to do so. 

I will emphasize the word “effective” for those who don’t think they have to be compassionate to people when the stakes (for animals) are so high, but I will tell you that if you think people will be attracted to venom and invective, then I will just say I vehemently disagree.

People join groups and befriend people they’re attracted to, and I guarantee you that very few people are attracted to self-righteousness, especially when something is new to them and they’re already feeling vulnerable and exploring unfamiliar territory. And when the attack comes publicly, that’s even worse, because nobody likes being humiliated. That should just go without saying, but I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again. Nobody likes being humiliated.

I’m not saying everyone has to agree or have the same viewpoints. But that doesn’t mean in disagreeing or having conviction or having opinions we can’t do it in a way that is constructive rather than destructive.

Of course, you can say that in the end, the person who happens upon a negative comment and chooses not to be vegan because of it is really their own blocks and they’re just using it as an excuse to not change their behavior. But I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Yes, I believe very much that we’re ultimately responsible for our own actions, but we’re also social creatures and psychological creatures, and some things really are just a turn-off for people, and if you don’t know that you have an effect on people for better or for worse, then you’re just lying to yourself.

You’re lying because if you’re any kind of activist, you’re ACTING to affect someone else’s behavior, so you’re at least aware that there’s a relationship taking place, that there’s a cause and effect. And what I’m saying is that mean, nasty, self-righteous posts mostly have the EFFECT of turning people away.

Now, in the end, my little lecture isn’t going to change much. It will probably receive approval from those who already agree with me and scorn from those who don’t. In the end, I can’t control how others represent veganism and animal advocacy. And that’s part of the point. We can’t control how people — the media, celebrities, the public, vegans, plant-based eaters, etc. —  will use or represent what “vegan” is!

We can’t control the message, because there is no single voice. My voice is singular; it’s my own, and I use it. Your voice is singular; it’s your own. Use it wisely and intelligently and effectively. How I represent myself as a vegan and animal activist is all I can control, and in being able to control that, I’m going to be the best, most steadfast, most compassionate, most effective voice for animals I can be. 

“Vegan” isn’t a trademark that any of us own. It’s a means for achieving my goal of living in a way that doesn’t contribute to violence against animals. We can help clarify what vegan means, because it does mean something, but we don’t get vegan certification when we become vegan. Being vegan is not about being perfect or pure, and I think this expectation of perfection is what stops many people from even trying to be vegan.

Their fear is justified when they proudly declare to someone or in a message board that they’ve become vegan, and they’re met with smug responses from non-vegans that the shoes they’re wearing are made of are leather or from vegans that the machines on which their peanut butter was made were also used to make non-vegan food products.

That isn’t to say that in this imperfect world I don’t accidentally contribute to the suffering of human or non-human animals, but that doesn’t make me less vegan. It just makes me human: an imperfect human in an imperfect world using this thing called VEGAN as a pretty fantastic way to reflect my values of compassion and wellness.

And that’s the message I want to convey when people are trying to do the right thing. I want them to know that there’s so much they can do in their own lives to not contribute to violence against animals and though they, too, are imperfect humans in this imperfect world. Imperfection is built into being vegan. But so is compassion. And without that, it’s just ideology.  

All of this is in today’s episode — speaking up for animals — online and in person — without alienating people who are trying to make compassionate choices. I’ll be addressing it in this year’s Compassion in Action conference as well as in my upcoming book.

Thank you for your support and for sharing. 

Rescued Bears in Vietnam: A Dream Visit!

You have heard me talk many times about Animals Asia and the work they do to protect bears bred, trapped, imprisoned, exploited by the bear bile industry. Bears are bred or taken from the wild and confined in cages no bigger than their bodies — or in huge shipping containers that are divided into individual windowless compartments. A catheter is inserted into their gall bladder (without anesthesia), and their bile is drained from their bodies and used in traditional Chinese medicine. (Animals Asia works to end the dog meat trade in Vietnam and China). 

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On our recent CPG Vegan Trip to Vietnam (and we’re running another in 2019), we had the honor of visiting Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary, managed by the incredible Tuan Bendixsen and a dedicated staff, is spread over more than 27 beautiful acres at the edge of a nationally protected park, and everything they do is to stimulate the bears’ natural behaviors. There are pools, trees, and various structures that help with the rehabilitation of the bears and cubs.

Having been confiscated from wildlife traders and poachers, both adults and cubs are not only anxious and angry when they arrive, but they often suffer from ailments such as gall bladder damage, broken teeth from biting on bars, and other body conditions ranging from emaciation to obesity from being kept immobile and being fed a poor and inappropriate diet. They also suffer from PTSD and other psychological trauma.

The good news is that living among other rescued bears in a quiet, safe environment, they heal.  

The sanctuary has surgical facilities that are equipped to give the rescued bears the best possible chance of recovery, and we were given the opportunity to see one of the bears in surgery having a sore tooth extracted. 

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It has been my dream for 15 years to go and see the work of this amazing organization. As part of the CPG Trip to Vietnam, we were able to visit this sanctuary (and you can do so if you join us on a future trip!). 

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I hope you can join us on our next visit. If you can’t, please consider supporting Animals Asia (and follow their work via their mailing list and on social media). 

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