Veganism is so much more than the food.
Someday, it’s going to be really easy to eat vegan. The industry’s already well on its way in major North American cities and others around the world. The point I want to make in this blog post is that there are SO MANY individuals and organizations who are working together on all of the complex facets that go into fighting the business of cruelty to animals (which also affects our health and the environment). Many people who’ve transitioned to a vegan diet can probably name a documentary involving animal slaughter footage that was the “a-ha moment” for them – or maybe it’s because they grew up with pets and saw the inherent link between their best animal friend and the food that was on their plate.
Wherever you may be in your food journey, know that there are so many working together on the cause: the prevention of harm and the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that would have gone to slaughter, but also of those who were once responsible for that slaughter.
Conservationists and Scientists
I hadn’t even thought of animal conservation until very recently when I had the opportunity to write an article for Science World on the conservation of the Swift fox and Burrowing Owl. While these species aren’t the ones we rely on for food, endangered animals remind us of the human influence and impact on animals, and that human-caused climate change has some very real consequences on their habitat. Here are just some of the local organizations working on conserving animal wildlife and improving their quality of life.
Animals in Science Policy Institute – AiSPI’s mission is to build an ethical culture of science that respects animal life by promoting the reduction and replacement of animals in teaching, research, and testing. They aim to influence systems change and work at all levels – from top-down policy work, to grassroots work with individuals – to champion better science without animals. It’s also run by my rad friend Elisabeth!
BC Conservation Foundation – The BC Conservation Foundation promotes and assists in the conservation of the fish and wildlife resources of the province of BC through the protection, acquisition, or enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat.
British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – I think that the BC SPCA is named so often that people forget what the acronym stands for: prevention of cruelty to animals, not just rescue and care. Their mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm, and wild animals in BC.
The BC Wildlife Federation – The BC Wildlife Federation strives to ensure the sound long-term management of BC’s fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreational resources in the best interest of present and future generations.
Raincoast Conservation Foundation – Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a team of conservationists and scientists empowered by research to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife of coastal British Columbia.
Wildlife Rescue Association of BC – The Wildlife Rescue Association of BC was established in 1979 to rehabilitate wildlife affected by human activity, and provide education to the public on co-existing with urban wildlife.
Despite what your perception of an activist is, there are many ways to be one. I admire all of the very active protesters who are in the alley of Hallmark Farms‘s slaughterhouse on 370 Commercial Drive on a regular basis, or doing a silent Cube of Truth demonstration with Anonymous for the Voiceless (AV). While I can’t dedicate time to be on these front lines, I’m one of those petition signers that do what I can online, or by supporting businesses providing alternatives to animal products (more on that below). Here are some of BC’s activist organizations:
Liberation BC – Liberation BC’s mission is to expose animal exploitation through outreach and education, promote a vegan lifestyle as the most effective and attainable way to protect animals, and provide support to build a strong community of effective animal advocates. They need a new website, but you can follow them on Facebook and IG!
Vancouver Animal Rights Campaigns – VARK is expanding into an environmental and social forum for important events. In the past, they’ve been an independent organization in service to the community, listing various activities around Vancouver to support the activists working for animals.
Vancouver Humane Society – A registered charity, the Vancouver Humane Society is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. Since 1984, they’ve been encouraging individuals, organizations, and governments to take responsibility for the welfare and rights of domestic animals and wildlife influenced by human activities. They’ll always have a special place in my heart as it was the woman from VHS who spoke during the Q&A of Earthlings (screened at UBC in 2007) who said that the best way to help the animals we had just seen on screen was to stop eating meat. Thanks, lady! They also have a campaign right now to urge the Vancouver Zoo to change animal programs, remove or enlarge cages, or stop keeping animals that aren’t suited to our climate; they’re less than 100 signatures away from their goal.
Vancouver March to Close all Slaughterhouses – Inspired by a campaign out of France in 2012, VMTCAS organizes peaceful, all-inclusive, family-friendly, community-based walks. The next one is set for Saturday, June 13th, 2020 so mark your calendars!
And then there are individual activists, like Dan Moskaluk (shown above), a retired RCMP officer in Penticton who’s now on the other side of protest lines after surviving Stage 4 kidney cancer in 2013 and switching to a plant-based diet. Moskaluk and his wife Sheanne also speak to communities about eating plant-based.
What would happen if we could free all the animals from factory farms and slaughterhouses? You could let them loose in the wild to fend for themselves, but here are eight local sanctuaries that care for animals when they are rescued.
The Happy Herd Farm Sanctuary – The Happy Herd is a farm animal sanctuary for animals either abused or at risk. On their four acres, you can find the many animals they’ve rescued roaming freely. They have several goats, chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, hens, ducks, cats, a couple of dogs, and a wonderful friendly donkey, each with their own identity and personality. I’m hoping to meet them for my birthday month coming up, if I can get someone who loves me to drive me out there!
Hearts On Noses Sanctuary – Located in Mission, BC, HON was established in 1999 as a sanctuary for potbellied pigs. “Mini pigs” were a popular pet in the 1980s, and continue to be bred and sold as companion animals today. Purchasers are ill prepared or misinformed about the adult size, behaviours, and needs of potbellied pigs, and fail to carry through with a lifetime commitment. In other cases, the pigs fall into the hands of abusers where they suffer cruelty and neglect. The sanctuary provides a home to more than 40 pigs (including potbellied pigs and full size pigs who were destined to become food), and they also have a few non-pig residents.
Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary – Kindred Community Farm Sanctuary, formerly SALI’s Farm, is a place that brings people, animals, and nature together to improve the emotional well-being of the community. Using animal-assisted intervention, horticultural therapeutic activities, and nature-assisted activities, they are able to affect change in the hearts and lives of the people and animals who need it most.
Little OinkBank Pig Sanctuary – Little OinkBank is a non-profit society working toward federal charity status. They started with 3 pigs and have grown to 34 pigs and counting, four calves, three sheep, and several kitties and pups, who now have a loving and safe forever home. They strive to provide transport to other sanctuaries around Western Canada for all animals in need.
Senior Animals in Need Today Society – SAINTS is a sanctuary in Mission for senior and Special Needs animals that have nowhere else to go. They provide a loving environment and proper medical care for all residents.
I was surprised to find that there were plenty more animals sanctuaries around BC, that you can find on this list.
Media and Influencers
Without people to tell the story about the plight of animals, it’d be damn hard to convince people to go plant-based. I credit the rise of “plant-based media” and influencers to furthering the cause. A few local outlets and folks worth mentioning – many of whom are also activists – include:
Animal Voices – I only just started listening to the podcast version of Animal Voices on Vancouver Co-Op Radio, but they’ve been on the air since 2010! Hosted by Alison Cole, Elyse Belladonna (who runs the Vancouver Vegan Facebook Group) and a few other co-hosts, you can listen live at noon on Fridays (Pacific Time) at 100.5 FM, or subscribe and download the pod on iTunes at your leisure. They also play great music!
Canadian Vegan Magazine – Originally the BC Vegan Magazine launched in 2019, Canadian Vegan Magazine will include all the vegan content we in BC have enjoyed reading, including recipes, interviews, sanctuary features and stories. Being true to our Canadian roots for being welcoming, they’ll now have an international section to highlight stories and features from vegan friends around the world. The first issue of the new magazine will be published in June 2020.
Blogs, Influencers, and YouTubers: There are way too many in town to mention, but without some of the OGs who broke out first and started plant-based blogs or YouTube channels, we wouldn’t have the movement we do now…and this blog may certainly have not existed! Some of the most notables are broadcaster-turned-vegan baking entrepreneur Erin Ireland’s To Die For (seen above in her TEDx Talk), and Bridget Burns x Zoe Peled x Rhiannon Whitney‘s The Vegan Project.
Facebook groups: There are also lots of Facebook groups in town, but the two biggest ones I’m a part of are the Vancouver Vegans and Plant-based Vancouver (run by Erin Ireland and The Juice Truck‘s Zack Berman). Best thing is, you don’t have to be vegan to join…just be respectful and have an open mind!
Give it up to the businesses around the world providing options. Cruelty-free options! Without which, we wouldn’t have food or other products to turn to. I’d like to see more companies like Miyoko’s in the USA who’s helping former dairy farmers transition into harvesting plant-based food, but we’ve got a way to go in BC. While food & beverage options have been around for awhile, it’s exploded in the last decade or so. There are too many to mention even locally, but here are just a few:
Accessories, clothing, and shoes: We’ve still got a ways to go in the local vegan leather department, but get your bags from White Rhino and kicks from Nice Shoes! You can check out more apparel brands in this blog I posted last year.
Beauty brands: Thankfully we’re blessed with many cruelty-free cosmetic brands, but props to Seika at Line spa and polish who schooled me on the nail polish brands that may have been eco, but still tested on animals. I haven’t visited Willows Wax Bar, but it’s a staple vegan spa that offers waxing, massages, cosmetic tattooing, and more.
Events: These are the best places to find out the latest trends and brands offering vegan food in our city. Visit VegExpo (June 14) and Vancouver Vegan Festival (July 25) annually, while the Vegan Night Market (by The Vegan Project and Peaces) and Vegan Prom YVR come around a few times. Erin & Zack at Plant-based Vancouver were also hosting film screenings (mostly docs) but they haven’t done one in awhile, so if you have the space and time, hit them up in the Facebook group!
New to Vancouver? Go on the Vancouver Vegan Food Tour and get a nice lunch tour of some of our top spots.
Food: We’re blessed with tons of local dairy, cheez, yogurt, and ice cream options (go to Umaluma), but for faux meat options (and a break from them Beyond burgers), get Big Mountain Foods in your grocery stores, TMRW Foods, PlantBase Food & Natural Products (seriously everything you can think of), and Modern Meat (coming soon). Bonus Bakery, Edible Flours, and Fairy Cakes got you covered for baked goods, and VeganSupply.ca — our very own plant-based grocery store with two locations in the Lower Mainland — is there for everything else!
Have I skipped out on any vegan allies that are local? Let me know or add your own in the comments.