Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a 32-year-old woman living in Quebec City, Canada. I currently work in the financial domain. In my free time I pursue animal rights activism in the form of artwork. I have always loved painting and drawing but since I became vegan, I found what I was truly meant to use this passion and talent for. I have donated paintings to the only farm animal sanctuary in the province of Quebec (SAFE – Sanctuaire pour animaux de ferme de l’Estrie) to help them raise money. You can follow me on Facebook here.
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
I became vegan at 30 years old, on July 18th 2017. I’ve always loved animals and felt a deep discomfort whenever I was faced with the disconnect between my actions and my ethical views. At 8 years old, I remember watching “Lisa The Vegetarian” (The Simpsons episode) with my mother and sister and there was a silent agreement between us that eating animals was horrible… But nonetheless we all continued doing what society deemed normal. I remember us always siding with vegetarian TV characters such as Phoebe Buffay in Friends, thinking her songs for children about farm animals were so on point. I remember cheering for Ace Ventura and Elaine in Seinfeld when they confronted people wearing fur coats. Now that I am vegan, I am completely baffled that it did not happen any sooner. I initially started with a 2-week challenge, thinking it would help my digestion. At that moment in my life, I had tried all the doctor’s recommended diets to reduce IBS symptoms but nothing worked for me. After eating strictly vegan for one week, I felt better physically than I had felt in several years. Seeing that it was easy, tasty and very energizing to eat purely plant-based, I thought to myself… well now I might as well watch all the documentaries I’ve been dreading to look at. I watched within one week, Earthlings (I cried myself dry), Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and What The Health. I discovered Dr. Greger of Nutrition Facts, Dr. Esselstyn, Neal Barnard… I watched countless hours of health science videos about their research. It became clear to me that I was now going to be vegan for life. Vegan for my life, for the animal’s lives and to save as many lives as I possibly could all over the world. I decided to start my endeavor to save lives with my mother.
At this moment, my mother was morbidly obese and struggling with her health. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, etc. To top all of this, from a childhood accident, she already had a lifelong threatening condition of mitral valve insufficiency (heart condition).
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I was scared I would imminently lose her. She was making a lot of efforts to lose weight and get better; she went to aqua fit classes and counted calories. Due to her heart condition it was near impossible for her to do any kind of strenuous physical activity – walking up a flight of stairs was a challenge. I appealed to her lifelong adoration of animals and her peaceful nature, and then I showed her the health science behind it and being a smart compassionate woman, she went vegan overnight. It was a challenge to learn new food reflexes at 57 years old but she was armed with the truth and a strong desire to get better so she stuck with it. The best part of it is that she no longer had to count any calories or macros, she just ate intuitively, a fully plant-based diet and kept doing more and more exercise as her body condition started to permit it. Over the course of the last 2 years, she lost approximately 90 pounds, and with it went all her health issues. She is still currently overweight and shedding pounds but no longer obese and has ideal blood pressure, cholesterol levels, no more symptoms of diabetes and sleeps like a baby. She would never let me take pictures of her before but we recently visited the amazing Sivananda Ashram in Val-Morin near Montreal – highly recommend this place, they are normally 100% vegetarian however if you reserve and contact them ahead of time and indicate you are vegan they will cook all vegan meals for your entire stay) And she let me take a gorgeous photo of her in the ashram’s garden.
I would say that influencing my mother to become vegan this is my proudest life achievement to date; however, I did also convince my boyfriend, father and sister to go vegan for life as well. They now all embrace a 100% vegan lifestyle, not just the plant-based diet.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
I immediately went plant-based overnight. I still remember the day before… I ate hotdogs (gross)! My boyfriend didn’t immediately go plant-based so he ate whatever we still had in the house that was animal sourced food. Soon, he became “plant based at home” which made things easier (he only went fully vegan about one year ago). For clothing, I did have an old leather coat, one pair of shoes, a few purses and some wool garments. I gave them all away, I couldn’t stand to look at them anymore. I debated in my head the “ethics” of keeping them because the damage was done, I’d bought them years ago… but that just wouldn’t cut it… I was physically repulsed by them. Surprisingly most of my makeup was already vegan because I was a big fan of Kat Von D’s collection so that wasn’t too much of a problem. I gave away whatever wasn’t. I spent a few months finishing off all my non-vegan body, face and household cleaning products and replacing them with new vegan and more eco-friendly options. It’s a learning curve to figure out all the items that you may have never thought in the past could be non-vegan and tested on animals… but I eventually got there.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
My veganism is strict. If ever I am using or eating anything that isn’t vegan or cruelty free, it’s because I don’t know. Despite my best efforts at making sure I am 100% vegan; I know I am not infallible and mistakes can happen. Whenever I have to eat at someone’s place, I bring vegan options that I can offer to everyone but also make a whole meal for myself and my boyfriend out of. Some people might think that bringing your own food to someone’s place is disrespectful but most people are not willing to receive me with food that respects my ethics and lifestyle.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
I think children should be made aware that meat is flesh from a dead animal, do I think they need to see it? Not really, but it should be explained to them. Children should be shown from a young age to respect all sentient living beings and the planet and to be compassionate, the vegan lifestyle will be the result of such compassion and ethics.
What does being vegan mean to you? owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?
Being vegan to me means living the most peacefully possible, so yes, I do all efforts possible to do the least harm on all life forms. I try as much as possible to encourage 100% vegan businesses but in my city, and I believe most cities, it’s almost impossible to get everything you need from 100% vegan businesses. Further to this, I do think it’s important to consume vegan and cruelty free options that are marketed by all kinds of companies because this shows businesses there is demand for vegan options. Showing demand for these options then makes it easier for the mass population to have access to these. Ultimately, I wish there were vegan grocery stores in every neighborhood but for now it’s not the case. In Quebec City, we have only one 100% vegan grocery store (Les Gourmandises Louca) and it’s in the downtown area. It’s a fantastic place but being that so much of the people in Quebec live in the suburbs 30-40 minutes away from downtown, it’s unrealistic to think every single person attempting to transition to a vegan lifestyle will go shop there. That’s why for now my philosophy is to try to encourage all kinds of shops that offer any vegan options, and see the vegan sections grow bigger and bigger in all neighborhood grocery stores. Eventually if the demand is high enough, vegan groceries will open up in each neighborhood and we can support these places!
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
I think in some way, yes. I think the least you can do as a vegan is to lead by example. Show people around you how amazingly tasty and simple being vegan is. Show them all the health benefits as well. These two things are easy to do. Bring around vegan food to offer to people, let them know how great you are feeling on this plant-based diet. If you are capable and comfortable with it, engage in friendly conversations about the animal cause and the environment. Get all the information you need by listening to videos from current activists, scientists, environmentalists. Find a way for you to make a change. Being an activist isn’t the same for everyone, and what’s fantastic about that is that different people will react to different approaches… so the style of activism you may be comfortable with is definitely going to reach certain people. For me, it was clear I wanted to be part of vegan activism from the start. I participated in Anonymous for the Voiceless events, it’s great but wasn’t where I was the best. I found success in cooking delicious meals for people around me to break the myth that vegan food is boring, or that all we eat is grass. Once that myth is broken, it’s much easier to dig into the animal and environmental aspects of the question. I always like to bring people to restaurants and have them try the vegan options. Recently it was Burger Week in the province of Quebec and I took all my colleagues to a restaurant called “Chez Victor” because their burger week special was a Merguez inspired vegan burger.
This burger ended up winning burger week against all the non-vegan options province-wide. It was so good I took my parents there too!
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I try my best to never forget that I was a non-vegan for 30 years when I talk with non-vegans. How could I not be empathetic with them? I was them for 30 years… What I find hardest is being faced with someone who clearly has a deep respect and love for the animals, who understands the ethical issue but just won’t take the final step of aligning their actions with their morals. I try to put myself in their shoes and remember what it was like for me before I took that step and see what more I could do to show them the way. I am not very empathetic to people who simply do not show any compassion for the animals… I usually draw a mental line and decide that this person is not worth my time and efforts. It’s hard to let go because I also know this is one more person who will continue contributing to the animal suffering.
Any recommended Vegan books?
I would 100% recommend Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows from Melanie Joy.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Nutritionfacts.org and their YouTube channel, Mic the Vegan’s YouTube channel, The Buddhist chef (YouTube, his webpage, and Instagram), Earthling Ed’s YouTube page, Joey Carbstrong’s YouTube page, James and Carly’s YouTube page (James Aspey and Carly Taylor).
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I’ve mentioned some earlier but basically… all the known Vegan documentaries: Earthlings, Forks over Knives, What the Health, Cowspiracy, Dominion, The Game Changers. Also this is the video I showed my mother to convince her of the positive health effects: (How not to die talk at Google Headquarters on YouTube). This very inspiring speech from Gary Yourofsky. This other inspiring speech called “101 reasons to go vegan.” The best Ted Talk of all time in my opinion from Earthling Ed (Ed Winters) :
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
The one, the only, The Don Vegan in Quebec City.
The Don Vegan’s chef Anne-Marie Grenier’s dishes are delightful.
I would eat there all the time! Honorable mention for the Lov in Montreal. It’s very good but a 3h drive from my place so I only ever go when I’m in Montreal for a music show or something like that!
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
I love cooking when I have time to really do something elaborate, I’ll check out Gaz Oakley’s page (Avant Garde Vegan) – he makes the best vegan gravies!!! If I’m more in a rush I’ll do any of Jean-Philippe Cyr’s (The Buddhist chef) recipes. I pretty much know them by heart by now they’re such staples in my house. I’d say if you have one meal to impress non-vegans and make them believe vegan food is the bomb you should go with the Buddhist chef’s general tofu. It’s never failed me. However, I probably triple the recipe for the sauce! I love it saucy and sticky!
Another one that doesn’t fail is this butter style tofu.
Often, I’ll just make a bowl with rice, random greens, veggies and tofu with a vinaigrette.
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
Don’t let people discourage you. Are you afraid that people will laugh at you and say vegans eat grass? Learn to cook a few mouth-watering vegan recipes and shut them up (they’ll be too busy salivating over your lunch to crack jokes). Are you afraid that people will tell you your diet will make you sick? Listen to all the vegan doctors, learn the science behind it, read the massive amount of research, learn by heart the position of the American dietetics’ association on vegan diets. Learn where you can get all the nutrients from a plant-based diet so what when someone says, “ you’ll be deficient in iron” you can reply “kale, spinach, broccoli, ok thanks bye”. Are you afraid that people will question the validity of the animal’s rights movement? Watch all the animal rights documentaries, watch the footage, witness the animal’s pain, learn about the methods of the industry. With all the proper information and documentation, you can and will be vegan for life.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
I’ve mentioned it before briefly, it’s not very advanced here.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Social media! On Instagram or Facebook, you can most likely find hashtags or groups of vegans in your area.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
Definitely. Basically, by becoming vegan I have simply started including animals in the circle of living sentient beings that I respect and have compassion for. Humans have always been and are still in this circle.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I love Kat Von D cosmetics, Herbivore skin care products, I shop at Lush a lot for hair/body care, even though they are vegetarian and cruelty free, a lot of their products are vegan (obviously I only buy the vegan ones).
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Currently I’d say… nothing! I struggled to find a good vegan lip balm at first (they often contain honey, beeswax or lanolin) but now I use the Herbivore one!