Plant-based progress spells good news for farmed animals

The District of North Vancouver has passed another plant-forward motion!

Thanks to the support of advocates in the District of North Vancouver, a recent motion to prioritize climate-friendly, healthy and humane plant-based food purchasing successfully passed at the May 6th council meeting!

The motion, put forward by Councillor Jim Hanson, calls on the District to ensure plant-based options are included and prioritized at municipal events, meetings and other gatherings where the District purchases food.  

The motion was supported by local advocates, members of the Plant-Based Cities Movement (PBCM), and VHS supporters who live in the District. The VHS and the PBCM have been working together to advocate for plant-based municipal policies and will continue to support the District of North Vancouver in the implementation of this successful motion. 

This important step forward follows a previous motion in the District passed in March 2022 to grow awareness throughout the community of the health and environmental benefits of increasing the intake of plant-based foods. That motion, championed by Councillor Megan Curren, cited VHS’s report entitled “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level”.

Watch for plant-based bus ads in Vancouver 

Vancouver residents will soon be able to see new messages from the Vancouver Humane Society’s Plant University platform on buses across the city.

The ads will encourage people to eat more plants by highlighting the heart health benefits of a plant-forward diet.

If every person in Vancouver swapped just one day a week of animal-based foods for plant-based, they could save more than 37 million animals every year!

Find more reasons to eat more plants, recipes, tips, and a map of plant-based businesses on the VHS’s plant-based resource website, Plant University.


Plant-based food: Is it healthy for us and the planet?

Can healthier diets help our planet? (Live presentation at UBC Robson)

Chapters: 00:00 Introduction by Charlyn Black, Professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health 4:11 Introduction to Michael Klaper, MD and Founder of Moving Medicine Forward 6:00 Plant-based foods & health with Michael Klaper 31:58 Introduction to Navin Ramankutty, Director of UBC Institute for Resources,

The Vancouver Humane Society’s Chantelle Archambault recently appeared as a speaker at UBC Robson Square Theatre for an exciting discussion about plant-based food, “Can healthier diets help our planet?”

The event was moderated by Professor Charlyn Black of the UBC School of Population & Public Health, and also featured speakers Michael Klaper of Moving Medicine Forward, Navin Ramankutty of the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, and Jade Dittaro of the UBC Family Practice Training Sites.

Presentations mention the following resources:

Introduction by Charlyn Black

Plant-based foods & health with Michael Klaper

Plant-based foods & the environment with Navin Ramankutty

Impacts of shifting to plant-based foods in the Lower Mainland with Chantelle Archambault

Intersections of planetary health and human health in education with Jade Dittaro

Panel discussion

21 day challenges:


Podcast: Is it easy to go vegan?

The plant-based journey looks different for everyone.

In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault are joined by guest Danielle George to discuss healthism and ableism in the plant-based discussion, as well as ways to make plant-based eating more accessible to everyone.

July episode: Will plant-based become the norm?

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

VHS Board Director

Danielle George has been a member of the Board here at the Vancouver Humane Society since September, 2021. Danielle has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at The Evergreen State College. She’s passionate about food, social justice, and animal welfare, and the crucial intersections between them.

What can going vegan look like?

Chantelle: Before we get started, I’d like to note that we’ll be touching on topics of healthism and ableism, and there are also mentions of eating disorders. If this is something you have difficulty hearing about, we recommend that you have a plan in place to deal with complicated emotions that may come up.

Danielle, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you tell us more about your history with veganism and animal advocacy?

Danielle: I started out as a vegetarian since I was 13 years old. I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, and I think that’s such a good example of intersections between animal advocacy and what we eat and also compassion and caring for humans.

I read this book about the meat packing industry in Chicago, and I took from it that the treatment of these animals is horrific, and I don’t want to be a part of that. When of course, one of the intents that Upton Sinclair had written it for was to talk about the horrific environment the humans were working in as well.

So it’s a great example of how, if you’re somebody who’s compassionate and you care about one issue, it can and should bloom into a holistic approach towards compassion towards everyone stuck in that system.

Then I became a vegan in 2007. I was actually on my way to a Weird Al concert. I was with my partner who was not a vegetarian, not a vegan. We’re both from the Midwest. We didn’t have a lot of exposure to vegetarian or vegan ideals outside of what I had experienced.

I just mentioned, “Wow, Weird Al has so much energy travelling around and putting on these huge shows and he’s vegan. I wonder what being a vegan would be like.”

It just really inspired me to kind of dip into that. And my partner said, well, maybe we should try being vegan for 30 days. And from there, we just kind of continuously took baby steps and learned more.

I was a much more emotional person on the journey. How does this make me feel mentally? How do I feel about this journey? How do I feel about what I’m accomplishing or what I hope to accomplish? And my partner is a much more spreadsheet person. So they were researching environmental impacts, researching water consumption, checks and balances, boxes to be checked on what is being accomplished by reducing animal products in their diet.

So between those two places, we really just kind of both came to the same conclusion that we really were happy and we continued to adopt that lifestyle every day more and more. And we’ve never looked back.

Plant-based advocacy from the VHS

Amy: For some background on the Vancouver Humane Society’s role in plant-based advocacy, this is an important part of our work because plant-based eating has a huge potential to reduce animal suffering by reducing the demand for industrial animal agriculture, where some of the most severe harms happen to animals.

I personally stopped eating animal products after witnessing farmed animals being treated horribly on farms and at slaughter facilities. I won’t get into detail because I find talking about those experiences triggering, and it can trigger listeners too. Suffice it to say that I didn’t think it was possible for normal people, when put in a position of needing to earn a living, to get to a place of so little compassion for animals that they can do them so much harm. Every time someone chooses to eat food made from plants instead of animals, it helps save lives because it means there is less demand for animals to be bred, raised, and killed for food.

Chantelle: We do work through our Plant University project to make plant-based menu options more accessible through institutions like restaurants, caterers, hospitals, schools, and city concession stands, and also to make it easier for people to choose plant-based foods with resources like recipes and nutrition tips for thriving on a plant-based diet.

Healthism in the plant-based discussion

Chantelle: We also talk about the benefits of eating more plant-based foods, including the health benefits. We know from public polling that one of the main reasons people reduce their consumption of animal products is for their health, so sharing those health benefits can be a strong motivator for people.

Likewise, sharing tips about how to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need while you’re changing the way you eat can be important because it gives people the resources to meet their needs and have that change be sustainable.

But talking about health in the plant-based discussion can also verge into the territory of healthism. Danielle, could you talk about healthism and how it can come up in the plant-based discussion?

What is healthism?

Danielle: So healthism at its most basic is assigning a moral value to health and placing it at the highest of priorities. And now, because it’s a moral value, it’s almost entirely up to the individual’s responsibility to guard and protect their health. And any decline in your health is now an indication of a moral failing.

It’s super easy to hold these beliefs. I understand how so many folks get there. It’s widely held throughout our society.

The problem with healthism

Danielle: But there are some issues with having this concept. So recent studies in the past decade have begun to reveal that the vast majority of factors that impact our health is outside of our control. For instance:

  • access to healthcare,
  • community,
  • education,
  • what class we’re in,
  • if we have access to economic stability,
  • if our society as a whole has access to economic stability,
  • living in a place that’s free from pollution,
  • having stable housing,
  • our genes,
  • what we’ve inherited from our ancestors,
  • and even language fluency and literacy skills can impact your health.

Think about just casual stress that you would experience from perhaps not getting the same messaging that other folks around you who have that language fluency. Imagine you’re trying to make a decision on if you’re allergic to something, but you can’t read or you don’t understand the language that information is in.

All of these are factors that are primarily outside of our control that have a huge impact on our health.

But it can also imply the folks who have health issues for whatever reason, you can start to feel that those people should have been able to invest wisely or have worked hard enough to overcome it. And not being able to do that can show weakness or laziness or lack of intelligence or lack of worth. It can feed into that bootstrap mentality of, “I’m where I am because of the hard work and the good decisions I made and you should have been able to do the same.”

Some of the side effects of consuming or perpetuating a healthism focused attitude can be often placing high value or fixation on the exterior presence or appearance of health.

So you can summon up in your mind what you think healthy looks like. Oftentimes that’s from a broader social message that we’ve all been swimming in since birth, and a lot of that broader social message of what we’ve been told healthy looks like usually kind of implies the ruling class or an upper class concept of what healthy looks like. So it’s not going to be necessarily showing a broad cultural or geographic differences of what health can look like.

Health & barriers to health look different for everyone

Danielle: Also, that’s just on the outside. Health can look like many different things, but it can also remove the nuance for how complex making “healthy” choices can be for so many people.

So this might be an example of what healthism thinking can look like: “Everyone should walk 30 minutes a day. It’s so easy to do. There’s literally no downside. It’s good for your mind. It’s good for your body. It lifts your spirits. It’s the least you can do. Why isn’t everyone doing this?”

Well immediately you can think of, okay, well what about people who live with chronic pain? How would they navigate this 30 minute walk, without maybe becoming exhausted or exacerbating their pain?

What about people who are living in highly polluted areas, with or without asthma? I mean, that’s a choice we have to make during fire season. Is it safe and or a good idea for me to go outside right now?

What about people who have depression or only have the capacity to either go grocery shopping for dinner or go for a walk?

The truth is that most people live with a really limited collection of resources, time, energy, transportation, money, and it’s really tricky and complicated to create an equation of what is the “healthiest” way to use these small pockets of resources.

Dangers of healthism

Danielle: But also healthism thinking can lead to disordered eating, such as bulimia or anorexia. It can lead to orthorexia, which is a kind of obsessive fixation on only eating the healthiest foods to avoid illness.

It certainly leads to kind of anti-fat beliefs being perpetuated. If we’re focusing on an exterior concept of what we think healthy looks like, then we’re certainly feeding into anti-fat beliefs.

It’s overall kind of steeped in privileged thinking that can lead to victim blaming towards people who have health struggles. It can lead to removing value and compassion for people who are locked in a complicated system.

Concerns about health and plant-based eating

Danielle: I think the challenge that can come up when we’re talking about plant-based living is that so many people often bring up health as a concern as to why they might be hesitant to try removing or lowering the animal products that they eat.

It’s tricky to walk the line of addressing people’s concerns that can sometimes, not always, but it sometimes can be already inspired by this healthism concept, without us feeding into it and implying that a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet possible and therefore it is your responsibility to be the healthiest version of yourself, so you’re failing or being morally weak if you don’t choose the healthiest road; when at the end of the day health is often not in our control.

There’s many reasons why people are or are not healthy and many reasons why folks may not always have the capacity or the options or want to make the healthiest choice. And those folks and their lives, healthy or not, are 100 percent valid and deserving.

Ableism in the plant-based discussion

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a really incredible and detailed background.

Another issue that can come up in plant-based advocacy is ableism. For instance, if we were to emphasize how “easy” it is to cut out animal products but only offer plant-based alternatives that are made from scratch and involve a lot of chopping vegetables, that could exclude people who have chronic health conditions that cause nerve pain in their hands or affect their fine motor skills, or who have trouble standing to cook for a long time.

Amy: Yes, if we focus on how “easy” it is to go plant-based, the unintentional message is that it should always be easy. For some people, hearing that it’s easy will make them shut down if they face challenges – they think the only people who do it don’t face challenges and when they run into a road bump they might think, “Being vegan isn’t for me because it’s supposed to be easy, and this isn’t.”

Do you have any thoughts on ableism and plant based messaging, Danielle?

Danielle: Yeah. I do want to say that I’m by no means an expert. I certainly do move in some circles of disability community, but I always want to advocate and encourage folks to look into what disability leaders are talking about.

I definitely think that when we talk about how easy something is, it’s a great way for us to be showcasing our privilege; because if something’s easy for you, it means that you didn’t ever have to stop and think about how many obstacles have not been present for you to accomplish that.

Certainly when we talk about chopping vegetables, like Chantelle was talking about, we’re thinking of somebody who has counter space, who has a cutting board, who has a place that they can rinse their vegetables, who is probably not microwaving these fresh vegetables, so probably has a place that they can bake or broil or fry these fresh vegetables or tofu or whatever it is that we’re talking about.

So we’re also talking about, similar to that list earlier, someone who has access to a safe, clean space to prepare these things, has the time and capacity to do it, has the physical capacity to do it; that’s already a lot of folks who may find that challenging.

But then we also have people again living with chronic pain, like you had said, maybe having nerve pain or arthritis, and they may not find that as accessible as well.

So I think it is really helpful for us to just hold space for recognizing that what is easy for one person can be challenging for others; and not placing that implied blame on someone who says, “Hey, this is a challenge for me. This is out of my reach at this moment.” It’s up to us for us to hold space for that.

And then talk about how can we systemically help remove those barriers or obstacles for folks?

How to make plant-based accessible

Chantelle: Yeah, so that’s a great question. I think that’s the next question. What are some ways that we can remove those barriers and share information about plant based eating while also avoiding healthism and ableism?

Danielle: Like we had said earlier, it is so tricky because so many folks are coming into the conversation with maybe some already ableist questions. It’s hard to answer a question that’s coming from that direction without kind of feeding into it.

Focus on progress, not perfection

I think one of the things that can really help create space for people to feel like their challenges, their existence, the barriers that they have experienced, are valid and welcome to discuss, is not having an “all or nothing” mentality.

I certainly know that I don’t respond well to somebody saying, “If you fail on this, then you’re no longer a part of this community.” Or, “If you take one step in the wrong direction, you have to start all over.” I don’t think that that creates community. I think that that is a form of gatekeeping.

And so if we want to create a space in the plant-based world where people who are experiencing those barriers can feel welcome and can come and talk about what resources would serve them—because it should be by and for those folks, they should be in the room, they should be talking about what needs they need help meeting—then we need to create a situation where it’s: “Do as much as you can. Any change is better than no change.” And we’re celebrating the small wins. That’s step number one.

And then also we want to talk about, “If you’ve been making those small wins, how does that make you feel? What have you been noticing?” Maybe you’re saying, “Oh, wow, you know I have noticed that I’ve had a lot less inflammation when I eat less of this product,” or, “When I eat less dairy, I feel less bloated.”

And just doing check ins, without saying, “But you still are eating dairy; you’re a failure.” Instead, celebrating, “Wow. It sounds like you’ve been feeling really well when you’ve been able to make these changes.” And holding space for, “What other changes would you be interested in?” or “How can I help you sustain where you’re at? I want you to feel good. I want you to have access to things that make you feel good. How can I be a part of helping make that space for you?”

Amy: I think it’s really impactful talking about those small wins.

Shifting toward a plant-based diet

Amy: We can also incorporate accessibility into our messaging when we’re talking about plant-based foods, myths, and tips. For example, there are folks who see steak as the only way to get a regular dose of iron. We know that iron supplements can be just as effective, as well as iron in green vegetables like bok choi or broccoli.

However, some people live in food deserts where these foods and vitamins aren’t accessible. In some more remote areas, meat from wild animals might be the most accessible and sustainable option.

This is why we emphasize switching towards a plant-based diet; that switch can look very different based on who you are and where you live.

Something that comes to mind for me is just how often we say plant-based eating is cheaper or easier; all you need to do is make some lentils. All you need to do is make some beans.

When you think about it, there’s lots of people who either don’t know how to cook lentils, or they have IBS, and lentils and beans don’t serve their bodies.

So if we take any one thing and say it should be for everyone, then we’re alienating part of the community that might want to make a shift.

Avoid “should energy”

Danielle: I absolutely love VHS’s approach towards that holding accessibility in your messaging, like you said, and switching towards a plant based diet and celebrating the steps that someone might be taking.

I think that, no matter what circles you move in, when you get a group of passionate people together, it’s so easy to kind of accidentally trip into what I call “should energy”.

Should energy is this hodgepodge of gatekeeping and that moralistic “Are you good or are you bad”. If you ever catch yourself saying, “You should” or “I should” or “They should;” “They should just eat lentils,” “They should just eat green beans,” that should energy is passing judgement in one form or another.

To your point, Amy, I know there are some folks that live in remote areas or do not have access to ways to be able to cook lentils. Again, maybe they only have access to a microwave. Maybe they don’t have access to a grocery store that would sell fresh lentils in the first place.

I always try to remember, I mean, eating is a huge part of our sensory experience as well. It is, to many people, a huge source of joy. It’s a huge source of culture. It’s a huge source of mental and emotional nourishment as well.

And so if I were to tell someone, “You can get everything you need from these greens,” and they say, “Oh, well, the only greens that I have access to are canned,” for me personally, I don’t get a lot of sensory joy out of canned green beans versus fresh green beans. That’s something that I have the luxury and privilege of being able to experience cooking fresh green beans.

If I were then to say someone should be eating green beans, even if they are canned green beans—and maybe they have sensory situations where they don’t like the texture of it, maybe they don’t like the taste, whatever the situation is—I’m then asking them to fulfill my definition of what I think is a healthy thing. Not understanding the full cost of all of the other checks and balances you’re working with.

Then we’re not allowing that person to address and serve the many different parts of their self. They have their physical health. They also have their social health, their mental health. They’ve got all of these different aspects.

And so if they’re sitting there miserably making themselves check that “should” box at the cost of whatever other situation is coming up, I don’t think that that is a holistic approach to health. I don’t think we are serving that person or serving that community.

So I think if we can help break down and remove that should energy, I think it’ll help make space for recognizing that it’s not going to be the same experience for someone else. But also we can be gentler with ourselves.

That should energy can lead into all of that body shaming. It can lead into the fat shaming. It can lead into policing yourself: “I shouldn’t eat that. I shouldn’t be bad today and have this chocolate. I shouldn’t eat this because that’s not what a healthy person would do.”

And instead we can kind of ask ourselves, “How is this serving me?” “This birthday cake is serving me because I made it with my mom and I’ve been looking forward to it all week and it’s going to taste like celebration and fun.”

“And that’s exactly what this part of myself needs right now; the social self, my sensory self. Now tomorrow I might need a mushroom scramble because I’m going to go and do something and I’m looking forward to eating this mushroom scramble. It’s going to be so good and I’m really looking forward to it. And it’s going to serve me in a totally different way.”

So just asking ourselves, is this serving you or whatever goals it’s helping you accomplish instead of, “There’s bad foods; there’s good foods.” I think that’s going to be a huge part of our messaging to not bring cultural bias to not bring that ableist mindset into our conversation.

Avoid “this is easy energy”

Amy: That’s really thoughtful. There’s different terms. Some people talk about intuitive eating, where you’re just like listening to yourself and listening to what you need.

There’s so many different ways that food impacts our lives.

In the same vein of talking about the “shoulds”, I want to reinforce that we don’t want to lead with any kind of “this is easy energy,” I said that earlier.

We can really acknowledge that there’s a learning curve. Every recipe or ingredient or cooking technique or tip is not easy or accessible to everybody.

You know, some people use a blender all the time. Some people don’t have access to appliances. So really every recipe is going to have a different level of challenge.

We can also think about ways to reach people who are facing challenges without defaulting to saying “this is easy”. So acknowledging that it can be hard, but here are some tips to make it less hard. Here are some common challenges and how we can overcome them.

Start small

Amy: We can also start with the most accessible ways to add a few more plants into the diet.

Recently someone was asking me about switching to a vegan diet. I kind of tried this method sharing with them about what part of it was hardest for me, rather than just being like, “Oh yeah, did it. It’s been great.”

That led them to self reflect and they also wondered why I didn’t just switch to purchasing more ethical products, which gave me an opportunity to share about my experiences working on free range and organic farms, slaughterhouses, sheep farms producing wool, where I witnessed abuse and suffering firsthand.

And then also the footage that I’ve observed just through working for different animal organizations. Somehow that became more relatable because they could kind of have empathy for what I’ve observed, and it opened them up to consider, even though it was hard for me, I was willing to put in the work to kind of like make small steps to start it off because there was a motivator.

That whole process made the conversation much more in depth versus me just being like, “Yep, this is just who I am. I did this thing, it’s great.” And in that case, they just wouldn’t feel like they could relate to me because they would themselves think, “I’ve tried that and it didn’t go so well,” but they’d keep it to themselves because they just have that sense that, it’s too different. They’re too different from me.

So thinking about these incremental steps that a person can take, we can look at, “Where do you think there are easy changes you can make in your life? Where do you have options and availability for these foods? Could it be easier to start with shifting breakfasts or maybe milks to be plant-based?”

How you can help

Amy: Or if a person doesn’t feel like they have any options that are accessible to them right now, what steps can we support them in taking so they could be in a place to have those options? That could look like advocating for more options to be available.

Chantelle: Yeah, definitely. And while we’re talking about that kind of advocacy, this is a really good step any of us can take to help animals.

We can each do individual advocacy to make those plant-based foods more accessible to everyone.

Going into restaurants and asking them to add vegan-friendly options is a great way to make those foods available to the people who want to try plant-based but don’t have the resources to make those foods at home.

It’s also just a great way for anyone to try plant-based for the first time as an introduction step. The first time I had the thought that I could go vegan was when I had a really good plant-based burger at a restaurant in Toronto and I thought, “Oh, this food can be tasty and fulfilling.”

Danielle: Yeah, that makes such a huge difference.

And to your previous point, Amy, when you were talking about how different ingredients cooking techniques and tools are not always readily available; I remember when I first became vegan back in 2007, there were certainly way, way, way less plant based options in the grocery stores or accessible for shopping.

And a lot of the stuff you was: if you wanted sour cream, you’re making it on your own. If you want Alfredo sauce, you’re making it on your own.

I remember I had a really cheap blender that I had gotten from Goodwill. When you are blending cashews, you know, not all blenders are equal. So my experience of somebody telling me, “It’s easy. Just use your Vitamix and blend up this beautiful, creamy sauce,” was not accessible to me at that moment because my little five dollar blender that was probably older than I was, was not making creamy sauces. It was making a grainy mush.

So I definitely felt like I don’t feel represented in this conversation of this decadent lifestyle that someone is telling me is at my fingertips and is super easy.

Let alone if I had had other challenges, like if I had lived back in the middle of a small town in Kansas. Where am I going to get these raw cashews from, with easy access, without driving 30 minutes, 45 minutes, maybe over an hour to get to a natural Whole Foods store?

So I love this conversation of talking about and holding space for challenges, so that people can feel like, “This community is interested in hearing about who I am and the challenges I’m facing, not about me fitting into the square shaped peg they have for me, and that if I don’t fit into that, there’s no space for me.”

I think a good community, a healthy community, wants to hold space for hearing about what is your lived experience, what are the challenges you’re experiencing, and how can we help make this system serve all of us better; not just the people who find it easy.

Next episode

We hope you’ll join us again next month for discussion on the challenges that low income pet guardians face and the systems in place to help them.


Podcast: Will plant-based become the norm?

65% of people are eating fewer animal-based products.

In this month’s episode of The Informed Animal Ally, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault delve into a recent project from the VHS to determine what people in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland think of plant-based eating and to share the benefits.

Read report

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

Why share the benefits of eating plant-based?

Chantelle: As we’ve mentioned before on this podcast, industrial animal agriculture is arguably the biggest animal welfare crisis in the world. We’ve also mentioned that eating a plant-based diet is the most impactful way to decrease the demand for animal products, which drives farmed animal suffering. Another important piece of that puzzle is advocating for plant-based foods to be more accessible for everyone. But what does that advocacy look like in practice?

This month we’ll be delving into a recent project from the Vancouver Humane Society to determine what people in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland think of plant-based eating and to share the benefits of eating a plant-based diet.

Report prepared for the City of Vancouver: Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level

Amy: Yeah, and to share a little bit of what’s kind of behind this: In 2021, the City of Vancouver made a commitment for their staff to look into the city shifting 20% of their animal-based purchasing to plant-based foods, following the release of a report that our organization commissioned on what the city could save in greenhouse gas emissions, cost, and animal lives.

Read report for the City of Vancouver

So after the success of that report, we were supported by a funder to develop and promote a cost-benefit analysis demonstrating what an individual could save if shifting towards a more plant-based diet.

Poll of plant-based habits and attitudes in the Lower Mainland

Amy: That involved observing the quantity of animal products consumed by B.C. residents. Since we were already gathering that polling data, we recognized it would be worthwhile to gather meaningful data about BC residents, plant-based eating habits and attitudes as a whole.

We used a recent poll from VegTO as a starting point, and then we gathered data that we could use to further the plant-based movement in B.C. In the next little while, we’ll take you through some of the findings from both the survey and the cost benefit analysis. You can find this data linked in the blog post associated with this podcast.

There are lots of visuals there to make the data come alive. And really to give a broad overview of what the survey entails, it included results from just over 800 residents of the Lower Mainland to ensure that the data could be statistically significant.

Chantelle: Right. And those respondents were also balanced for demographics like age to be as accurate as possible.

How different generations feel about plant-based eating

Chantelle: Let’s talk about age. People have been avoiding animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy in some cultures for thousands of years, plant-based eating has deep roots in a lot of cultures, including ancient Indian cultures and Eastern Mediterranean societies. But the idea of plant-based eating in most of the Western world is pretty new.

The word vegan is less than a hundred years old. It was coined in 1944 by the founder of the Vegan Society named Donald Watson, and the concept has been growing very gradually since then and has recently bloomed.

If you were to look for a vegan-friendly meal at your average food court just 40 years ago, you wouldn’t have had a lot of options. I’ve heard so many stories from early vegans who had to get by on french fries and ketchup any time they were outl. Because those early adopters persevered and advocated, the movement has spread and now you can find something plant-based to eat almost anywhere. We’re so fortunate to have this amazing selection of veggie burgers and wraps and curries, and almost anything else you can think of.

And now that we have all these delicious options available, there’s so many more people who are open to eating plant-based foods.

Which generations are eating more plants?

Chantelle: In the survey that we did in the Lower Mainland, we found that younger generations are more likely to decrease or eliminate animal products from their diets. 69% of people aged 18 to 34 had reduced their consumption of animal products, compared to 66% of people aged 35 to 54, and 60% of people aged 55 and over.

In both the younger age groups, 3% of people identified themselves as being vegan, compared to in the 55+ age group, which rounded to 0% of people who identified as vegan.

Why people are eating more plants, by age

Chantelle: Another interesting finding that came out of the survey is that the motivations for eating more plant-based foods differed by generation.

People aged 18 to 34 were most likely to eat more plant-based foods to save money or to help the environment, while the other age groups were like ust to eat more plants for their personal health.

When it comes to choosing what to eat, all the age groups consider taste to be a priority, with price and availability coming close behind. Younger people are also more likely to consider convenience and the influence of friends, family, and their community.

It’s really great news that people are beginning to consider convenience a priority just as plant-based convenience foods are becoming more widely available. Those are things like packaged meals or plant-based lunch meat.

As companies keep developing those products and they keep evolving to have prices and flavors that rival their animal-based counterparts, it’s going to become easier and easier for someone to pick up something like a $2 package of veggie bologna over a $4 package of meat bologna that tastes essentially the same. That’s when it’s likely that we’ll see a wider shift toward a society that eats more sustainably.

Amy: Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that. Certainly I think it makes sense that eventually those products are going to become more affordable.

Do people with pets eat more plant-based foods?

Amy: We were also really curious. If people who have pets make any different decisions when it comes to plant-based eating than people without pets.

Pet guardians more likely to consider farmed animal welfare

Amy: So current pet guardians and non-pet guardians were asked how much they agreed with the statement, “I think about the treatment of farmed animals when I’m deciding what food to buy”.

I found it interesting that 59% of people who currently have pets agreed or strongly agreed with that statement compared to 47% of people who don’t currently have a pet.

Chantelle: I think that’s very interesting. I can see where that number is coming from because people who share their lives with animals can see how complex they are and how much they feel, and how strong their relationships can be.

Amy: I think it lines up with what I would expect too. Although, of course I’d love to see more connection between pets and farmed animals, considering we know they’re all sentient, they can feel pain and suffering.

Having a pet doesn’t make people value plant-based eating more

Amy: With another question on the survey, when asked how much they agreed with the statement, “Eating more plant-based foods can have a significant impact on reducing harm to animals”, there was really no discernible difference between pet guardians and non-pet guardians.

70% of people who currently have a pet agreed or strongly agreed with that statement, compared to about 68% of people who don’t currently have a pet.

Do you feel that seeing your pets’ unique personalities, intelligence, and capacity for love, joy, fear, and pain has made you more compassionate towards other animals?

Chantelle: I mean, for myself personally, sharing my life with animals has definitely made an impact on the way I see things.

Content warning: pet loss. Losing my first cat was actually what convinced me to start phasing out animal products from my diet years ago because it didn’t make sense to me to make animals die for the food I ate when I was so devastated by the death of an animal that I loved and farmed animals have the same complex internal lives that our companion animals have.

Pigs can reason just like dogs, cows form friendships and emotional bonds with their calves. Chickens can solve problems. They all dream, they think they feel and they want to have a good life.

Do men eat more meat?

Chantelle: Another interesting distinction in the survey data was about gender identity. You may have seen the stat that most vegans identify as women. Looking at the survey gives us some more insight into what the gender gap really looks like when it comes to plant-based food habits and attitudes here in the Lower Mainland.

Men are less likely to reduce animal product consumption, identify as vegan or vegetarian

In the survey, women and those who prefer to self-describe were significantly more likely at 71% to have reduced their animal product consumption than men at 58%.

Of the survey respondents who identified as vegan or vegetarian, 70% identified as women or preferred to self-describe and 30% identified as men.

That could partly be because animal products, especially meat, have historically been heavily marketed to men and associated with masculinity. If you think of something like ads for barbecue equipment that show a full tray of steaks, those are really featured around things like Father’s Day, and they almost always show men in the ads.

And then we see so many people who are changing their narrative on this, which is great news. The Game Changers is a really great documentary from filmmakers including Arnold Schwarzenegger. It follows a number of plant-based athletes to bust the myth that you need to eat animals to be strong, and it shows that anyone can be just as if not more strong eating plant-based.

What does the plant-based gender gap mean for food access?

Chantelle: I think that gender gap is probably making a really big impact when we consider that there’s a lot of men in high power positions in the companies that decide what food is available.

Men are 83% of the 533 named executive officers in S&P 100 companies, which is what many people consider to be the a hundred most major companies in the United States.That means that a lot of decisions about what food is offered and what food is marketed are ultimately being motivated by male leadership.

What do people think of plant-forward policies?

Amy: Speaking of male leaders being prominent in the corporate sector, we were really curious about what people, both those who eat plant-based primarily and those who do not, think about change at that institutional level.

Most people support plant-forward government policies

Amy: The survey showed that three in five consumers (60%) would support including animal product reduction efforts into local, provincial, and federal climate, health, and animal welfare strategies.

The results also showed that a majority (58%) would support shifting government subsidies from animal-based food production to plant-based food production.

Most people believe menus with plant-based options are more inclusive

Amy: When it came to restaurants, hospitals, schools, and public institutions like parks food service, the survey showed that 89% of consumers would either not change their opinion or value them more highly if they offered more plant-based food options.

Looking at this in more detail, the survey data indicated that 73% of consumers would view food services that offered greater variety of plant-based options as more inclusive to all.

So that’s nearly three quarters of the population that see this change as meaningful and want the kind of leadership who are making decisions about this to make more plant-based options available.

Most people would eat more plant-based foods if there were more tasty options on menus

Amy: 65% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed that they would eat more plant-based meals if there are more tasty options available when going out to eat.

So big changes can be made at the institution level to increase the prevalence of plant-based foods.

How to advocate for more vegan-friendly options

Amy: Really the best thing we can do as individuals to support these changes is to encourage restaurants, schools, park concessions, and government to adapt familiar and popular menu items to be plant-based.

We can also ask them to prioritize the marketing of plant-based items; place them front and centre on the main menu, rather than having them be something on the side.

If you’re keen to get involved with that kind of advocacy, there’s resources or through our farmed animal advocacy team at the Vancouver Humane Society who can provide personalized support to help you get involved in your community to ask for more kind of prominent plant-based options.

Advocacy resources
Contact the VHS team

Chantelle: Yeah, those are all great points. It makes such a big difference for individuals choosing what to eat when institutions have made those plant-based foods straightforward and accessible.

Is a plant-based diet nutritious?

Amy: We also wanted to get an idea of what the major barriers were to switching to a plant-based diet.

Survey results indicated that nutrition was the main barrier. 88% agreed or somewhat agreed that they think about nutrition when deciding what food to buy, and 28% of respondents said that they were concerned they wouldn’t get enough protein in their diet if they ate more plant-based foods.

To share a little bit of a personal story, I grew up as a gymnast eating an animal-based diet. Today, I’m a rock climber and a runner, and I have genetic blood sugar issues and I eat a fully plant-based diet.

There are some strategies I’ve found to help me keep up the energy I need for the activities I’m doing. I make sure that I eat a protein with every carb. That’s either nuts, soy products, or a good volume of lentils and beans.

I also avoid really carb intensive foods like white rice or potatoes unless it’s an activity day, because my body can’t process those types of sugars very well. So I opt for sweet potatoes and brown rice instead.

My body really craves fats and protein after a big day in the mountains, so I’ll often eat a spoonful or more of peanut butter before bed to ensure my body’s getting what it needs to stay active. Avocados are really great too, and they’re great insulin regulators.

When I take slower days where I’m not moving a lot, I eat the same ratios of food, but I stick to smaller meal sizes. The reason I eat smaller meals more frequently is to manage my blood sugar, essentially to ensure my body always has the fuel that it needs without a big sugar spike and a consequent dip.

I make sure to take my B12 and eat foods rich in magnesium, calcium, iron, and also make sure to intake lots of electrolytes.

While being active feels good, it feels even better knowing that I’m fueled by plants. I’m grateful that I don’t feel pressure to harm animals while being active. And many of my high intensity athletic friends also eat a plant-based diet.

And this is a personal experience. Certainly everyone has a different dietary need, a different kind of lifestyle, and figuring out what the best foods are for your life is what’s most important. Some of this comes lots of research, going to nutritionist, going to naturopath, and learning about food, and so I really recommend just going to many sources as you can to gather information to understand what your body needs and how to take care of yourself.

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. We’re really just sharing our personal experiences about what works for us, but it’s really great that you found something that works for you, Amy.

There’s so much information on nutrition out there that it can at times be hard to sort it all out. I really personally like the recipes on because they’re focused on good nutrition while also being really tasty. The website also has great videos from nutritionists breaking down the important things to make sure you are considering for your body to thrive on a plant-based diet.

I have also found that since going vegan and eating a plant-based diet, I’m more mindful about making sure I get the nutrients I need, so I’m eating meals that are more balanced to help me get through the day.

I used to struggle with low iron when I was an omnivore and later a vegetarian. I would experience some symptoms of that, like weakness and fatigue even when I was getting enough calories for the energy I was using. Now I’m eating more foods that are rich in that nutrient, like dark leafy greens and tofu, and I’ve found it easier to keep my nutrient levels where they need to be.

Is a plant-based diet tasty?

Chantelle: You might not be surprised to hear that the top concern people identified in the survey was taste. 73% of respondents said taste influences their food choices the most, and 37% said that they worried they wouldn’t enjoy their meals as much if they switched to more plant-based foods.

Amy: Yeah, this is a really interesting one. This is something that I’ve thought about a lot because growing up my favorite meal was macaroni and cheese and I just loved cheese in general. So when I transitioned to a plant-based diet, I was worried about having to give up my favorites.

I found a really good mac and cheese recipe using vegetables and seasoning to make up the cheese sauce. Just the other day I had a mac and cheese meal that reminded me so much of my childhood and no animals were harmed for me to be able to eat that meal. I know nostalgia is really powerful and I did miss cow’s dairy cheese for a little while. But I’ve gotten to the point now where I’ve created new memories about the food that I like to eat, and I don’t crave things like dairy cheese anymore.

There are more resources than ever to help you find options for things that you have as a go-to that provide the nutrients and the taste that you’re looking for.

I found checking out the aisle at the grocery store that has plant-based alternatives. Sometimes there’s many aisles or it’s kind of strewn around the grocery store in a lot of different spots.

I find also learning how to better flavour foods that are made with things like walnuts, beans, and lentils is the best way to address nostalgia for meat-based recipes.

Chantelle: For sure, and your taste buds definitely change as your diet does. One of my favorite things about switching to a plant-based diet has been all the new foods I’m getting to try.

When I expanded my view of food from meat being the centre of a dish to considering the dish as a whole and having all these different protein options like beans, mushrooms, lentils, tofu, seitan, and I also do enjoy plant-based convenience foods like mock meats, this whole culinary world opened up to me.

I find that I have a lot more variety in my diet now, but that’s not to say I don’t still enjoy my classic comfort foods like your mac and cheese. There are so many resources out there to adapt your favorite dishes by swapping out ingredients, but the easiest thing that I’ve found to do is if I’m craving something like Alfredo, I’ll just look up vegan Alfredo and the work of figuring out ingredient swaps is already done for me.

Amy: Yeah, I love that.

How plant-based food can lower your grocery bill

Amy: We spoke quite a bit about the survey, but the main reason we did this survey was to do a cost benefit analysis and have that be available for individuals to see the kind of financial and environmental and animal welfare benefits to switching to more plant-based diet. So what’s that all about?

Chantelle: In a brief summary, we know that one thing that’s really deeply impacting people right now is rising food costs with the price of groceries going up. We thought many people might be looking for ways to reduce the cost of their cart and the food that they’re buying.

The poll validated what we suspected and found that the vast majority of people are concerned about rising costs and are looking for ways to cut back at the grocery store.

  • 92% of people are concerned about the rising cost of living.
  • 87% of people are looking for ways to cut back at the grocery store, and most people are not just looking for sales and deals, they’re also looking to change the way they eat.
  • 75% of people are trying to eat more affordably.
  • 66% of people shared that they would be open to exploring more plant-based food options to save money.

When we look at the youngest group surveyed, all those numbers are even higher.

  • 96% of people aged 18 to 34 are concerned about rising cost of livings.
  • 91% are looking for ways to cut back at the grocery store.
  • 82% are trying to eat more affordably.
  • 77%, so more than three quarters are open to exploring more plant-based food options to save money.

While most people were open to eating more plant-based foods to save money, some people do express concerns that plant-based eating is just too expensive; maybe imagining a scenario where people are eating the highest cost mock meats every day.

But we know that practically, that’s generally not what’s happening. Most people who eat plant-based are eating a balance of a lot of different foods, including whole foods like tofu and legumes.

The cost benefit analysis essentially lays out the actual financial savings of swapping out animal products for plant-based products.

If you consider the cost savings of swapping ground beef in your chili for red lentils, a hundred grams of ground beef is $1.54. A hundred grams of lentils is less than a third of that at 48 cents. Or if you have a bean burrito instead of chicken, a hundred grams of chicken breast is $2.42, whereas the same amount of black beans is just 42 cents.

So those savings are significant and they do stack up over time significantly, which means that rising food costs in general could be a factor that push plant-based eating to become more of the norm.

How plant-based food can cut your emissions

Chantelle: The other thing the report looks at is the impact of our food choices on greenhouse gas emissions and what making those same swaps could mean in terms of emission savings.

We found that eating plant-based for a year can save as much carbon dioxide as the emissions used to power an entire home for six months.

Or if you just switch 25% of your diet from animal-based foods to plant-based foods, that could save enough carbon dioxide each month to charge a cell phone 2068 times.

Impact of swapping beef for lentils

Swapping beef for lentils has the biggest impact in terms of emissions, and the second biggest impact in terms of cost. That’s because beef is so resource intensive to produce. Cows need a lot of space; they eat a lot of food; they produce a lot of methane. If all beef products in someone’s diet were replaced with lentils for one year, it would be the equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 18 tree seedlings over 10 years.

Depending on how much beef and what kind of beef a person eats, they could also save up to $60 a month by making that swap.

Impact of swapping seafood for mushrooms

The next most impactful change in terms of emissions and the biggest impact in terms of cost is swapping seafood for mushrooms. Mushrooms have a really similar texture to seafood and they can be used as a substitute and a lot of recipes.

If a person eating the average Lower Mainland diet ate mushrooms instead of seafood for a year, they would save enough emissions to drive about 1600 kilometers in a gas powered vehicle.

Depending on the amount of seafood a person is eating, the cost savings are up to $64 a month.

How plant-based eating helps animals

Amy: Yeah, those are all really significant impacts that one person can make by changing just one thing, the way they eat.

Of course, eating plant-based also has a major impact on reducing animal suffering because there’s less demand for animal products so fewer animals will be raised and killed in the conditions we’ve spoken about that are pretty horrific.

If you’re aiming to reduce your consumption of animal products to reduce animal suffering, it’s really important to consider the number of animal lives used to supply consumption habits, as well as the amount of hardship a particular animal will face in their short lifetime.

So for instance, chickens are quite small, so a very large number of them are killed to supply the demand for chicken meat. Dairy cows are typically given very little freedom and are forced to endure births and heartbreaking separation from their calves about once per year. They also live longer, more long suffering lives.

So just really thinking about each product that you consume, what’s its origin? Who is it coming from? What is that individual’s life like? I found that really helpful when I was moving towards a plant-based diet; to not see this packaged product as just plastic and marketing, but seeing the animal behind it and thinking about the animal behind it. That really helped me stick to my motivation to create a full shift and to go a hundred percent plant-based.

What’s next?

Amy: So what’s next?

Chantelle: Great question. So there are a lot of ways we’re planning to use the data from the survey, including for the cost benefit analysis.

Read report

We are also sharing it with the media.

We’re raising awareness in the community through things like infographics and ad campaigns.

We’ll also be engaging with government policy makers and institutional decision makers to talk about ways that the public supports these more institutional shifts towards plant-based foods and plant-based policies.

We’ll use it to inform the content we create moving forward for Plant University, which is a resource that helps individuals and institutions shift their diet and the foods that they offer to more plant-based foods.

How can you help?

Chantelle: One way that you can get involved with this is by sharing the cost benefit analysis from the Plant University website or the related infographics and social media posts with your friends and family.

You can also use some of the stats we’ve discussed today to engage with your favorite restaurant or grocery store or at your school or workplace if food is purchased and provided.

Amy: I’m looking forward to seeing the ways that people choose to change their diet. I think there’s a lot of great ways to start and to shift kind of one little bit at a time and certainly the resources are there to make that happen.

Chantelle: Absolutely. And we are also available as a resource so you can comment on the posts associated with this episode or reach out to us on social media.

Next episode

A bull in the chutes at The Calgary Stampede rodeo. Jo-Anne McArthur \ We Animals Media.

Please join us next month as we discuss animals used in rodeo.

Media Release

Eating more plants could save you 14% on groceries, says new report 

VANCOUVER, May 30, 2023 – Switching to a plant-based diet could save you around 14% at the till, says a report released today by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS). The report details how eating more plant-based foods can help individuals in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland to cut down on grocery costs, reduce emissions, and save animal lives. 

@vancouverhumane Eating a plant-based diet could save you $600 a year on groceries! #PlantBased #Vegan #VeganForTheAnimals #Budgeting ♬ original sound – Vancouver Humane Society

These findings follow the release of a poll commissioned by the VHS, which found that 92% of Lower Mainland residents are concerned about how the rising cost of living is impacting their finances and 66% would be open to eating more plant-based foods to save money. Food costs have skyrocketed over the past year, increasing by more than double the overall annual inflation rate at about 10%, and are expected to rise by 5 to 7% this year according to Canada’s Food Price Report 2023

Image: Vancouver Humane Society, A Transition Toward Plant-Based Diets: A study amongst BC residents in the Lower Mainland

By making the swap to plant-based alternatives, the average person could save $50 each month on groceries. That’s about 14% of the typical monthly cost of groceries for a person living in Vancouver, which was $355.28 last year. The savings are greatest when swapping out animal products for whole foods – for instance, switching from chicken to tofu rather than to manufactured meat alternatives. 

Individuals who eat a lot of beef and seafood could see even higher savings. Swapping 21 servings of beef for lentils each month could save $60, while swapping 21 servings of seafood for mushrooms could save a whopping $64 monthly.

Image: Vancouver Humane Society, A Transition Toward Plant-Based Diets: A study amongst BC residents in the Lower Mainland

In addition to cost savings, eating a plant-based diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by 816kg of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) annually – about half of what it takes to power an entire home for a year. 

Image: Vancouver Humane Society, A Transition Toward Plant-Based Diets: A study amongst BC residents in the Lower Mainland

A switch away from beef carries the greatest environmental impact – in the typical Lower Mainland diet, swapping beef for lentils reduces greenhouse gas emissions by nearly twice as much as swapping out all other animal products combined. 

In 2020, a similar report from the VHS entitled “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level” outlined the benefits of shifting toward more plant-based foods purchased by the City of Vancouver, including through catering, city-run concession stands, and municipal food funding. That report found by replacing 20% of animal-based food products with plant-based alternatives, the City of Vancouver could save up to $99,000 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 tonnes. In 2021, the Vancouver City Council unanimously passed a motion to explore policy recommendations outlined in the report. 

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SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society   

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,   

Related links:

Related media:

Media Release

Polling data from the Lower Mainland shows a plant-forward future is on the horizon

VANCOUVER, April 18, 2023 – Younger generations in B.C.’s Lower Mainland are increasingly shifting their diets toward plant-based foods, new polling data reveals.

The research poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), examines the dietary preferences and opinions around plant-based eating of Lower Mainland residents. The study was conducted among a representative sample of 803 Lower Mainland residents aged 18+ who are members of the Angus Reid Forum.

Responses reveal a trend away from meat and animal products with each passing generation: vegans and vegetarians comprised 10% of respondents aged 18-34, 9% of respondents aged 35-54, and 6% of respondents aged 55+.

A similar trend can be found when looking at respondents’ reduction of animal-based products. 69% of respondents aged 18-34 had reduced their animal product consumption, compared to 66% of respondents aged 35-54 and 60% of respondents aged 55+.

In addition to vegans and vegetarians, more respondents in the youngest generation identified their diet as “flexitarian” – primarily eating plant-based foods with occasional consumption of animal-based products. 7% of respondents aged 18-34, and 5% of both other age groups surveyed identified as flexitarian.

“The increasing availability of plant-based foods and the growing popularity of plant-based diets are mutually reinforcing,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault. “Public demand for tasty animal-free options is driving a huge shift in the industry, which in turn makes it easier than ever for more people to put plant-forward meals on their plates.”

Interestingly, motivations for shifting toward a plant-based diet varied by generation. Respondents aged 18-34 identified both economic reasons and environmental concerns as the top factors influencing their decision to consume fewer animal products, while other age demographics were most motivated by personal health.

When considering how and what to eat overall, every age group was most motivated by taste. Archambault says this is also a hopeful sign for the future.

“As the food industry continues to develop innovative tastes and textures for plant-based products, we’re sure to see a wider shift toward a society that eats more sustainably.”

For those looking to add more plants into their diets, the VHS offers free resources and recipes on their Plant University website.

– ends –  

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society 

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:

Related media:

@vancouverhumane See what people had to say about plant-based eating at #PlantBasedFood #Vegan #PlantBased #VeganForTheAnimals ♬ original sound – Vancouver Humane Society
Media Release

Nearly 3 in 4 British Columbians believe menus with plant-based options are “more inclusive”: research

VANCOUVER, April 13, 2023 – The majority of British Columbians in the Lower Mainland have positive feelings about plant-based menu options, new polling data reveals. 

The research poll, commissioned by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) among a representative sample of Lower Mainland residents from the Angus Reid Forum, asked participants about their dietary preferences and attitudes around plant-based eating.  

73% of respondents agreed that “Food services that offer a greater variety of plant-based options are more inclusive to all”. This sentiment was shared by a majority of people regardless of their own dietary preferences; 95% of vegans or vegetarians and 71% of people following other diets agreed with the statement. 

The poll results demonstrate that the demand for plant-based options is growing, with 65% of respondents having reduced their consumption of animal products.  

Differences between age demographics indicate a growing shift toward plant-based foods over each generation – 69% of respondents aged 18-34 had reduced their animal product consumption, compared to 66% of respondents aged 35-54 and 60% of respondents aged 55+. 

“A growing number of consumers are reducing or eliminating animal-based products, with more people turning to plant-based options when they are available,” said VHS Communications Director Chantelle Archambault.  

Businesses and organizations are already moving to meet the growing demand for plant-forward foods. Many institutions that now offer plant-based menu items, such as Panago Pizza and the University of British Columbia (UBC), cite sustainability commitments as one motivation for the shift.  

“There are so many great reasons to shift towards a more plant-based diet but for us at UBC Food Services we have done this to support the health of our students and the planet,” said David Speight, Executive Chef and Culinary Director of UBC Food Services. “We know that plant-based diets can provide excellent health benefits for our students and they reduce the negative environmental impacts on our planet compared to more animal protein centric diets.” 

Other local businesses and institutions are stepping up to meet consumer demand as well. Last year, the City of Vancouver committed to exploring a 20% reduction in animal-based products in favour of plant-based foods in their municipal food purchasing, such as through catering and city-owned concessions.  

The new polling data suggests that this growing movement toward accessible, affordable, and tasty plant-based options could prompt a greater dietary shift in the future. 65% of respondents identified that they “would eat more plant-based meals if there were more tasty options available when going out to eat”. 

Speight added, “We have shifted a large percentage of our menu offerings to plant-based and our students are still asking for more. It shows a real hunger for great tasting plant-based offerings.” 

“With the public increasingly interested in plant-forward food items and calling for corporate responsibility, we’re eager to see more businesses and organizations introduce plant-based options in the coming years to avoid being left behind,” said Archambault. 

This shift has the important added benefit of reducing the number of animals suffering for human food production.  

The VHS is offering free support to B.C.-based institutions, such as restaurants, long-term care homes, and schools, that are interesting in introducing more plant-based menu items. 

– ends –  

SOURCE Vancouver Humane Society 

For more information, contact Chantelle Archambault: 604-416-2903,

Related links:

Related media:

@vancouverhumane Visit for more information! #PlantBased #BCBusiness #Vegan #PlantBasedFood ♬ original sound – Vancouver Humane Society

Podcast: Adapting to the holidays as a vegan

It’s the holiday season, and many celebrations at this time of year focus on food!

More and more people are adding compassion to their festive meals by opting out of animal-based products and ingredients. In this special episode of The Informed Animal Ally, the Vancouver Humane Society’s Amy Morris and Chantelle Archambault discuss their experiences adapting to the holidays after going vegan.

Note: This written discussion has been edited for length.

Preparing for a plant-based holiday

Chantelle: It’s the holiday season, so we wanted to talk about our experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan and maybe inspire others who are thinking of trying a plant-based holiday for the first time, or who are thinking of new plant-based ways of celebrating.

Read more: 10 tips for starting a plant-based diet

So let’s jump right in. How was your experience adapting to the holidays after going vegan?

Amy: Making my own food or if I have a holiday where I’m just spending it with vegan friends, that’s easy.

But the times that I first encountered holidays with extended family were pretty tricky to navigate. I really had to think through what my strategy was going to be in advance.

The first thing that I did was to set some clear expectations with my close family to say, it’s important for me to have food available for me at this event, and I really want to appreciate that food. So there’s different ways to do that. Essentially, I’m happy to go to the grocery store and buy things for myself, and this was at someone else’s house, so prepare my own food either before and bring it over or, or if there’s space for me to prepare it at the house.

And by doing that, I think I really set myself up for success because I wasn’t depending on others to accommodate my needs.

It also created the space for them to offer up to prepare some dishes that I could eat.

I’ve seen that play out a few different ways. At one holiday celebration, there was a meal that got provided for me, and it was very interesting because essentially I was expected to eat it and take it home with me because that’s how much my family was not interested in even thinking about a plant-based diet.

I think that speaks to the adaptation that can be required, but also the importance of opening it up to conversation.

Sharing the love

Chantelle: Absolutely.

I was actually really fortunate. I think my experience is a little bit different because I have not spent any holidays with extended family since going vegan, so it’s been pretty insular for me. My immediate family is very accommodating, which I’m really lucky about.

I think the best part for me has been, bringing my baked goods and being able to share them. People were very welcoming about it, even if they were hesitant at first.

Amy: I love that. I definitely have done that as well.

With another family that I spent holidays with, the approach that I took was, I will make dishes to share. I brought all the ingredients over, or in some cases, prepared some things in advance, so there were two types of stuffing.

And what was nice about that is everyone was sort of motivated by the idea of there being like novelty and different things to try, and so everyone was willing to try the dishes that I brought.

I think that was a good testament to the fact that plant-based eating can be a transition for people. Making dishes that you know, you know are going to be tasty and sharing that is a really nice way to have people start to shift the way they think about what plant-based food tastes like.

Read more: Adapting meals to be plant-based

Plant-based holiday favourites

Chantelle: Yeah, absolutely. And plant-based stuffing is delicious.

Amy: Oh yes. In terms of what I put into it, I like to use a good bread, like a vegan sourdough or whole grain, then mix that up with sweet potato and some potato and carrots, lots of herbs and rosemary, you can put cranberries in it and things like that.

It almost comes out like a roast.

Chantelle: That sounds so lovely. It has that holiday feel and it speaks to how much our celebrations tend to revolve around food and how much this is an opportunity to share our own plant-based recipes with others who are vegan and are also not vegan and thinking of adding more plant-based foods into their diets.

What’s your favorite plant-based holiday treat?

Amy: I’ve experimented so much with a lot of different things. I think the foods that I have a lot of fun making are things that maybe you would traditionally put dairy in.

Making something like a pumpkin pie is so much tastier than even a store-bought one that would maybe have dairy, and serving it with coconut whipped cream made with a whipped cream dispenser. The novelty of the experience as well of having really fresh coconut whipped cream makes the pumpkin pie that much more delicious.

Chantelle: That sounds fantastic. Coconut whipped cream is also amazing.

Amy: How about yourself?

Chantelle: I really liked adapting my childhood recipes to be plant-based.

When I was younger, we used to make Sweet Marie bars, which are rice crisp cereal, peanut butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and I’ve now replaced the butter with vegan margarine and put a plant-based chocolate on top. And that is so delicious.

I also make chocolate coconut macaroons. They’re so good.

For me it’s about finding those nostalgic flavors, and adapting them has been actually super easy. I wrote an article for our PlantUniversity platform about replacing animal-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients in a way that is very simple and sustainable.

Read more: Tips for vegan baking

Tips for a first-time vegan holiday

Amy: What advice would you give to someone having their first vegan holiday?

Chantelle: I would say find plant-based versions of the foods you already love.

There are more and more products available to find those plant-based versions of foods you love.

If you’re cooking homemade, it’s so much easier. So for instance, that stuffing you made sounds incredible. You can make roast veggies. There’s so many versions of a seitan roast online that you can find and incorporate those nostalgic flavors.

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I think the best part is that you can also celebrate what you’re gaining; you’re adding all this love and care and compassion into your meal.

Read more: Tips for a plant-based holiday

What advice would you give?

Amy: I think there’s so much that gets complicated around holidays. I know that when we talk about holiday, it looks very different for every person. You might be spending it alone. You might be spending it with a huge group of people.

I would say overall, be kind to yourself, set reasonable expectations so that you don’t get stressed out or frustrated.

Focus on what experience you want to have. If you want to be spending time making food and en enjoying making food, do that. And you know, whether it’s you eating it or you sharing it, have it be that the experience itself is part of the joy. Maybe trying a new recipe or adapting one.

On the other hand, if it’s stressful to try to think about all of that, and maybe even like, you know, you feel you’re missing some of the dishes that you’re going to be surrounded by, find some kind of treat or something like that, that makes you feel good. That way you can still have that feeling of celebration in your own way.

Read more: Vegan winter desserts
Media Release

City of Vancouver can save money and help tackle climate change through plant-based foods, says report

VANCOUVER, Nov 3, 2021 – Vancouver City Council is considering a motion today that could help decrease spending, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve animal welfare. The motion would support recommendations from a recently released report by the Vancouver Humane Society (VHS), which highlights the impact the City of Vancouver can make by replacing 20 percent of their animal-based food purchasing with plant-based alternatives.

The report looks at the current food purchasing strategies for the City of Vancouver and outlines the annual cost and greenhouse gas emissions associated with foods typically purchased. By making a shift in their purchasing, the City of Vancouver could expect to save up to $99,000; 500 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions; and the equivalent of nearly 400 farmed animal lives on an annual basis. The report outlines the impacts of three strategies that effectively replace 20 percent of animal-based foods purchased with plant-based alternatives.

“The evidence is clear that we need to shift our diets and our food system toward more humane and sustainable plant-based foods,” said VHS Campaign Director, Emily Pickett. “In Vancouver, the consumption of food makes up nearly half of the City’s ecological footprint, particularly from intensive agriculture producing meat and dairy products made from animals. There’s a lot of opportunity for positive change and we’re pleased to see this important discussion happening at the City of Vancouver level.”

The motion acknowledges that livestock farming is a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions; the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has advised that a plant-based diet can help in the fight against climate change. It goes on to highlight how a shift toward more sustainable and healthy plant-based foods aligns with existing City of Vancouver priorities, including the City’s Climate Emergency Action Plan and the Healthy City Strategy. The motion recommends that Council direct staff to consider the policy options outlined in VHS’s “Increasing Plant-Based Purchasing at the Municipal Level” report.

The full report can be accessed on the VHS website and the “Plant-Based Purchasing Savings for City and Climate” motion can be accessed on the City of Vancouver website.


For further information: Emily Pickett: 604-416-2902,

Related links:

animal welfare compassion Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted vegan vegetarianism

Blue Heron Creamery – Vancouver’s first plant-based cheese shop


Blue Heron Creamery launched in 2016 as a vegan cheese-making and event catering company, but recently Chef Karen McAthy and her business partner Colin Medhurst announced that they will shortly be opening Vancouver’s first standalone vegan-cheese shop. We talked to Karen about the new storefront operation and about the growing appeal of plant-based cheese.


How did Blue Heron Creamery start?

I had been the executive chef of Graze Vegetarian (a vegan restaurant that closed in 2015). During my time there, I had wanted to offer a vegan charcuterie or antipasto board, but I didn’t really love what was available in the stores with respect to dairy-free, vegan cheese options. I have a background in fermentation, and such, so I began searching for ways to make something I would want to eat and to offer. So began what is essentially the first stage of Blue Heron r & d. I was very fortunate during that time, in that I had a young cook/chef from another restaurant who knew I was doing fermentation and culturing and reached out to ‘stage’ and Katie became an integral part of that early research. 

In late 2015, I moved to another vegan restaurant, but the interest and demand for the cheeses and other foods didn’t stop, so I began thinking about what I wanted to do with this process. In 2014, I had been approached by New Society Publishers to write a book about vegan cheese-making, and since I was doing ongoing research for the book, I was making cheeses and sharing them. By the spring of 2016, I knew that Blue Heron was the name I wanted (I have an abiding respect, admiration and appreciation for herons) Then I had the great fortune to reconnect with Colin Medhurst at an Erin Ireland event, Mindful Movie night. Colin had been a regular guest at Graze along with his wife at the time, and I had done some recipes for one of their e-books for Feed Life, their nutrition and wellness company. 

Reconnecting with Colin, put the whole project into a new motion, and we were so incredibly blessed to have the help, support and effort from Eden Chan and Zoe Peled in our first effort to get the company into a more formal place, and since then it has been a constant sense of growth and demand, and a multi-faceted learning curve!


What was the response from Vancouver consumers?

I would say we’ve been so fortunate to have support from so many people. I never assume everyone will like everything, so I am always happy when our products are well received. We have some products coming, such as our blue cheeses, that we know won’t be everyone’s preference, but that is okay too. 

It’s an interesting time to be producing a product that we know will make some people very happy, invite some skeptics, and, well, all the usual things that come with being in the food industry. 


How difficult is it to create cheeses that have the same appeal as their dairy equivalents?

Well, this may seem surprising to say, but that hasn’t necessarily been my overt goal. I am more interested in understanding what the microbes want to do with the plant-based mediums and what flavours and textures will be the result. My goal has been more to create cheeses, free from animal products, that can stand on their own. Some will occasionally feel familiar or taste a little similar, and some of that is because the microbes doing the culturing produce those same kinds of flavour and texture in dairy cheeses. I work primarily with cultured cheeses and that is the focus of the cheeses Blue Heron will be offering. So, it is a bit of an invitation to not compare and contrast (though this will be a little inevitable), but to taste something for its own characteristics.

This is a little different than some of the other vegan cheese producers out there, who are doing the work of trying to capture some nostalgia and familiarity of things that folks miss or think they will miss.


What made you decide to open a storefront operation in Vancouver?

We weren’t actually seeking to open a storefront in Vancouver, or anywhere really (at least not at this stage). We were looking for a larger, non-shared space to produce, and this opportunity just came up and it seemed like we should just go for it. We are right beside Friendly Snackbar, another vegan (and gluten-free) spot with amazing treats, and we really enjoy working with the folks attached to that project and the Wallflower Modern Diner, where owner Lisa Skelton has been incredibly supportive and encouraging among many other things. And, the neighbourhood, Mt. Pleasant, has been my home for more than 10 years, so it has a lot of appeal. 


Will you be expanding your product range?  (Some examples? – What’s most popular now?)

I have developed more than 20 styles of cheese that we will be releasing gradually. Some take a long time to age and will not be ready for release until the fall. Others, like our Cumulus (a coconut milk based cheese, presented in several flavours), along with our Smoke’n’Spice (sort of like a young smoked gouda), Forest (earthy and mild smoky notes), our coconut yogurt, cashew/coconut sour cream, cultured and non-cultured butters, and some other products of the non-cheese variety. 

Later in the year, we will be releasing some of our more ’boutique’ cheeses, the ones that take longer to age and develop, like our Beachwood (an almond-based cheese), our Ardea Blue (an ashed and wine washed blue cheese), and a couple of varieties of  bloomy-rinded camembert. 


What has been the biggest challenge In launching a plant-based business?

How do I communicate hysterical laughter in writing? First, there is never just one big challenge in this kind of enterprise, and sometimes they overlap and can be overwhelming. Vancouver is an expensive city. So, finding affordable, suitable space is immensely difficult. Food costs are an ongoing challenge for anyone working in the food industry, and trying to be mindful of things like wanting to minimize waste, and remain attendant to Fair Trade issues, and meet all regulatory requirements requires constant attention. 

The growing nature of a business partnership is a challenge and pleasure all at the same time, and good partnerships require as much attention and care as good friendships or other human relations, and are essential to the core of the business, but this isn’t a ‘bad’ challenge, just the reality. 

And, we make cultured food products, so if inventory is getting low, we can’t just ‘make more’ and have it be ready the next day… so we have the challenge of trying to keep all the layers of production moving so that we can meet a constantly increasing demand. 

Also, I am not sure that these challenges are any different than any other food business, the only one that I haven’t mentioned yet, that is different than some of the others, is that we need to be ready to inform, educate, and speak to what we are doing much more often and at much more length than some other food businesses. At tasting events we have participated in (some of the Gala’s that we’ve been at), we are often asked many more questions and need to be prepared for that… but this is actually a pleasure and worth it. 


Who buys plant-based cheeses?  (Just vegans or is the appeal wider?)

Since I was at Graze and through until now, our client base has been fairly wide ranging. We have many vegans, of course, and quite a lot of vegetarians who are transitioning to vegan. But we have a number of clients who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy proteins, and we have a growing number of food interested, food curious people who are spending more time thinking about where their food comes from, how it is prepared, and who like trying new things. 


Do you think the market for plant-based food will continue to grow?

I think the numbers speak for themselves. I don’t think the increase in plant-based, vegan products or lifestyle choices will be a trend, such as cupcakes (peaked then dropped a bit). With the UN posting reports about the impact of animal agriculture, increasing water insecurity due to human engagement and politics, and ever mainstreaming of some of the animal ethics concerns, I think the growth will continue. The Plant-based Foods Association identifies the dairy free sector to be selling several billion dollars globally by 2020, and vegan cheese is looking at global sales of $3.5 billion by 2024. I think other issues will arise, as they always do with rapid shifts in consumer changes. Commodity prices for the ingredients used in these products, and for the products coming from sensitive political and developing nations will pose some challenging questions around extraction and ensuring human rights and wellness of those related communities will become larger topics I am sure. 


What do think is driving the interest in plant-based products? – Animal welfare, health concerns, environmental concerns?)

I think there is more than one factor. For many years, it could have been said to be the primary influence was personal health and wellness, then environmental, and then animal welfare and rights, but the hard, diligent, difficult and tireless effort of so many activists and researchers and lawyers on the ground have been steadily having deeper reach, (my opinion) within larger parts of mainstream society. Animal Justice (Anna Pippus as a rep for them), The Furbearers Association, Van Chicken Save (all here in Vancouver), do constant work in this area, and folks like David Isbister of Plantbase Food and Products, aligns his business with animal activism, and while there is ongoing exercised dialogue between this realm and detractors, this dialogue also creates the opportunity for shifts in perception. 

No major changes, or perhaps very few, didn’t come without a number of different forces at play.  


Where do you see Blue Heron Creamery in five years?

We hope to be widely distributing across Canada and the U.S., and have licensing of our method to other companies in other countries, and develop our food education and innovation components. The course I teach in conjunction with my first book, The Art of Plant-based Cheesemaking is routinely full, and we are looking to develop an online course, along with several other courses… and Colin, co-author of the Juice Truck book and a certified health coach, and I want to develop some other ideas. 

We also want to be in a place to mentor and develop other vegan cheesemongers, and help develop the methods and practices of craft vegan cheese-making evolve and be understood as an evolution of cheese-making craft itself. 

I have a personal goal that I have had for much longer than Blue Heron, Soil (I won’t say much more here right now), but I am hoping that somehow Blue Heron will allow that project to sprout and grow. 

Blue Heron will open at 2410 Main Street in February.