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“we love what we do” – Excelsior Hog Farm Case Re-Opens

Photos from Meat the Victims

Back in April animal advocates released hidden camera footage from Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford revealing sick, dead, and dying pigs. Some pigs can be seen to have abnormal growths and mobility issues. As this footage was released anonymously and without timestamps or indications as to the location being filmed, the BC SPCA was not able to bring charges forward, despite the video evidence suggesting a high level of suffering along with unsuitable conditions and improper monitoring for illness and injury.

Less than a week after the video’s release, dozens of animal advocates ventured to Excelsior to stage an occupation of the property, Canada’s first #MeatTheVictims event. Locked in with the pigs, the advocates began broadcasting and posting to social media, with live video and photos inundating Facebook and Twitter timelines. During the day of the occupation, friends of the farm came to show their support while several media outlets were eventually brought through the farm by the owners for a tour. One activist was arrested for break and enter as well as mischief. Many farmers and individuals spoke out against the animal advocates and defended the farm and the family who owns and operates it (the patriarch also happens to be a board member of BC Pork).

Now, months later, a second hidden camera video was released (and since removed from YouTube). This video showed
the owners of the farm kicking and mishandling pigs, castrating piglets without pain management, as well as showing pigs being shocked on their faces with electric prods. The person behind the camera has since come forward to the BC SPCA, who have re-opened the cruelty case against Excelsior.

It’s important to remember the “friends of the farm,” and many of those who have defended Excelsior, have ties to the animal agriculture industry. What you or I see as inhumane may be considered standard operating procedure in the eyes of a farmer, as many claimed after the release of the first video. While our Society does not approve of farming animals in principle, we nevertheless expect those who live and work with non-human animals to meet a certain standard of care, and what’s been shown in the two videos released is far from anything resembling care for these animals. We will continue to follow this story.

Cruelty-free Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted Uncategorized vegan vegetarianism

Where To Eat Vegan In Vancouver

VHS volunteer and blogger Patricia Charis is a huge lover of nature and animals, which ultimately led her to embrace a vegan lifestyle in an effort to protect animals, the planet and her health. She wrote this fantastic blog post, Where To Eat Vegan In Vancouver, about her cruelty-free adventures around the city and we just had to share it:

Since going vegan around 8 months ago (on September 1, 2015) it has been one food adventure after another. I have to say I am extremely blessed to be living in a city like Vancouver where vegan options abound, with a ton of vegetarian/vegan restaurants all over the city, and even non-veg places have been including more and more vegetarian/vegan options on their menus. And we aren’t even in the Happy Cow list of top 5 vegan-friendly cities in the world!

Today I would like to share with you some of these aforementioned food adventures, and some of my favourite places to eat Vegan in Vancouver! Enjoy:)

1. MeeT on Main (& MeeT in Gastown)

Safe to say that MeeT on Main and MeeT in Gastown have become two of my absolute favourite vegan places in Vancouver! In the past their menu included both vegetarian and vegan food, but recently they have updated (or shall I say, upgraded) their menu so that all of their items default to vegan (they do still carry dairy cheese, but it has to be specifically requested by a customer to be substituted in their meal, and even this is being phased out I believe). I am very impressed by this business for making such positive changes. Not to mention their Taco Tuesday ‘Ish Tacos (pictured below) are pretty friggin fantastic!

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2. Heirloom Vegetarian

Another amazing restaurant, located on 12th and Granville, is Heirloom Vegetarian. The atmosphere at this restaurant is the perfect combination of casual and classy, and the food is just the right mixture of delicious and super healthy (as long as you order from the vegan half of their menu). This picture here is of the very first meal I had in 2016 and it did not disappoint. I absolutely LOVE avocado toast, and this dish was elegant and delicious and I have been dreaming about it ever since. I have to say that so far Heirloom has been my favourite place for vegan brunch in Vancouver.

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3. The Naam

The Naam, on 4th and Stephens St., is a favourite for vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. I have taken several non-vegan friends to this restaurant and it hasn’t disappointed anyone I know thus far. They are opened 24/7 and are often packed full with a line going out the door. Their Thai Noodles, pictured below, is my all-time favourite of their dishes, followed by the California Burger, as well as their Blueberry Soy Shake. The portion sizes at the Naam are quite large as you can see and I always leave super full and satisfied!

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4. Tera V Burger

My favourite place for vegan burgers in Vancouver? Tera V on West Broadway, hands down. The Smokey No Bull Burger with Daiya Cheese is SO legit, I can’t even tell you, you have to try it yourself. The burger patty is not like many veggie burgers I’ve encountered which, although still very yummy, tend to be a bit mushy and fall apart easily. The No Bull Burger patty has the perfect texture, and when covered in smokey BBQ sauce, it is just heavenly. Add to that a side of yam fries and I am a very happy vegan.

Tera V - Smokey No Bull and Yam Fries.png

6. Vegan Pizza House 

Think that vegans can’t eat pizza? Think again. We like our junk food too, and I can’t explain my delight when I found Vegan Pizza House, a cute little pizza place on Kingsway and Victoria. This place has been my absolute go-to when in need of an easy, convenient, and affordable meal to bring to parties or to just pig out on at home. There are 15 different pizza options, and I haven’t tried them all, but this picture is of the Mediterranean Special which is topped with artichoke, olives, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions, and covered in daiya cheese. When my mother first tried this pizza she didn’t even believe it was vegan and has asked for it on several occasions since!

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6. Fairy Cakes 

I have a bit of a sentimental attachment to this little cafe on Fraser Street because my first experience with it was when I had vegan cupcakes sent to me on Valentine’s Day from my now fiancé (then long-distance boyfriend) two Valentine’s Days ago in 2015. I was vegetarian at the time but I was getting more and more into veganism, and was happily surprised with a delivery of a dozen super cute and delicious cupcakes (pretty much my favourite thing ever) on Valentine’s morning. Now that we are getting married in a few months we have ended up ordering our cupcake cake from Fairy Cakes as well. In addition to cupcakes, Fairy Cakes also makes cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, etc. They are 100% vegan, with gluten free options! Basically heaven on earth.

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7. Nice Vice Creamery

Last but not least on this list of favourite vegan food spots in Vancouver is Nice Vice Creamery in Yaletown! This little ice cream shop opened up just this year and I have already been there on multiple occasions for their deliciously cruelty free ice cream. All of their ice creams are dairy, soy and gluten free, made with organic ingredients and are sooo good. Now you can enjoy your ice cream completely guilt free knowing that it is not only way healthier for you, but far kinder to the animals and the planet as well. The picture below is of the matcha avocado ice cream and was taken by my fiancé (stolen off of his Instagram account @echan037😛 ).

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So there you go, some of my favourite places to eat vegan food in Vancouver! A couple of honourable mentions which are also pretty fantastic:

3G Vegetarian on Cambie St. (super legit vegan Chinese food)

Chau Veggie Express on Victoria Dr. (Vietnamese pho and vermicelli, need I say more?)

Panz Veggie on Victoria Dr. (vegan hot pot!!)

Zend Conscious Lounge in Yaletown (amazing food, 100% of profits go to charity!)

Lotus Seed Vegetarian on Kingsway (sushi, burgers, burritos, pasta, curry, smoothies !!!)

Eternal Abundance on Commercial Dr. (super healthy raw & cooked vegan food)

Dharma Kitchen on West Broadway (Asian inspired burgers and curry bowls)

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Erin Ireland’s plant-based journey


Erin Ireland is a food journalist, blogger, entrepeneur and animal-lover who has been on a personal journey to discover and understand the principles and practices involved in ethical eating. In a recent blog post (reprinted below with her kind permission) she describes her transition to a plant-based diet.  


It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here on the couch in pyjamas drinking an almond milk latte. I’m crying after re-reading some of the 831 comments on Jillian Harris’ blog post, “How This Alberta Meatatarian Became so Vegan-ish”, in which she opens up about her transition to a plant-based diet.

In the days following her post, I texted Jillian to say how impressed I was by her written words—how I envied her ability to get thoughts ‘on paper’ so effortlessly. What she wrote would have taken me months. She has drawn me to my computer today to share the unedited story of my own journey. I usually stick to sharing my ‘plant-based messages’ on social channels because they are short and easy to write. I definitely prefer talking over writing, which is why I gave this speech. But Jillian’s post (which broke website traffic records) inspired me to go deeper and share some of the factors the inspired my personal decision to go vegan.

Like Jillian, I used to be a ‘meatatarian’. I was proud of it. As a college athlete training twice a day, I was the type to order double meat at Subway. I thought eating nothing but ‘lean animal protein’ would help me achieve a healthier, more fit, muscular body. I often said that I was “just not the type who would ever become a vegetarian”.

Wow, how things have changed…



My introduction to the word vegan came when I asked my parents what the term meant. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I believe they alluded to the fact that veganism was some super-extremist lifestyle that was more-or-less unachievable and mainly adopted by ‘extreme hippies’. I never thought twice about learning more.

Looking back, I don’t blame my parents. 25 years ago things were different. Factory farming wasn’t in the media spotlight like it is today. Baby-Boomers were raised in a time when meat and dairy was fully embraced. National meat and dairy councils were (and still are) supplying nutritional information to schools in North America. Despite the conflict of interest, teachers believed what they were teaching and young, impressionable students ate it up, literally.


My first step towards cutting animal products out of my life came during sophomore year of university. For most of my life, I’d felt a little bit stuffed up, as if I had a constant cold. My dad suffered the same symptoms and told me that cutting milk out of his diet seemed to alleviate the stuffiness. I switched to soy milk. Immediately my sinuses felt better and I never went back to milk (note: this isn’t a professional opinion and I’m not saying this can work for you, just that it worked for me). I’ll admit, I still ate cheese and chocolate from time to time …how could I resist? I thought it was worth a bit of congestion.

The other reason I cut milk out of my life was acne. My skin issues began around the age of 19. I often got blemishes after big doses of dairy. Cutting milk out of my diet helped, but it was also a hormonal thing for me—going on the pill was the only thing that finally resolved my skin problems completely. Ironically, at the time my reasons for cutting dairy out had nothing to do with environmental or animal welfare issues. I didn’t know the truth about the lives of so many dairy cows. Today, in my heart, our planet and the animals are the main reasons I am passionate to seek dairy alternatives.


As an NCAA Div. 1 volleyball player, I thought I needed a ton of protein. I thought I needed a meat heavy diet. Not a single girl on my volleyball team ate vegetarian—if any teammate, classmate or teacher raised the topic of vegetarianism during my four years of school, I don’t remember it. At my peak, I weighed 155 lbs and was the second strongest female in my athletic department.  Always looking to take things a notch further, I wanted to gain more muscle and I thought eating meat would help. Sometimes for dinner, I’d eat a whole rotisserie chicken. Nothing else. Even worse, my teammates and I would go to the Golden Corral buffet (which my mom nicknamed, ‘the pig trough’) for all-you-can-eat steak.

My small university town in South Carolina revolved around the one Walmart, and I loved going there to buy their cheapest lean ham. Another regular purchase was extra lean ground beef that for Hamburger helper that my roommate and I used to love to make. We thought we were making healthy choices. My mom would sometimes ask if I knew where this meat was coming from. I always dismissed her questions thinking she was being a paranoid mom. I remember telling her that the FDA / governing bodies wouldn’t allow unsafe food on the shelves…was I ever wrong. My mom had been right to question.


My transition to a plant-based diet slowly started with the documentary, ‘Forks Over Knives’. The movie presented facts that a vegan diet not only stops disease from forming in the body, but actually reverses it. The evidence was convincing to say the least. I started to realize the impact animal-based foods were having on our health. I couldn’t believe this was the first time I was hearing such important information. The more I learned, the fewer animal products I ate.

Earthlings was another documentary that had a huge impact on me. It introduced me to the term, speciesism: the prejudice or bias in favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species. The documentary is graphic, filled with undercover footage shot inside factory farms and the odd slaughterhouse. I shut my eyes and cried through much of it, but I felt strongly that I needed to know what was going on behind closed doors. How could I make decisions about my food choices unless I knew the consequences of my actions? Now, I had seen those consequences and I simply couldn’t have anything to do with it. Farming is not what it was 100 years ago and the vast majority of the time, animals are not leading the happy lives, as depicted on food labels.

At this point in my life, I was still eating cage-free organic eggs from time to time, and if I was in a dining situation where the only option was seafood, I’d take it. But gradually, as I continued to read and watch, I lost all appetite for anything animal-based, including leather.


Three years into my plant-based journey, there are a couple recurring questions friends and family often ask. The first is which animal product I miss the most? The answer is: none. Since learning the true impact of animal agriculture, my cravings for animal products has completely disappeared. Anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I love GOOD food, and today, my plant-based options leave me dreaming about my next meal every single day.

The second question is whether my energy or training has suffered since quitting animal protein. Today, I’m more energetic and satiated than I ever was in university. I’m up at 5:30am for a 10K run about five days a week. I can’t imagine having the energy to do this back in the day — I remember always feeling hungry and tired during my school years. Another important driver for me was learning that the fear of not getting enough protein from plants…is a myth. As long as we consume our daily recommended intake of calories (from whole foods), it’s nearly guaranteed we will also get our daily recommended dose of protein. Our bodies can’t even process extra protein (just like vitamins) so they are eliminated from our systems, into the sewage system.

The last thing I’m often asked, is whether veganism requires more work. Ironically, I find it requires less (less stress too!). It’s really the little things that start to add up: no more racing home to get groceries refrigerated. No more obsessive washing of the cutting board for fear of e-coli or salmonella. No more finicky fat trimming. No more stressing over timing and temperature for the perfect steak, roast, or chicken. No more fear of meaty leftovers going bad if I forget to refrigerate right away.

Remember there’s always a learning curve when transitioning to any new diet. If the thought of vegan meal planning is daunting, know that, unlike generations before us, we are spoiled by the amount of amazing resources out there. For starters…

Before hitting publish I reread the post that inspired this note. Jillian received 831 comments on her blog and Instagram post—almost all filled with love, encouragement and acceptance. They bring tears of happiness to my face when I read them. What’s even more heartening are the actions of her following that I’m certain will be inspired from the conversation she has just begun.

Thanks to leaders like Jillian, a word I associated with ‘extreme hippies’ 25 years ago, is now well on it’s way to becoming a mainstream movement. This gives me so much hope.


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Debate over meat heats up




Nutrition Decision



Everyone’s arguing about meat.

The recent announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) concerning the cancer risk caused by consumption of red and processed meats has, predictably, provoked a heated debate in social and conventional media.

While this is a human health issue, ethical vegetarians and animal activists naturally welcome evidence that may contribute to lower consumption of animal flesh.  The meat industry, of course, is attacking WHO’s report as “alarmist”.  Meat lovers are expressing defiance, with many regaling media with personal anecdotes such as: “My grandpa was 102 years old when he died, and he had beef and potatoes every day.”

While the debate over how much meat is safe to eat continues, another controversy rages over the environmental impact of meat consumption.   The United Nations says that livestock are responsible for 14.5 per cent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, thus contributing more to climate change than transport. Yet, agriculture’s contribution is not on the agenda at the upcoming climate change conference in Paris, an omission that has attracted criticism. Research has shown that livestock and meat production have other negative impacts that could be alleviated by lower meat consumption.  A 2014 report  by respected think-tank Chatham House concluded: “Lower consumption of livestock products in high-consuming countries could also yield significant environmental and societal co-benefits for health, global food security, water security and biodiversity.”

For many vegetarians and vegans these are, to some degree, side issues (albeit important ones) in their decision to switch to a plant-based diet.  Philosopher Peter Singer, often described as the father of the animal rights movement, has long argued that, if it is possible to survive and be healthy without eating meat, fish, dairy or eggs, one ought to choose that option instead of causing unnecessary harm to animals.  This is about a taking a moral, compassionate position against the unnecessary suffering and slaughter of animals.

At VHS, our goal is to reduce or eliminate animal suffering wherever possible.  We have no doubt that reducing or eliminating meat consumption helps achieve that goal.  Whatever the health risks or environmental impacts of meat consumption, moving toward a plant-based diet is good for the billions of animals who face misery and death on factory farms around the world.

The good news is that it’s never been easier to move to a meat-free diet.   Peter Singer was right about being able “to survive and be healthy” without eating animal products – but now plant-based diets are just as much about pleasure as health, ethics or environmental sustainability.  The emergence of convenient and better quality meat alternatives, the increasing number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and the explosion of online meatless recipes have all helped make plant-based diets familiar, easy and enjoyable.

So while the debates about meat, health, ethics and the environment will rage on in all their complexities, our view is quite simple: If one can eat well without cruelty or slaughter, why not?


Cruelty-free Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted Uncategorized vegan vegetarianism

Buddha-Full Fresh Juice & Smoothies: Building a cruelty-free community on the North Shore

Geremie Voigt and Kyla Rawlyns of Buddha-Full Fresh Juice & Smoothies. photo: Stephen Hui, the Georgia Straight

Buddha-Full Fresh Juice & Smoothies represents an ethical, 100% animal friendly, community-based environment. Geremie Voigt and Kyla Rawlyns opened the café in North Vancouver five years ago. Buddha-Full proudly serves organic fresh juices & smoothies, raw organic cuisine, organic gluten-free baked goods, a full local retail section, and locally roasted coffee from Moja.

VHS supports the growth of cruelty-free businesses and we were interested to find out more about Buddha-Full. Here’s our Q&A with Geremie and Kyla.

VHS: What inspired you to open Buddha-Full Fresh Juice & Smoothies?

G&K: We both have been vegan for many years and have always been inspired by educating our community, family and friends on veganism and a conscious living dynamic.

VHS: How have you found the reaction from the community?

G&K: Our community tells us Buddha-Full is a staple in the lower Lonsdale area.  People tell us every day it is like going to their church!

VHS: What do you enjoy most about running Buddha-Full?

G&K: Standing by our initial mission of educating our community and holding a space where people can come and feel welcome. It’s important to us that our customers feel comfortable and know they are taken care of.

VHS: What do you find is the hardest part?

G&K: Challenges will always come up. The hardest part is having some customers coming in and asking for dairy products or meat products and educating them on why we choose to maintain our animal friendly selection.

VHS: How do you stay positive in a world where animal-based products are still so predominant?

G&K: Considering that veganism has doubled since 2009 in the U.S., we know things are changing and we are making a difference in the world.  We are proud to be standing by our ethics.

VHS: What is your most popular menu item?

G&K: The Lobo Smoothie (hemp protein, dates, peanut butter, banana and almond milk), it’s a Buddha-Full staple.  Also, the Pesto Vegan Sausage wrap is one of our absolute favourite items and we make it all in house!

VHS: Who are your customers? Is there a predominant demographic?

G&K: Upwards of 60% of our customers are female. The majority of our customers are not vegan, however they are interested and curious about veganism and feel welcomed in our space!

VHS: What do you think is the best way to encourage consumers to make more ethical choices? 

G&K: Leading by example is a great way to encourage ethical choices by others.  Be the change you want to see in the world!

VHS: Do you think veganism is becoming more mainstream?

G&K: We think the world is becoming increasingly educated about and involved with animal liberation.  Everyone we meet seems to have one at least one person in their family who is vegetarian, if not vegan.  Half of Kyla’s family is now vegetarian – Now that’s progress!

VHS: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about running a vegan business?

G&K: Having a space where everyone feels welcome is crucial. People want some sort of familiarity and seem to frequent spaces that provide that on a consistent basis.

bfull collage


Buddha-Full is located at 106 West 1st Street – Suite 101, North Vancouver.

Tel: (604) 973-0231