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Vegan week in Vietnam

For quite a while we've been talking about the merits of having vegetarian or vegan weeks on site at our sanctuaries in China and Vietnam. We do, of course, have choices of plant-based food for our staff – but we’ve never had a whole week where everyone ate meals without any animal products at all.

Recently, our Vietnam team were the first to take this idea and fly – and below, Sarah, our Bear Team Manager in Vietnam writes about the idea that turned into a week-long trial with very encouraging results.

Being vegan is not a common lifestyle choice in Vietnam but for a week, here in Tam Dao, it was very popular!

For some, veganism is more an integral component of a cruelty-free lifestyle than just a diet choice, one that involves abstaining from the use of any animal products or derivatives, or the use of animals as a commodity in any way.

A vegan diet is also widely considered by dieticians to have numerous health benefits, including offering protection against certain degenerative conditions such as heart disease. Although some people argue that it does not offer enough nutrition to maintain energy levels and proper body function, this could not be further from the truth. Well-planned and nutritionally-rounded vegan diets are increasingly being taken up by professional athletes as the diet of choice – for example, Olympic champion Carl Lewis and marathon runner Fiona Oakes.

A small but growing movement, veganism may also be one of the ‘greenest’ lifestyle choices you can make – reports estimate that between 18% and 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions may be caused by the combined processes involved in animal agriculture.

Although all of the vet team here in the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre are currently vegetarian, many of our staff would not even consider a meal that does not have meat or animal products in it. So we were a little skeptical as to what everyone might make of an entire week of vegan lunches in the canteen. The reality was that it was a roaring success. There were no complaints, everyone was enthusiastic about trying new dishes and flavours, and the overall verdict was that people preferred the vegan menu to the regular one – as you can see below, the dishes looked fantastic too!

Bear Team Leader Hao said: 

“It was my first time to try vegan food and it was delicious! Knowing it’s good for our health made me enjoy the food even more. I think the vegan week also carries a great message because we’re an animal welfare organisation. Hopefully there will be more vegan weeks. If I were to choose lunch at VBRC then vegetarian/vegan food all the way!”

A big thank you to the entire canteen staff who worked extra hard to make this trial possible – and delicious! Without their tasty cooking the week might not have been the success it was.

I’m not sure we’ll make vegans of all of our staff yet, but I certainly hope we see the return of vegan week in the future.

Grateful thanks to all in the Vietnam team – especially our fabulous canteen staff – who made such a success of the trial and set the scene for many more vegan weeks to come. As Sarah says, "The food was a huge success and it seems most of the staff want it back!" – and we are now looking to repeat the experience on site at our bear rescue centre in Chengdu.

We also encourage everyone to go vegan or vegetarian for at least one or two days a week – for the benefit of the environment, animal welfare, and of course our health and our wallets too!

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