I promised my friend Carol Glasser that I would start my first blog from France with this line and I stand by it: « If you think being vegan in Los Angeles (or any other big American city) is difficult, you don’t know what you’re talking about! »
I moved back to France in July after over 18 years in the United States, mostly Los Angeles and ended up in the south of France, land of Bullfighting and Bull meat. You may wonder why I would pick such a location where you find no Vegan or even Vegetarian restaurants to eat out (although I heard of one in Montpellier) and the vegan food in supermarkets (or should I call them mini-market compared to what we have in the US) is almost non-existent, unless you count REAL food like fruits, vegetables, beans, etc… and not convenience junk vegan food. My friend Arlo Toews (of Viva La Vegan Grocery in Los Angeles) told me that it would give me an excuse to eat better since junk food would be rarer. I have to say he was right! I lost 10 kilos at least (not sure what it is in pounds).
My reasons for leaving the US are multiple and not the subject of this particular blog. But my first few weeks were, to say the least, rough. I had to re-adapt to the culture (which is quite different from Los Angeles), get back in the system, etc… I didn’t have a place, so no way of cooking, and had to rely on eating fruits, raw vegetable sandwiches and prepared foods like carrots, beets or tamale salads and baguettes (aka bread), which are about the only vegan prepared foods I found so far in stores besides soy yogurt and plant-based milks.
But what I found is that it is possible to be vegan anywhere, no excuse. In Los Angeles, we count at least 80 fully vegan restaurants in the entire county! Vegans in Los Angeles are so spoiled that when I now think of the excuses some people make for not being vegan there, I just want to give them a piece of my mind or just laugh at their ridiculous excuses.
As an activist and vegan, I felt totally isolated my first month in France. Where do I find other like-minded people who share my values. Fortunately, back in 2011 at the Los Angeles Animal Rights Conference, I met a French activist, my good friend Joelle Verdier and she happened to live in Montpellier which is about 25 minutes from Nimes (where I now live). As soon as she found out I was back in France, she was excited to have me join the activist groups she runs here in the south.
What a thrill it was then to be invited to join a peaceful and silent demo in Montpellier as part of the International Campaigns against vivisection with about 130 French activists dedicated to the cause of abolishing any form of animal experimentation.
France has a long way to go when it comes to Veganism but it does have strong, dedicated and passionate activists ready to take strong stands and even dangerous ones (check out anti-bullfighting videos like this one http://youtu.be/JvEp4EOIrxY). I have met some incredible activists in the US but I can definitely say that their French counterparts are incredible as well.
I look forward to the future and to more activism and helping to create a more humane France and I will forever be grateful to all the activists in the US who brought me to Veganism and Animal Rights. Without them, I might never have taken this road.
See this link for pictures of my album of the Montpellier anti-vivisection action here: