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Getting to the Meat of the Matter: Debunking the Myths of Being Vegan

"Being vegan is limiting and restrictive" and "vegans don't get enough protein" are just two of the myths about plant-based diets that leave people fearful of experiencing a rewarding, compassionate lifestyle. In this entertaining talk, author and founder of Compassionate Cooks Colleen Patrick-Goudreau offers the tools and resources for making informed food choices with joy and confidence.

Related Events: Getting to the Meat of the Matter: Debunking the Myths of Being Vegan


Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: My name is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and that bio is wrong. I have five books, which is very exciting. My fifth book just came out in August; so you have to update that bio. The mission of the work I do is to empower people to make informed food choices, to debunk myths about veganism and animals rights, to be a voice for animals, and to give people the tools and resources they need to live according to their own values of compassion and wellness. I always say that I’m not asking people to live according to my values; I’m urging people to live according to their values.

I think that people really do want to make changes. I think people are actually quite desperate to make a change in their lives, but we live in a culture that actually makes it difficult to make compassionate choices. We live in a culture that actually makes it difficult for us to make the most helpful choices. People, despite the fact that they actually want to make changes in their lives, are confronted with so many myths and so many misconceptions in terms of food, in terms of nutrition, in terms of the ethical aspects, the animals, the environmental aspects, all of it. These myths become fact for people, and these facts become legend for people.

These legends can also turn in for excuses, to excuses for people who, I do believe, have concerns about these issues, but I think we wind up using these excuses to block us and to keep us from making the changes that we really, really desperately want to make. What I wanna talk about today are some of these excuses that we make in those categories, in the food, in the nutrition, and in the social aspects, which is a big part of this for people. I talk a lot about the social aspects. There’s a lotta reasons people wanna make these changes.

We know why vegan. There’s so many compelling reasons why vegan, whether it’s from an ethical perspective or a health perspective, or an environmental perspective, or a non-violence perspective–pick a reason. I always say pick a reason, and veganism really is a response to it. There’s a lot of information on why, but there’s not a lot of information on how, and that’s really how I see my work, as a guide for people to make this transition and to do it joyfully, and to do it confidently, and to do it healthfully. That’s really how I see my work.

If we start with, certainly, nutrition and the biggest misconceptions and myths around nutrition, obviously, every vegetarian, every vegan knows that the most commonly asked question when you tell someone you’re vegan is–

Audience: Protein. Where do you get protein?

Patrick-Goudreau: –where do you get your protein. Where do you get your protein, first number one question all of us–I can tell you the top five things people ask right off the bat. It’s fine. It’s a game. It’s a game we can all play. It’s a game we can all play, because it happens every single time you just say I’m vegetarian or vegan. The first question they ask. The problem is not that vegetarians and vegans are not getting protein. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that we’ve all been taught that the nutrients we need are animal-based. We’ve all been taught that the nutrients we need are animal-based and that we have to go through an animal to get to the nutrients that the animals get by eating the plants. I mean, that’s the problem is that we’ve all been taught this really backwards system, right. If I were to ask you where we’re taught we should get our calcium, what would you say?

Audience: Milk.

Patrick-Goudreau: Cow’s milk, diary. If I were to say to you where are we taught we’re supposed to get our omega-3 fatty acids, what would you say?

Audience: Fish.

Patrick-Goudreau: Fish. If were to ask you where we’re taught we’re supposed to get our protein–meat, eggs, right, all the animal products, right? The problem is that we’re taught that we need to go through an animal to get to the nutrients that are plant-based. That’s the bottom line is that the nutrients we need are plant-based, right. The problem with going through an animal is that, when you do that, trying to get to the nutrient that is plant-based, you’re also getting saturated fat, you’re getting dietary cholesterol, you’re getting all this animal protein that people are getting way too much of, you’re getting all the lactose that we don’t need.

You’re not getting what you’re looking for that you get when you go directly to the plants, which is the vitamins and minerals you’re looking for, but also the antioxidants, the phytochemicals, right, the plant protein and the fiber that most people are not getting enough of. There are real benefits to skipping the middle animal and going directly to the source, right.

That’s what I recommend, skipping the middle animal and going directly to the source, because it doesn’t make any sense from a resource perspective, from an environmental perspective, from a health perspective, an ethical perspective to go through an animal. That’s incredibly resource-intensive. I mean, if you take calcium as just one example, right–what is calcium, first of all? This is always the trickiest part when I give the talks.

Audience: It’s a mineral.

Patrick-Goudreau: It’s a mineral. Calcium is a mineral, and where are minerals found? In the ground, in the soil, right. We mine minerals from the soil. We don’t mine minerals from the cows, that’s not where they come from. They’re in the ground. Why do cows have a lot of calcium in their milk? Why? Because they’re eating grass. Because they’re eating the plants that contain all the calcium, right. Ideally, naturally, they would be. Three out of four cows these days are not consuming grass. They’re not eating grass. They’re kept on dry lots, so they’re not actually getting calcium through the grass, which is where their calcium is, right.

In order for the dairy industry to live up to the marketing claims they make about calcium in cow’s milk, what do they do to the cows’ feed? They supplement it. They supplement the cows’ feed with calcium. You could supplement your feed with calcium. I mean, you could just get the calcium you need from supplements alone, right. It’s obviously better if you go to the plant, but my point is, we’re going through an animal, feeding them calcium supplements, so that we could get the calcium they get through the supplements or, ideally, directly through the grass, right.

It doesn’t make any sense from a resource perspective. If you look at what we have to go through to get to that calcium, you’ll see what I mean. I mean, you first have to have a cow, right. First you have to have this being who was born, who has to be fed and kept alive long enough so that she can start giving birth to babies. Then, she has to be pregnant. She has to be impregnated. She has to be pregnant in order to start producing milk.

I know there’s one person in this room that did not know that cows have to be pregnant in order to produce milk, or maybe at one time you didn’t know. I remember when I first learned that cows have to be pregnant. I felt so stupid. I had no idea, and I was a relatively smart person. I understood basic biology, but I had no idea that cows had to be pregnant, like any mammal has to be pregnant in order to lactate.

We’re not exactly encouraged to think this way. Even the language we use around this doesn’t encourage us to think this way. We say cows give milk as if they come into this world ready to bestow upon us their nutritional gifts. They give milk. We don’t say that we take milk. We don’t say that they produce milk. We don’t say they lactate. We say they give milk, right, and so we all have this notion that they all just kinda come into this world ready to give you milk, right, but that’s not so. They have to be pregnant, and she’s pregnant for nine months; almost as long as a human being, right, nine months.

I don’t care what you say, but humans do not have the corner on maternal affection. All she wants at the end of that nine months when her baby is born is her baby, that’s all she wants. She wants to nourish him, she wants to nurture him, she wants to give him the food that her body produced just for him, but she’s not allowed to do that. Her baby’s taken away from her. Every farmer, large and small, will tell you that the most traumatic moment in a cow’s life is when her baby is being taken away from her.

They’re separated, because if he is allowed to drink his own mother’s milk, of course, we can’t start taking her milk, so he’s separated from her, right. She’s impregnated again, so that her lactation stays really strong and her production of milk stays really high. Then you have these babies, right. You have males and females. 50 percent are males and males have nothing have nothing to do with an industry that exploits the female reproduction system, so they’re worthless. They mean nothing.

The dairy industry, of course, wanted to make money off of these incidental births. They exist only because she had to be pregnant. That’s the only reason they exist, and 50 percent are male. They’re killed immediately, taken from her immediately, for what’s called bob veal, right. The dairy industry sells them to an industry, the veal industry so they can make profits. It’s a very profitable part of the dairy industry if 50 percent are males, right. If they’re not bob veal, they’re not killed right away. Sixteen weeks later, they’re sold for veal, same thing, right.

If they’re females, they go into the same servitude as their mother. The mother, who’s valued only by how much milk she can produce, is killed after four or five years, because she can no longer–her life can no longer be justified. She has to be killed, because nobody is going to keep this cow alive and feed her, and take care of her and house her, and not get something back in return.

We have this notion also–I thought it, too–that there is some spa that used up cows go to when they’re done being used, right. We all have this notion that, oh, well, cows aren’t harmed in the production of milk. Yes they are. They go–there’s no such thing as a slaughter-free animal agriculture system. Nothing, nobody, nobody’s going to keep these animals alive without making a profit, so she’s killed, right, all so that we could get the calcium that we could better get going directly to the source for.

If you just entertain this thought for a moment, what would happen if, ideally, this calf was allowed to actually continue drinking his mother’s milk or just to start and then continue drinking his mother’s milk? What would happen as he started to get older, as he started to grow? He would be weaned. He would move off of his mother’s milk. He would move onto solid food and get his nutrients directly from the source, right.

Now, we can somewhat identify with this, right, because we’re weaned. We’re moved off of our mother’s milk. We move on to solid food, but then we’re told, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on. We need to now start consuming the milk of another animal,” when the offspring of that very animal stops drinking his mother’s milk. We’re the only being who not only drinks another animal’s milk–there is no other species on the planet who drinks another animal’s milk–but we’re also the only species on the planet who continues to drink mammalian milk into adulthood.

We’re the only ones. Have you ever seen a grown steer go to his mother when he’s a grown-up five-year-old and say, “Hello, I’d like some milk, please?” Have you seen a human do that? I don’t think so, right. If I were to even suggest that we start, I don’t know, an industry on human breast milk, a tall glass of cold breast milk. Come on. Lunch, some cheese, a little ice cream, some human breast milk. Why not? Right? Most people are just so turned off by that.

Our own species’ milk and we’re turned off by it, but another species’ milk, sure. Why do you think that is? Why do you think that is? Is there something so special about the milk of these animals, right? I mean, why cows? Why goats? Why buffalo in some parts of the world? Why camel? Why sheep? Why not hyena? Why not wolf, huh? What’s the difference? Is there something so special about this group of animals’ milk that makes it conducive to human consumption and human health?

Or could it be that it has nothing to do with the nature of the milk itself, but everything to do with the nature of these animals? These animals are all herd animals. They’re all vegetarian animals. Their killing instinct is pretty subdued, except when you try to take their babies away, right. It’s the only time they become dangerous. The difference between taking cows’ milk and taking hyenas’ milk, the hyena will probably try to kill you if you try to take their milk or impregnate her.

I don’t wanna be there for that process, right. My point is that’s how arbitrary this is. We choose that milk, because of the nature of the animals, not because of the nature of the milk. We have no physiological requirement for the milk of another animal. They don’t have a physiological requirement for the milk of their own species once they’re grown, right. Does that make sense?

Not only does it kinda instinctively make sense to us, our bodies even support this idea. Our bodies stop making lactase when we’re about the time when we’re supposed to be weaned, about 5. We obviously don’t breastfeed as long in this country as they do in many other places around the world, but around 5 years old, at least by 7 or at most by 7. We stop producing–women stop producing lactase. Actually, we all stop producing lactase, because lactase is the enzyme that enables us to digest lactose, the sugar that’s in all mammalian milk. It’s in all female mammalian milk, right.

People continue drinking other animal’s milk. We’ve stopped producing lactase that helps us digest this milk, and then people start to get kinda sick and they start to feel kinda bloated, and they start to feel kinda cramping. They don’t feel so good and they go to the doctor’s. The doctor says, “Oh, you have a disorder. There’s something wrong with you. You have lactose intolerance,” like it’s a disease, right. Lactose intolerance is not a disorder. Lactose intolerance is normal. We’re not supposed to be consuming lactose when we’re adults. We’re not supposed to be.

There’s only certain people who are in Scandinavian countries who can continue to consume lactose, because they’re eating so much of it through cheese in Scandinavian countries. They have what we would call lactase persistence, but it’s a very small percentage of the world, and they’re paying for it, because they have the highest rates of heart disease. They have the highest rates of breast cancer. They’re paying for it, their high consumption of animal products through dairy products, right.

We know this instinctively. Our bodies support it physiologically. We’re not supposed to be consuming the milk of another animal, so skip the middle cow. Skip the middle cow and go directly to the source. The best source of calcium: bok choy, kale, collard greens, figs, almonds, white beans, right. All the good stuff in these foods and nothing problematic in these foods, right. In terms of getting that calcium, by the way, when you go right to bok choy or kale, you absorb about 50 to 60 percent of that calcium versus going through the cow and getting about 30 percent. There’s no reason, except that we’ve all been taught this, right.

You can do this with every nutrient. You can do this with the omega-3 fatty acids you mentioned before, right. When you said that the fish are high or good sources for omega-3 fatty acids, because that’s what we’re all taught, well, where do the fish get their omega-3 fatty acids from? Kelp, algae, phytoplankton, right. They’re getting it from the plants. Then we eat the animals and try to get some of that stuff ourselves. While we’re doing that, we’re also getting some saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, and animal protein. Get some heavy metals thrown in, a little bit mercury, right.

We’re told we have two choices. We have to continue eating these fatty fishes, because we have to get these omega-3 fatty acids. Well, we’re depleting the ocean of life. We’ve wiped out the fatty fishes and salmon on the East Coast, completely wiped them out. Well, all right, but we still need these fatty fishes, so let’s get them from somewhere, so let’s start factory farming them. We start factory farming them, you get the saturated fat still. You get the dietary cholesterol. You get the heavy metals still. These are carnivorous fish. Where do you think they’re getting the fish from to feed these fish to? They’re getting them from the ocean.

We’ve almost wiped out the salmon on the West Coast, right, 90 percent. They’re endangered on the West Coast. We do have another choice. We can skip the middle fish and we can go directly to the source. We can go to the ground flax seeds. We can go to the walnuts. We can go to DHA. DHA is sourced from algae, because that’s the best source of these fats. DHA is basically the fat that our bodies turn these essential fatty acids into when we go through the fish, so go directly to the DHA and get the fats that way, right. Skip the middle fish and we don’t have all these problems, but we get all the good stuff, right.

You can do this with every nutrient. You can do it with every nutrient. The nutrients we need are plant-based. You can do it with protein, the number one question that vegans get, right. People say, “I tried to be a vegetarian, but I just needed my protein.” I said, “Well, how did you feel?” They said, “I don’t know. I just needed protein. I just needed protein.” I said, “How did it feel? What did your need for protein look like?”

“Well, I was just tired.” “You were tired. Okay, tried is not protein deficiency. It’s caloric-deficient perhaps, but not protein-deficient.” “Well, I don’t know. My doctor said that I was anemic.” “Okay, that’s iron. What did it look like?” “I don’t know, I just wanted protein.” Nobody knows what it looks like. Everyone’s obsessed with protein, but nobody knows what protein deficiency looks like, right.

Tell me what it looks like. We’ve seen people with protein deficiency on television when we’ve seen late night appeals for people who are starving. Hunger organizations who are raising money for starving children who has distended bellies, right. They have discolored skin, yellowing skin. They have protein deficiency, right, because they’re not getting any food. That’s the only time we really see true protein deficiency in developed nations is when someone’s not eating, either through anorexia or through sickness, right.

Can you raise your hand if you’ve heard of heart disease? Do me a favor, anybody hear of heart disease? Anybody hear of diabetes here? Anybody know anybody with high blood pressure or high cholesterol? Anybody know anybody with kwashiorkor? Nobody knows anybody with kwashiorkor? That’s amazing. We are a culture obsessed with protein deficiency and yet we don’t know anybody with kwashiorkor, which is the scientific term for protein deficiency, right.

Do you know of any wards at any hospitals, any khwashiorkor wards? No? Any specialists? Right, because we don’t have it here. The diseases we have are diseases of excess, not deficiency. We’ve taken care of those. That’s the difference between developed nations, right, industrialized nations is that we have diseases of excess. All of the diseases that you said you’ve heard of, that we know hospital wards for, specialists for, these are all diseases that we are dying from and have no business dying from. We don’t have diseases of deficiency, right. Does that make sense?

I just want this to make sense, because I want you to leave here understanding this is just common sense. Don’t believe me; I don’t care. I don’t want you to listen to me. I want this to make sense to you. These are some of the things that we walk around, these things we tell ourselves that keeps us from making these changes that we really wanna make, okay. It’s the nutrition, it’s the food; the food is a big one for people. As I said, we could play the game of what people say to you when you say that you’re a vegetarian. One of the first things people say when you tell them you’re vegetarian or vegan is what they eat or who they eat, or who they don’t eat usually.

You become a confessional as soon as you tell someone that you’re vegan. No matter what you say, “I’m vegan.” “Oh, I don’t eat that much meat. I don’t really eat that much chicken. Well, I’m vegetarian, too, except for the fishes and the chickens that I eat,” which they don’t know that chickens aren’t plants. They just need a little guidance there, right. The problem is that we have our perception of ourselves and then we have reality, and they don’t always match, right.

Everybody believes they don’t–I have never met anybody who did not say, “I don’t eat a lot of meat, dairy or eggs.” I’ve never met anybody who didn’t say that. Everybody has that perception of themselves. Yet, someone is eating this stuff. Someone is eating the animals, okay. I mean, 10 billion land animals are killed every year in the United States alone just for human consumption–10 billion. I can’t even wrap my brain around that number.

I don’t know if you’ve seen some websites that have the little tickers of how many animals are killed per second. It’s pretty overwhelming. Somebody’s eating the animals, okay, but we all kinda perceive ourselves as not eating a lot of this stuff. The problem is that you are looking in one direction your whole life and don’t even know there’s things over here. When you make this transition from here to over here, you see all of the things that are over here that you just never noticed before.

Where I think people get stuck is in that transition period, is right here. Making these new changes, making these new habits. That’s again how I see what I do, my work, my newest book being The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. That’s really the idea behind it is do it long enough to change some habits, to create a new foundation, to start looking over in this direction and feel really confident, and build that new foundation, right.

The truth is, the food choices we make are all based on habit. They’re all habit. The way we plate our food, the food choices we make, the way we eat, how we eat, what we eat, who we eat, it’s all based on habit. That’s the good news and it’s the bad news. It’s the bad news, because we are fierce creatures of habit, but it’s the good news because habits are meant to be broken. And it’s very possible. It’s just a matter of making new choices. When you do, these become the new habits and this becomes second nature, but you have to give yourself enough time to actually experience it.

You have to give your pallet time to change. You have to give your body time to change. You have yourself just time to make those new choices and understand what they are, okay, and they become second nature. Speaking of nature, one of the things people tend to say also when you tell them that you’re vegetarian or vegan, and it’s an excuse a lotta people use, is they say that they tried being vegetarian, but they just craved meat. Anybody ever hear that?

They say, “I was vegetarian, but I just craved meat.” I said, “You weren’t craving meat.” They said, “No, I was really craving meat. I was craving a hamburger, and I had a hamburger and I felt better.” I said, “You weren’t craving meat. We don’t crave the flesh of animals.” We are not obligate carnivores. We are not lions on a plain who see gazelles running by and get really excited.

If you think about how a domestic cat–just think for a minute how a domestic cat acts when they see their prey. Can you imagine that, when you see a cat who sees a bird? They get really low and they get really focused, and their eyes start to dilate, then their teeth start to chatter and they start to drool, and their tail flickers? Is that how you get when you see a bird? Is that how you get when you see cattle grazing on the side of the road or deer running past you, a squirrel? No.

I mean, I hope not. Please, if you do, I don’t wanna know, but I’m gonna guess that that’s not how you react, right. We are not obligate carnivores. That’s not how we respond when we see another animal, right. Even if we see an animal who’s been hit by a car on the side of the road, what we call road kill, right, when we see that–I can even see it on some of your faces. The first reaction we have is usually disgust, and the second reaction we have is usually compassion. We hope they didn’t suffer, right.

We don’t take out our forks and start thinking about lunch, okay. I hope not. I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re eating for dinner, but I’m guessing not, right. The point is we don’t crave the flesh of animals. What we do crave is fat. We crave salt. We crave texture. We crave flavor. We crave familiarity. We crave the feeling of being full. All of these things can be met in a plant-based diet, right. Fat and salt, I mean, that’s a big one for people.

This is what I mean when I say just your pallet will change. Our pallets are so coated with fat and salt right now that we don’t even know what the flavor of vegetables taste like. We don’t even know that vegetables have flavor. Most people don’t. I grew up with vegetables that were overcooked and over-boiled, and covered with cream sauces, and covered with butter. I didn’t know what the taste of true asparagus tasted like until my pallet got all the stuff out of it, right, and really started appreciating the flavor of food.

The subtly of vegetables, we’ve lost subtly in our pallets, right, but that doesn’t mean we still don’t crave fat when you become vegan. You just stop craving it as much. You don’t crave it as much, but if you want fat, that’s okay. You can get fat through olives and through avocado, and guacamole, a little olive oil roasted vegetables. I mean, you can still get it. We can get it through salt, we can get it through tamari and soy sauce, that’s okay. That’s what encourage people to do is think about what is the craving. It’s not animal flesh.

Is it fat? Is it salt? Okay, let me throw some almond butter in a smoothie. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or throw some guacamole on a burrito or some avocado on a sandwich and still meet that craving. It’s okay to still meet that craving, but just doing it through plant foods. Texture is a big one. People really still desire that texture, right, that meatiness if you will. People who know my work know that I never use the word fake. I never use the word faux. I never use the word alternative and substitute, replacement and analogue to talk about vegetarian meats.

Who wants an analogue? Anybody here want an analogue? I mean, who wants to eat an analogue? I don’t eat analogues. I eat real food. I eat real food based on real ingredients. Interestingly enough, the word meat, which I encourage vegetarians and vegans to take back, actually originally mean that which was eaten, to distinguish it from that which was drunk. It was solid food versus beverage.

We say it today when we say coconut meat. We say the meat of a nut. We still say it today, so I encourage people to take back this word and use it to refer to vegetarian meats; a nut-based meat or a wheat-based meat or whatever it is, right. Call it what it is. We still desire texture and we can get that in the nuts and the mushrooms, and the chewiness. People who say that that vegetarians are belying some desire to still eat animals because they want fake meat, they would say, vegetarian meat. I didn’t stop wanting to chew when I became vegan.

I still wanna chew, right. It doesn’t belie some desire to chew on animals. I just wanna chew and that’s okay. We can still meet this desire for texture when we switch to a plant-based diet. It could be flavor, right. Flavor is something we still crave, of course. I mean, most people have spices in their kitchen. Unfortunately, most of those spices have dust on them, because they’re just collecting dust in those cute little spice racks. People aren’t using them to actually flavor their food. People are afraid of spices still, so I try to help people get over their fear of spices by encouraging them to use them, right.

Flavor, the flavor is in the plant foods. Again, people who really are kinda putting vegan food in a box and not really understanding, and not opening their minds will say, “Vegan food, it’s so bland.” Vegan food is bland? What do you put on your hot dogs and hamburgers? Relish and ketchup, mustard and barbeque sauce, and onions and garlic, chutneys. You flavor your meat with plant foods, right, because the flavor is in the plant foods. We are the only animal who eats another animal who has to flavor it to make it edible.

We are the only animal who eats another animal who has to cook it, not only to make it edible, but so that we don’t die from the pathogens that would kill us if we ate the meat raw. We are the only animals who have to actually cook it, right. The flavor is in the plant foods, right. What else do we crave? The texture, the flavor, the familiarity plays a big role. Just having something that looks like something we knew, something that we loved growing up, that’s kinda the power of a burger with all the fixings, the lettuce and the ketchup, and the tomatoes, right.

That’s very powerful for us. We have a very emotional response to food, right. The way we plate our food is very emotional. We have this notion that everybody plates their food around the world like we do, right. We have your meat as the main dish in our culture, and then some token side dishes. The perceptions that vegan food or vegan meals are lacking is because they picture a plate with that meat removed, and they just see a big hole there, right. Then that’s why this notion comes out, “Well, they just eat side dishes.” You just eat side dishes. You just eat salads.

Well, think about how different cultures plate their food around the world. They don’t plate–millions and millions of people do not plate their food that way. When you think of Indian cuisine, many different African cuisines, Ethiopian cuisine, Thai cuisine, different Asian cuisines, right, that’s not how they plate their food. On one hand, I give people actually permission to plate their food with what we would call side dishes, but that when think of these other cuisines, they are the legumes, the lentils, the grains, all the good stuff, right.

On the other hand, what that meat really becomes for us is a focal point on a plate. It’s not about the meat; it’s a focal point. Thanksgiving’s coming up, right, and we all think, “What do you vegans eat on Thanksgiving?” I don’t know. All the mashed potatoes and the stuffing, and everything I loved when I even ate animals, right, but still have all the side dishes. The centerpiece is a beautiful stuffed squash.

It could be, in another season, a beautiful stuffed pepper. It could be stuffed tomato. It could be polenta in a certain shape. It could be something in a ramekin, right. The focal point is what actually means more to us than, really, than that turkey. Really, right? We can still have the familiarity and even the feeling of being full. I mean, one of the things that happens when you transition is that you’re eating fewer calories when you transition from an animal-based to a plant-based diet.

Now, it’s a good thing for people who wanna lose weight, because you’re very naturally eating fewer calories, right. You remember the macronutrients, right. There are 9 calories, 8, 9 calories in every gram of fat, but there’s 4 calories in every gram of protein and carbohydrates, so you’re very naturally getting less fat and you’re very naturally eating fewer calories. What happens is that you wind up just feeling filled when you eat as opposed to feeling sick.

We definitely live in a culture–especially men, who are encouraged to unbuckle their pants to know that they’re done eating, right. In order to know that you’re done eating, you have to feel full and sick. No, you’re supposed to just feel satiated. You’re supposed to just have enough energy to kinda go about your day and do the work we’re meant to do in this world. That’s what it’s supposed to be. You’re not supposed to feel sick and tired, and have to go lie down after you eat.

A lot of people will talk about that. They feel so much more energized when they’re just eating a diet based on plants, and they feel filled. If you’re hungry two hours later, then eat. Who said we’re supposed to eat three meals a day? Who said that? Who? Anybody in this room say that? Right. I mean, who says that we’re supposed to eat three meals a day? I had a woman write to me once and she said, “I was vegetarian for seven years, but I was hungry the whole time.” I said, “You were a vegetarian for seven years and you were hungry the whole time? Why didn’t you just eat?” You could have really taken care of that problem, so if you’re hungry, eat, okay.

Those are the some of things we tell ourselves around the food aspects. People then say, “Well, I wanna make this change,” and then they say, “I would love to do this, but then I’d have to chop all those vegetables,” and they start whining about the vegetables they’d have to chop. It takes so much time everybody says. Anybody ever hear that, how much time it takes to chop some vegetables? I’m so busy, I don’t have the time to chop vegetables.

Really? If we have time to get in the car and drive to a restaurant and look for a parking spot, and wait in line for a table, and eat the food and wait for the check, and pay the bill and drive back home again, we have time to chop some carrots, okay. It’s not the time. We have the time. We’re just not using the time to chop some vegetables. There’s a reason some of these television shows, these number one shows, right, someone’s watching. I can’t even name one. I don’t have TV. Name a show that people are watching. Watch Dancing with the Stars. Someone’s watching Dancing with the Stars. They could be chopping vegetables right now, okay.

We have the time; we just use that as another excuse. I talk a lot about the things we can do to make it easier for ourselves. Chopping the vegetables in advance makes a huge difference. People have this block. When they come home from the grocery store and they’re so excited to eat healthfully, and they throw all the vegetables in the refrigerator. They’re so excited.

Then, they go to make dinner and they open the fridge, and they see the carrots with their tops on and the cauliflower still in a head, and the broccoli in a bunch, and they close the door. They’re, like, it will take me forever to chop vegetables, so they don’t chop the vegetables and the vegetables then, like, compost. Then they go, “God, vegetables get bad. How do you stop the vegetables from getting bad?” You eat them, okay, that’s how you stop the vegetables from getting bad. Don’t have compost experiments in your refrigerator; eat them.

Whatever you need to do to make it possible to get those vegetables into your body, do. One of the things that really helps is chopping them in advance. Instead of putting them all in the refrigerator when you come home from the grocery store or the farmers’ market, take ten minutes. It doesn’t even take that long. It takes no time to take that broccoli and make it into florets or the cauliflower. Cut the tops off the carrots, right, and cut the ends off. Then, just cut them in half, and you’ve got something that you’re gonna grab and eat.

Before you go to work in the morning, chop some peppers, chop and onion. If you’re doing a recipe and it calls for one onion, chop two. Put on in a container and put one in your recipe, so you’re always thinking ahead. There’s all things we can do. Yes, you can buy vegetables that are chopped in advance. Many grocery stores are doing that. Is it more expensive? Yes, because you’re paying for convenience, but you have to decide if that’s what you wanna do, right. We’re always making these choices, right.

There’s a lotta things we can do. Planning in advance makes a huge difference. Just knowing the night before what we’re having for dinner the next night, that doesn’t take any time. That just takes some thinking. Knowing what we have in the fridge and saying, “Oh, when I get up, I’m gonna throw some rice on and I’m going to chop and onion before I go to work.” Then, when you come to your refrigerator and everything’s chopped up, then I’ll make stir-fry, I’ll make soup, right, I’ll eat some carrots while I’m doing that. Okay, so planning in advance and making those choices.

There’s a lot of excuses we have around just the food itself, and then we also have a lot of blocks around the social aspects. I really think the social aspects are what really trip people up. I think people can make new choices pretty easily with recipes. Most people can learn a new recipe, follow a new recipe, kinda create a new repertoire for themselves, but I think the social aspects is what really trips people up. People who tend to be kinda naturally shy say that they want to be vegetarian, but they don’t wanna do something because they don’t wanna call attention to themselves.

There’s a lot of people like that. They don’t wanna call attention to themselves, and so they don’t make choices that reflect their own values. It’s funny, because we live in a culture that we act like really supports the individual, the rugged individual. We act like we’re this individualistic society, but we don’t. We’re not. We really support conformity a lot more. Nonconformist is a dirty word in most people’s vocabulary, and yet everyone says they wanna make a difference.

Everybody says they wanna wake up and effect change, and live a meaningful live and make a difference, and do something meaningful. I believe people when they say these things, but I wonder if all these things mean as much to them as not appearing different. Everybody says they wanna make a difference and yet I think we forget that in order to make a difference you may have to do something different. It’s easy to go along with the status quo.

It’s easy to go along with the status quo, but the question we have to ask ourselves is at what cost. At the cost of my own values? At the cost of my own health? That’s a pretty high cost in my opinion. There are people who say that they would be vegan, they would be vegetarian, but they don’t wanna make anybody uncomfortable. Sounds really noble. Sounds really martyrish. I don’t wanna make anybody uncomfortable. I’m vegan until I go out with friends. Oh, how convenient.

I think we use that as a block. I think we use that as an excuse for ourselves. I don’t wanna make anybody uncomfortable, right. I don’t get it, because this is it. This is who I am. I show up and this is who I am. People know where I stand on certain things, namely that animals are here for their own sake, for their own value, not here for my pleasure. Namely, that I don’t wanna contribute to violence against anybody. That doesn’t change according to who invites me to dinner or who it might make uncomfortable.

Frankly, I think it’s pretty self-centered to think, “I would do it, but I don’t wanna make anybody uncomfortable.” Who am I, first of all? Who am I, and who am I to guess how someone’s gonna react to me and my values, right? I’ve never seen people at their most beautiful than when I say, “I’m vegan.” I think they’re the most beautiful words, “I’m vegan.” They say, “I’ve been wanting to be vegan. I have questions. I wanna make these changes, but I don’t–there’s so many misconceptions. Can you answer some questions for me?”

“I’ve been thinking about being vegan. I love my dog. I feel bad. Can you? I’ve been making more vegan dishes,” or, “I’m vegan, too,” which I wouldn’t know if I didn’t say, “I’m vegan.” “I’m vegan, too. I’d love to cook for you. Can I make some food for you?” Right, that’s their choice, and I always appreciate it. I know where I end and another person begins.

If we think we’re protecting people from discomfort, we’re not only denying our own ethics and perpetuating violence against animals and against people, we’re also potentially denying someone else their own transformation. How else does that occur but through that honest, open interaction and communication with one another, right? I think we underestimate people. I think we don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I see it all the time.

If we raise the bar and actually expect something from people, we see really amazing things take place. What a mess I would be if my behavior were continually determined by how it would make another person react. In other words, if my being vegan does make someone uncomfortable, that’s not mine. I didn’t set out to make them uncomfortable, but whatever someone does with my values isn’t mine to worry about, right. It’s not my problem.

It doesn’t mean that we be demanding or rude, or ungracious, but it does mean that we need to speak our truth and be who we are, without being attached to how that truth will affect another person. As much as we play small, I think we underestimate people, I think we also individually play small, too. We let fear guide us. The lies that we’re told become the lies we tell ourselves. One of them you hear all the time is people say, “Well, people aren’t gonna change. People aren’t gonna stop eating animals. It’s too hard. It’s too hard to change,” they say, right.

Now, you can call me crazy, because I know this sounds crazy, but I have more faith in people than that. I know people change. I see it every single day. When you give people the information they need to make these choices that reflect their own values, they do change, right. The problem is, the more we keep telling people that it’s too hard to change, the more they’re going to believe you. The more we keep telling people that there’s something radical about eating fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds, and grains and beans, and mushrooms, and herbs and spices–it’s crazy.

The more we keep telling people that there’s something radical about not eating the swollen secretions and the mutilated bodies of non-human animals, the more we keep telling ourselves these things, then the less we’ll expect of ourselves and the less we’ll expect of others, and nothing will change. If we raise that bar and hold that bar high, we really do see amazing things take place. It’s really, really amazing. I am one who advocates raising the bar. Right now, the bar is way too low, right.

For me, being vegan is just about living my life with integrity and joy, and doing everything I can to not contribute to suffering, to not contribute to violence. It’s also about creating joy and meaning in a world filled with violence, filled with despair. That is to say whereas violence creates violence, nonviolence also creates more nonviolence, and I like being on that side of the equation.

All I ask is that we remain open. Never say never. Embrace this journey that encourages us to learn new things and try new things. Be better people and make better choices, and make more compassionate choices once we know better. I’ll tell you, the problems we have in this world are not because we have so much compassion we don’t know what to do with it, right. The problems we have in this world are because we’re not living according to our own values of compassion and kindness. These are our values, right.

Most people say they’re against violence and cruelty, and it’s one thing to say that you are, but it’s quite another to actually manifest those values in your everyday behavior. That is my hope that we reflect in our daily choices our deepest values and realize that in doing so we really have the power to create the world we all say we want to have. That is my hope and may it be so. Thank you very much. Thank you.


Obviously, food is the great converter. She’s saying that really making delicious food for people really changes their opinion of vegan food, and I always put vegan food in quotes, because like I said, it’s fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds, and beans and mushrooms, and grains and herbs and spices. When it’s baking, as you were talking about, it’s flour and sugar, and cocoa and vanilla, and baking soda and baking powder.

These are all things that we’re all baking with, so I really do put vegan in quotes when I talk about this stuff, because it’s not separate food. It’s not a separate food group. It’s not weird food or unfamiliar food. People still tend to have vegan food in that box called vegan. She’s saying that what happens is she gives this great, delicious food to people, especially baked goods, because that’s really, I think, the biggest misconception.

That’s why I wrote The Joy of Vegan Baking is–thank you–because people certainly think you can’t bake without eggs and kinda the traditional animal products that we’ve been baking with for not that long, actually. When you then give them the cupcake or whatever it is, and then you tell them it’s vegan, they say, “Oh, it’s really good for vegan, for a vegan cupcake.”

Now, I don’t find that all the time. I don’t find that all the time and I actually, in The Joy of Vegan Baking, in the introduction I actually talk about this line you have to walk. I’m very aware that as much as I wanna demystify what vegan food is, I also have to do it in a way that works with where people are at, at that moment. If I just handed someone a cookie and said, “Hey, have a vegan cookie,” they’d say, “ah,” [laughter] and they might say, “Oh it’s good for a vegan cookie.” You have to say, “Here, would you like a cookie?”

It sounds like you already do that. “Would you like a cookie?” “Yes, I would like a cookie.” Then you say, “Oh, it’s vegan,” because they’re already in ecstasy or whatever. Say, “Oh, it’s vegan, no eggs, no dairy-based butter.” Then they go, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe it. Oh, my God, I can’t believe it.” The problem is the expectation of vegan baking is so low, that’s the problem, so the more we’re doing things like this and making delicious food, the more we’re raising that up.

The perception is still so poor, so doing what you’re doing and making good vegan food for people will continue to change that perception, and I think it’s happening. I really do think it’s happening, but you have to kinda meet them where they’re at as well, because you want them to know that it’s vegan by the time they leave. You don’t want them to think that it’s not vegan, but you also have to be aware that they might have their own blocks to it, and that’s why it’s a powerful thing.

We were just at a restaurant–I’m going talk about this on my next podcast. We were just in a restaurant in Murphys, in the Sierras, population 2,000. It’s a gourmet vegetarian restaurant there I highly recommend you go to. It’s called Minerals. Delicious, fabulous, fantastic. One of the dishes he had on his menu is a tofu dish.

Now, people coming through this town are pretty much tourists, so they’re used to tourist food and they’re not used to tofu, and people really weren’t ordering the tofu, so he changed the name and called them land scallops–there is no such thing as land scallops–and people started ordering them. Then once they’re eating them, “Oh, it’s tofu.” “Oh, my gosh,” so you have to kinda help people shift, sometimes slowly, sometimes through trickery and lies, sometimes through land scallops.

Audience: [Inaudible 00:46:30].

Patrick-Goudreau: The question is how do I feel about free-range eggs, because the perception that the chickens don’t have to be killed, et cetera, the chickens don’t have to be harmed. I was talking about the dairy cows and there is no way to take dairy cows out of exploitation. It doesn’t matter if you’re on a little precious farm where they comb them and sing hallelujah to them every night. They have to be pregnant, their babies have to be taken away, and they’re going to killed at the end. Chickens can be taken out of the production a little more.

As females, they drop their eggs, like all of us females do every month. They just do it more frequently. If people want to consume those things, that’s their prerogative. However, there’s a bigger picture, because it’s not just about–for me, it’s not just about the production, it’s about the perception that animals are here for us. When you have even that–what about chickens in a perfect–there is no perfect place. First of all, we have no need for–to consume the output of the chicken’s reproductive system.

We just have no need for it, okay. To try to go through all of these mazes that we try to go through to have this chicken that we think is in this perfect land, why? Why are we going through that? You have to also consider that most of the people who are getting these chickens have to get them from somewhere, and most of them get them from hatcheries. Hatcheries is where they kill–just like in the dairy industry–all the males upon hatching. Literally, again, we’re talking about an industry that exploits the female reproduction system.

Male chicks, roosters, have no purpose, so they’re literally culled at birth. I mean, you’ve seen–I don’t know if you’ve seen those images. I mean, it’s terrible. What image can you think of that is more innocent and more beautiful than a baby chick? I mean, most of us recognize that, right, but then you have these hatcheries where they’re literally, literally grinding them alive or suffocating them in bags because they’re males. There’s that part of it, there’s this cradle to grave story that we never tell, and then there’s the production.

Chickens don’t–just like any female, her production’s going to slow down as she gets older, so you don’t even have them for that long before they start to slow down. Well, if you have them only for their eggs, what do you do with them after their production slows down? Are you going to take care of them for the rest of their life? Okay. If you will, fantastic. If they’re perceived as your companions just the way your dogs and cats are, okay, that’s a different story, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about people who are using the chickens only for their eggs.

Though they might be living a perfect little life–although I don’t think so. It’s really hard to take care of live beings. It’s really hard to meet all of their needs even in the most perfect sanctuaries that I’m really close with, there’s problems that you can’t predict. There’s predators. It’s difficult is my point. At the end, they go to slaughter. I mean, right now, I’m working in Oakland, California to stop the city from passing an ordinance that will allow people to have chickens and goats, and pigs and rabbits, to kill them for consumption. It’s just, it’s amazing.

If you even look at the expense of building the hutch they need, it’s just not worth it when we can just do something a lot better, like, growing kale. It’s a lot easier to take care of kale and, if you forget to water them and they die, there’s not a lot of suffering. I’m seeing these people who–I mean, you can look at the blogs of people who are doing this backyard stuff with backyard chickens. Look at their blogs. They give you enough information I don’t even have to get–you forget to feed them, you forget to water them, which people do. They become problematic. They become difficult to take care of.

They wind up in animal shelters. People neglect them. We just had 12 rabbits confiscated from a home in Oakland, because she was feeding them white rice, because that’s the cheapest way to do it to get the output that you want. You see what I mean? For me, it’s about the perception. When our perception is that the animals are only here for us, we’re going to make decisions based on that, not on what’s best for the animals. That was my very short answer. Yes?

Audience: [Inaudible 00:55:54].

Patrick-Goudreau: The question is, because the whole agriculture system, plants and animals you’re saying, is flawed, right, is large, so there are decisions that are made that are unethical for the workers. Is that what you’re talking about, kinda big picture agriculture in general?

Audience: Yeah.

Patrick-Goudreau: Yeah, in intensive agriculture. I mean, well, if you’re asking about animals, there is no way to justify eating the animals and feeling good about it. I mean, you can slap some labels on them and you can call them certain things that make us feel better when we go to sleep at night, but that still doesn’t take care of the problem.

If you’re talking about plants, there’s a lot we can do as consumers in terms of making sure that we know the farmers, the farmers’ markets. Getting to know the people who are growing our food is really huge. It’s really valuable. Getting involved. We, as Americans, are not very involved in our food system. Europeans are, to a much greater degree. There’s a lot we can do in terms of having a voice to making sure that these things are being grown ethically.

I really do believe, when we can, growing some food ourselves, I mean, that’s the best thing we can do. We can work with our neighbors to grow different foods and have different crops than we have, so we can swap foods with them. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that. We can do a lot in terms of changing things just personally by the food choices we make from an agricultural perspective. Yes?

Audience: [Inaudible 00:52:19].

Patrick-Goudreau: Yeah, I mean, I think part of the problem is that we really romanticize agriculture in general, right. I mean, let’s go back 10,000 years ago when we switched from a society that foraged and moved around a lot to a society that stayed in one place and grew our food, and started domesticating animals. It changed everything. It changed everything, and that is the whole perspective of agriculture. It’s here for us. Even growing kale, I mean, I’m changing the nature of that ground to get all those nutrients to go right to that kale. I mean, we’re changing things, right.

They always did kill. They always did kill the calves. There was never a time–you have to remember that the calves that are born to dairy cows are not bred to be these cattle. I’m saying this all in terms of the industry speak, because they don’t have the big meaty bodies. They are killed, because they don’t have any use. The males were always killed, yeah. There was never a time that animal agriculture was lovely and not violent. There was always killing unnecessarily.

Audience: [Inaudible 00:53:31].

Patrick-Goudreau: The question is what do you do when you live with a diehard animal eater and you’re trying to raise your child vegetarian at least. I did talk about it in 30-Day Vegan Challenge. There is a chapter on living among non-vegans. I mean, it’s kind of a bigger issue. I really believe very strongly in planting seeds and not being attached to the outcome, even when we’re in a close relationship with someone. I really believe that if we go to someone with this [inaudible 00:53:56], they’re going to go, “Okay, just back away. Just back off.”

Depending on who it is in our lives, because you’re the one bringing that information to them, sometimes they don’t want it just because it’s coming from you, okay. On some level, you actually have to change up here your expectation. Now, that’s different in terms of wanting to raise a child. You will have to come to an agreement. That is something you will have to discuss, but in terms of his decisions, you can plant seeds.

You can recommend he watches something or reads something, or takes the 30-Day Vegan Challenge with you right. You can recommend those things, but the rest of it is not yours. Whatever he does with that information is not yours. You really have to let go over here, because people can feel it. If you say, “Oh, no, no, I don’t care. It’s fine,” they can feel it, because it may not be fine. If it’s really find, if it’s something that you really do let go, they feel a lot more relaxed.

In feeling more relaxed, they feel more compelled to maybe ask a question, maybe try something they wouldn’t try before, maybe hear that information from someone else and then they’ll come to you, “Did you know the thing about the thing?” “I’ve been saying it for five years. Yeah, I’ve heard that,” right, but they might be more open to it when it comes from over here. Then we say, “Oh, how lovely. I didn’t know that. That’s fascinating.”

Some of it is just being a little more relaxed and being unattached, especially with people who are very close to us. Sometimes they’re the hardest, but communication and honest communication I think is really important, especially when you’re making a decision about your child together, yeah, so good luck.

Audience: [Inaudible 00:55:33].

Patrick-Goudreau: You know, it’s really interesting. Her question is people who respond. People respond to different things. She’s saying that right now the green movement is so big and people are responding to the environmental arguments against animal agriculture, and what are some good sound bites to give to people who are concerned about that? Let me just say that I really believe in speaking authentically about what it is that you care about, and speaking to that in other people.

I don’t change my story according to who I talk to. My story remains the same, because it’s my truth and it’s my story. Compassion is the number one thing for me, because even if it’s compassion for the environment, that’s going to speak to them, right. I don’t know anything more–I don’t know a more concentrated environment than an animal, because we’re quite literally consuming, right, the environment, right, so that doesn’t change for me.

I really talk a lot about–especially with the environment, because I just don’t think carbon is that sexy. I just don’t think people can really wrap their hearts around carbon emissions, right. I just don’t, but I think people can wrap their brains around the resource intensiveness that I was talking about before, about how we’re going through these animals and producing all of this poop, and all of these emissions certainly through the animals. You have to talk about it as something people can wrap their brains around, which is something real, which is a living being.

I also think one thing that I think is actually very powerful, because people don’t really think about it a lot, are the animals that people do care about are wild animals. We are literally destroying, quite literally, wild animals on behalf of livestock. When I was talking about romanticizing agriculture, there is it right there. I mean, we’re destroying–I mean the government, on behalf of ranchers and farmers, kills millions of wild animals and birds every year to protect the livestock.

Right, I mean, I’m in–well, you’re in Arizona. We’re in the West here. We’re in the drought, West, right, and the water that’s going to the livestock, when it could go directly to the plant or go directly to people, I mean, so those are the kinds of things that I think are really effective. People can really wrap their brains around, “Wait a second, there is a direct relationship.”

I mean, there’s lots of things. You can talk about carbon emissions, you can about driving a Prius, you can do better when you eat a vegan diet for a week than driving a Prius for a year. I mean, you can talk about all those things. I just want to talk to someone’s heart, and I think t