Q & A with Vegan Brighde Reed
Brighde Reed is a passionate vegan consultant and activist whose commitment goes beyond the plate to many other initiatives. Here she shares how and why she got started and some of the activities she’s involved in.
Q: How do you define your vegan diet?
A: I eat a diet that is predominantly whole-foods plant-based. This means that I don’t eat anything from an animal, neither their flesh or their secretions. As well as following a vegan diet, I also do not wear anything from an animal like wool or silk. I basically avoid any practice that involves exploiting animals.
Q: When did you first become a vegan? What prompted you to do so?
A: I was a pretty reluctant vegetarian and had been a vegetarian for a long time – since my teens. I knew I didn’t really want to eat animals, but I felt that I was missing out on all of the experiences of living in Asia by not embracing all the street food for example. I was also a little bored with it, however, in 2009 I stumbled across a podcast by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau that changed my life for the better. I came to understand that humans use and exploit trillions of animals per year in so many terrible ways. Once I realised that, I decided that I did not want to be part of this exploitation. After further research, I learned that not only was this lifestyle great for preventing animal suffering but also fantastic for our health and our best chance of a good future for our planet for our children and grandchildren.
Q: Where were you living at the time and how difficult was it to be a vegan there?
A: At the time I was living in Hanoi and for me it was not too hard as I took to cooking vegan food with great gusto and passion. Also, I moved to a much more vegan-friendly Bangkok after 6 months which helped in that period of transition.
Q: What is the vegan landscape like in Bangkok and what changes have you seen in your time here?
A: Thailand has always been a very vegan friendly place. We are so lucky to have an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts that are locally grown as well as vegan meats and a number of supermarkets with imported specialty products. In the past few years we have seen a number of health food stores open that really have everything a vegan needs. We had 2 vegan restaurants open in just the past 6 months and there are over 177 listings on Happy Cow, a database of vegan, vegetarian, veg-friendly restaurants and health food stores. While many people might think that it is hard (and at first there is a learning curve) once you look through a vegan lens you see abundance, not deprivation!
Q: You organise a vegan support group. Can you tell us what that involves?
A: Although I did not start the Bangkok Vegan Meet Up group I was very keen to get involved as soon as I moved to Bangkok. Many people want to become vegan but not everyone can do it easily or overnight. They want support, guidance and community. Everyone is welcome to our meet ups. We have a number of different events like cooking classes, meals out at vegan and non-vegan restaurants, movie screenings, vegan drinks, cooking classes and more. We hope to create more activism events in 2016. Many vegans do not have other vegan friends or families. By coming to our meetups they can enjoy the company of others as well as support those that are interested in finding out more about the lifestyle. We have over 600 members with the average events attracting over 20 people.
Q: You’re shortly helping to screen the movie ‘Cowspiracy’ in Bangkok? Can you share why you and your friends are self-funding this event?
A: We believe this is a very important message that the whole world including Thailand needs to know about. Not many people are aware that animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change and of rainforest destruction. The amount of land needed for a vegan diet is 674 sq m per year whereas a meat eater’s is 18 times that amount. The meat and dairy industry uses one third of our world’s precious freshwater. The reason scientists predict that we will have no fish left in the oceans in 2048 because of fishing. We often despair that what we do to make the world a better place makes little difference or that it is impossible due to limitations of our governments and too costly. An example of this is maybe our inability to afford a Tesla or solar panels. However, we can make a simple choice every time we eat to really minimise our impact on the environment so our children will not have to suffer the terrible consequences of our choices in the future.
Sadly though, this message is not widely discussed for reasons you will discover when you watch the movie. We have worked really hard getting this movie into Thailand with Thai subtitles for this important showing so that we can give this important information to Thai people. Once we know better we can do better! 🙂
Q: What other activities are you involved in to promote veganism?
A: In Bangkok, I host regular Supperclubs with my fellow vegan chef friend Maricel. We create monthly dinners with a surprise 6 course gourmet menu at my house. We do this to showcase just how wonderfully delicious vegan food can be – that it isn’t all just lettuce and bean sprouts. It also brings people together and gets people asking questions and starts a conversation. It’s a great way of meeting new people too! As well as that, I have hosted Vegan Challenges including inviting my colleagues to ‘try vegan’ for a month or so. During this time they kind of go through a vegan crash course where they learn the why and how to be vegan. I also support people around the world to be vegan through an organisation called Challenge 22+ and have conducted cooking classes, talks, workshops and supermarket tours in Thailand.
Q: Are there any myths about being a vegan that you would like to challenge?
A: Oh! There are so many! For me, I want people to realise that veganism isn’t a strange cult or a religion. As vegans all we are trying to do by living this way is to live a life of nonviolence, to have compassion to all beings on the planet and show kindness to them. Indeed, when we stand up against animal suffering we are standing up for social justice just like we did for the right of women to vote or the abolition of slavery. I guess that’s the big one I’d like to address… Also, there is still a big myth that vegans are going to become malnourished in some way. What most people do not realise is that we can be just as healthy (indeed healthier) on a vegan diet according to the American Dietetic Association. For aspiring athletes, there are incredible vegan athletes out there from endurance sports champions to MMA athletes, American footballers to champion bodybuilders who have no problem getting to the top of their fields on a vegan diet.
Q: How do you recommend people get started if they’re interested in becoming a vegan?
A: There are so many resources out there these days. I would certainly recommend you watch Forks Over Knives, Cowspiracy and Earthlings. This will help you to know why going vegan is a fantastic lifestyle to adopt.
Once you know “why vegan”, you need to know “how vegan”! You can do this by joining the Bangkok Vegan Meetup, checking out the podcast that inspired me, signing up for the free 30 Day Vegan Challenge created by my good friend Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and purchasing a couple of fantastic cookbooks or attending a vegan cooking class. There are so many amazing resources. Contact me! I’ll hook you up!