Livestock Transportation in Indonesia

Right outside my work is a busy intersection. I usually head home from work between 4 and 5 pm and as I am inevitably caught at the  traffic lights I often catch up to one of these trucks that are transporting chickens. It breaks my heart because I know where they are headed.

There is often the idea that animals for food in Asia are raised in villages and they have a lovely life, however this is simply not true. Yes, many rural families will keep a few animals for their own consumption, but I don’t see all 15 million inhabitants of Jakarta with their ‘own’ animals in their back yards. There are factory farms in Asia just like there are in the rest of the world. The problem is, that it is so much worse. In our countries we have some laws to protect animals although they are very weak, poorly punished when they are broken and rarely enforced. In Indonesia there is nothing, indeed we KNOW that animals are not treated humanely during life and at the end of it. We know this as it has been documented by Animals Australia.

The other week, I went out for dinner with my colleagues and we had to pull over for the other car to catch up with us. While I was standing there for 5 minutes, 3 of these trucks passed me by. My heart broke a little as I watched and thought how scared those animals must be and for the fate that awaited them, for this is the truth of the animal livestock industry. I have no idea whether these animals were destined for meat or for egg production, regardless though, they will end their lives violently and with terrible fear and anguish. And for no good reason other than we can.


Meeting my Hero – Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

I think we all have a shortlist of people we would love to meet and have dinner with if we had half a chance. People usually mention names like Nelson Mandela, the Queen or perhaps Einstein but most of us don’t usually get that chance in our lifetimes. I was so humbled and honoured to get the chance to meet the person who has had such a profound impact on the way I now choose to live my life. That person is of course Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I have blogged about her before. Colleen is one of the most well-known animal advocates out there. Her work and especially her podcast have inspired many people to not only become vegan but to feel happy and empowered in their choice to do so. She also teaches humility and compassion. It is all to easy when one becomes vegan to be judgmental of those who do not make compassionate choices. She reminds us to remember our own stories. It was 32 years before I made the connection between eggs, milk and the oppression of animals. When I speak with others, I try to remember this.

So, how come little old me was invited to have dinner with one of the world’s busiest animal advocates and her husband? Well, for about six months now I have been doing some volunteer work for Colleen to help give her the time to concentrate on her important work. As Colleen receives many emails it would be impossible to respond to all of them as they deserve to be answered to. The emails Colleen receives are wonderful. She often reads them on her podcast. Here is a recent podcast she did where she read some of the emails that she receives. I am privileged enough to get the read and reply to these emails and they give me such reason to hope that the world’s attitude to animals is changing. While everyone’s story of transformation is unique they have certain characteristics that are the same. Most people are terribly sad and shocked when they realise what they have been unknowingly participating in. They often have challenges regarding family and social situations yet nearly everyone describes how happy being vegan makes them feel. Not all emails are uplifting. Some report how this awareness causes such pain and sadness. When we completely open our hearts to the unnecessary suffering of animals the results can be incredibly difficult. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness and even depression. My job is to try to set the writers’ of Colleen’s emails on a more optimistic path and to try to focus on the wonderfully positive things that are happening at the moment.

So, how was our dinner? We had a lovely extended 4 hour dinner at an amazingly vegan friendly restruarnt in Berkley called Gather. Seb and Jack came along and we were incredibly excited  to have her delightful husband David join us too. We talked about all sorts of things. Colleen said lovely things about the emails I write which made me feel very appreciated, we talked about our own stories, Seb made us all laugh and we showed each other pictures of our companion animals and spent way too long telling each other about the adorable things our kitties do and how much joy they give us.

I feel so honored and privileged to have spent a little time with Colleen and David. Such fantastic voices for the animals and just funny and nice too.

Colleen, Jack, Seb and Brighde

My inspiration.

Seb, David, Colleen and Brighde

Mount Rainier – Four Seasons in One Day

This day rekindled so many childhood memories for me. Growing up in the UK, most of the time the weather was pretty meh, there were a few weeks a year where it was absolutely glorious. Good weather in May in Sussex was (and I maintain probably still is) the most wonderful time and place in the world. Cool sunshine, the grass is all glossy from its quick growth, the wildflowers are still out, the trees’ leaves are bright green from the spring and everyone is just enjoying the clean and cool air. As a family we very rarely went to theme parks, restaurants and other typical family activities. Instead we went on really long walks in the Sussex countryside (I mean really long often usually 8 miles or more and I was only two) visiting churches as my dad was a historian and had a penchant for them and thumbing through the church records and making sense of the gravestones as well as looking for birds and other wildlife (he is also a bit of an amateur natural historian too). Our lunch would be peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper with an apple. While at the time I would have much rather have gone to Thorpe Park, I feel grateful that we did this as a family. It instilled in me a love of walking and nature. Mum and Dad… So sorry I moaned about these walks. I am glad you made me do them.

Our short exploration of Mount Rainier National Park and the walk we had reminded me of those times. We started the morning from Kent and drove up in to the national park. We made a stop in Elbe where we found the cutest looking church and quirkiest accommodation. The drive reminded me of the Weald in Sussex. We saw deer and drove past meadows full of flowers. Our aim was to get to Paradise and walk from there but the place was covered in several feet of snow. This blows my mind because in my eyes June is summer, but I guess in the mountains it’s still spring and the thaw hasn’t completely happened yet. We didn’t have the right shoes and the visibility was terrible so we had to go back down the mountain. I was a bit sad as the area was famous for its alpine meadows and I love me an alpine meadow. I’ll come back in mid-July. Instead we decided to do a walk further down the mountain after a delicious picnic lunch in a small clearing. The walk was 5 miles a hard up then along the ridge with lovely views and then hard down. Such a beautiful day and made me miss such green lush temperate countryside although I need to keep some perspective and remember that it takes rain most of the year to be so green and I don’t like that so much and probably wouldn’t if I had to live here all the time.

Spring meadows.

Dabbled light

You can sleep in a Caboose!

One of the dining cars

America has the cute little coffee places!

Elbe Church

Elbe Lutheran Church

Mount Rainier

Near Mount Rainier

There’ll be no wildflowers today.

Paradise Inn. Will be coming back here for sure.

Paradise Inn outside

Raging river

What? Snow? It’s summer!


Reminds me of Bluebell wood in Burpham, West Sussex


Mountain lake with snow

Day 2 Seattle – Veg Heaven

We were so incredibly fortunate to have absolutely glorious weather for our day in Seattle.

Us girls had to kill some time waiting for the boys.

Apple Girls

We headed down to Pike Place to buy some breakfast delights from Cinnamon Works. Maple Cinnamon Rolls, blueberry gluten free muffins (all vegan), smoothies from the market and coffee from the first ever Starbucks

Apple cider, strawberry and peach smoothies. Organic don’t you know!

First ever Starbucks at Pike Place

Lemon Poppy Seed muffins… Vegan? Yep!

My favourite kind of breakfast!

Our view during Breakfast.

Clear view of Mount Reinier

Pike Place. One of the most beautiful markets I have ever seen.

Then we had a little stroll through the Pike Place market full of local produce.

Mushrooms Galore!

Always reminds me of Hanoi’s flower market

We went our separate ways as we did our own errands. I explored downtown Seattle. I went to Sephora to buy some new makeup. We said goodbye to Heather and Simon and then Seb and I headed down to the campsite for the night. We are ‘glamping’ (glamourous camping) this trip and I love it. We have a wifi hotspot in the car and we can have all of our gadgets with us. We have a comfy air mattress and a comforter.We have a larder and an enormous cool box. While Seb set up the kick ass campsite, I prepared dinner which was chilli, guac, sourcream, daiya cheese and some of Elisa’s amazingly delish biscuits from yesterday.

Cooking up a storm at the Koa Campsite

Camping. We’re doin’ it right!

What a Welcome! US Trip Day 1

We have been in the US now for just over 48 hours and we have had a mind-blowingly fantastic time already. We had heard that Americans could be incredibly generous and hospitable, and so far we are pleased to say that it is totally true!

Those that know us well will know that we really were worried that we mightn’t get across the border. When Seb was younger he was busted for working illegally as a dishwasherer as an 18 year old and was told he wouldn’t be able to come back. We thought the statute of limitations had probably past but we were not really able to relax until he got through. Happily, he got through without any questions. They had plenty of questions for me. This woman from Australia, living in `Indonesia, but not working in the oil industry. Not having lived in Australia since 2002, having met significant in other when in Morroco. We sounded like we’d spent most of our adult lives stuffing around the world which wouldn’t have been an inaccurate description, but hey. I found the whole thing quite funny as I always feel very humbled and excited when someone is interested in me and there was this guy who I didn’t know asking me lots of questions about my life. The irony of it is of course that he really wasn’t that interested in me. Still we got though and that was the main thing.

We made it!

He got through!

Once we were though, we met our friends Heather and Simon in Blaine in a gas station. H and S, our friends from Vancouver were travelling down as far as Seattle with us. We often travel with them, but this time, Heather and Simon were expecting their second child so a long trip wasn’t doable. Our first proper stop was in a small town called Arlington where we were meeting Elisa. Elisa and I had never met before, but we’d become friends on Facebook having conversed on a message board a couple of years ago. Elisa has just started her own awesome blog called Free Heel Vegan which combines her passion for animal rights and her love of skiing and mountain biking. I have always found vegans to be incredibly generous and hospitable to others when travelling. Elisa treated us to an excellent tempeh Reuben sandwich at Shire Café (What?? A near vegan café in a small agricultural town in northern Washington State? YES!!!!!! SCORE!!!), a batch of amazing Lazy Samoa cookies, a guide to veg restaurants in Seattle and Portland and best of all a  guided visit to New Moon Goat Sanctuary, a place she volunteers at on a weekly basis.

For many vegans, sanctuaries are very special places. As the definition of the word, sanctuaries are a place for animals that have had a really tough time (like most domesticated animals) in life. Those that were terribly neglected or perhaps were spared the slaughterhouse by some incredible stroke of luck, they can spend the rest of their lives just being themselves with nearly all their needs being filled where they can live peacefully until a ripe old age. While the actual number of animals that find themselves in sanctuary is the tiniest fraction of all animals created by us to be violently killed they are still a really important part of the animal rights movement. The animals in sanctuaries serve as ambassadors for their species. They can show the rest of the world what farmed (and killed animals) have the potential to be if they are given the chance. In a world where most people are isolated from where their food comes from, animals in sanctuaries have been known to inspire people to become vegan just by spending some time with these creatures.

Secondly, sanctuaries are really important for animal rights advocates. While many of us spend a great deal of time trying to speak for the animals, the most amount of time we have in contact with animals is when we see their dead corpses all butchered up in the super markets. Not exactly the best way to experience animals. Sanctuaries are a place for animal rights advocates to remember why they are doing this work and feel inspired and hopefully in a world that considers the use and abuse of animals the norm. As there are not many sanctuaries, especially for farm animals in Jakarta, the opportunity to spend some time with the goats at New Moon Goat Sanctuary was very special.

Heather, Stella and the 19 year old kitty.

Seb and one of the residents of New Moon Goat Sanctuary.

Why the long face?

Me and some donkeys.

Just me and some kids.

A devoted woman called Ellen runs the New Moon Goat Sanctuary. Although only about 4 years old, it has been the home for many hundreds of goats.  While some of them will stay forever with Ellen, there are others that are up for adoption (to those who can demonstrate that they will look after them properly). Ellen and Elisa told me that many of the goats end up at her sanctuary because people decide to have a goat to cut their grass, as pets or to take their milk and they are unaware of the commitment that goats take such as trimming their hooves and making sure they are fit and healthy. Some are brought to her from animal welfare officers who confiscate them from neglectful situations. As well as goats there are also donkeys and a couple of horses. One of them, Eclipse is a Premarin horse’s foal. Many people don’t know that the word ‘Premarin’ (a popular Hormone Replacement Drug used by women to alleviate the symptoms of menopause) actually stands for Pregnant Mares’ Urine. In the US, 80,000 female horses are kept in factory farm conditions for up to 20 years (when they are then slaughtered) so as to harvest their urine for the drug. The foals are fattened up and sent to slaughter. It was so lovely to spend time with this gentle soul who by some strange twist of fate ended up at New Moon.

Simon and Stella talk to Eclipse.

This is what goats do given half a chance.

Animal lovers!

Flirty goat!

Heather and Stella both looking adorable!

Bubba and I

Such a peaceful old soul.

All so happy!

Ellen and Elisa showed us around the farm where she introduced us to some of the residents. To observe them playing freely, climbing on top of the numerous toys put out to stimulate them and to listen to stories about their funny quirks and habits of these individuals was so enjoyable and boy, many of them were so friendly approaching us, rubbing their horns against us and just wanting some attention. I took a great deal of joy watching Heather and Simon’s little girl Stella with the animals. I feel there is something honest and pure about a young child connecting with animals. I think she enjoyed them despite being a little bit freaked out by those that wanted to get a bit too close. Ellen looks after all the animals with the help of some volunteers like Elisa. Her commitment to the well-being of these animals is really inspiring. Thank you to Elisa and Ellen for all that you do and for showing us around. We were on a real buzz for hours afterwards.

After our visit, we said goodbye to Ellen and Elisa and headed to Seattle and our hotel. Although there aren’t many vegan restaurants down town, Seb wanted to check out Pizza Pi, a restaurant he’d found out about. It was a car ride to get there, but it didn’t disappoint. An entirely vegan pizza place! The artichoke and spinach salad was amazing. My pizza ‘Sunny Days with a base of sundried tomatoes, basil, olives and this amazing cheesy stuff which seemed to be made out of cashews and nutritional yeast.  Right next door there was a vegan grocery store called Sidecars for Pigs where we bought from Raw Kale Chips for only $6.50! Kale chips are so ridiculously tasty and nutritious and if you have not yet tried them, make them at home NOW!

Delicious Pizza at Pizza Pi

What a fantastic first day in the US. Can day 2 match it?