Vegan Instinct

Talking with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Discussing healthful eating with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is food for thought—and conscience. A Bay Area advocate of plant-based dining, Patrick-Goudreau is out to illuminate the joys of compassionate veganism. And she isn’t about to apologize for it.

Before you ask, the answer is yes, vegans get lots of protein, all from plants. “The nutrients we need are plant-based, not animal-based,” Patrick-Goudreau tells me. “The problem right now is that we’re going through the animal to get to the nutrients that are in the plants the animals are eating.” In her latest book, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner and Living Compassionately, Patrick-Goudreau lays out a series of logical arguments and vegan recipes to support dietary change for health and compassion. The book outlines how vegan eating results in measurable physiological and biochemical improvements and “changes in outlook, energy level, perspective and overall well-being.”

Without mentioning the countless environmental arguments against meat consumption—including those 40,000 square miles of rain forest cleared in South America for cattle pasture—Patrick-Goudreau’s book argues that animal suffering is “methodically and purposefully hidden” by the industries that profit from meat sales.

Patrick-Goudreau does not go into gory details. But Gary Francione’s Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog? reports that the 23 million animals slaughtered daily in the United States are “raised under horrendous conditions, mutilated in various ways without pain relief, transported long distances in cramped, filthy containers and finally slaughtered amid the stench, noise and squalor of the abattoir.”

Protected from seeing what happens in slaughterhouses, we do what we’ve always done. “We all possess food habits,” says Patrick-Goudreau. “We do what our parents did, and they did what their parents did.” But to reawaken the childhood impulse to protect animals from suffering, the rebirth of compassion is key. “Compassion is the crux for me,” explains Patrick-Goudreau. “Eating vegan is the most compassionate way I can live.”

Compassion is not always rewarded. Veganism for health is acceptable, while veganism for compassion gets targeted with hostility by loved ones and coworkers—who are naturally defensive. “Say you’re a vegan, and people will point to your leather shoes or announce that you killed bugs on your windshield. Vegans are expected to be perfect and to know all angles of food, politics and history. But it’s not about being expert or perfect. It’s about following your conscience, expressing your joy and speaking out. What I’m most proud of in my work,” says Patrick-Goudreau, “is guiding vegans to know they don’t have to be apologetic for being compassionate.”