Digital Vegans: with Happy Cow founder, iPhone apps, London Vegans, and Kerry McCarthy MP

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Digital Vegans

How has the digital revolution changed being vegan? We talk to Eric Brent, founder of leading vegetarian restaurant finder Happy Cow. Diana reviews smartphone apps. Ian finds out how the digital revolution changed his local vegan group in London.

The age of information brings together the Beijing Vegans and the Vegan Club of St. Petersburg in Russia and makes being vegan a lot easier. How has veganism changed? And what are the challenges to older organisations?

Veggie Restaurant Finders

Happy Cow is the best-known and one of the longest – I interview founder Eric Brent where he looks forward to changes for Happy Cow in 2012. It has apps for several mobile platforms.

VegDining, also launched in 1999. Looking for places to eat in London, I could see some problems with the interface (the seven districts of London were all called simply “London” and some were impossible to select) and content (it listed Otarian London, which closed in 2011, as “opening in 2010” whereas Happy Cow has removed it).

VegGuide is a project of Minnesota USA group Compassionate Action for Animals along with national US group Mercy for Animals and joined this month by Vegan Outreach. They’ve been going since 2002, share their information via an open API and a Creative Commons share-alike licence; but have no apps. Their content seems up to date.

Most local vegan groups list restaurants; that’s too many to mention here. Listener Stephen Fenwick-Paul has created BunnyGo, which maps restaurants in the UK, and has an iPhone app and API.

Smartphone Apps

Diana mentioned these iPhone Apps:

Ian mentioned VeganEasy which also uses the alcohol lists from Barnivore.

VegNews has various articles listing 10 Vegan Smartphone Apps and 11  iPhone Apps.

Some of these, such as Animal Free, are also available for Android. Vegan Eating Out offers a similar fast-food list to VeganXpress, although it includes foods with honey. Eric Brent recommended the barcode-scanning Vegeble for Android.

Animal Hack-tivism

Jasmine Singer reviewed a range of apps in January 2011, suggesting that if you’re a software developer looking to “change the world for animals”, an Android app would be a good place to start.

A couple of our contributors appealed specifically for volunteers. Eric Brent would like Happy Cow to develop its Android app, and would like to hear from an Android developer. Stephen Fenwick-Paul is also appealing for folk to help him test his UK restaurant finder BunnyGo.

We link to‘s list of other podcasts in our “help” section.


Our thanks to contributors Eric Brent of Happy Cow, Peter Despard of London Vegans, Stephen Fenwick Paul of ActiVeg, Sara from Belgium, and vegan lawmaker Kerry McCarthy MP. Digital media artist Robb Masters wrote our theme.

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About Ian

London. Formerly known as New Media. Vegan since 1992.

8 responses to “Digital Vegans: with Happy Cow founder, iPhone apps, London Vegans, and Kerry McCarthy MP”

  1. Maimouna says :

    It may not have been intended that way, but estttmenas like “I just think that unhealthy vegans do not help animals.” do hurt those of us who are unhealthy for whatever reason. The author should choose her words more carefully and not insult large groups of people because we don’t fit her ideal of what vegan ambassadors should be. And, again, I think that is still a nasty thing to say even to those vegans who do eat junk food and get sick. Are we really supposed to say that only health food vegans make a positive difference? I think we’ll have a lot fewer vegans if we tell people, Oh, you can’t be a junk food vegan because that hurts animals, too! Either eat perfectly or don’t bother. Why not we just teach people that yes, you can be as healthy or healthier as a vegan, but yes you can be unhealthy instead of trying to hide the fact by putting everyone on a perfect diet. If people care about the animals, they don’t need promises of miraculous health. And if they’re just doing it for the health, they are not going to be consistent vegans and they are probably going to be disappointed. There’s a lot of judgment in the post above. That sentence is just one bit. I do eat very well because I don’t want to get sicker with other problems. That would just be too much to handle. But, I’m not about to judge someone if they believe that eating the way they do is worth a few years of their life or a 5% greater risk of this or that or whatever. There’s more to life than how long you life or healthy you are. People get a lot of enjoyment out of what they eat and, heck, vegan cupcakes have done a lot for convincing people that veganism isn’t martyrdom. Adults can choose for themselves what to eat and so long as they are eating vegan, I do think it is a personal decision.

    • Ian says :

      There was no such comment in the script for this episode, and (although I haven’t checked) I don’t remember anyone saying it in the unscripted bits (eg interviews). Who said this statement, and when?

  2. Ali says :

    I think we are going to need a group of vegans enurtd ex vegans enurtd healthy vegans. I’m not ready to come out of the back to vegan closet, because well I made a big deal of not being vegan anymore, and I’m going to look like an ass. Thank you for not making me feel like a total ass though. I found your site on a blog that rails against vegans all the time, and so I thought it was another post railing against some self righteous vegan, but then I clicked over, and was pretty surprised to read your post and the comments. One because, you were honest, being just vegan doesn’t mean you will be healthy, and you are not a jerk, even in your comments.So, ok, when I was vegan I tried to be healthy first, felt f*ing awesome, I lost weight, I was running marathons, I was a sex machine. Then, I started to use the fact that I work out a lot to eat some occasional junk food, like fake cheetos, soon after that I was eating less and less whole vegetables, and what became a treat became my diet. I ate tofu scramble hot pockets, whatever they are called in the organic section for breakfast, I ate chipolte vegan buritos a lot with chips and a soda for lunch almost every day, I was eating pasta with fake meat crumbles for dinner. I kept working out, but my times sucked, I felt awful and I blamed being vegan, because that is what all of my athletic friends told me the problem was. One of the guys got me started on some protein drinks, not vegan, and I started to eat meat, like some other people, it was all the healthy meat, cows went to day spas and listened to sounds of a trickling stream while being butchered.But I started to eat more vegetables as well. I stopped eating all of the bad food I was eating as a vegan though, and started to feel better. I think I’ve made the mistake of thinking that I was feeling better because I wasn’t vegan anymore, but now (SLAPS HAND ON FOREHEAD) maybe it was because I ate crap. What sucks is that since eating meat again, I am not a sex machine, and my cholesterol is higher, I don’t need that crap. If you are still reading this, because god knows it’s too damn long, I am going to go back into veganism. Do you know Robert Cheeke? The man is a beast and he’s vegan, and obviously doing something right. He obviously doesn’t need meat to make him a better athlete. I won’t be advertising my decision, because some of my friends will give me hell, hopefully when I’m back on top of my game I can tell them what I’m doing.Also, I want to say that I really hated eating meat again, even the meat that is raised ethically, it’s bothered me, I’ve watched earthlings, I know that there is not really such a thing as killing something in a humane way, if some asshole killed my cat, I’d be pissed, and I’d probably run them over, even if my cat didn’t know what was coming.Thanks for the post, making me think and not being a jerk to ex vegans.

    • Ian says :

      Our pleasure. Thanks for your comment, congratulations on returning to veganism, and glad to be of some support.

  3. Jo Kay says :

    Hi Ian and Diana :o)

    I thoroughly enjoyed listening to that!
    I’ve met you both at Vegan meetup events in London a few tiimes…but they were quite a while ago now and i only discovered your podcast existed about an hour ago via the London Vegan Meetup Facebook page.
    I found it informative and amusing…and i wish you every luck with your Vegfest Nomination.

    I was impressed that you got to interview Eric and it was interesting to hear how Happy Cow developed…I’m always recommending it to people, and it’s surprising how many still don’t know of it’s existence.

    Regarding aps, I found Animal Free about a month ago, and apart from the awful meat photo that is the background on half of it, i’ve found it very handy and have used it on several occasions.
    I’m a bit of a cheapskate when it comes to buying apps so I use Bunny Go if i want to find my nearest veg*n place when i’m out. It knows where i am and gives the distance, address, website and a map of the places nearby. I doubt it’s as good as Happy Cow or Veg Out…but it does the job…at least for now.

    I’m off to LIKE your Vegan Option page now..and I look forward to listening to the rest of your podcasts.

    Have a sunny weekend.
    Best Wishes

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