Veganism is more than a diet—it is a lifestyle. This is the primary lesson that we learned when we attended Paris Vegan Day on November 28 at La Bellevilloise, a cultural center located in the 20th arrondissement of the French capital.
Our day began at La Halle aux Oliviers, a grand banquet room located in the back of the cultural center. There, we feasted on an all-you-can-eat vegan brunch, a meal that we recently reported on in our Paris Insights free restaurant review.
Following the brunch, we entered the main area of the cultural center to see what Paris Vegan Day was all about. La Bellevilloise has three floors, each of which was devoted to vegan-centered activities. We entered the ground floor where a cooking demonstration was being given by Sébastien Kardinal. Sébastien was showing the large audience how to make Tofoie gras, a vegan alternative to foie gras. His recipe (in French) can be found on the VG-Zone Web site.
At the opposite side of the room, Elodie Beaucent was creating amusing faces from vegetables and fruit. She gives workshops to adults on how to make a balanced vegetarian lunch from organic food products; and to children on how eat healthfully and to create funny faces from food. She has a Web site (in French) at Food’Joie.
Going upstairs, we arrived just in time to see a fashion show of vegan clothing presented by Joshua Katcher of The Discerning Brute (Web site in English). Male and female models paraded out one by one demonstrating attractive clothing that incorporates no leather or wool. Instead, the leather-like jackets that the men and women were modeling were made from rubber! I had never heard of vegan clothing before, but the idea that there could be a market for these products made me realize that veganism was a way of life, much more than just a diet.
Walking over to the Freshman Consulting stand, a company that had set up a speed-dating service for vegans, the concept of veganism as a lifestyle became even more apparent. How could vegan and non-vegan partners ever hope to live together harmoniously? I wondered. Vegans eschew anything that exploits the use of animals in the service of man: leather and wool products; meat, fish, and poultry; animal testing for drug and cosmetic research and development; the consumption of milk, honey, and eggs… They consider that the exploitation of animals in any form by humans is morally wrong. A couple that does not adhere to this fundamental concept would, in my mind, be in constant conflict. For a man or a woman, then, to find a partner that subscribes to this principle, he or she must move in a circle of vegans, hence the usefulness of a vegan dating service at this event.
We moved about to other stands on this floor.
Dominique and Alice were selling justuman eco conscious t-shirts.
Lili Cerise was selling cute handbags.
Lush was selling cosmetics.
Messler Elliot was selling her book The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life.
And in the hallway, Jasmine was distributing a brochure entitled “Nutrition végétale” (Plant-Based Nutrition and Health).
Finally, we descended the stairway to enter the basement. This level is normally used as a nightclub, and we entered a vast, poorly-lit room with red lighting predominating. We found the effect to be rather sinister, so we did not remain long. This floor was given over to advocacy groups, including animal rights and anti-vivisection societies. A link to a Web site (in French) of one of these groups gives an idea of what they advocate, as well as their militancy.
As we left the building, we learned that attendance had exceeded all expectations. In fact, people were waiting on the sidewalk in the cold, because security regulations did not permit everybody to enter at once. Judging from the lively activities that went on within the cultural center, the enthusiasm of the attendees, and the number of persons waiting to get in, it was a successful event. Alexandre Pivan, one of the organizers, told us that he anticipates that in five years the city of Paris will be the leading center for veganism in the world!
Paris Vegan Day was organized by Deborah Brown Pivain and her son and daughter Alexandre and Caroline Pivain. The family owns and operates the Gentle Gourmet Bread and Breakfast in Paris. We dined at their establishment in April of this year and reviewed their cuisine for our Paris Insights newsletter.