Whilst some people might look at our site and our app and think that we are a big organisation or a funded project, at the core of Vegan Norway is three normal people, who have day jobs that started a fun project in 2015 that they make no money on. We made an app, the app is our personal guide to cool vegan places. Everything else is just gravy, baby!
What is Happy Cow?
Happy Cow is a community run online guide to vegan, vegetarian and veg friendly places all over the world, they want to promote a healthy, compassionate and environmentally sustainable way of living. The basic idea is that anyone can create an account and recommend a place to eat or shop. You can leave as much or as little information about the place as you fancy and you can leave reviews of places that other people have added. Most people use Happy Cow for the restaurant guide but they also have a website where they promote vegetarian and vegan stuff. There are 14 places listed in the Happy Cow app in Bergen and 43 places in Oslo and the app costs around 40kr. These places are not vegan specific but show anywhere that could have a vegetarian options.
I find Happy Cow to be quite useful when I am travelling to new places, but seeing as the app is not vegan specific, I always have to double check that places have vegan options or that they are still open. Seeing as all the data within the app is user submitted, unless there is a group of dedicated vegans in the city constantly checking up on info, I find the descriptions not particularly helpful, detailed or up to date. It's hard to know what to trust on Happy Cow, as the descriptions are just written by anybody, and people have differing perspectives on the definition of the word vegan. I would hate to spend an hour trying to find a place in a new city guided by the promise of 100% vegan waffles only to find that the waffles were made with honey or eggs, as the person who wrote the description considered those things vegan. I have often tried to find vegan places that were recommended on Happy Cow only to be saddened by the fact that there were hardly any good places in the app with vegan options in my city, or that the places that did say they had vegan stuff just weren't there any more or didn't have the options they said they did. I used the Happy Cow app before I went vegan and to be honest it made me think that veganism was going to be hard.
What is Trip Advisor?
Trip Advisor is the worlds biggest travel website. It is similar to Happy Cow in how it is based on reviews of places to eat, but you can also review things to do and book hotels and stuff. It's not vegan or vegetarian focused, it instead covers all diets and cuisines so you have to search a bit harder to find stuff on there. You can for example search for 'Bergen vegan' and it will show you a couple of results. Whilst its harder to find vegan places on Trip Advisor, I consider the reviews and listings here to be more reliable than the ones on Happy Cow, as they are often more detailed and regularly updated.
What is Norsk Vegansamfunn?
The Norwegian vegan society was founded in 2009 and is a democratic union for vegans and those interested in veganism in Norway. Their primary purpose is to promote animal rights and interests by asking critical questions about the treatment of animals in our society and promoting a vegan lifestyle. They write articles on animal welfare in Norway and the rest of the world. They also work to make the more practical and everyday aspects of being vegan in Norway easier, and promote veganism as a realistic option for everyone. They do this by entering into dialogue with suppliers, shops and eateries to contribute to an increased supply and knowledge of vegan products and services. They also constantly post great stuff on their website and social media, get involved in discussions within the vegan community and occasionally organise events too. We work quite closely with Norsk Vegansamfunn, they often tip us on great places to add to the app and repost some of the great places we find. They have a few hundred members. Each member pays 200kr a year to the society.
How is Vegan Norway different from all three of these things?
Vegan Norway is not a democratic union for vegans like Norsk Vegansamfunn. We don't have paying members which help us decide what we do and how we do it. Even though we do write articles about animal welfare and veganism, and run a blog, a website and some social media pages, they are not main focus. Our main focus is our app and the content that we show in it. Our app is made by three vegans living in Norway, its not based on user submitted reviews but instead is more like an app version of a simple city guide book, all the content is written professionally to be as informative as possible. You don't need an account to use the app, and you can't vote on whether a place is good or not or leave negative comments about a place in the app, we instead prefer to have a simple system of noting some places as recommended. We really don't want to create any negativity or animosity towards any of the businesses we promote in our app, instead we would rather celebrate and encourage their efforts to provide vegan options. Let's face it, they don't have to do this. We are totally over the moon that there are businesses out there with cruelty free options in a world which (on the whole) doesn't take veganism all that seriously.
What else makes Vegan Norway stand out?
Our app is totally free because we want it to be as easy as possible for non vegans who are a little curious to be able to see how many great places there are nearby. Our app is in English because we are only a small team and seeing as though we cover major cities where over 90% of Norwegians can read english, and there is large amount of the population which do not speak Norwegian, AND our app is used by a lot of tourists; it just makes the most sense. It already takes us around 40 minutes to add each place to the app, it would take so much longer if we had to work on translations. We would love to have a dedicated team member who would translate each description into a number of different languages, but feel that would be so much work, and would delay us posting new places if we had to wait for translations every single time.
Why can't Vegan Norway be more like existing apps or organisations?
What is the point in creating an app which already exists? Our app is totally different from Happy Cow because it is a curated restaurant guide written by us. We like to think that the content we publish to the app is of extremely good quality and is reliable. We have over 200 vegan friendly places in the app in Oslo and over 50 vegan friendly places in the app in Bergen. Some people have asked us to change the app so that anyone can add a place but we don't think that is a good idea. There is already an app out there that fulfils this exact purpose and it doesn't seem as if it is being used. We believe that a big reason for this is trust. Most vegans I know don't use Happy Cow because they don't trust the content that is posted on there. We are building up a team of trusted vegans that we know to help us curate the best guide to vegan friendly places, but it does take time. Unfortunately, most people who complain about us not covering their city don't want to get involved in helping us in the way that we need them to. We need to find out a lot of information about a place to make sure the description is of quality, and it's hard to find vegans who want to help us there.
Why doesn't the app cover my city?
We have decided to tackle one city at a time, to make sure that our content is of quality and that there are enough places in the app for it to be useful. We think we have done pretty well in the short time we have been around, and now have two of Norway's biggest cities covered. The next place we will be veganising will be Trondheim and after that, Stavanger. Whilst people might get annoyed that their city is not in the app yet, you must remember what our app is: a personal guide. After all, Happy Cow already exists, and we do encourage people to use it. It's very likely that we wont be able to get around to veganising your city for a while, so why not take matters into your own hands? The fact that anyone can submit places to Happy Cow yet there are only 43 places listed in Oslo whereas we have over 200 listings says a lot about how much time people are actually willing to put into this sort of work. If you don't want to put the work into doing it yourself then the least you can do is have patience with us. After all we are providing a free service in our spare time and Rome wasn't built in a day. It can be very tiring as an activist to pour your heart and soul into a project you do for free in your spare time to be told by others (who are usually not doing anything) that you should do more.
How can I get involved and help veganism grow?
There are many opportunities in which we can use our own skills and expertise to engage in animal advocacy work. If you want to have a more hands on 'traditional' activist approach you could join volunteer at one of the big animal rights charities in Norway like NOAH or Dyrebeskyttelsen and get involved with their various campaigns. If your veganism has more of an environmental approach or you're a bit of an entrepreneur you might want to start your own project like The Bee Highway, or possibly get your office to take recycling seriously or persuade your boss that your company could maybe offer discount on bicycles for employees. If you feel like getting political, then you can work on helping your political party recognise animal rights issues and make an effort to get involved in political debates surrounding the oppression of animals. If you love fashion and beauty you could start your own cruelty free guide to that stuff. If you love to cook, you could help show the world that there are so many tasty recipes which are animal free, or even start your own vegan cafe, we would love to add you to our app! The point is that there are many different ways that everyday regular people who already have jobs, families, struggles and commitments can make a difference in varying degrees. This is the way we do our activism. It's important that we recognise our contributions for what they are instead of complaining that animal rights advocates are not doing enough. We are always looking for people who want to join us and be part of our mini revolution. If you like us, agree with the concept for our app, and like our stance on activism then please consider joining our team instead of just asking us to do more. You can read more about this here.
Want to help us, but don't have time to volunteer?
Thats fine. As you know we don't make any money here, so the whole project is funded by ourselves. If you want to contribute a spare 100kr or so to helping us pay for the costs of keeping the app going then we would be really appreciative. If you can't spare 100kr, then maybe you could just spread the word! After all we made this guide so we should share our knowledge or vegan resources with the world. Don't keep it to yourself!