Joe, like fellow VegHead Trevor, is another vegan that I’ve been introduced to by Rachel but I’ve actually never met in person (but really want to!). This is one of my favorite VegHead profiles because of the photos of Joe’s animal friends from his time volunteering at an animal sanctuary in France. Who can resist those goats and cows? Keep reading to meet Rhea and Zephyr, the films that influenced Joe’s shift to veganism, and why California rocks Joe’s socks.
Name: Joe Benham
VegHead Status: Vegan
Hometown: Poole, Dorset, United Kingdom
Current Location: Brixton, London, United Kingdom
Occupation: Fellowship Intern at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
Favorite Plant-Based Milk: Oatly – they know how to advertise!
Favorite VegHead-Friendly Cafes and/or Restaurants: Cafe Van Gogh in Oval, South
Favorite Foods: Any meal that involves pasta
Favorite Place You’ve Visited and Why: California – unbelievable scenery, amazing
weather, great vegan food.
Favorite Veg Influencer/Celebrity: Miley Cyrus
Favorite Veg Cosmetics/Body Care Brand or Company: Lush, it’s from my hometown!
Fav Veg-Related/Environmental/Social Justice Books: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and
Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy and How to Create a Vegan World: A Pragmatic Approach by Tobias Leenaert
Fav Veg-Related/Environment/Social Justice Movies: Okja, Dominion, Land of Hope and
Glory, What the Health, Cowspiracy
When did you go vegan and why? Tell us your story:
I went vegetarian the moment I finished watching Earthlings when I was 19 – I could not fathom what took place in order for meat to end up on my plate. I have always loved animals and it was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat through. I knew ethically speaking that I should be vegan, but I pushed it to the back of my mind for as long as I could. I watched Forks Over Knives 3 years later and realized I could no longer make excuses for continuing to eat eggs and dairy. I am vegan primarily for the animals, but everything else is an incredible benefit. I know it’s cliché, but the only thing I regret about going vegan is not doing it sooner!
Tell us about your travels:
I’ve visited 12 countries so far. The Yucatan region in Mexico was incredible, and surprisingly very good for vegans. California is definitely the best place I have visited – incredible scenery, fantastic vegan food and the perfect place for a road trip.
Do you have a favorite veg recipe you want to share with us?
My favorite recipe I have recently started using is a low FODMAP bolognese. My partner is on a low-FODMAP diet and this recipe does not compromise on flavour – I was never able to make a decent bolognese until I used this recipe.
Tell us about your time at the animal sanctuary in France:
I found Mudita Animal Sanctuary on Workaway. After a couple of years as an animal rights activist, I wanted to work with and get to know the animals I was advocating for. Mudita Animal Sanctuary is currently located in Bergerac, Southern France. I worked there for 1 month full time and it was perhaps the best experience of my life!
The sanctuary is run by an incredible woman, Ariane, who funds and runs the sanctuary herself. When I was there, she had: 2 bulls, 14 goats, 2 donkeys, 4 ponies, 5 horses, 18 cats, and 2 dogs. There was one other volunteer, and we worked from about 7 in the morning until 9/10 o’clock at night. We would take breaks for mealtimes, and work at our own pace. The daily routine would involve feeding the animals, cleaning and maintaining their enclosures, and A LOT of scooping poop. Poop scooping was surprisingly therapeutic and I came to appreciate poo in a way I didn’t think was possible. I do not like cat and dog poo – it’s usually wet, smelly and annoying to pick up. Fresh cow poo is the worst, you better leave that for a few days to dry or get the pressure washer out. Horse poo on the other hand is poo goals – manageable clumps, decent size, nice smell, good colour and very easy to scoop.
Prior to my arrival, Ariane had recently purchased two baby goats from a local dairy farm. If she hadn’t, the female goat (Rhea) would have had the same life of enslavement as her mother and the male (Zephyr) would have been killed as he is worthless to the industry. I would take Rhea and Zephyr with my as I worked around the property, allowing them to munch on various greenery. They were great company and I miss them so much!
What are your future plans?
I plan to keep travelling as much as possible! But it is low on my priority list after graduating and trying to establish a career. I’m not too certain what exactly I want to do, but I know I want to contribute towards positive social change. I plan to start volunteering for the Humane League soon and I will continue to be an activist for animals. I plan to return to Mudita Sanctuary within the next year to catch up with Ariane and show my partner the amazing animals!