I spoke with Yves Ndindabahizi Sarkozy, a vegan 31 year old Rwandan who works as a consultant and is the Founder of the Rwanda Humane Society – whose vision is a world where all animals are treated with compassion and respect, free from cruelty – about his decision to become vegan, and the joys and difficulties of being vegan in Rwanda.
Why did you decide to become vegan?
I became a vegan last year after being vegetarian for 5 years.
I started learning about animal behaviour when I was at University, and slowly discovered important things about them like their level of intelligence, feelings, and suffering.
But it was an experience I had watching a butcher slaughtering goats during one of my friends’ party that made me quit meat. I kept learning about vegetarianism and vegan-ism and looking into livestock production in general, and intensive production in particular, which in my opinion is horrible and a danger to humans and animals.
The animals bred in this style endure torture in cages which is in contradiction to how we used to breed cows and other ruminants. My people were pastorals and believed animals were allowed to roam around and given care, names and were integral part of the society. Animals were respected.
What has been the hardest part about being vegan?
Giving up milk was the hardest for me because drinking milk is a tradition in my tribe – like coffee for westerns – and discovering all of the products that have milk or eggs in them that I now have to avoid (such as most cakes, crepes, etc.). And staying away from the chocolates in the office! 🙁
What has been the best part about being vegan?
The best part is the feeling I get knowing that no animal is harmed for my pleasure. And it gave me permission to fight for animal rights without reservations.
What advice would you give fellow Rwandans who are interested in becoming vegan?
I would encourage them to do it sooner because it is a healthy lifestyle and we’re privileged to have plenty of veggies in our country.
What’s your favorite vegan meal?
Tomatoes, eggplants, onions, green pepper, and carrots fried together and mixed with boiled potatoes all in one pot. Served with avocado and some chili.
Yves encourages his friends to become vegan and hopes sharing his story will inspire others to try a vegan lifestyle!
For more information and vegan inspiration, follow Ali’s Instagram @vegan_in_rwanda