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The Story Behind HappyCow

IVU Online News | International Vegetarian Union | 03/25/11

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Interview with HappyCow

Eric Brent is founder & director of HappyCow.net, a global guide to vegetarian restaurants and health food stores. Eric kindly agreed to be interviewed for IVU Online News.

What is the story of your own evolution as a vegetarian?

In the late 1980s while I was attending college in Santa Cruz, California, a friend brought me to the local vegetarian restaurant, then named McDharma and introduced me to a veggie burger. After I ate it, I had a small awakening about the source of meat burgers. I felt that I could no longer eat red meat again.

Then, I stopped eating fish while traveling and living in China, and gradually I removed eggs and dairy from my diet, partly due to my encounter with a Buddhist master in Taiwan. Then in 1999, while living in India, I felt an inspiration to create the HappyCow.net website to help other veg travelers in finding "safe" food.

How can IVU member organisations help make Happy Cow an even better resource?

HappyCow is peer content website, which means that the content published is contributed by visitors, members, and volunteers. We rely on passionate individuals everywhere who want to help others access up-to-date information about where to find a veg restaurant or health food store. Presently, our restaurant/store guide features nearly 15,000 veg & veg-friendly listings with 30,000 reviews.

IVU member organizations can contribute by going to HappyCow.net regularly and checking that the restaurants and stores in their cities are accurately represented. You could also write reviews for the places you've patronized. Plus, do participate in our forum discussions. By keeping the information on HappyCow accurate and sharing your experiences, you are helping other veg travelers and vegheads.

How do advances in technology help Happy Cow?

Besides being able to access our web guide using computers from their homes and offices, people can also access HappyCow via their cell phones. We offer an app for the iPhone (VegOut), one for Android (HappyCow VeginOut, which works for Droid), one for Palm Pre (HappyCow VeginOut), and one for Symbian OS. Soon we will release an app for Windows 7. Full details at www.happycow.net/mobile.html

You also list restaurants that serve meat. How do you decide on which places to add? How have your policies evolved? How do you expect them to evolve in the future?

HappyCow listings are defined by the level of “veg-ness” (i.e. raw / vegan / vegetarian / or veg-friendly). We give our visitors as much information as possible and provide trustworthy reviews from fellow veg*ns and health food eaters. Deciding on which listings to accept is a time-consuming issue, because each submission is reviewed and investigated. This process enables us to maintain our ntegrity. It's why HappyCow has a good reputation and a loyal following.

To get a better perspective on this please see our submission guidelines, at www.happycow.net/submitrestaurant1.php. Basically, in order to get listed on HappyCow, a non-veg place has to demonstrate that it‟s going the extra distance to accommodate veg*ns and is not just about leaving out the meat.

What else does Happy Cow do other than provide restaurant listings?

More than just a restaurant and health food store guide, visitors will also find listings and reviews for all vegan shops and bakeries, veg B&Bs, veg catering companies, veg organizations, and farmers markets. Come to our site, and you will also find a dedicated vegetarian travel section which includes tips to staying healthy while traveling; health articles and food recipes; a community discussion forum; member groups based on interest or region; live chat rooms; a world events calendar; a free extended directory of famous vegetarians; and our monthly vegin' out newsletter MooZine: www.happycow.net/moozine_list.php.

Please tell us a vegetarian joke or share a cartoon related to vegetarianism

Visit www.happycow.net/humor.html and you will find an entire page dedicated to vegetarian humor. Enjoy!

For the complete IVU Online News - April 2011, see:
www.ivu.org/news/online/April2011.pdf



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4 Comments | Leave a comment

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I love Happy Cow! Have recommended it to friends, especially if they travel & they are always happy to know about it!! :-)

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I love HappyCow. It's always the first site I refer veg people to.

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I, too, love Happy Cow! I especially like being able to review restaurants there without having to worry that my reviews will wind up being 'filtered'.... : )

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Neat site. I just saw there are a couple more vegetarian restaurants in our area that I didn't know about. I will have to check it out.

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