Hayley Cooper has started an interesting and unique business that delves into the world of veganism. What began with a career in hospitality, has organically moved over the years into consulting services for lodges and more specifically, vegan consulting
Originally from the UK, Hayley fell in love with the Kruger while on a holiday here and decided to put down some permanent roots. Now based in the Timbavati Private Nature reserve, she runs her company Wild Dreams Hospitality. But what is vegan consulting and who needs it? We chat to Hayley about this niche market.
How did you get into vegan consulting and what is it?
I have experienced the struggle first hand that vegans can have when going out to eat. I have had numerous negative experiences and most of the time it’s due to the staff (front and back of house) not being confident in catering for and serving vegan guests. There is also a huge difference between ”serving” vegan guests and actually ”attracting” them. I also believe in the power of the ‘veto vote’. This is when there is a sole vegan in a group of friends/family. By default this person will choose where they all go to eat. Therefore if establishments aren’t offering vegan options they are missing out on customers. I inform hotels and lodges about veganism and help them with vegan options and practices.
Why the interest in veganism?
I have always loved animals, keeping in mind the wildlife in Kruger was the main reason I moved my life across the world. In the UK I used to strictly eat free-range meat as I was under the impression the animals were ”happy”, however once I moved to South Africa I found it harder to access free-range options so I progressed to eating less and less meat to the point I would only eat fish every month or two.
A friend once asked me why I didn’t eat meat and it was actually the first time I had really thought about it but I realised the only answer was that I didn’t want to eat animals.
I also rehabilitate wildlife in the Timbavati and have a very special relationship with one of my rehabbed animals in particular – a female bushbuck that I raised from 10 days old and is nearly four. Being so close to her, understanding her personality and the bond we have, made me question why I was eating any other living beings.
After this, I started doing more research and was shocked to learn some facts about the dairy and egg industry, which I wasn’t aware of . After that I went vegan overnight. Since then I have also learnt about the environmental impact our food choices have, and how much healthier a plant based diet is.
Who is your customer?
My services are offered to restaurants, hotels and the lodge industry anywhere in southern Africa. It is a personalised service depending on the specific company requirements ranging from menus, labelling, wine lists, staff training, sourcing of products and marketing of their vegan options.
Things about vegan food we would not know?
- Vegan food can be very affordable, think rice, beans, pasta, legumes, pap, veggies, fruit, and potatoes to name a few.
- There are some amazing vegan products out there that you would never know were vegan if you tasted them.
- Vegan food gives you all the nutrients and vitamins you need. (It’s recommended to supplement B12 only.)
- It’s actually very easy to cook vegan food.
Most under-rated thing about veganism?
Probably the actual ”official” definition of veganism: “The word ‘veganism’ denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practicable — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
Most over-rated thing about veganism or being a vegan?
That all vegans are super healthy. Many vegans who eat whole foods are healthy but there are many processed, oil rich foods for vegans available – vegan junk food if you will.
Vegan myths you are hoping to dispel?
One of the biggest myths is the fact you don’t get the nutrients you need eating vegan, and in particular protein and B12. Most people don’t always realise that the protein that comes from the animals is due to the fact they eat plants. By eating plants and not animals, you are in affect cutting out the ‘middle man and getting plenty of protein directly from plant sources. The largest study ever done actually proved that on average vegans get 70% more protein than they need daily. Think about all the largest animals – elephants, rhino, buffalo – what do they eat?
B12 is also misunderstood as it is indeed found in animal products but not because they naturally produce it. It is traditionally found in certain bacteria in soil and dirty water, which normally the animals would get by eating plants. However as most animals are now factory farmed, their B12 is actually injected into them or put into their food as a supplement so meat eaters are getting B12 as a supplement through the animal, while vegans just need to take a supplement B12 vitamin.
Vegan stats in SA?
Interest in veganism is at an all-time high in SA. We rank within the world’s top 25 nations where veganism is popular and we are the 23rd most travelled to country by vegans, another reason why we must be able to cater for them.
Advice to people wanting to move to a vegan diet?
People decide to become vegan for different reasons so it’s important to know why you are wanting to make the change. I would suggest joining vegan groups on Facebook, especially South African based ones as people share information about different vegan products you can buy. You can also use Youtube as a free way to research recipes.
INFO WhatsApp 078 918 1038, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Vegan curious documentaries
Environment based – Cowspiracy
Animal welfare based – Dominion
Fitness based – The Game Changers
Health – What the Health