A niche British Columbia travel company has won an award from the largest animal rights organization in the world.
People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gave out the inaugural Animal-Friendly African Safaris Award this month to five companies that organize cruelty-free safaris, including World Vegan Travel based in Squamish, B.C.
PETA announced the award in January — also known as "Veganuary," when many people give up animal products for the month for both their health and the health of the planet.
In a media release, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said World Vegan Travel won the honours because it offers cruelty-free adventures that respect animals enough to let them live in peace, and provides guests with animal-friendly food and toiletries.
"PETA urges travellers to do their research and choose safaris that respect animals and never allow harmful, hands-on encounters," said Newkirk.
World Vegan Travel is currently offering safari group trips to South Africa and Botswana.
Co-founder Brighde Reed, speaking on CBC's The Early Edition, said the company does not take people to game reserves where trophy hunting takes place and does not visit locations where there are many tours in one area and multiple vehicles rush to crowd an animal when a sighting occurs.
"It was a huge surprise and honour," said Reed about being awarded for their ethical effort.
The company is also offering trips to Italy, France and Thailand this year. Reed said staff work with wineries and restaurants to make sure everything is vegan-approved and said many establishments are keen to adapt their menus because they have seen a rise in demand for vegan food.
Some places can be trickier than others, though, she said.
"I've wracked my brain to think of one accidentally vegan dish in France," said Reed, adding she will need to work hard to make sure travellers aren't fed a steady diet of ratatouille.
While all of World Vegan Travel's tours take place overseas, Reed said she is hoping to offer local options soon and has her eyes on Whistler.
In 2019, researchers at Dalhousie University found there were more vegans in B.C. per capita than in any other province.