Interview with the co-founder of Kiwi Vegan Café – the first vegan place in Tbilisi
10 December, 2018
Interview with the co-founder of Kiwi Vegan Café – the first vegan place in Tbilisi
Behind the Kiwi Vegan Café stands a group of activists who wants to raise Georgian’s awareness for animal rights and welfare. Soroush Negahdari is one of the co-founders of the first vegan restaurant in Tbilisi that was opened in 2015. In an exclusive interview with Georgian Journal, he explains why for him animals are not there to be exploited and why some people have an aversion for the vegan movement.

Georgian Journal: Who did you want to address with your café
initially, Georgian guests or rather international expats and tourists?

Soroush Negahdari: Probably both. We knew that expats and tourists would like the place, but I think the main goal was to serve Georgian people and make them more familiar with and aware of the concepts of animal rights, veganism, and environmental issues related to them. We also thought that there was the need for a friendly social gathering space for people to get together and host their events for free in Tbilisi.

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What kind of people are coming to your restaurant nowadays?
Different types of individuals, groups and families. The majority of them, I would say, are younger people, people who want to hang out in a social meeting space, those who care about animals and/or their health, and those who simply want to enjoy their meal in a friendly and relaxing café.
Kiwi Vegan Café is equally popular among foreigners and locals

Are your guests vegans generally?
Not really. Although we have vegans/vegetarians visiting us all the time, the majority of the guests are not vegan or vegetarian. They are there for various reasons including being interested in the concept of the place, the food we serve or those people who go to Kiwi.

Are the people behind Kiwi vegans?

Yes, all of those who help with the main responsibilities. Vegetarian friends and animal lovers also help us and are supportive of the cause.
The first vegan café in Georgia wants to be a place for eating, sharing and discussions

Why are you a vegan?
There are several reasons. First, for products like milk, eggs, and meat billions of animals are killed, tortured and mistreated. Second, for health reasons. Various studies and researches show that a plant based diet is healthy and nutritious for every age and stage of life and it can help or prevent health issues like obesity or heart disease. And last but not least, meat and milk production produce huge amounts of greenhouse gasses (more than all transports combined) and they waste unbelievable amounts of drinking water. I believe that we don't need to be a part of this in this modern era which plant based food provides us with all we need to stay healthy and happy.

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How is it to be a vegan in Georgia, where meat is a very important component of the traditional cuisine?
It is not that easy as veganism is not popular in Georgia yet. However, there is fasting meals that in most cases is equal to vegan food and, especially in summer, it is easy to buy tasty and healthy fruits and veggies in Georgia.I believe the situation has got better since we opened the cafe and there are a couple of new places focusing on the needs and demands of vegans in Tbilisi.
The people behind the café are all vegans themselves

You are a group of about 10 people who are involved in animal welfare and veganism. What exactly do you do for the cause of veganism?

Apart from providing vegans with vegan food and vegan ingredients which is an important and basic part of our activities, we hold movie screenings and discussion sessions about animal rights and the environment, and we share information about veganism. We also help shelters and animal rights advocates with getting food and medications for street animals. Furthermore, we encourage local producers to make more vegan products by buying in bulk from them or connecting more buyers to them.

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What do Georgians think about you and veganism?
From what I know, there are many who support us and like us knowing what we do. Most of our experience has been nice and positive, but there is a very small group of people who do not like us at all. There are different reasons for this. Probably one of them is the fact that they are against the concept of equality and passion for all people and all animals. Or they simply prefer their old ways. We have always welcomed minorities and those who are not welcome in many other places. So maybe this is another reason why some people do not like us very much.
Delicious food without any animal products in it

Do people in Georgia care about animal welfare?
In my opinion, most people that I know are very kind hearted and friendly towards animals – at least the ones that they do not eat. However, due to lack of financial resources, information, and education on the subject of animal rights, we believe that a lot of work needs to be done before the situation gets really better in the country.

Do you think, people in Georgia will become more sensitive about this subject in future?
I hope so! I believe things are getting better as we see more people are talking about animal rights and a larger part of the community is becoming concerned with the issue, if you compare it to the past. Unfortunately, though, the progress is very slow and we need to work much harder to make it better and faster.
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