‘Veganism is critical to the future of the planet, important beyond my personal concerns for animal welfare’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


For our latest contributor Tracey, being vegan means that every day she stands for something, every choice a contribution to a cause bigger than herself

Everyday Vegan Tracie

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m a 54-year-old American woman currently living at my house in Fasano in Puglia, Italy. I moved here three years ago from Los Angeles. I have four rescued dogs and a rescued fish. I worked both in the advertising industry and as a fundraiser in the non-profit sector raising money for higher education and environmental conservation. I am the co-founder and producer of a production company that is developing a new streaming vegan travel/cooking series, launching in a few months. I also help run a business called Skull Pup that sells personalised apparel and accessories that honour our dogs. And we support dog rescue.

You’re vegan now, were you vegetarian before?
I became a vegetarian in 2000 and transitioned to vegan after moving here to Italy. I would say I have been vegan for about two years.

What led to that?
I was driving on a highway near Seattle in the US and passed a truck full of chickens on their way to slaughter. Something clicked that day and I stopped eating meat and fish. It obviously took a while for me to realise the hypocrisy of still eating cheese and eggs, while claiming the importance of animal rights. I am so thankful that today there is so much information available on the dairy and egg industries so we have no illusion about their cruelty.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
Never. I couldn’t live with myself.

Are you a ‘healthy’ vegan? Often people assume we’re all fitness-obsessed, when the reality is that we come in many flavours and for many people life is an eternal hunt for vegan cake. What makes up your diet?
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “junk food” vegan. But I do have a diet full of food that spans the spectrum of healthy. Just like anyone, I try to strive for balance. Living in Italy, we get such amazing produce that it’s not ever a sacrifice to consume fruits and vegetables. But I do mix in some processed meat and dairy substitutes. And snacks like popcorn. I love popcorn!

Where do you shop?
I shop in small bakeries and fruit/vegetable vendors here in Puglia. But also large grocery stores that have an increasingly diverse offering of vegan foods. It’s very cool that we have two shops here in Fasano that specialise in vegan food.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
Not so much. Protein intake is not something that concerns me. I seem to be doing just fine. I suffer from lupus, but I am in clinical remission. Yay! I have perfect cholesterol and triglycerides and blood pressure. However, as a 54-year-old woman I am conscious of my diet in terms of bone health, etc. My doctor regularly monitors my vitamin D levels. And I do understand the need for B12.

For many vegans, the initial realisation of facts that make us turn to a different lifestyle is pretty life-changing and alienating. We view things differently, from the supermarket shopping experience in a meat-eating world to the people around us. How was that change in mindset – the reality of being an outsider in many situations – for you?
I would be lying if I were to say that I don’t feel like the “oddball” in many situations. People’s reactions to my diet/lifestyle run the gamut from curious, to admiring, to critical and sarcastic. And I do sometimes tire of going to restaurants where there is ONE menu item that caters to my needs. However, that is rapidly changing. Dining options for vegans are expanding, more people are aware not just of animal cruelty but the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. So they are more receptive to what I am doing. I love going to London, New York, Los Angeles, and doing tours of the ever-growing list of vegan restaurants.

Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
I have only a few vegans in my immediate circle of friends and family. But I can see them shifting to more of a “flexitarian” lifestyle. I suppose I am grateful for that. However, especially because of my new vegan production project, I am increasingly connected online to the global vegan community. That gives me hope every day.

Do you live in a meat/dairy eating household? And if so, how is that?
Not really. I live in an adjoining house with my ex-husband (strange, I know). He is about 90 per cent vegan, 10 per cent vegetarian. My own house is vegan, however.

Do you feel you have more in common with vegans than the majority of other people who don’t believe plant-based is the way forward?
I suppose being vegan immediately gives you something very fundamental in common. But the vegan community is so diverse, of course I find commonality with some more than others. Admittedly, I am more positively predisposed to someone if the first thing I learn is that he/she is vegan.

Do you, as most of us have to, eat out with non-vegans often and how do you feel about their eating choices?
The majority of people with whom I eat out respect my choices. And many alter their eating when with me, including letting me choose vegan restaurants. There are a few who take pleasure Continue reading →

‘Vegans need a sense of humour. If we act sullen and grumpy all the time, nobody is going to want to be like us’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


Our latest contributor is social media campaigner John Oberg, who believes a vegan world is inevitable but requires skilful effort to spread the word

Everyday Vegan John Oberg

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m a 31-year-old living just outside Washington DC, focusing on making the world a better place for animals by utilising the power of social media.

You’re vegan now; were you vegetarian before?
I have been vegan for nine-and-a-half years. I was vegetarian for 10 months before going vegan. Most vegans transition into veganism, which I think is often the best approach. This way, the change isn’t so sudden and drastic that you just throw in the towel.

What led to that?
I initially had a conversation with someone who said to me, “If you love animals so much, maybe you shouldn’t eat them.” The thought stuck with me, and I went vegetarian on principle. I intended to go vegan, and was easing my way towards it, slowly cutting out dairy and eggs. Then I watched the documentary Earthlings and went vegan immediately.

Do you see yourself ever going back to being an omnivore?
I will never eat meat, dairy, or eggs again. Going vegan was the best choice I’ve ever made. I haven’t second-guessed the decision once in nearly a decade of being vegan.

Do you consciously think about where you get your protein, etc, from?
I track my protein intake because I am a powerlifter and want to make sure I am able to properly build strength. But for most people, tracking your protein intake is not necessary. It’s practically impossible to be protein-deficient. Plants have protein!

Do you mix with many other vegans – does your lifestyle mean that you come into contact with people of a similar outlook regularly?
I try to stay out of the “vegan bubble”. It’s important for vegans to maintain contact with people who don’t think like them. This way, we don’t lose our ability to influence others. If we only associate with other vegans that seems like a huge missed opportunity to reach the general public. It also makes us lose touch in understanding how others think and feel. In order to best influence, we need to know this.

Do you seek out vegan groups and forums online?
When I first went vegan in 2009, I found some local vegan groups in Phoenix, Arizona (where I was living at the time) through the website Meetup. Having a community made my transition into veganism and launch into activism much smoother than it otherwise would have been.

Are you involved in any form of activism?
I use social media as my main form of activism. By utilising the tools at our disposal, we can make a massive difference.

How do you feel about the vegan jokes… you know, that vegans can’t go five minutes without mentioning the fact or they explode?
I think vegans need to have a sense of humour. Even if people are poking fun at us, have fun with it and you’ll find that people will be much more open to our message. If we act sullen and grumpy all the time, nobody is going to want to be like us.

How do you think we best ‘convert’ omnivores to a plant-based lifestyle? And do you actively try to do this?
We can get people to eat more plant-based foods by hitting people with the ‘why’ and then the ‘how’. My specialty is the ‘why’. Why should people stop eating animals? Many others specialise in the ‘how’, with resources like recipes, meal ideas, etc. Some of my favourite websites to direct people to are Veganuary and ChooseVeg.

Are you positive about the future of veganism?
As I’ve said in the past, a vegan world is inevitable. How quickly we get there, however, depends entirely on how effective vegan activists choose to be in their messaging and approach.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts in our Everyday Vegans slot, please get in touch and we’ll let you know what to do.

‘The best way to promote veganism is to show how happy and fulfilled you are by not consuming animal products’

Everyday Vegans
An occasional series in which ordinary people
talk about living a plant-based life


US nanny Bethany, the latest contributor to our series, believes veganism is all about love and compassion – and she tries her best to let these qualities in her life speak for the cause

BethanyMy name is Bethany, I’m 26 years old and I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, with my husband Ryan and our four pets. We have three cats – JiJi, Milo, and Sophie – as well as a tortoise named Teva. I currently work as a nanny for an incredible family, and my previous job was as the coordinator for a local nature museum. I’ve lived in the Southern US all my life and have a huge love for stereotypical Southern cuisine (everything deep-fried please). When I’m not working or eating awesome vegan food I enjoy hiking and camping, reading, crafting, and have just started practising yoga.

I went straight from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based one literally overnight. After a lot of thought and deliberation, I made a plan to go vegan on June 1 2016 and from that date onward I have been vegan, with a few minor slip-ups. I was a pescetarian in college for about a year, and had tried a vegetarian diet a few times over the course of the previous few years.

My attempts at eating a meat-free diet were usually spurred on by reading or seeing something related to animal agriculture (reading The Jungle, watching Food Inc) but was usually thwarted by lack of options or self-control. Saying that now sounds like such a cop-out as there are so many vegetarian options compared with vegan ones.

So, as of today, I have been vegan for two years and seven months!

My husband Ryan watched Earthlings in 2015 and he decided to make the change, quite suddenly, to veganism as a result. I was sceptical about it and I really enjoyed non-vegan food so I continued to eat meat and dairy for an entire year before making the switch myself.

It was tough going for Ryan for a while, as I joked about when he’d give up being a vegan, and I didn’t give his dietary concerns much consideration when choosing restaurants.

Over the course of the next year, I ended up making a lot of vegan food and trying out vegan restaurants with him. I started thinking that it might not be as impossible as I previously anticipated. Ryan was never pushy about me eating a plant-based diet, and it was his patience that encouraged me to start doing some of my own research.

I started watching vegan YouTubers who had totally vegan families. They were all incredibly happy and healthy and raved about the benefits of a plant based diet. I also followed a lot of vegan bloggers and listened to podcasts and speeches. All of this definitely contributed to my decision to go vegan, however it wasn’t until I read articles about the atrocities of animal agriculture that knew I had to make the switch.

I don’t believe I would ever be an omnivore again. I’m a big animal lover and having the awareness of the horrors of the animal agriculture industry is what would prevent me from eating animal products again. And, to be honest, the smell of meat cooking or even plain cow’s milk makes me gag now. There are so many plant-based alternatives to animal products that I don’t really miss any of the old foods I used to eat.

I’m definitely not a healthy vegan. I’m an ethical vegan, which means I switched to this lifestyle to protect animals and the environment rather than for health reasons. I absolutely love deep-fried tofu, potatoes, vegan sausage and bacon, bread, and, of course, anything sweet.

I started out my vegan journey trying to recreate all my favourite non-vegan dishes and eating an obscene amount of processed vegan meats and cheeses. However, this diet is not very nutritious, and I was starting to feel sluggish and tired most of the time. So, while I still enjoy all those tasty treats mentioned above in moderation, I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into my diet. I find my skin, digestive health, and even mental health are much better when I eat a more whole food plant-based diet.

I usually drink a protein shake or make oatmeal for breakfast, but will sometimes splurge and eat banana oat pancakes or blueberry waffles. Lunch is usually leftovers, vegetable soup from Amy’s, or a sandwich loaded with veggies and hummus. For dinner my husband and I try to eat something filling but healthy! Our favorite meals to make are harvest bowls (broccoli, sweet potatoes, black beans, and Brussel sprouts over quinoa), chili, barbeque jackfruit, loaded nachos or tacos, and tofu stir fry.

We get most of our groceries for the week at either Trader Joe’s or Publix as they typically have great prices on produce, grains, spices, and other staples. If we need a specialty item, or if I want a smoothie or protein shake on my way to work, I will head over to Whole Foods to pick it up. We do enjoy going to the local farmer’s market from time to time as well.

I don’t really think much any more about where I get my proteins and other specific nutrients from. I did at the very beginning, but it’s become such second nature to me that I don’t really think about it anymore. I know I won’t be satiated unless I eat something with beans, oats, lentils, or tofu in it so I try to make sure I include one those in each meal.

Most people think you have to eat meat or dairy to meet your daily nutritional needs but that just isn’t the case. Most, if not all, nutritional needs can be met with a balanced plant based diet. I do take a few supplements though, as I had critically low vitamin D3. I take a multi-vitamin as well as extra D3 and B12 supplements. I urge everyone whether they are vegan or non-vegan to get their vitamin levels checked.

Being vegan can definitely make you feel like an outsider. I think the hardest part of being plant-based isn’t finding food at restaurants, or going to a party where there’s no vegan food, or even struggling to find decent vegan dairy or meat substitutes at the store; these things are really minor in comparison to the awareness you have being an ethical vegan.

It’s very hard to come to the realisation that many people around you either aren’t aware of the cruelties that animals face, or even worse that they know and don’t care enough to change their lifestyle. Animals suffer a great deal for the fleeting pleasure that humans get eating their flesh or bodily secretions. I was definitely that person who said, “I’ve always grown up eating meat, so I don’t think I could change my diet”, or even, “I’ll just buy from a local farmer and that’ll be fine.”

But so many people don’t realize the horrors of animal agriculture on a small or large scale. Animals are sentient beings capable of feelings of love, joy, and sadness. To kill them for our own enjoyment is absolutely unnecessary.

Animal agriculture is also a major contributing factor to global warming, something which is an issue for my generation Continue reading →

An interview with Dr Anthony Hadj: why a whole-food, plant-based diet is best for our health and the planet

Dr Anthony HadjThe food we eat has long been used to prevent and manage health problems, and now there is a growing movement of medical people who believe wholefood, plant-based diets not only prevent but can sometimes reverse a lot of the chronic illnesses associated with western lifestyles. They believe a change of diet can treat ailments such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease as well as, if not better than, daily drugs that control symptoms rather than offer a cure.

We spoke to Dr Anthony Hadj, pictured, a vegan GP with a special interest in management of chronic diseases (eg obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease) using a combination of modern medicine and nutrition/education. The Australian medic is passionate about the subject and spends some of his time promoting veganism as the best choice for a healthy lifestyle.

You’re clearly 100 per cent sold on the benefits of plant-based diets. I’m interested in your own path as a medical practitioner to that conclusion; at what point in your practise/training did the power of a vegan diet start to become clear to you?
I have always had a strong interest in animal welfare and, like many, loved animals. In 2013 I began to realise the horrific practices that occur in the animal agriculture industry and I made the conscious decision to be vegan from then on. There was a video that Paul McCartney made called Glass Walls, which had a strong impact on me. As I explored veganism, I was made aware of medical practitioners like Dr John McDougall, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard and the work they were doing with nutrition and disease. I was amazed that diet could play such a large role in not only the causation but cure of disease. From then on, I chose to include it in my practice and encourage many people to pursue this.

Did the notion of a strong link between nutrition and illness always make sense to you?
It didn’t become clear until I researched and understood the science. That was in 2013/14. Once I started to read the pioneering studies from people like Dean Ornish who were able to reverse our number one killer, heart disease, I was sold on the power of plant-based nutrition.

What we put into our bodies has always been linked to certain ailments. Having seen the benefits first hand in your patients over a number of years, you now have your own experience to draw on when it comes to using nutrition to cure western society ailments like diabetes type 2 and hypertension. What research/studies did you initially consult to guide you into your current thinking?
I read the book The Starch Solution, by John McDougall. He brilliantly covers the science of plant-based health and references many papers through his book. The pioneering studies from Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn that showed a radiographical reversal of heart disease were very convincing. The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine website also has a great deal of links to studies that have shown the impact plant-based health has in treating type 2 diabetes.

Do your patients always follow your ‘go to the fruit and veg section of the supermarket’ prescription? Would some just prefer to take the tablet and eat the cheese?
Many patients of mine are very keen to follow the prescription. They are often seeing me because they have had a ‘wake-up call’ or a diagnosis that is life changing – heart disease, mini heart attack/stroke, diabetes etc. It’s at this point that many feel incapacitated but also energised to do whatever they can. When you are able to showcase the power of plant-based nutrition to them, it is very enticing. Many patients are prepared to do whatever it takes to live longer. Some people do just prefer a tablet and cheese; however, even with these patients, I have noticed that they do come around eventually.

How could I, a layperson, explain simply to a fellow layperson what the health benefits of a plant-based diet are?
Consuming plants is our natural diet. We are designed to eat plants and specifically carbohydrates. Many large civilizations have spread and prospered because of starchy (high complex carbohydrate) foods. We have a lot of evidence that populations who are mostly plant based live the longest and happiest of all. It is now beyond doubt that consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet lowers blood pressure, heart disease risk and keeps us trim and healthy looking. Websites like the John MacDougall’s, plus the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and NutritionFacts.org provide a great place for people to start.

Do you believe that the meat and dairy industries are now involved in a collusion to keep the health benefits of not eating their produce quiet which rivals that of, for example, the tobacco industry in the 1960s (and potentially the alcohol industry, though that’s another story entirely)?
I don’t think there is a collusion or conspiracy. I do believe that it is just about money. They are seeing a movement like veganism take root and thrive, and it is a threat to their bottom line. They will always be able to find a study that supports their work; however, it is almost impossible to suppress the benefits of this programme. They use mass marketing to try and keep the public confused.

You’ve been vegan for three years. Before that what was your own diet like?
My diet was very poor, with a preference for high-fat foods of an animal nature.

How would you counter the suggestion that plant-based is the current fad. I grew up in the 70s and saw my mother try high fibre, low fat, high fat and highly restrictive calorie-controlled diets among others, all in the space of a decade. What makes this different?
It is a very sustainable diet. We will feel full when we consume a vegan diet (generally) because it is high in fibre. We thrive and feel better because it is a diet focused around antioxidants, macro/micro nutrients that helps to keep our body healthy and well. Many fad diets in the past have failed Continue reading →