Saturday, March 19, 2011

Interview # 2 STEVE : Helpful, Interesting, Bearded Traveling Vegan

Steve is a 35 year old vegan that works on a cow farm in Dartmoor National Park in the UK (when he’s not swimming in Sydney, Australia). His favorite vegan treats are homemade oatmeal cookies, apple crumble, and chocolate cake.  

As someone who travels to lovely and interesting places, (most notably with his (vegan) girlfriend through Europe, finding “special places [they] never imagined existed” in their bright yellow van nicknamed the Big Budgie) Steve seemingly led a life that I dream about. However for someone with a seemingly picturesque life Steve does not sugar coat his answers about veganism when being interviewed!  He was the first person to respond to my request for information about the vegan lifestyle and some of his answers regarding health issues scared me a bit. I was skeptical about posting them for this reason but in the end I realized that I don’t want this blog to sidestep real issues. I’m not going to pretend that all vegans do feel like they have enough energy all the time. Sharing these interviews will hopefully be a testament that vegans come in as great variety as any group of people.  That being said, I am so glad I made a connection with Steve, and his girlfriend Sally. As long time vegans they have so much knowledge to share and they have been so kind and eager to share it with me.
How long have you been vegan?
14 years - since I was 21

How difficult did you find the transition?

I'd been vegetarian for 3 years previously, so the transition wasn't difficult.

Why did you become vegan?
I grew up on a farm and didn't like the idea of eating animals in order to sustain myself and became a vegetarian whilst in India as a teenager. I later became vegan having decided being vegetarian wasn't morally logical.

How does being vegan affect the environment?

I think in many ways it can be positive, for instance, intensive animal farming uses a lot more resources. However, if as a vegan one eats soya grown on former virgin rain forest land then that can be negative. Moreover, environmentally, it is probably better to eat sustainable, seasonal, locally grown and organic - even if it isn't vegan.

Do you feel like you are depriving yourself?
I've never really felt that, particularly because, if you desire them, there are a lot of quite good vegan substitutes available.
What is an example of a typical 3 vegan meals/day for you?
Breakfast: Oats, rice milk, dates.
Lunch: Bean salad
Dinner: Pasta with walnut and rocket pesto and tvp sausages.

How have your experiences traveling as a vegan been?
I have been to India 6 times. It's very easy to be vegan there. The same can be said about Nepal and Sri Lanka. The UK is fairly easy, more so than Australia or New Zealand. Eastern Europe is difficult, although you can buy tvp. People in Mediterranean countries eat a lot of nuts, lentils, fruit and vegetables, and meat has traditionally been expensive so they eat it less frequently. Self-catering is easier than eating out.

Are there any stereotypes you feel that you face as a vegan?
I have never really had anything to do with vegan culture and yet being a vegan is very much part of my personal identity. I think being a vegan becomes a badge of pride for people and that there is a tendency for vegans to think that they are morally superior to non-vegans.

How do you feel working on a cow farm and not consuming cow products?
 I was talking about this to a friend a couple of days ago. She was berating her step mum for driving a sports car and living a glamorous lifestyle part of the time, whilst some of the time dressing up as an native American in her garden tepee. She saw her as a contradiction. And I guess in part I am one too. I tend to brush over some of the facts! I work on a farm that raises animals to be killed for meat, and whilst I don't like seeing them go to market, I do help send them. That said I try to give them as good a life as possible while they are alive. They have a pretty good life, doing their own thing in the fields most of the time. I also mostly enjoy working with animals and on the farm which is in a beautiful national park. The job is also convenient.

How do you get enough calcium, B12, and protein?
Um, I don't! I've never eaten much junk food, but for most of my time as a vegan I really wasn't informed about nutrition - or at least didn't worry about it - it's very easy just to replace meat with beans or mock-meat, but this is not sufficient and it's very easy to become a carbohydratarian! In the last few years I have become more aware of the importance of nutrition and have tried to eat more yeast extracts and multivitamins for B12, calcium fortified milks (usually rice) and more protein rich foods, such as tofu, tvp and nuts. Yet, having been a vegan for a fair length of time I am starting to seriously worry about needing hip replacements and also about early onset Alzheimer’s from B12 deficiency. I think it would be healthier to supplement a vegan diet with occasional fish and eggs. Omega acids are also a concern. Vegan literature is often very agenda biased and tends to gloss over these issues.

Do you think veganism is for everyone?
No. It is only for people who want to be - and even then it more suited to the young (whose bodies can live off anything!), those who are nutritionally minded and want spend time ensuring they have the right foods in their vegan diet, as well as those who are willing or able to spend money buying fancy vegan nutritional items.

Do you have any tips on going vegan?
Nowadays there are a multitude of resources about veganism both in print and on the internet. There are so many ideas for delicious vegan delights to cook and it's a pleasure to experiment.

Next up: Sally, Steve's Lovely Vegan Girlfriend!

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