Connecting with vegan people around the world is one of the best aspects of working with All About Vegan Food for me. I love getting to know other people’s opinions and daily lives and having the chance to share them here.
A couple weeks ago Tim Shieff was in Gresytones once again hanging out and working with the The Happy Pear twins and I had the chance to have a chat with him during a lovely lunch with my son present too. I’ve been following him on social media for a while and he’s as lovely and sincere in person and a big inspiration.
You travel a lot, can you just stress the main differences while traveling as a vegan specially comparing UK/Europe/Ireland with countries like the US?
I think in America it’s the hardest and the easiest to be vegan cause they just do everything. I’m not sure on how to explain but they do everything everything to their maximum. Like they do fast food to the maximum and it’s the worst of the worst. And they do vegan food to their maximum and it’s the best of the best.
I think England seems to be pretty easy to be vegan, Ireland seems easy too. Once you turn to it, you start to realize that you can get stuff like hummus in every supermarket… You can get guacamole everywhere, falafel is basically everywhere too. I think when you’re not looking into it you don’t realise all these things exist. My sister just went vegan for this Veganuary, she’s being vegetarian for years, and I always told her how easy it is when you just turn to it, but she met me the other day and said it’s being so easy to do it cause once you make the decision you start to see all the options available to you.
Europe I think it gets a little harder depending on where you are. If you’re in the major cities it’s pretty easy and specially these days with the Happy Cow – Oh man, I love using the Happy Cow – you just get to know about the best places. But like France is heavy in meat and cheese, I’ve heard Italy is the same. But it’s exciting times and when you travel being vegan now I think ten or fifteen years ago it would be a way harder, eating just salad, bread and chips but now, specially like I said with the help of Happy Cow it’s exciting times and you also get to know people where you are.
In the last year, actually in the last five years, this phenomenon related to vegan diet and celebrities became quite mainstream. How do you feel about this spread of “veganism” by these people?
It is a sort of mix message because at the same time you see all these celebrities becoming outspoken about veganism they are not committed with it and it’s quite a shame because lots of people look up to them and you expect them to be strong minded about a decision and yet they care about what people think about them. So I think people are so concerned about the image they want to have in public that they forget to speak the truth.
I think they see the truth for a moment when they become vegan and they want to share it with everyone but then they look back and go “Oh, I still eat cheese” or “I still wear that but that’s okay”… and it’s not okay as they sustain their speech and that’s not okay, you know. What we do to the animals is not alright and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of celebrities being speaking about it and not really committed to it and that’s why I always speak the truth.
I listen to Gary Yourofsky I think he believes the same thing, that’s a matter of time, that in 20 years time people will realize that this is the way to go and we need to be honest about it.
After 18 years of being vegan one thing that I’ve learned is that we never know it all and there’s always space to learn. What I’ve been seeing online among many vegan groups and pages is a lot of vegans being rough to other vegans and very judgmental, like if it was a dispute about who’s more vegan and who’s consuming better products. One example, people who still buy products with palm oil…
Yes, true, I’ve bought a product a while ago that I didn’t know it had palm oil on it, and you’re constantly learning, and of course I won’t do it again but I see your point. I think what we need to do is to separate humans and the meat industry cause I’m against the meat industry.
I understand humans have addictions, humans have weaknesses and they give in and they got loads of other things going on in their lives and problems that make them weak to make the most strong minded decisions sometimes, they are not always strong with themselves to make the right decisions. I think they know deep down maybe about it but you gotta give them time and support and love as in time they will find more love for themselves and then make life decisions through that where’s the meat industry and what they do to animals I speak really agains that.
Of course it’s wrong to eat meat and cut an animal’s throat and it’s hard to speak about such a crude subject and sometimes people think you’re challenging them but I’m not, I’m challenging the industry. I understand humans have to go through a lot of processes till they find the decision of going vegan and stick to it.
True, I find people go very easily pointing fingers and saying “Oh you do that and that’s not vegan” or “I’m more vegan than you”… and I believe that living in society none of us is 100% vegan so we shouldn’t be so judgmental and make things harder to people trying… I think everyone is doing the best they can during their path to stop animal cruelty…
It is a process, it took me two years before I was really committed to veganism. I would said I was vegan cause I was 90% of the time but there were occasions when I’d eat not vegan… And although I could see that it wasn’t ethical it still took me a while until I was 100% committed to it. It’s progress and processing changes. Everyone has something that seems to be harder to give up, like cheese and chocolate for example in my case, so yes, it took me a while till I realised “Yes, I don’t need or want these products in my life anymore”. They were in my life for 23 years so of course it would gonna take sometime to get completely rid of them.
You became vegan for ethical reasons, right? These days people are going vegan for other reasons like environmental and health. Like in Germany the environmental reason is big and I see here in Ireland and also in the UK that the health reason is being a huge factor. What do you think about it?
I think the health is a great influence in people because you gotta care about yourself before you care about others… And some people they don’t care about animals but they do care about themselves so they stop eating them because of that to get them healthier and love themselves more and then they can go and look at the animals with more love too and stop harming them. So that’s why I think health is a good influence to people because it helps people to understand self-love so they can give it to others. It still seems selfish to me but you know of course people that are insecure will make selfish decisions based on themselves first and after they build their security they can make their choices but for me ethical veganism is mental health because you look at the suffering, you acknowledge the fact that it doesn’t need to happen and you go “Of course I won’t put me in that anymore” so it is mental health and through it I got physical health as well… And, yes, i think many people come to veganism through the physical aspect of that but I think ethical aspect is a very strong element to mental health.
Let’s talk about protein. Yes, always the protein! As a male, athlete, runner, triathlon, ninja vegan you probably get this question even more than I get even if things are changing inside the male and sport universe, so what you’d say to people who still don’t know how to be a vegan athlete?
I think we still rely on a lot of propaganda and myths based on time before science was this accurate… So things like “you need milk for calcium” which we know these days is not true and that actually there are more cases of osteoporosis in people who drink cow’s milk and we know that the reason of many diseases is too much of animal protein and even that myth from the 70s/80s that you need animal protein to get a complete protein… a lot of this propaganda still runs within us today and the only truth we get to know is through experience and when experienced a vegan diet with only three days on a vegan diet I knew, I could see, that I was into something different but I felt better, I had more energy, I lost the right amount of weight so I could fit it to the right size for the sports I was practicing and that was my experience of veganism and I don’t need to worry about eating the “right protein” or fat I just eat whole foods and I get everything I need. I feel good and I don’t think nature made things to be complicated, if you eat a good range of colours you get all the vitamins and nutrients you need and also listen to your body. That’s what I do and having experienced different diets I’m sure that veganism is clearly the leading one for my mental and physical health and for the planet.
Everything has protein, even watermelon. The Worldwide Health Organisation recommends to eat between 5 and 8% protein when a baby is growing and they need the most amount of protein you will ever need as a human. And it’s logical and when I say that to people they still say “Oh, but you need animal protein” and that’s how deep the myths and bad science are still around.
* All images (besides the one with me and my son) courtesy of Tim Shieff.