Not many of you, our dear clients would know this, but Happy Paws Fitness sports one of the most truly animal friendly teams in the pet care industry of Australia! Since starting with Happy Paws, three of our staff- Jack, Lolly & Jean- have decided to make the important lifestyle change to Veganism on their own personal paths to creating a better world for animals and our environment (and ourselves) alike. A fourth member of our team, Jo, has been Vegan for an impressive 3 years, and Amelia is well on the path as a Vegetarian!
As a qualified Vet Nurse, I have struggled to meet even one Vet in my time that lives a Vegan lifestyle, and only two Vet Nurses who do so. It still seems puzzling that people in that industry alone can dedicate their lives to the care and health of companion animals, yet continue to eat animals, or animal products, wear leather or back a horse at Melbourne Cup.
People decide to go Vegan for many reasons- some want a healthy change, others see he huge environmental impacts caused by farming, others again find the use of animals unethical. I though this month, I would interview a few of the staff to help our extended family know more about us, why we do what we do, and how this lifestyle aligns with our love of animals on a daily basis. Personally, I believe that our connection with our pets is a gateway to understanding, appreciating and loving nature, and so it should be nurtured with all our hearts. Here is why.
When did you go vegan and what was it that gave you the last little push to try it? Was there a pivotal moment?
Lolly: I went vegan at the end of January this year. I had been planning on trying it as a ‘vegan challenge’ for a fortnight to see if I could handle it… And I haven’t stopped! The pivotal moment came after I saw a video online by Erin Janus (a particularly gorgeous vegan). It’s about five minutes long and gives a very honest rundown of the dark side of the dairy industry using an excellent mix of facts and black humour.
Jo: Around 9 years ago I watched a movie called Earthlings. The film explores the suffering of animals in factory farms, research labs and puppy mills (among others). I pretty much instantly became vegetarian after that. It was a huge “matrix” moment for me, realising the truth behind my dinner plate. It was equal parts the cruelty involved, but also the sheer magnitude of how many billions of animals are enduring this on a daily basis. My second “matrix” moment happened around 3 years ago, when a friend of mine educated me on the dairy and egg industry. This time it was equal parts cruelty, and equal parts environmental impact and devastation.
Personally, I believe that our connection with our pets is a gateway to understanding, appreciating and loving Nature, and so it should be nurtured with all our hearts.
What have been the personal benefits you have found so far?
Lolly: Health wise my skin has never been clearer and I have lost a little weight. But the biggest benefit is mental. I feel more authentic in my beliefs following through in life and I’m happier and more at peace with the world as a result. That’s a very big thing for me.
Jo: First and foremost, the mental benefits are paramount. The accomplishment of making it through a day without intentionally harming another living thing never seems to wear off. I take pride in knowing my choices do make a difference, and I feel as if the love I have for all animals grows the more I make an effort not to elevate myself above their suffering. Physically, I also feel stronger and healthier for it. There are so many hormones and preservatives pumped into our meat which all end up in your system once you ingest it. I also noted improvements in my digestion once I gave up dairy. The milk of another species is not natural to our systems, and can play havoc with your stomach. I used to get the flu all the time, but since I went vegan 3 years ago, I can’t even remember the last time I was sick.
Looking at the bigger picture, what do you connect most with as a positive for your choice to go Vegan?
Lolly: First and foremost, my impact on the happiness and freedom of animals is my greatest reward. I feel so happy that I no longer play a part in that in any way. The second and most important thing to me about becoming Vegan is environmental. I watched Cowspiracy recently and got my head around the impact on the globe of the Vegan lifestyle versus an ‘omnivore’ lifestyle. It was a real eye opener, so I feel good that my choice is helping the environment.
Jo: Many people will say that eating an animal is simply part of the cycle of the food chain. But we are lucky enough to live at a time where we have the means and the education to eat more humanely and sustainably. The food chain is based on survival, so that argument is irrelevant to me if I have the means to survive (and thrive) without it. What I resonate most with is consciously choosing not to be part of such an abusive system. I will borrow a quote from ‘Edgar’s Mission’ – a rescue sanctuary in Melbourne for abused farmed animals. “If we can live happy and healthy lives without harming others…why wouldn’t we?”
Throw a quick fact at me
Lolly: It takes just under 2,500 litres of water to produce enough meat for a quarter pounder burger. This takes into account everything from growing the cows feed to processing the meat.
Jo: Like humans, cows only produce milk when they are pregnant. The life span of a dairy cow consists of being continuously impregnated immediately after each birth, and eventually sent to slaughter when they are too old to conceive. Every male calf is sent straight to slaughter within hours, and female calves are kept to be impregnated as soon as possible and will have the same fate as their mother.
Was the change difficult?
Lolly: After being vegetarian for 3 years it was a natural transition, so no not at all. I had been ready for a while. The hardest part has come from friends or family who don’t understand or criticise my choice. I think a lot of that comes from a subconscious fear that I’ll try to push my ideals on them.
Jo: I think the change comes naturally once you have that “matrix” moment. It’s harder to turn a blind eye after that than it is to actually go vegan. There are always challenges, but I think the change is a lot easier than most people realise. I always hear people saying things like “I would go vegan, but I would miss cheese too much” – and all I can think in response is “Then go vegan except for cheese!”. Every little bit counts.
I would love to see more minds being opened to the hard facts of the world that impact on our everyday lives. I would like to see more people like me, stand for the positive change they believe in.
Have there been any challenges to going Vegan that stand out?
Lolly: Eating out! I’m especially fond of cafe breakfasts and your best option for a vegan meal is usually avocado on toast, which I eat at home anyway.. I hope things change soon, I love the cafe culture of Sydney!
Jo: The biggest challenges for me are family/cultural events. I find it particularly hard to say no to the comfort foods of my childhood and family. It didn’t take long however to realise that nothing was lost from these events by not partaking in certain foods – if anything, I grew fonder for the occasions knowing that the meals had just as much love, if not more than before by being cruelty free. I think people are turned off because they think cooking or health will be too difficult.
In reality, it doesn’t take long to learn what to use as healthy substitutes. I recently fooled my father (a huge carnivore) into eating a vegan Bolognese. He didn’t even realise it was vegan until I told him, and now he asks my mother to use my recipe instead of the traditional meat based one they have used for decades.
What do you want to see change in the world?
Lolly: I would love to see more minds being willing to being open to the hard facts of the world that impact on our everyday lives. I would like to see more people like me, stand for the positive change they believe in – I don’t think it is enough to say “I’m an environmentalist” and not act on it, or “I love animals” and still eat, wear or in any way profit from their exploitation.
Jo: Speciesism – Which is a term coined by Richard Ryder. It is the assumption of human superiority which leads to the exploitation of other species.
For the open and curious minds, any good reading or film suggestions?
Lolly: Cowspiracy is a great and very fairly researched documentary. I recommend starting here as it shows the documentary makers journey of discovery relating to the environmental impacts of animal consumption and use, and is very relatable. Like Jo, I also watched Earthlings, which literally changed my life (This is a high impact documentary and will leave a lasting impression so please be prepared if you delve in here).
Erin Janus has a Youtube Channel with short, informative videos that also give the
Jo: I read a wonderful book by Melanie Joy called “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, And Wear Cows”. It really opens up the contradictions in why we will fiercely love and protect one animal, whilst turning a blind eye to the suffering of others.
Any favourite Vegan or Vegan friendly restaurants or cafes in Sydney?
Lolly: Petty Cash Marrickville for favourite café (the house made baked beans make me want to cry with joy) and Yellow in Potts point for an incredible Vegan degustation as well as some edgy on point cocktails. For a more midweek option, The Golden Lotus in Newtown has amazing dishes, including mock chicken and duck, at very affordable prices and who could forget Suzy Spoons Vegetarian Kitchen (also in Newtown), for their amazing mock beef burgers, sausages and lasagne. Comfort food guilt free!
Jo: For an entirely vegan menu Bodhi Restaurant in Cooks and Phillips Park is my life. Dandelion in Bondi is also excellent, and is vegetarian and vegan mixed.
For your burger fix, try Soul Burger in Randwick. Great Aunty Three in Enmore has a spectacular Vietnamese vegan menu made by the gods and if you’re feeling classy, Otto in Woolloomoolloo has a 5 star vegan menu
Has being Vegan changed how you feel about working with dogs at Happy Paws?
Lolly: I guess more than ever I just appreciate how beautiful these little beings are and how precious their life is.
Jo: Absolutely. Working with animals as a vegan only re-affirms my belief that all living things should be free from exploitation.
Thanks for reading, and give your pup a kiss from us! X
Lolly- Happy Paws Fitness Manager, Resident Vet Nurse & Dog Blogger