George White has just celebrated his 2 year 'veganniversary' so we caught up with him to ask him how it's changed his life and how his work in animal rights links in with his personal lifestyle choices.
It was recently your 2-year vegan anniversary so how do you feel both mentally and physically?
I feel very much more aware of what I put in my body. Before I would eat anything, and I still do, as long as it is plant based. I'm also more aware of the natural environment and more compassionate towards animals, people and nature. I've started to campaign and volunteer for better animal and human rights and I'm now working for the animal welfare charity World Animal Protection.
What persuaded you to go vegan in the first place?
I was sharing a flat with my cousin Nerys, who is vegan, and eating a plant based diet at home as we all ate together. Outside of the flat I would occasionally eat fish in restaurants for convenience. Then I went with Nerys to the London Vegan Festival in 2014, ate lots of lovely vegan food and saw a presentation by The Black Fish, who campaign to end illegal and destructive fishing practices, and I've been vegan ever since.
You are very active on Twitter so how important is it to you to spread the word about animal rights?
It is very important to spread the word about animal suffering as many people are simply unaware. For example, at World Animal Protection we are highlighting the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes of elephant riding and tiger selfies through our Wildlife #NotEntertainers campaign. Stopping the demand for these animal tourist attractions will stop the suffering these animals have to endure in the name of tourist entertainment.
You work for World Animal Protection UK, so how much does veganism link in with your job?
We are not a vegan organisation but we do have lots of vegan and veggie staff. Our focus is on improving animal welfare and we work with retailers and the farming industry to improve farm animal welfare. For example, our #FullFactMilk campaign called upon better labelling for milk so we know if our milk comes from cows that have been kept indoors all year or from cows that are grazed on grass. We had tens of thousands of supporters emailing their supermarkets calling for better labelling and this has shown supermarkets that there is a demand for free range milk and has helped us arrange meetings with them to discuss how to achieve it.
Do you think it's important for people who are employed to help animals to be vegan?
There are a lot of people in the world with an amazing array of skills that can help improve animal welfare in lots of different ways, and not all of them are necessarily vegan. I personally think it's important for people to consider reducing their meat intake, stick to white meat and fish and buy high welfare.
Which animal story in the media has affected you most lately?
All animal stories affect me and it is difficult not to get too emotional about every one. There is a sad story in the media at the moment about an elephant that has died after travelling 1,000 kilometres from India into Bangladesh after becoming separated from its herd by the Assam floods. It's a very difficult situation over there at the moment for all life.
Do you think it's the role of existing vegans to be campaigners and activists too?
Many of the vegans I know do campaign or are activists in one way or another. The two do seem to go very much hand in hand. But I also know non-vegans that campaign and advocate for high animal welfare standards.
You are a cyclist, so how has going vegan affected your fitness and energy levels when you're on your bike?
I've definitely got fitter. Last month I did a week of cycling in France and for one of the days we rode one of the Tour De France stages the day before the Tour did it, which was 216kms and 4000 metres of climbing. I had doubts about making it but I completed it and felt I got stronger as the week went on.
How important do you think your role is in helping more people to go plant based?
I think it is important to let people know how easy it is as many people believe that it can be difficult or expensive. My girlfriend Mariana was veggie and loved cheese but is now vegan after discovering a whole world of delicious plant based cheeses, which she is delighted with.
What is next for World Animal Protection?
We will soon be launching a global campaign to improve the welfare of broiler chickens, which are bred and raised specifically for meat production. The majority of the chickens are farmed in systems that don't meet their needs and our campaign aims to change this. We will be announcing the campaign very soon on our website so keep an eye out for it here www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk