Actor Peter Egan was a longstanding vegetarian before he became vegan, consequently, he is proud to be a supporter of The Vegan Society and is a Veganuary ambassador for 2018. To spread the plant based message- he kindly answered some of our questions.
I understand that watching Earthlings prompted you to give up meat- although it is a very difficult watch- why would you urge others to see it?
Because it IS so difficult to watch. It deals with the compete horror that animals experience when they are slaughtered in the most appalling abattoirs. It is good for people to know what it costs an animal, which is always their life, in order to end up on a carnivore’s plate. All so that they can have a fillet steak, a bacon sandwich or some spare ribs or whatever food of choice they go for.
There is an horrendous journey that these poor creatures go through and it just broke my heat. I could hear these animals crying- some of them wanted to escape- they were treated in the most disgusting manner by the stockmen and they were brutally slaughtered.
Even when stunned- you would see animals hoisted up by one back leg- huge cows- their stomachs were cut open and their insides were falling all over their face while their bodies were still twitching.
It’s disgusting, it’s horrible and I think every food outlet that sells meat should have a screen on the back wall showing how the meat arrives to their store.
It’s a disgusting journey and I think Paul McCartney said that if all abattoirs had windows, the world would be vegan.
You were a vegetarian for a long time- so what prompted the shift to veganism?
I had given up everything to do with animal products, but I was still hanging on because my belly was talking to me and not my brain.
I was just kind of avoiding confronting the dairy industry- cheese and chocolate. A couple fo years ago, Kate Fowler from Veganuary, said ‘why don’t you try it?’ I said I was left with a bit of chocolate and cheese and she said ‘try it- there are great alternatives for those two’.
Of course, there are- and I was just being kind of lazy about it. I took a good hard look at the dairy industry and that is just as upsetting as any other.
There is just one image that sticks with me- a dairy cow is impregnated and forced to produce 18 times the amount of milk in a year that she would naturally. It’s horrible- you see these poor cows on these carousels with suction pads attached to their udders and that is to create a product with no value to someone over the age of 7, which is milk. And also to produce creamy chocolate and again, there are so many wonderful alternatives. I thought I’ve got to face this and stop being lazy. I am delighted that I did- I don’t miss cheese or chocolate at all and I feel much more in touch with my core beliefs.
Did you miss anything from your vegetarian diet when you made the change?
It’s interesting when I decided to give up eating meat- people said; ‘oh don’t do that you can’t live without bacon sandwiches!’, but I haven’t missed a single thing.
It is also to do with the fact that I am profoundly committed to the belief in the one thing we all share. It’s the one thing behind Earthlings- Earthlings is called this because it refers to all species on our planet. We are not different species – we are all earthlings and the only thing that we share is one life.
So, I am completely committed to the value of life for all. None of us have the right to take another’s life. That really overwhelmed any taste I think I’m going to miss experiencing.
What is your advice for other veggies who are struggling to omit dairy and eggs?
Perhaps you haven’t had the thunderbolt moment- which I had- and that was the total abhorrence of cruelty and death in order to provide taste. It’s possible you don’t relate to that- and that’s fine- not all people want to make that same commitment.
If you just believe and understand- eating things that come from animals ultimately is not terribly good for you. Then just do it slowly and take one thing out at a time.
If you decide that you are going to give up chocolate or milk, try alternatives slowly- try all the nut milks. Coconut milk and almond milk is brilliant- there is lots of wonderful chocolate that is dairy free. Do it slowly- don’t beat yourself up- don’t beat yourself into a corner where you are suddenly saying ‘I can’t do this I’ve got to have something!’
You have always been an animal lover so why did you feel that 2010 was the right time to start campaigning publicly for animal rights and welfare?
Because it’s such a huge, huge problem. If we say there is somewhere in the region of six billion carnivores on the planet- in order to feed their appetite, you have to slaughter in the region of fifty billion animals. It’s like trying to get your heard around the concept of eternity- you can’t imagine how many animals are dying per second in order to satisfy that.
Also, it was when I become aware that we are approaching the sixth biggest extinction on the planet. In the last, it took millions of years for one extinction, hundreds of thousands of years for another extinction. We are now getting to the point where it takes a hundred years for a species to become extinct.
That means that we humans are really destroying our planet. Once we destroy the biodiversity, we will destroy the planet itself.
Also, I think because I have reached an age myself where I am really conscious of mortality and the value of life. I felt I could no longer ignore the important issues that are to do with destructive behaviour in terms of killing animals left, right and centre, either through canned hunting, hunting foxes, through shooting lions and elephants. Its never stops. We humans have waged war on every other species on this planet and we have to stop.
Why is the Animals Asia Foundation so close to your heart?
Animals Asia rescues moon bears from bio farms in China and Vietnam. A moon bear is the most beautiful brown Asiatic bear with a golden crescent on its chest- that’s why its called a moon bear.
They are kept in cages and they have bile extracted from their gallbladder daily. They can live for thirty years so they are incarcerated in a crush cage for thirty years.
This beautiful, big creature that would normally walk for 40 miles a day in a forest, can hardly move.
Having bile extracted on a daily basis is a bit like when you are at the dentist and the probe hits the nerve in your tooth and the agony that crates for that moment. The images are upsetting for me- but that’s like having bile extracted from your gallbladder- it’s extremely painful and very upsetting. I am passionately committed to preventing the pain that is caused to these bears and would like to see that stop.