The changing face of veganism in Australia

Meet the Australians challenging the stereotype of what a vegan looks like.

"My perception of vegans was that they were quite radical," admitted Amanda Brewer. "I pictured hippies with tie-dye shirts eating lentils."

These days, Amanda, her husband, their three children and three dogs all follow a vegan diet.

"I always thought eating meat was wrong but I thought that with having my children and breast feeding, animal products were something that I needed," said Amanda.

After she found credible sources from the World Health Organisation about the potential health benefits of veganism, she began transitioning her family to a plant-based diet.

Amanda Brewer and family
Amanda, Trent, their three kids and three dogs all follow a vegan diet. Source: SBS

Amanda researched vegan alternatives for her famiy's favourite food, and began watching documentaries with Trent about the environmental detriment caused by animal agriculture.

Her daughter, Indiah, is nine, and is happy as a vegan.

"I want to be vegan," she said. "I just think it's going to change the world."

"Someone had a ham sandwich at school," said Indiah, "and I was like, 'but how would you feel if you were that pig?' And then the mums get really upset".

Amanda is wary of living up to sterotypes of being judgemental. "I've had to try and explain to her not to ram it down people's throats," she said.

"You've got to keep your preachiness in check".

Claire Foreman
Claire Foreman has been vegan for eighteen months, and is fighting fit. Source: SBS

Others take a more active role in promoting their diet. Claire Foreman is the Australian bantamweight WMC champion and has been vegan for 18 months.

"There's definitely the misconception out there that vegans are weak, they're not fit, that they can't build muscle mass," said Claire. "I love surprising people."

Since going vegan, she has won her championship and six straight fights. Foreman says she has found it easier to build muscle since changing her diet and than her recovery time has decreased.

She's not alone - there are a handful of fighters at her gym who are also vegan.

"We're all getting ripped on coconut water," one joked.

The performance of the vegan fighters acts as an encouragement for others attending their gym to consider a plant-based diet.

"If you've got fighters there that are performing well and are really strong and fit, people are quite inspired by that," said Claire.

Abdullah spends his weekends as a vegan activist. Source: SBS

Abdullah takes his role as a vegan advocate seriously. He came to Australia from Afghanistan as a refugee when he was eight years old.

"We came here because we were scared for our lives because of the Taliban," she hsaid. "I feel like having witnessed things like that has made me a more compassionate person today".

Despite growing up on a Middle-Eastern diet heavy in meat, Abdullah is now part of an activist group aimed at educating the public about the inhumane conditions of slaughterhouses.

The group gathers in public spaces playing footage from farms on video screens.

"The footage that we show are standard Australian practices," he said. "Most people don't actually know what's going on".

He has had people promise to change their diet during a discussion with him. "It's important not to turn people away," he said. "We don't just attack them".

Anthony Walscott
Anthony Walscott from Save A Cow, and one of his rescues. Source: SBS

Anthony Wallscot is also on a mission to convert people to veganism. He runs a sanctuary called Save A Cow, where cows rescued from dairy farms and sales yards can live out their natural life outside of the agricultural system.

"when people come and see the personalities of the cows at the sanctuary, they can no longer deny that Bunty Heart is not a machine," said Anthony. "He's a living being with feelings and emotions".

"If humans spent time in a sanctuary like this, they would realise how incredibly individual each resident is."

All are convinced that veganism is a growing trend, and one that is moving increasingly into the mainstream for a handful of reasons.

"It's good for the world, it's good for me, it's good for the animals, it's going to be good for everyone else," said Indiah.

"I think it would be better. A world of vegan people".

The Brewer family
The Brewer family Source: SBS

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4 min read
Published 22 November 2016 at 9:52pm
By Rani Chaleyer
Source: SBS