A Vegan Life

« The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. »
- Gandhi

Since my new interest and stance on defending animals and joining many animal activist groups, I've received hundreds of emails of support around the world. But of course, in every position you take in society, there's always consequences when you do, especially when you're a known celebrity. So in response to a few negative emails I received on this matter, this letter is for you. This will help you understand my position and stance on animals and my belief that animals deserve to be treated with kindness. I love animals, and I don't believe humans can treat them as commodities and cause them harm.

First of all, I officially became a vegan on June 1, 2009. Even though it's quite a change in terms of nutrition, I have never felt better or so healthy in my life. Considering that I'm a professional athlete, that's quite important, but with the help of the Montreal Vegetarian Association, and my nutritionist Anne Marie Roy, they have made the perfect meal plan for me that is free of animals and animal-products. And that part is quite crucial, when you're vegetarian, you cut down fish and meat, but when your vegan, on top of that, you eliminate all dairy products as well as everything that comes from animals. It makes sense that I feel healthier now that I'm vegan – according to the Dieticians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association, vegetarians are less prone to heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes and obesity than meat-eaters are. I decided to become vegan after I saw the movie called "EARTHLINGS," which shows in details the cruelty animals go through to end up on your plate, become a piece of clothing or even end up in a circus or a zoo. If kids knew how elephants, tigers and other animals used in the circus are trained through domination, fear and physical punishment using tools like electric shock prods and bull hooks (which resemble fireplace pokers), they actually would not want to go to the circus. Those animals are beaten into submission to perform silly and unnatural tricks for our amusement. It is no surprise that there are so many incidents in the circus where animals go crazy and seriously injure or kill their trainers or members of the audience.

I understand the impact I have in joining many groups like PETA. I don't do it to force people to be vegetarian or vegan. I just want to educate people on the subject to make this world a better place. If you, for example, can watch the entire Earthlings documentary and still eat meat, I will respect you because at least you will know what you're contributing to, and if you can live with that, then so be it! Many people refuse to see it, or refuse to get educated on the matter because just like me, they're sensitive and afraid to make a change. But my friends, that change is not bad at all. Give it a chance. Vegetarians save hundreds of animals a year and vegans save thousands from a life filled with suffering and the most painful death imaginable. Not only is vegetarianism good for animals, but it is also good for our health and environment. A United Nations report cited that factory farming is the #1 contributor to global warming. So, if you are really interested in being "green," make sure that includes eating more greens and less meat!

If you want to try to be a vegetarian, but are under the impression that you will not get enough protein or that you will look skinny...

Rest assured that there is tons of protein in vegetarian products that are much better for your health because vegetarian products aren't filled with the cholesterol that animal protein is filled with. Some of the greatest athletes in the world are vegetarians like retired four-time NBA champion John Salley, Carl Lewis (who was named Olympian of the Century by Sports Illustrated), NFL's Tony Gonzalez and the MLB's Prince Fielder among others. There's a well-known triathlete name Brendan Brazier who is also vegan and quite successful. His sport is much more demanding than hockey so I knew if he can do it, I could also. Millions of people around the globe are going vegetarian for the sake of animals, their health and the environment. I encourage you to give it a try too!

Another subject, which is quite touchy in Canada, is the seal industry. It is not only PETA and animal rights groups who want to see an end to the commercial seal slaughter. The entire US and European Union have recently ended the sale of all banned seal products imports and a week later, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed U.S. Senate Resolution 84, calling for an immediate end to the hunt and world leaders have spoken out against the slaughter. Please know that the massive commercial seal slaughter is not a subsistence trade for native peoples. Instead, is an off-season profit venture for commercial fisherman and is the largest massacre of marine mammals in the world. By contrast, traditional Inuit seal hunting accounts for only the tiniest fraction of the seals killed each year. In Newfoundland, income from the slaughter accounts for about one per cent of the province's economy, but even if it were more, there is no excuse for clubbing or shooting seals. People have always been able to replace cruel traditions with humane ones and this is no different. The one hypocritical thing about Europe is how Denmark is critical about Canada with their seal hunting, but you can see that their practice with whales is much worse just as cruel. The bottom line is we should work together to alleviate suffering no matter where in the world it exists and who the victim is.

You should also consider the following: Veterinarians and Department of Fisheries Officers have found that seals' skulls are often not adequately crushed after hunts, which means that those seals may be skinned alive. And although Canada halted slaughtering of so-called white coats in 1987, seals lose that iconic white fur at around two weeks of age. This means seals that are just over two weeks old can still be killed – in fact, most of the seals killed during the commercial slaughter are clubbed or shot to death before their third month of life. Rest assured that I am not being misled about the brutality and cruelty that is the commercial seal slaughter. I have seen video footage of the massacre and it would make anyone with a heart for animals understand that we must put a stop to it. I agree with you wholeheartedly that cruelly slaughtering seals is no different than what happens to other animals for food – which is why I am now a vegan!

I understand there are some people with allergies that can't eat nuts and other things, but please know that even people with nut allergies can eat beans, lentils, soy, grains, etc.

All you have to do is educate yourself on vegetarianism and learn that there are a lot of options out there even for people with food allergies. Animals eat other animals in the wild for survival – that is not the issue. We live in a civilized society where when we are hungry, we go to the grocery store and eat the food that is packaged for us to purchase. We are not out in the wild catching animals and skinning and eating animals with our teeth. The issue is large industrialized factory farming where chickens, pigs and cows are castrated and have their teeth plucked out with no painkillers. They are hung upside down and have their throats slit and are left to painfully bleed to death, or simply pushed into a meat grinder while fully conscious. I can go on and on forever on the subject. I know God has not created animals to suffer or to live this way and I do believe in Karma and I think that life make sure that those people creating suffering have paid or will pay for their act. In another life, I think you will meet what you have killed. Those are my beliefs on the matter.

In conclusion, please, if you have dogs or cats - spay or neuter them. We have a problem of overpopulation of cats and dogs. If you want to add a dog or cat to your family, please go rescue one at your local animal shelter. This is an easy thing that people can do to help animals in their everyday lives. Try to cut down on eating meat and fish and give vegetarianism a shot - you will feel much better, you will save money, you will reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases and you will live longer. You will help make this world better because unless we start respecting the life living around us, how can we respect each other? Help others, educate others on the subject and help me to stop animal cruelty! I encourage you to visit these websites to learn more about animals and the little things we can do as individuals to make this world a better place- for all its inhabitants: http://www.earthlings.com/ and http://www.goveg.com.

Mahatma Gandhi - "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."