My name is Damien Clarkson, I am a 31 year old vegan, writer and entrepreneur. I have dedicated my career to helping organisations doing good in the world tell their story. Outside of work I am fairly normal guy, I occasionally run marathons and like riding bicycles. I follow Arsenal football club and I am a member of the Green Party.
I started Vegan Futures along with my co-founder Jennifer Pardoe. We wanted to create a festival which showcases Vegan people doing fantastic things in the world of activism, environment and health. We hope that people come away from the festival feeling inspired about living a vegan lifestyle and having made lots of new friends.
Let’s Talk Veganism
Please can you explain what veganism is? Does it include not using animal products for clothes etcetera too?
The official Vegan Society definition of officially is: ” Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
My impression from a brief google on the subject is that it started as an ethical issue/animal welfare concern? Is that still the case or has the main argument shifted?
These days people definitely find their way to veganism for a whole plethora of reasons including concern for the environment and health reasons. Research is showing that on a vegan diet on average you get 7 more years of good health.
Although people come to it for a whole range of reasons, I personally believe that once you start living this way you feel an instant deeper connection to animals and open your heart to the ethical case for living a vegan lifestyle.
If you were going to persuade me to go vegan what three arguments would you use to do so?
1) Ethical- Animals are beautiful sentient beings, they care for their children, they have memories and thoughts and feelings. Being Vegan means that you are no longer relying on the suffering of intelligent animals to sustain yourself. When you shift and start eating this way it is a beautiful thing.
2) Health- Veganism is a great way to be leaner and healthier, the average vegan lives longer and has a lower body weight than someone eating an omnivorous diet. Most of the vegans I know are extremely fit and healthy.
3) Environment- Animal agriculture is the world’s leading cause of climate change. A 2010, UN report estimates that global greenhouse gases from animals at around 16% of all emissions. But recently a new documentary film called Cowspiracy (now available on Netflix) has come out which puts the figure of greenhouse gases associated with animal agriculture (including fossil fuels and food) at around 51% of all global greenhouse gases. It isn’t just the impact that our desire for animal products has on our attempts to tackle climate change. It is the deforestation, associated destruction of wildlife and contamination of our oceans and rivers which are also major concerns.
Please outline the benefits of going vegan (environmental, financial, physical / health and anything else):
Going Vegan will do the following: reduce your personal carbon footprint, enable you to eat fresher and more nutrient rich food, you will experience lower cholesterol levels and are more likely to maintain a healthy body weight. I think the most important thing is the clarity of mind which comes with not eating animal products. We know in our hearts that animals endure incredible suffering to feed us, we simply don’t need to be a part of it to live a happy and healthy life.
Challenges of becoming a vegan?
Firstly there has never been an easier time to be vegan, there is more choice than ever in restaurants and supermarkets. Veganism has a bigger profile than ever before in the media meaning there is just a better understanding in wider society of what veganism is.
Dealing with your family is a classic difficult challenge that people encounter.
My top tip is to make your family the food that you love. As people there is more that brings us together than which sets us apart.
Personally since becoming Vegan my Mum has now gone vegetarian and many of my non-vegan friends eat more vegan food.
Are there enough choices for vegans when eating out or is there a demand for more vegan-friendly food shops and restaurants?
The options with eating out are getting better every day. Many large chain restaurants now have a Vegan menu available on request. In supermarkets new ranges of Vegan foods are coming out each week- just last month for example Quorn launched their Vegan range in the UK. Personally I eat a lot of whole foods, fruits and vegetables which are always easy to get anywhere.
What would you say to the livestock farming community about the idea of veganism?
Honestly… Repurpose your farm, start an animal sanctuary or switch to growing plants for people to eat instead of feeding plants to animals to eat.
The future of food is plant-based those who move with the times will secure a future for their farms and family.
Why run a vegan festival?
The festival was a great way to discuss the future of the movement and celebrate the great community that has grown up around veganism in the UK.
What do you hope will be the outcomes of Vegan Futures round one?
People come away from the festival feeling inspired and having made new friends. The festival is about showcasing great people with big ideas to make the world a better place.
We see the festival almost like Ted Talks for the vegan movement, we want to focus on ideas and interaction with people not consumption of products.
London Bio Packaging donated some environmentally friendly disposable packaging to the event. Why did you want to go with environmentally responsible / ‘eco’ friendly packaging?
Veganism is a lifestyle that enables people to live an environmentally conscious and compassionate life so it was essential that we produced a festival the was environmentally responsible. London Bio Packaging is a great fit for the festival and we’re delighted to be partnering with them for the first Vegan Futures festival.
Interview conducted by: Lily Dalby Gray