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James Aspey 1

Vegan and animal rights activist James Aspey. Photo submitted

Hub Staff

If there are legends in the world of veganism and animal activism, Australia's James Aspey is certainly among them and he is set to take the stage in Saugeen Shores as headliner at the first ever Grey Bruce VegFest July 13.

At 32 years old, Aspey has been vegan five and a half years and is a full time activist touring and doing talks around the world. He took a vow of silence for a year in 2014 to highlight the plight of animals and, during the same period, cycled across Australia, the latter being quite by accident.

"[The cycling] wasn't planned," Aspey said in an interview with Saugeen Shores Hub. "My van broke down so I hitchhiked for a while and then decided I would shatter the 'vegans can't be fit and healthy' myth by proving it with my physical feat," he said.

Aspey believes that advocating for veganism and animal rights is "the least we should do as a society" but admits it can take time to break old habits. He believes that one of the biggest obstacles people face when considering veganism is thinking that they won't enjoy food without the animal products they are accustomed to but says there are millions of delicious vegan meals available.

"Plant foods are more affordable and eating a plant based diet increases your chance of living a long and healthy life with less likelihood of nutrient deficiencies," said Aspey.

In their Healthy Eating Guidelines for Vegans, Dieticians of Canada state that a vegan diet includes grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), seeds and nuts and that a healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity and heart disease as well as lower rates of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The guide advises that "it may take planning to get enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats," but says that a healthy vegan diet "can meet all your nutrient needs at any stage of life."

The September 2019 global premiere of The Game Changers, executive produced by, most notably, James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan, explores the rise of plant-based eating in professional sports and features some of the world's leading athletes "mixing real-time, groundbreaking science with cinematic stories of struggle and triumph."

2019 FIFA Women's World Cup winner Alex Morgan has been quoted saying she adopted a vegan diet "because it didn’t feel fair to have a dog I adore and yet eat meat all the time."

Aspey said another obstacle people face when considering veganism is coming to terms with what he calls the "animal holocaust."

According to animalclock.org, at the time of publishing 2.9 billion animals had been killed for food in 2019 in Canada alone. In Australia that number was almost as high at 2.5 billion and in the US 28.7 billion animals had been slaughtered in the same 26 week period.

It is estimated that if humans were killed at the same rate as animals, we would be extinct in 17 days.

There are also environmental factors to consider. Aspey said that plant based foods use less land, less water and less oil to produce than animal based products and that animal agriculture is a leading cause of species extinction, habitat loss, ocean dead zones and greenhouse gas emissions.

In July of 2018, Independent published an article stating that meat and dairy companies were on track to become the world's biggest contributors to climate change, "outpacing even the fossil fuel industry."

In May of 2018 The Guardian stated that more than 80 percent of farmland is used for livestock while producing only 18 percent of food calories and 37 percent of protein.

An October 2018 article, also published by the Guardian, said that reduction in meat consumption was essential to avoiding climate breakdown.

Additional data published in 2013 stated that, other than chocolate, food animals including cows, sheep, pigs and chickens as well as butter and cheese were higher in water consumption per kilogram of food with just one kilogram of beef requiring 15,415 litres of water to produce.

In the Plant Based News film Vegan 2018 which features Aspey as well as other notable activists including Earthling Ed, Jane Velez-Mitchell and Joey Carbstrong, plant-based meat giant Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown said that Impossible Foods could produce all the protein required by the world's population in 2050 using just two percent of earth's land.

From the same film, plant based protein company Beyond Meat is on a mission to transform the meat section of grocery stores to the protein section, with their plant based burger patties in many cases outselling their meat based counterparts.

Aspey believes that all animal products come from exploitation and violence. "There is always a victim who suffered and didn't want to die," he said.

"I try to speak for the animals the way I’d like to be spoken for if it was me in their situation," said Aspey. "I see them as individuals deserving of the right to live in peace just as much as any human. They need every voice they can get," he said.

Despite his large and loyal following, Aspey's message is sometimes met with hostility. He has received everything from death threats to threats of violence to online manipulation of pictures and videos designed to make him out to seem like a person he is not but says that it's all "extremely minor compared to what the actual victims go through and so I don’t complain or let it slow me down," he said. "In fact, it’s fuel for the fire."

Aspey said he understands that people can feel defensive when you start to break through their conditioning and always responds with as much love and compassion as he can muster. "I want to be firmly grounded in understanding, patience and respect in the hopes it will foster a more positive conversation and better outcome than an argument can," he said, adding "it often does."

He also said that he doesn't blame animal farmers and wants them to succeed. "I can't blame [animal farmers], I was paying for the products that came from slaughterhouses for many years before I became vegan," said Aspey. "The point is that when we know better, we should do better," he said.

"We don’t want farmers to struggle," Aspey added. "We want to help them transition to plant farming or other ways of creating income," he said.

The Texas based Rancher Advocacy Program offers a support system and solutions to farmers and their families around the world when they experience emotional conflict and begin to gain insight into health, ethical and environmental concerns.

Aspey believes there is no argument against veganism and said he welcomes debate. "I welcome discussion on my views anywhere, anytime. I'd be more than happy for people to come to VegFest and debate me," he said.

"Vegans and animal rights activists will never stop until breeding animals into slavery and murdering them for food is a thing of the past," he said.

You can find James Aspey on Facebook at facebook.com/jamesaspeyactivism, on YouTube at youtube.com/voiceless365 or on Instagram @jamesaspey.

Grey Bruce VegFest is set to take place on Saturday, July 13, at the Plex, 600 Tomlinson Drive, in Port Elgin from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event includes vendors, cooking demonstrations and guest speakers. James Aspey is set to take the stage at 4:15 p.m. with a panel discussion to follow at 5:15 p.m.

See also: First ever Grey Bruce VegFest a hit in Port Elgin

James Aspey

Photo submitted

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