I begin this with a difficult confession: I am not a vegan. I have a soft spot for cheese, you see. And, while I strive to eat a diet rich in plant foods, nuts, legumes, beans, fruit etc, I lapse. As much as I strive to consume very little meat, I do. I try to assuage my guilt by buy organic and hormone free produce when I can, and while the gathering of 200 vegans at the Fry’s Annual Green Meeting in Sandton in late 2017 was remarkably non-judgemental of me and my lifestyle, I do feel it.
Having been invited to attend this event by my business partner and close friend, Gaye Crossley, I began to realised why. The philosophy of veganism is so much more than just eschewing animal products, it is an attractive and sustainable philosophy, it is caring by its very nature and is the epitome of letting your actions do the talking.
During the ‘AGM’, held at Katy’s Place Bar in November 2017, the Fry’s team produced a line-up of delectable Fry’s-based nibbles throughout the event, everything from sausage rolls to ‘meat’ balls, fruit skewers and croquettes. We all walked away with a goodie bag packed with vegan products, not just from Fry’s, including the finest mayonnaise I’ve ever tasted courtesy of B-Well (try it, it’s incredible) and some pretty fine mushroom ‘biltong’. There were presentations from the likes of Sebastian Joy, a lecturer at the Berlin School of Economics and Law and CEO of ProVeg International, a vegetarian and vegan awareness organisation, Dr Paul Palmer, a local plant-based nutrition expert, and Dr Hema Kalan, an integrative medical doctor who had me begging for more insights. The MC was a UK stand-up comedian called Cal Donnelly, a man who proves that vegans have a pretty wicked sense of humour.
Fry’s co-founder, Wally Fry, also addressed the meeting and shared his wonderful story of mindfulness and kindness, beautiful traits which sparked not only a change in his life and ways but which lead to the creation of a vegan food empire, which is still run by the Fry family today.
If you are interested in the Fry’s story then I urge you to check out this wonderful video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYUSNkeSDqk
Yes, it may seem odd that I’m so enamoured and feel so at home with this eclectic bunch of people, and I’m sure many will ask why I don’t just become a vegan or vegetarian. These are valid responses. Similarly meat-eaters often become defensive when I share my appreciation for the vegan lifestyle. Why I don’t know. Reducing your meat consumption and supporting ethical producers simply requires a mindful approach to living and sharing this planet with others, both human and animal. It is a similar viewpoint to life that informs other issues in our complex modern world, from anti-plastic drives to responsible consumerism, striving to reduce waste, recycling, caring for the planet and not overusing the resources at our disposal.
We often fear that being a good citizen of Planet Earth requires us to go without. I don’t think it does. But it does ask us to be respectful of all life, and that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.