It’s always so rewarding when I get to tattoo a client, make a new friend and learn something from them at the same time.
Vincent Berraud is author of The Animalist and founder of Friendly and Pragmatic Vegans and Vegetarians. I was fascinated by his approach to educating us humans about the rights of animals and how we can show them greater care in our every day life.
I choose to use vegan inks and also take steps in my personal life to follow an animal-friendly lifestyle. I wanted to take the opportunity to ask Vincent more about his work and thought I would share his thoughts with you.
Have you always been a vegan?
No, definitely not. I’m not even sure that I’m vegan right now – it’d depend on who you ask. I am an animalist: just like humanist but inclusive of animals. I care about animals because there is no rational and fair reason to systematically ignore their interests. So I eat a plant based diet and I avoid animal products such as leather or wool, and so on, as much as is practicable for my family and I.
I went vegetarian in 1992 when a friend of mine went vegetarian. I thought it was very silly of him and I was confident, in a typically arrogant fashion, that I could prove him wrong and make him realise how pointless vegetarianism was. To my surprise, his replies weren’t silly at all and actually made some sense. It was before the age of the Internet, and for weeks we had a back and forth conversation about not eating animals and about the way animals are treated. Needless to say: I failed dramatically at proving him wrong. The whole experience made me think things through and slowly but surely I became a vegetarian, and questioned the way we systematically ignore the animals interests and treat them like commodities.
Animals are used in a way that would clearly be unacceptable if the victims were dogs or other family animals we have learned to understand. About a year later I went “vegan”, then went back to vegetarian as I moved to various poorer countries, then back to vegan again. I do not care about the line between vegan and vegetarian, to be honest. I am opposed to the egg and dairy industries, for sure, they are inherently cruel and promote a vision of animals as commodities, but I am also opposed to exclusive, black and white thinking.
What can humans do better in support of our animal friends?
We can stop eating them for a start. We can also learn to be friendly and pragmatic. This in turn will help us convince others to look at animals in a fair and reasonable manner. Animals should not be seen as products and as unimportant beings that we can use and abuse because we grew up doing it and our parents did too. Just like with racism and sexism, we have to break the cycle of exploitation.
We must accept less than 100% and we must embrace grey – and not see things as black and white. It’s OK for people to disagree and it’s OK not to be vegan. We all learned to walk with baby steps. The foot in the door technique is an efficient strategy that has been proven to work more often than not. Most people aren’t anywhere near ready to go vegan but if we can help them take a few steps, we should – preferably by helping them stop eating chickens because eating chickens means having more animal individuals killed, and often “raised” in the harshest of ways. And honestly, the pretend chicken meat we find in supermarkets is alright!
I find that Animals Australia does tremendous work to reach a mainstream audience and help change our culture towards more compassion. I kindly encourage everyone to set up a regular donation to Animals Australia.
Why is using vegan tattoo inks important to you?
Because it exists! It’s not a hassle to google for a tattoo artist who uses vegan ink, and it’s a quality tool to boot. I am not one to look for the next 0.1% I can do to further reduce my personal consumption of animal products but clearly, when there is such a good and easily accessible alternative, I think we need to go for it!
In your experience are there many vegan tattooists in Melbourne?
I don’t know. I could easily find a few with a quick google search but they weren’t necessarily super central. I’m just super happy I heard of Clare Keton because she’s immensely talented, has a lot of experience and she’s a lovely and caring person.
Obviously you maintain a holistic vegan lifestyle, what tips would you give a person wanting to consider becoming vegan?
Don’t delay any more! Do what seems possible now and don’t worry too much about what seems too difficult. There is no point in delaying just because you feel you can’t do it 100%. For example, if you want to try being vegan at home but have more flexibility when going out, do it! Be flexible and do what works best for you. Enjoy yourself and the positive changes you are making for yourself, the animals and the environment.
If you are looking for dietary advice, mainstream organisations such as Animals Australia or the Vegan Society have got great resources. When it comes to nutritional advice, it is worth consulting a registered, adequately qualified professional. There are many vegan registered dieticians. If you are just looking for some information, here are a few sites I recommend:
VEGAN HEALTH, By Jack Norris from Vegan Outreach: http://www.veganhealth.org/
The Vegan R.D., By Ginny Kisch Messina: http://www.theveganrd.com/
The Human Herbivore by Amanda Benham: http://www.humanherbivore.com/
Vegetarian Nutrition: http://vegetariannutrition.net/faq/
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: http://www.pcrm.org/
Dr Malcolm Mackay: http://drmalcolmmackay.com.au/
Michael Klaper, M.D.: http://doctorklaper.com/
How did you find Clare’s tattooing work?
I now have five tattoos. Two of them were done by Clare and they are the best in terms of how well they were done. I am stoked. Couldn’t be happier.
Vincent Berraud, animal advocate, dad, teacher, gamer, footy fan and science enthusiast, author of The Animalist and founder of Friendly and Pragmatic Vegans and Vegetarians.