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Soy Boy

Vegetarianism is harmless enough, though it's apt to give a person wind and self-righteousness.

- Robert Hutchinson
 

by Moby as told to Linda Friedman

The press often calls me "the bald vegan."  I take it as a compliment - especially the second part.  I've been a proud vegan for 14 years, since I was 21.  Like most vegetarians, I don't eat meat, chicken or even fish (they have feelings too).  But - here's the vegan part - I also don't eat products that come from animals, like milk (unless it's soy milk) or cheese.  And you won't catch me wearing leather or fur, or using any soap or body lotion that's animal-tested.

It's not always easy.  We live in a complicated world, and not everyone is as animal-cruelty-conscious as I am.  If I'm on an airplane and I'm washing my hands, I don't know for sure that the soap hasn't been tested on animals.  There could be 30 ingredients listed!  The good news is that they're starting to realise that testing products on animals isn't just cruel and unnecessary.  It's bad science.  There are better ways to determine the toxicity of many substances.

So why am I a vegan?  I've always loved animals.  Growing up, I had cats, dogs and all sorts of different creatures as pets.  In high school, a question started to haunt me: how could I be so concerned about the well-being of my own pets while I was eating other animals?  It seemed hypocritical.  It's pretty obvious that animals have rich emotional lives and that they feel joy and pain.  I simply decided that I didn't want to be responsible for their suffering.

In the United States today, we're extremely removed from the production of the food we eat.  But I forced myself to acknowledge the fact that every time I ate a hamburger, a cow had taken its last breath.  A McNugget may not look like a chicken, but it used to be a sweet little creature walking around clucking and minding its own business.  If people would just educate themselves about what goes into their mouths, I'm sure they'd change their eating habits.  I don't think that anyone could visit a factory farm or a slaughterhouse and not become a vegetarian.

Where's the Beef?

I didn't give up animal products - pardon the pun - cold turkey.  Growing up in Connecticut, I had a pretty traditional American diet (translation: full of red meat).  Like a lot of my friends, I was addicted to McDonald's and Wendy's.  But by the time I turned 18 and moved into my first apartment, I was ready to become a vegetarian.  I gave up red meat and pork right away, but it took me about a year to stop eating chicken.  I still remember my last chicken sandwich.  I'll spare you the graphic details, but in the midst of throwing up, it occurred to me that whenever people I knew got food poisoning, it was always from red meat or chicken.  I'd never heard of anyone eating bad broccoli or getting food poisoning from an orange!

Over the next two years, I gradually gave up eggs and dairy products.  Back then, I was struggling to make music, and I was pretty broke, so I wasn't exactly eating well. I couldn't afford many of the products in the health-food stores.  And I quickly found out that the stuff that's good for you often costs more: for example, did you know that brown rice is more expensive than white rice?  Or that whole-grain bread has a higher price tag than white bread?  I wasn't going hungry, but I got very skinny for a while.  Which brings me to an important point: if you're considering becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, you should do some research first to find out which nutrients you're going to need.  This is especially important for women because they menstruate and can become anemic if they don't get enough iron.  I know some people who become vegetarians and all of a sudden they're just eating doughnuts and bagels and cheese.  That's not a recipe for a healthy life!

Bon Appetit!

Today I live in a loft in downtown Manhattan, an area that's a vegan's paradise.  And I can afford to splurge at any of the 20 vegetarian restaurants and health-food stores just a 10-minute walk away.  I'm really spoiled.  Yesterday, for example, I had all-whole-wheat pancakes with blueberries and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast.  For lunch, I went out with a friend for a Mediterranean salad plate with hummus and tabbouleh.  And dinner was great: I went to a macrobiotic Japanese restaurant and ordered miso soup, vegetable tempura and brown rice with curry tofu, and a piece of tofu cheesecake for dessert.

I buy fake meat products like pepperoni - which I put on my cheeseless pizza - and Canadian bacon.  Even my meat-eating friends (yes, I do have meat-eating friends) think they taste better than the real thing, not to mention much less greasy.  I also buy fake ice cream.  My favourite brand has a pretty silly name, It's Soy Delicious.  But I have to admit it really is delicious.

My diet gives me more energy than you can imagine.  I recently toured for a year and a half to support my album Play.  When I perform, I run around onstage for two hours and get covered in sweat.  If I was eating fried chicken every day, there's no way I could do that.  When I was a teen, I practically existed on fast food and soda.  I was overweight, and I'd get depressed easily.  I also had mood swings, and I'd often feel fatigued at the end of the day.  Since I became a vegan, I've felt a hundred times better.  I'm 35, and I meet up with friends I went to school with who have spent their entire lives eating meat, and they look ancient compared to me now.

Setting an Example

Still, I'd never force my views on them or anyone else.  I have some friends who are militant vegans; if they see a stranger eating a hamburger, they'll start yelling.  That just makes the person feel bad and defensive.  If I'm at a dinner party and people are eating meat, it doesn't bother me because that's their choice.  I've always felt that the most compelling argument anyone can ever make is just to live a good life and set a good example.  I'm happy to explain the reasons why I'm a vegan, but I don't judge people who aren't.

There's one thing, though, that I have to admit: to me it's no surprise that some of the most interesting celebrities are vegetarian or vegan, like Madonna, Fiona Apple, Anthony Kiedis and Drew Barrymore.  If you study history, you'll find many smart and honorable vegetarians.  Guess which famous scientist advocated not eating meat?  Albert Einstein!  He has a famous quote that says "Nothing will... increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

One of my goals is to have a huge spread of land with tons of animals - a big menagerie of cats and dogs and chickens and pigs.  And of course one day I'd love to live in a world where everyone was a vegetarian and animals didn't ever have to suffer for human purposes.  But until that time comes, I just choose to live the way I do.  Hopefully other people will see that it's ethical and healthy, and some of them might even choose to live that way themselves.


The Breakfast Club: "I cook for myself a lot.  When I'm on tour it's simple things because I only have a hot plate," says Moby.  But at home in his Manhattan loft, the amateur chef has been known to get creative.  To make Moby's vegan pancakes, mix one cup of whole wheat flour with 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.  Stir in a splash of soy milk and water ("until you have a slightly runny batter," Moby says).  Pour the batter onto a hot skillet and add banana slices.  Serve with organic maple syrup.

Find this story and other first-person accounts from celebs and real kids in Teen People: Real Life Diaries @ 2001 by Time Incorporated, due in stores in August from Avon Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Source: Teen People September 2001 photo credit Todd France

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This page last updated on: Sunday, 18 January 2004

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