Vegan Athletes: Giacomo Marchese – Living Cruelty-Free Means Acting with Compassion Towards All Life

Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living.

I am a competitive drug-free bodybuilding, powerlifter, and coach. I am to help others unlock their truest potential for their physique and strength based goals. In my spare time, I enjoy keeping the vegan community up to date with the latest in evidence-based training and nutrition principles. Stay in touch with us and keep up to date with our latest free content geared towards vegan athletes, over at VeganProteins and also on Instagram: @musclesbybrussels

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

About 15 years ago a friend of mine had a heart attack. I wanted to help them and stumbled unto plant-based nutrition. I lead by example and adopted the diet as a mean to improve my health as well as to perform better in the gym. In hopes to inspire others to take control of their health too. Shortly thereafter I came full circle and embraced veganism as a lifestyle, by living compassionately and doing my best to respect all life.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

It happened slowly for me actually. Back in 2002 when I started to transition, there were not nearly as many options as there is today. I also did it initially for health reasons. Soon as I realized that veganism was a way to not engage in the unnecessary suffering of animals and that they are not ours to use for food, I never looked back. I took me about 2-3 years in total to fully transition.

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism? For example, how strict are you with your children’s veganism at school or at family gatherings?

Unless you live under a rock and completely off the grid, there are some compromises that one needs to consider when making the most ethical choices in life possible. For example, there are glues that furniture, tires, and other products that we use, that are not vegan. Or take medication as another example. Up until recently, all meds needed to be tested on animals to meet regulatory standards to be brought to market. I’m not going to avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen when it’s necessary just because they were initially tested on animals. These are just some of the many examples. To me veganism means, doing as little harm as you can and making the most ethical choices that are possible in modern day society.

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

I think it’s very important to explain to them what happens to animals so that they can form their own opinions on what they do and don’t consider food. As opposed to what we tell them they should eat.

What does being vegan mean to you? For example, does it extend to not killing bugs and bees? Does it include not patronizing vegan companies owned by non-vegan parent companies? Does it affect the way you treat other humans?

There are corporate conglomerates everywhere we look. I do think it’s perhaps a bit too utopiast for someone to not be supportive of nonvegan brands who produce vegan products. It’s sort of a gray area. In one respect, we want vegan goods mass produced because that is the only way we are going to produce change on a global level. On the other hand, we do need to keep these companies accountable and demand certain industry standards out of them. Both in the direct production of these products and for their business practices in general with other non-vegan products they produce. But step one, is supporting their interest in catering to veganism.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

No. This being said I think that pretty much every vegan is an activist in one way or another. Leading and living by example gives us an opportunity to inspire others to make the more compassionate choice without even realizing it.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

Veganism means being compassionate to all walks of life, including humans.

Any recommended Vegan books?

Miyoko’s Pantry for making your own vegan meats and cheeses, any cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for meal inspirations, and Flexible Dieting For Vegans by Dani Taylor for vegan nutrition

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

VeganProteins.com for vegan sports nutrition, Plantbuilt.com for fitness inspiration, livekindly.co and vegnews.com to keep up to date with what’s happening in the world of veganism.

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

Earthlings struck a chord with me. You only need to watch it once to understand why.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

Veggie Galaxy!!! Best vegan diner/comfort food ever

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

This recipe goes over well, 100% of the time. So damned good.

BBQ Seitan Ribs

Ingredients:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 tbs nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 tbs peanut butter
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 bottle of Weber’s Hickory Smoked Apple Bbq sauce

Instructions:
-Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a baking dish and set it aside
-In one bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together and in the other, mix all the wet ingredients (including the peanut butter)
-Combine the wet and dry ingredients until a ball of dough is formed. Be careful not to knead it too much as you want the seitan to have a rib-like texture
-Flatten the dough into a rectangle. Cut it down the center and then cut each one into 1-inch slices.
-Transfer the 1-inch slices into the baking dish and cook for 30min. Take them out at 15min and turn them over to make sure they cook evenly.
-Remove them from the oven, pour the Bbq sauce into the baking dish and mix.
-Transfer the ribs into a cast iron skillet or large pan and cook for another 10min on low/medium heat or until browned to the desired texture. Turn them over at 5 min to cook ensure they brown evenly.
-Devour the seitan ribs like the vegan beast that you are!

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

Like any dietary shift and lifestyle change, it isn’t going to feel natural right away. Give it time. I will say that I eat a much wider array of foods now than I ever have. Don’t be afraid to explore and be creative. You’d be surprised at all the kinds of delicious foodstuffs you can create with plants.

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Pretty much nonexistent. Haha. We live in a rural area in New England with the typical meat and potato crowd. This being said, several of our gym buddies and friends have gone vegan since we moved out here. If there is no community, don’t worry. Plant some seeds just by doing you, and watch the community grow. 😉

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Search facebook groups for vegan communities. There are so many. Find out what kind of meet-ups are in your area. Nowadays there are vegan expos and food festivals, everywhere. This is the most supportive community I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of.

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?

Living cruelty-free does not start and stop at what’s on your plate, what you wear, and how you treat animals. It means being compassionate to all life, including your fellow human.

What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

Beyond Meat, Upton, Gardein, Daiya, The Brave Gentleman, Herbivore Clothing Company, Compassion Over Killing

To learn more about this great company, click here.

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

Honestly, there isn’t anything I can think of. Not in this day and age.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

In the first couple of years of being vegan, I was disgruntled and angry. The typical stereotype of the preachy, judgy vegan towards other humans. I just couldn’t understand why others hadn’t made the connection. I envisioned the way the world should be and was upset with how slowly things had evolved. Many years later the behavior of humanity on the whole still upsets me but I realize that change doesn’t happen overnight. I can only be the best version of myself that can be and if I’m going to affect others in any sort of way, I need to be a lot more understanding of everyone. Personally, I had never even heard of the word vegan until I was an adult. And even after being exposed to veganism, it took me several years to make changes. How could I expect others to get it right away when it took several decades for me to make the connection? And although change takes time, we have seen a dramatic shift in the past 5 years or so. Veganism is on the rise and is here to stay!

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