Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Patrick Norton – Founder of Hero Pet Supplies.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Patrick Norton, and I’m a vegan realtor in Baltimore with Keller Williams Integrity! I also am the founder of Hero Pet Supplies and the managing member of VeganWear.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I used to run cross country in college, so when I came across Christopher McDougall’s book, Born To Run, before my final season, I started transitioning to the plant-based lifestyle advocated for in the book.  I was also welcomed into a group of incredibly friendly vegan-trail runners.  As a result of adopting a more-plant-based diet, as well as the support and food advice from my vegan friends, I was able to drop two-and-a-half minutes off of my 8k (5 mile) time.

Around this same time, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. And, replacing the majority of meat and dairy in her diet with vegan food was absolutely instrumental towards her recovery!

At this point, I had no doubt that I should become completely vegan, so I watched Earthlings on New Year’s Eve! I have been vegan since January 1, 2014, and I will continue to stay that way until the day I die.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

I think being compassionate and empathetic towards non-vegans is the most effective approach towards getting people onto the vegan train.  This more loving and inviting approach definitely worked for me.  When around non-vegans, I always try to remember that I was not always vegan.  I was incredibly lucky to have supportive friends who welcomed me to a plant-based lifestyle, and I hope to similarly be there as a resource for the non-vegans in my life.

I’m also a big believer in highlighting how mainstream and accessible veganism can be and that vegans come from all walks of life. As a realtor, I always try to present a professional image and wear vegan suits and ties. 

In fact, one of the main reasons I decided to become the owner and operator of VeganWear is to address the lack of accessibility to professional vegan menswear.  Before that point, I had an extremely hard time finding premium vegan leather briefcases, wallets, belts, etc.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

I’ve really enjoyed putting together Hero Pet Supplies’  Superhero Spotlight blog that highlights the work and stories of all-star animal activists and non-human animals heroes.  If you are interested in nominating any of your two or four legged friends, please feel free to send an email to info@heropetsupplies.com.  I’ve also learned a great deal from VeganWear’s blog series spotlighting the experiences of vegan professionals, parents, and athletes.

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

My favorite vegan movie of all-time is hands-down, The Game Changers; if you haven’t seen this movie, stop reading this and go watch it!

If you haven’t already left to go see The Game Changers, please feel free to check out my Fish Protection Webinar that I gave while interning at the Humane Society of The United States.

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

As a new vegan, always remember that you are not alone! There are vegans out there waiting to show you all of the best vegan hangouts, events, restaurants, and recipes. For example, I was an absolutely horrendous cook but am lucky to have amazing friends in my life who share their incredible recipes, such as Shannon Cebron of Yup It’s Vegan.

The other thing I always tell myself and new vegans is that if you don’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of them; he fact that you are so passionate about advocating for animals is everything, but you are no help to them if you burn yourself out!  Self-care is absolutely necessary for long-term advocacy.

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

It’s so encouraging to see the huge number of all-vegan restaurants continually sprouting up in Baltimore and to see more and more places add plant-based options. I also love the fact that there’s vegan restaurant week two weeks per year thanks to Naijha Wright. She also organizes Vegan Soul Fest

Rissa Miller also runs an incredibly fun Vegan Drinks series at different restaurants in Baltimore each month. I cannot recommend this enough for meeting new vegans.  For those interested in athletics, there is also the fantastic No Meat Athlete team run by Lauren Schafer, who also organizes post-run noshing at vegan restaurants throughout Baltimore.

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

There are Vegan Drinks, No Meat Athlete, and Meetup up chapters all throughout the United States. And, wherever you are in the world, I recommend trying to get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. All vegan communities I’ve ever been exposed to have always been incredibly supportive! If you take the leap, other vegans will be there to help catch you!

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

My favorite vegan company is Dr. Bronner’s because they are the gold standard for giving back to support the animals and the life-changing work of those who work tirelessly to advocate for them.  For example, they donated over five-hundred-thousand dollars towards the animal protection movement.

With VeganWear and Hero Pet Supplies, our brands are trying to follow the example set by companies like Dr. Bronner’s – that is why the brands have a 5% and 10% Giving Pledge for the animals respectively.

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

The toughest vegan item for me to find was vegan professional menswear, but it is my aim that Veganwear will help to solve this problem.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

Within the first month of going vegan, I went on a cross-country road trip with friends, and I didn’t always know what the vegan options were along the road and in different towns.  But, apps like Happy Cow and Vegan Maps made it so incredibly easy to find options.  Also, literally anything on the menu at Taco Bell can be veganized by ordering things Fresco style and subbing beans for beef.  And, plant-based options at fast-food restaurants and in general are only becoming more and more available and accessible.  With each passing year, becoming vegan is easier and easier.

I have been very fortunate and privileged to readily have the access and means to find plant-based options wherever I’ve lived. However, so many people live in food deserts where finding vegan options is really a struggle. Luckily, non-profits such as Plant Dining Partnerships and Food Empowerment Project are doing incredible work to reverse this trend.

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