Tell us a little about yourself.
I am originally from West Virginia. I’ve lived in Maryland, Boston, Austin, and Portland, before calling beautiful Vancouver, Washington home 4 years ago with my beautiful wife, Kristy (IG: @VegfulLife and @VeganPicnics), 3 cats, and 2 mice. I work, remotely, for The Department of Veterans Affairs Austin Information Technology Center and I am a running coach. You can find me here:
- Website: www.SolutionaryRunning.com
- Instagram: @pdxVeganRunner and @SolutionaryRunning
- Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/16388784
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/steve.draper.923
What lead you to veganism? How long ago?
I always thought of myself as a warm-hearted liberal who consistently thought of others and the environment. I regularly spoke up for small farmers and against polluters and greedy people and corporations. In 2012, Kristy and I watched a documentary, called Food, Inc. Since the documentary was about small farmers speaking out against corporate/factory farms, I naturally wanted to see it. The information in the documentary didn’t convince me to go vegan, it was how the small-farm workers were treating their animals that planted a veganism-seed in me. Being a bullying-survivor, it was easy for me to empathize and recognize the physical and mental animal abuse that was occurring in the film. It was also easy for me to pick up on language and personal-value inconsistencies. There was only one consistency that I recognized in the film – the way the small farmers were treating non-human animals was the same way the factory famers were treating non-human animals. This was a real eye-opener for me. Why would I pay ANYONE to abuse and bully animals, especially having been bullied myself? This prompted me to think of my own inconsistencies and question them: “why do I love my cats, but not chickens,” which raised an even better question – “why do I love bald eagles (bird), but not chickens (also bird)?” Another inconsistency, of mine, that I questioned was: “if I’m against rape, why do I consume cow’s milk,” which raised an even better question – “why the hell do I eat steak if I like cows???” Logical question, after logical question quickly led me to become a vegetarian in 2012, and a vegan 6 months after that.
When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
Going vegan was a huge, enlightening change in my life. Google and Facebook were my best resources for information. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself, but I started questioning everything I consumed (how products were made, if they were tested on animals, were they made using slave or child labor, and so on); needless to say, my transition didn’t happen overnight. To me, it seemed silly to replace any useful, non-vegan clothing I already had. When my leather belt wore out (or the emotional guilt became too much), I replaced it with a vegan-leather belt. Next I replaced my shoes, then my personal-hygiene products, and then my cleaning products. I even used veganism to determine which car I purchased next.
Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?
The only exception I make is the food I give my cats.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?
The words “the process of how animals are turned into meats” is interesting to me. Every rational human being knows killing, when other options are available, is wrong. Humans are taught, at an early age, that killing and torturing some animals is wrong, while killing and torturing others is perfectly “normal” and, in many cases, is encouraged and applauded (agriculture, fishing, hunting, shooting snakes, stepping on spiders, and poising “pests.” Humans are taught this through disassociation and distancing themselves from others by using terms and phrases, such as “meat,” “dairy,” “leather,” “down,” “ham,” “steak,” and “cheese.” When these terms are no longer effective, people are then taught terms, such as “humanely raised,” “cage-free,” and “happy dairy cows” to make consumers feel better about their purchases. Yes, I went way off on a tangent; the bottom line is that covering up the truth causes cognitive dissonance, confusion, and misleading information. I believe everyone, especially children, should know the truth; it’s their world that they are inheriting, and they should be the first ones to know. With that said, information should be conveyed with age-appropriateness and in appropriate formats. No child should ever have to witness violence or gore.
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?
I really wish the word “vegan” didn’t exist. Why should I need to use a label to describe that I am just an average guy that doesn’t believe in violence – period? It’s sort of like the word “organic.” For example, if everyone only wanted an apple, without toxic pesticides, there would be no need for the word “organic.” If everyone believed in kindness and altruism, there would be no need for the word “vegan.” Yet, another long-winded answer, but veganism to me is a form of altruism. I am not perfect, I slip up from time to time, but I do my best to practice most-good, least-harm principles daily.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
No. However, since activism comes in many shapes and forms, if you’re a warm campfire-type of person going about doing your own vegan thing, you’re going inspire someone, whether you like it or not.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
There are no non-vegans, just vegans-in-transition. I appreciate patience more than anything, so I give that to everyone else, no matter what stage of transition they are.
Any recommended Vegan books?
- Most Good, Least Harm by Zoe Weil
- Running Eating Thinking: A Vegan Anthology by Martin Rowe
- Anything by Gary Francione or Melanie Joy
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
Melanie Joy’s Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices Ted talk.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
I have so many favorites, from Green Cuisine Vegetarian Restaurant in Victoria, BC to Karma Apple Juicery in Gilbert, AZ to Pixie Retreat in Portland, OR, but if I had to pick one, it would have to be Casa de Luz in Austin, Texas.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
- You’re not alone.
- Never strive for perfection.
- When speaking to others about veganism, keep in mind that people gather around campfires and flee forest fires; I’m a fan of campfires.
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
I live next to Portland, Oregon; It’s heaven for vegans that don’t cook.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
Google “vegans near me,” and start from there. When I started seeking out other vegans, I looked up local Meetup and Facebook groups. I also searched Instagram for other local vegans. If you’re not finding many groups in your area, start one! Another idea is to make virtual/distant connections until you make local ones. If you’re athletic, join a club/group; you’d be surprised at how many vegan athletes there are!
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 is just that. Just as I can’t say I’m not racist while being nice to some and not others, I can’t claim to be cruelty-free without being cruelty-free to all sentient beings, no matter their color, size, health, wealth, ability, gender, sexual identity, or species.
What are you favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
Vegan food without bell peppers or paprika! I have a pepper allergy.
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
What stands out to me the most is being a vegan man. We live in a culture that can be very hyper-masculine at times. If you don’t believe me, watch any Arby’s commercial. At work, I am often made fun of, asked unappropriated questions, and tend to be the recipient of gruesome hunting stories. My father-in-law, in front of the entire family, told me to “turn in my man card,” when he found out that I went vegan. On the plus side, this type of behavior, mostly by my male-counter parts, has further instilled veganism in me. It has taught me to more-deeply empathize with others, especially other minority groups (vegans, in this case, being an example of a minority group, compared to the carnism population).