In 2013, Ryan Alexander and Guy James Whitworth – self described “passionate creatives wanting to do some good” – launched No Meat May. Now in its eighth year, No Meat May (a registered charity) challenges people to eliminate meat from their diets for 31 days for four big reasons – health, environment, animals, and food security.
With participation more than doubling year on year, No Meat May is now a global campaign experiencing exponential growth, with thousands of new recruits participating each year. And surveys confirm 94% of people reduce or eliminate meat permanently after participating.
We were lucky enough to talk to Ryan and Guy, founders of No Meat May, about their vegan journey (and whoever said vegans don’t have a sense of humour, clearly haven’t met these guys!).
What was your motivation for becoming a vegan?
Guy – There was never one reason or moment. I’ve been veggie/vegan all my adult life – common sense and compassion was the motivation.
Ryan – When things with Guy got serious and we moved in together, I learned how good veggie food could be (always look for a partner who is a good cook). Reading Eating Animals set me on a new path where I just wanted to learn more about this meat-centred, profit driven food system that’s hidden away from all of us. It was a complete light bulb moment for me. When I connected it all up, there was no other option really and every week since going vegan, a new product has come on the market. It’s so cool, like everything I gave up, has come back, but kinda better. Once I read up on the health stuff from credible sources, I relaxed more, knowing I was not going to die of a protein deficiency.
Did you have an “ah-ha” moment that sealed the deal?
Ryan – You know it was more a series of ah-ha’s that all added up… yet I still had this voice in my head like “yeah all the bad shit, but you need to eat meat to be healthy”. I read up on plant based nutrition from credible sources and then stumbled across a book called The Face on Your Plate by Jeffrey Masson. It came at it all from a psychological perspective and each chapter seemed to remove some denial, or projection, or some other psychological barrier I had built. It worked a treat on me. There was no turning back then.
Guy – My Ah-ha moment was aged 14 dancing to Take On Me in my bedroom, but maybe that’s a chat for another time…
What have been the biggest challenges since transitioning?
Ryan – The challenges for me initially (and still to some extent) is family and friends. You know, when the people you love are not so open to what you’ve learned and sit opposite you chowing down on a steak or a birds leg… I had to learn to chill out a bit and step back, realising that everyone finds their own way. And the best thing you can really do is live healthy and happily and show the abundance of good grub there is out there. Keep sharing the nuggets of truth, keep dropping crumbs and eventually hope they will find their way to veganville.
Guy – I think once you commit to a vegan lifestyle, getting to that point where it isn’t a problem or an issue for those around you is a challenge. I don’t want to talk about my diet every time I go out for dinner or meet friends, so my veganism NOT becoming solely who I am, is the biggest challenge and ideal outcome!
Is there anything you really miss?
Guy – I once sat next to a really dull man at a dinner party who obnoxiously asked me that exact question and I waited until he took a big mouthful of his meaty food and answered “the guilt of murdering innocents.” We didn’t stay in touch.
Ryan – For me it was blue cheese, then I discovered Delicio blue cashew cheese. Can I give them a plug? I don’t have shares. 🙂
What are your vegan kitchen cupboard and fridge staples?
Ryan – So many, yet it changes by season. We always try and have a fridge full of fresh veggies and then build meals from there. Spinach, potatoes and frozen berries are year round plus all the plant proteins, mostly canned chickpeas, lentils, beans, nuts!! Oats and dried fruit, chia and hemp seeds are all great to get the nutrients in. A big spice selection is a must! Oh, and you can never have too much hummus in the fridge! Guy likes to wrap everything in pastry, so there’s always some Pampas in the freezer.
Tell us your favourite vegan dish that you cook.
Ryan – Aside from a quick pesto pasta or a tray of kale chips in za’taar. My favourite go-to is a super quick pressure cooker full of wholesome veg and spices, lentils and almonds, and you stir thru a big bag of fresh spinach when its all whistling and steaming. But that’s Guy’s absolute least favourite meal!
Guy – Yeah the pressure cooker thing Ryan does just upsets me, I just think food should look different going in as it comes out! Yuk! Total grounds for divorce. My ultimate favourite meal is a big flavoursome lasagne that I’ve spent all day making!
What about fashion and beauty, what are your favourite brands?
Ryan – I’m a big fan of upcycled fashion. Spunky Bruiser is a fave. But mostly I just steal whatever Guy buys and then claim it as my own! Haha.
Guy – That’s true, he does that a lot, the joy of same sex relationships with a similar sized partner +double the wardrobe! But mostly my clothes come from charity and 2nd hand stores, the day of quick and disposable fashion is dead. Recycling and revamping is the way forward!
Has your health/wellbeing changed since becoming vegan?
Ryan – The answer is yes, I felt more energised and recover faster from the gym or a workout. I get less colds and congestion – you knock them on the head much quicker. But now that you can get vegan magnums, that may all change!
Guy – I haven’t had meat since I was nine, so I can’t really answer that question, but I do definitely feel better, happier and healthier on days I eat well (Magnums are a sometimes food Ryan!).
How did friends and family react when you told them you were becoming vegan?
Guy – I never really had much of a problem, after coming out as gay, alternative and deciding I wanted to make my living as an artist, telling people I was vegan was easy. I think most of my family had taken bets on it!
Ryan – My family play a fun game with my mum. it’s called ‘can Ryan eat this?’ I think Mum’s got the knack of it now, but it was a bit confusing for a butcher’s daughter for a while. My bestie sister is a dietitian and I was clearly entering her turf in a big way, we are a year apart and the rivalry is real! They are all pretty cool, though not vegan enough yet.
Have you found any situations particularly difficult?
Guy – Never really difficult, although sometimes tricky. My friend came back from Europe a few years ago and brought me back a leather Gucci belt, which was divine, but I couldn’t have ever worn it, I quietly passed it on to another non-vegan friend. I currently have a cork wallet and I love pulling it out as people always ask about it and where it came from! Good mates know I love a quality pleather accessory for birthdays etc.
Ryan – Yeah mostly sitting opposite people eating meat. I do find it confronting like a lot of vegans do. Ya know, we see dead people! On plates. So I probably subconsciously avoid a lot of these situations.
Who are your vegan role models?
Ryan – You know, any celeb who uses their platform to help raise the consciousness is my hero. Though Matthew Gover and Jane Land and what they’ve done with Veganuary is completely inspiring. We stick with No Meat May each year because we know it has the same potential to support and inspire people, to connect plant base businesses with new customers, to do its bit to change things up. Each year for No Meat May we publish a few ‘Hero Stories’ which are the real-life experiences that participants in No Meat May have gone through. And each year those stories utterly inspire me anew! Everyone who makes that jump to a plant-based life is someone who impresses and motivates me, it takes guts and will power! These stories stoke the fire in my belly.
Are there any documentaries, books, movies, podcasts or websites you’d recommend?
Ryan – I’m an Our Hen House junkie… Love Mariann & Jasmin, they bring up the heavy stuff always with a positive light and it refuels my tank – and their guests are super inspiring. I struggle to find time to read these days with the day job, the night job and modern life. But the books that helped me connect it all up are Eating Animals and The Face on My Plate, also Plant Powered Men, the China Study and The World Peace Diet.
What was the last new vegan discovery that you made?
Ryan – Botanica Persian fetta made from macadamia… next level. I also love the omelette mix from The Cruelty Free Shop, based on chickpea flour… it’s a game changer. Hello Omelettes, it’s a been a while!
Guy – So many and they are coming so quickly now, the world is really getting it. A walk around the Sydney (or any) vegan market is all you need to find so many new brands/foods and products! We went to Berlin last summer and there were so many new types of vegan businesses, restaurants and foods available. And even though there’s a bit of a time delay, the movement is definitely catching up here in Australia.
If you had one message for anyone considering making the commitment to be vegan, what would it be?
Ryan – Don’t get hung up being perfect. The world we have inherited and the systems we have built are all full of flaws… just do your best! And do it smart – be a positive and healthy role model. Read up on nutrition, the articles from Dr Kate Marsh in the Medical Journal of Australia helped me get my head around nutrition and shift into the nutrient rich stuff. You then build in all the naughty stuff around that. At the end of the day, just do it – because this meat centred, profit driven food system needs to change for sooooo many reasons and it aint gunna change itself.
What’s the best thing about being vegan?
Guy – For me, going out for dinner to a vegan restaurant with vegan mates and it isn’t even mentioned, or is an issue, is utter heaven. When veganism has become commonplace in your world and you get to build honest and awesome friendships build around compassion and consideration instead of denial and ignorance, that’s the dream!
Ryan – it’s kinda cliche but to look into an animals eye with zero guilt, you can’t buy that shit. And at the risk of sounding weird, I do feel lighter, more open and connected with the natural world. I used to struggle with confidence, but aligning my values with my behaviour and then using that to help shape the world around me to be a more compassionate place, it just feels so good – and has made me kinda not care what people think. I could probably write a phone book on this question, haha, but I’ll stop now and say “thank you!” for the opportunity and for being such a fab No Meat May supporter.
Editor’s Note: If you’re feeling inspired, Ryan and Guy, the founders of No Meat May, have lots of fun and inclusive activity happening throughout the month of May (as well as lots of inspo during the year) – so jump onto their website No Meat May website for all the deets, or follow on their Facebook or Instagram.
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