Meat-eaters usually decide to become vegetarian and vegan for two main reasons. These are directly linked to the way the meat industry affects animal rights but also the environment. Veganism is a culinary diet that consists in excluding any food of animal origin. Many vegans also refuse to consume or buy any product of animal origin to avoid contributing to these industries. Eatizz met with Georges Laraque to learn more about his vision of today’s environmental issues and how these are closely related to meat consumption.
Georges Laraque, you’re a vegan and an athlete, what do you tell those who believe they need meat to be stay healthy and competitive?
That’s what I thought at first, but I’ve been seeing a nutritionist to get to know how to replace the super-proteins everyone’s talking about. I learned that a complete protein was a combination of amino acids. Meat protein can easily be replaced by nuts, quinoa, green vegetables, fruits, legumes… Today, those who eat meat are generally more concerned about vegans’ protein intakes than vegans themselves.
In your transition to veganism, what helped you become aware of your environmental impact?
Personally, it’s the movie Earthlings (Terriens in french), narrated by Joachim Phoenix. I met with the producer, who then made me do the French narration. When you see this movie, you not only see how much animals suffer but also how bad it is for your health and the environment. It’s really for these 3 reasons that I became vegan. Even if someone drives a hybrid and recycles their trash, a vegan’s impact is easier for the environment to digest. Once you know these things and what’s going on with this planet, it’s amazing to know that the way you eat can make such a big difference for the environment.
When you study in it, you learn that being a vegan is the biggest gesture you can make for the environment.
On your website, you talk about a report filed by the United Nations which states « the agricultural industry is the economic sector that contributes most to climate change ». What, in your opinion, affects the environment most negatively?
Well, it’s the cows. Personally, I know it’s said that cows’ emissions are worse than all of the world’s cars and planes combined. It’s crazy when you think about it. Not only are we talking about the enormous quantities of gas evaporated from cows’ emissions, but we also talk about grains. The huge amounts of food and water that cows need to eat, to then serve only a few meals. It takes 15 pounds of grain for one pound of meat. With these grains, we could feed the whole planet and there’d be no more famine. All things considered, we could end world hunger instead of feeding these animals.
Many documentaries such as Earthlings, Cowspiracy and now Before the Flood which tackle problems linked to animal rights but also environmental issues. How can these films make a difference?
« We need a challenge, a shock to react »
For me, it’s important to release movies that are hard to watch. We live in a society in Quebec, where we need to see shocking images to take decisions. If you make a sweet little documentary about lambs and you say “Awh those lambs are too cute, we mustn’t eat them”, it’s not going to speak to them as much. But when I saw Earthlings and I cried for one straight hour, it changed my life.
I give many lectures on veganism around the world, the last one was this weekend at the Montreal’s Vegan Festival. I like talking about it because usually those who talk about veganism are as light as a feather and do yoga, I weigh 300 pounds. When I talk about being a vegan, people get curious, they’re like: « He, a big black likewise, vegan, he played hockey, how he does? », It attracts a lot curiosity.
It’s often through conferences that I like to influence people. People often ask me « how do you do it? What do I do for sports? … ». So the fact that I take my time to answer these questions every day is my contribution to really enlighten people on the subject and not be afraid to adopt this lifestyle.
In your everyday life, what do you do, putting apart being vegan, to reduce your environmental footprint?
There are many things that come with the fact that I am vegan. Not only do I not eat meat, but it also affects everything I buy, everything that comes from an animal product, like clothes, furniture… I drive a hybrid, half electric, half gas, which allows me to reduce my ecological footprint, or at least to not increase it. A vegan who would drive a hummer, is going to be considered ‘better’ for the environment than someone who eats meat and who has a 100% electric car. That’s crazy. Obviously, no vegan would drive a hummer, it wouldn’t make any sense.
Do you watch what you eat and how you eat it, for instance in your habits to reduce food-waste?
I must admit that since I’m vegan, I eat less. When you eat big steaks, and at the time I used to eat a lot of them, there is a lot of excess, a lot of waste. But today, as I eat grains, fruits, vegetables, all my food is kept a lot easier than before. It’s really easy, you can bring it in your car, as a snack, it’s easy to keep it fresh throughout the whole day.
You can never waste fruit and vegetables, when that’s what you eat every day.
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