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interview with Leigh-Chantelle for NV & NH magazine

Interview with Leigh-Chantelle by New Vegetarian Natural Health magazine Autumn 2006

2006-autumn

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Can you tell us about how you became a vegan?

I am a very strict vegan and do not consume any animal products, wear any animal skins or use any animal products, to the best of my knowledge. I also do not support companies who profit from the suffering and exploitation of the animals that I care for.
I believe we need to tread as lightly as we can on the earth and to cause the least pain and suffering on the universe. Veganism I believe is doing the best that I can do in the best way that I know how.

I decided to stop eating red meat when I was still at school after the realisation between life that once was and the flesh I was about to consume. Change is always gradual as was my transition from vegetarianism into veganism. After eating only non-human animals with white flesh for a few months I then stopped eating chicken flesh after having to look after chickens when on a school camp. As with every transitional process you need to be educated about the next step and I really wasn’t looking after myself properly. I was comfortable with my decision to no longer eat animal flesh but I was getting sick constantly as I was still consuming a lot of dairy products and not getting my protein, iron and other nutrients from plant-based alternatives. My intentions were good but being sick often wasn’t helping others understand my motives for this new ethical way of life.

I gradually stopped eating seafood and animal products over the next couple of years and became a vegan after I finished high school in January 1997! It took me years to convince my family and friends that my new ethics were not just a passing phase and that I was committed to my new way of life. Through many different animal rights and VEGetariAN organizations I was able to become more informed of my dietary needs and reinforce the reasons why I decided to live this way. When I first became a vegan it was quite difficult to find vegan products, now there are so many alternatives to animal products that I find it audacious when people say that it’s too hard to become a vegan.

Why did you become a vegan?

My main reason for adopting the vegan way of life is that I believe that we should not use, kill or cause suffering to any (non-human) animals when there are alternatives available. I believe in using our resources (whether it be material or mental) to create a positive environment for all of the creatures on earth. We should be trying to maintain a sort of equilibrium with in and with out and I believe the only way to achieve this is through an open mind and heart and giving back as much as we take. We are not like the non-human animals who kill in order to survive, as we have the ability to reason and act from a conscious level. True change is unconscious and once I know the truths I can’t ignore them. My heart and my soul know what is right and wrong. Your instincts will never deceive you if you truly listen.

Have you found that the diet has helped you?

To many there are not many benefits of being a vegan. It’s “too constrictive”, “too left-of-centre” or “just too hard”. For me however there are many benefits and I find there are more every day: to rarely get sick, to have a lot of energy and to feel and look healthy are the major benefits. To be able to look each animal in the eye and know that they trust me is a very powerful and humbling experience. Difficulties exist when people are not open-minded to my beliefs and feel threatened by my convictions and thus feel they need to pick apart any aspect of my life that they can. I do not surround myself with narrow-minded or negative people. I look for positive people who dare to dream, aim to achieve and who are on the same life path as me.

What sort of foods do you eat and what are some of your favourite foods?

I eat a lot better than I used to and love to be creative with cooking. At the moment I am experimenting with alternative grains, and my favourites include wild rice, millet and quinoa. I have too many favourite foods that are vegan, but adore anything cooked with love. There’s a great Asian vegetarian restaurant near me that I frequent, they serve a wonderful all you can eat banquet for lunch on weekends. My vege stacks are a favourite with my family and friends as are my curry puffs, spinach and lentil curries, and couscous with roasted veges. As for the sweet tooths, my decadent chocolate cake and (more healthier) binah balls are always a favourite!

Can you tell us about your interests and future goals?

My passion in life is to educate and be educated. I am most interested in vegan and vegetarian health and have just finished my Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy, which I believe is a very informative step and a great foot to start on. I recently released a vegan recipe calendar for 2006 called Viva La Vegan! and plan to release one each year. Each month has a different nutritionally balanced, healthy vegan recipe with full-colour photos that I have created. I am interested in getting advertisers on board for upcoming calendars. My next step it starting up a vegan and vegetarian website to educate people with dietary choices, give email consultations, provide important nutritional information as well as detox diets, sell supplements and list new recipes! The website is vivalavegan.net and will be running by the middle of the year.

My interests not only include vegan health and animal rights, but also music, poetry and clothing design. I independently released my debut EP Inspiration Relocation in 2002 and write with various musicians around Brisbane. I am in the middle of recording new songs at present as well as working on a poetry book. I also run a unique, one-of-a-kind clothing label leigh-chantelle.com where I source recycled garments for my hand-written lyric clothing, focusing on the creative value and history of pre-loved pieces instead of the creation of cheap clothing and even cheaper labour. My introspective and emotive lyrics are the central focus for all my clothing and canvas creations. I have created hundreds of unique pieces and can be contacted for commissions. I am also always creating new recipes and plan to release a vegan cooking book in the near future.

Thank you

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