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Interview with Nick Pendergrast: Vegan Ice Hockey player

Nick Pendergast has been vegan and also played ice hockey competitively for many years. He has represented the Western Australian ice-hockey team and has also played ice-hockey at the top level in Western Australia. He is currently writing his PhD thesis on human/non-human relations and the animal advocacy movement, teaching Sociology and Anthropology at Curtin University, co-hosting the podcast Progressive Podcast Australia and volunteering with Animal Rights Advocates (ARA), including assisting with the website Vegan Perth.

Nick_Pendergrast

Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I became interested in animal rights after visiting an ARA stall promoting veganism. After deciding that veganism was too difficult, I became a vegetarian. After years as a vegetarian, I became vegan after reading the following quote from The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason:
Suppose, however, that you object to the idea of killing young, healthy animals so you can eat them. That ethical view leads many people to become vegetarian, while continuing to eat eggs and dairy products. However, it is not possible to produce laying hens without also producing male chickens, and since these male chicks have no commercial value, they are invariably killed as soon as they have been sexed. The laying hens themselves will be killed once their rate of laying declines. In the dairy industry much the same thing happens – the male calves are killed immedi­ately or raised for veal, and the cows are turned into hamburger long before normal old age. So rejecting the killing of animals points to a vegan, rather than a vegetarian, diet.

How long have you been vegan?
Since about 2005.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
I think being more aware of and comfortable with my choices towards other animals. I believe that veganism has put ideas that I already had, such as not wanting other animals to be harmed, into practice in all of my choices.

What does veganism mean to you?
To me, veganism means a commitment to animal rights, the idea that other animals are sentient beings with inherent value rather than just “things” for us to use and kill as we like, and putting this philosophy into practice in all of my choices.
 
Training
How often do you (need to) train?
I play ice-hockey twice a week at the moment – one game and one training session, which involves shooting and passing drills, skating etc. Beyond hockey, I exercise every day. I go walking and running with my dog twice a day and most days I also do stretching for flexibility and some form of exercise for strength, whether it’s a few push ups or sit ups, or some weights.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
No – I have coached ice-hockey before, but am not currently coaching.

What sports do you play?
Ice-hockey.
 
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
I think the biggest misconception is that veganism is likely to mean deprivation in terms of nutrients and energy. I believe I address this by living a very active lifestyle, which I’d want to do anyway. But I believe that the more active, energetic vegans there are out there, the more we can show that veganism is no obstacle to achieving whatever we want to achieve, and is actually likely to be beneficial in terms of our health and energy.

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
I think animal products really slow people down, especially when eaten directly before sport. Well before I had even thought about the ethical issues associated with animal products, I stopped eating animal flesh in my meal before hockey, because I really felt it weighed me down and slowed me down – I didn’t feel at my best after eating flesh before I skated. Vegan food is generally much “lighter” and I feel that I can be quicker and more energetic by leaving out animal products.

What is your biggest challenge?
No challenges that I can think of!

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
I did play hockey with a guy from New York who used to be vegan when he was in the U.S., but generally, my veganism doesn’t come up very often. I remember when I became vegetarian years ago, one guy I played hockey with congratulated me, but said I shouldn’t go vegan because life’s too short. Looking back now, I should have responded with a lyric from the band Propagandhi: ‘life's too short to make another's shorter’.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Definitely! My family is always happy to make and eat vegan food when I come over, and many of my friends who weren’t vegan before have now become vegan – which is very encouraging!

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond? 
The most common comment I get is that veganism must be so difficult. I reply that it is actually very easy after an initial adjustment, and I give them a card for our Vegan Perth website which I always have in my wallet.

Who or what motivates you?
The people around me who become vegan and constantly show that people can and do make this positive change.
In addition, my dog constantly reminds me that other animals are very unique, perceptive individuals whose interests we should consider.
In terms of fitness and exercising, music is a good motivator. One CD I’ve recently bought which I like to listen to while exercising is ‘The Workout’ by “Stic” from the hip hop group Dead Prez.
nick_trying_to_catch_puck
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfas
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As soon as I get up, I have a green smoothie every morning. Here is the recipe for one of my green smoothies – it makes 4 serves (me and my partner have a smoothie each in the morning, then put the rest in a sealed container and have a second glass each in the afternoon). Blend all ingredients until smooth:
400 ml orange juice or apple juice
200 ml cold water
1 chopped apple
1 ripe banana (I chop them up and put them in the freezer for a cooler smoothie)
12 strawberries (wash them, put them in the freezer, then chuck them in, green tops and all)
Greens eg kale, lettuce or carrot tops (rotate between different greens and add as much as you like, the more the better, but start off with just a little bit of green)

When I get back from exercising in the morning, I’ll rotate between two different high protein meals. This includes having 4 Weet-bix with Pura Veda, some Nicely Nutty Muesli, soy milk, strawberries if I have some and a few walnuts OR a peanut butter and banana smoothie. This smoothie recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe Fawn Porter gave in Living Vegan magazine because I don’t use protein powder. Here are the ingredients for 1 serve – blend all ingredients until smooth:

1 cup soy milk (or another non-dairy milk of your choice)
A little bit of sweetener (I use agave – maple syrup or golden syrup etc also work)
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 banana (I chop them up and put them in the freezer for a cooler smoothie)
 
Lunch 
Generally I’ll just have leftovers from dinner the night before or, if I don’t have any, I’ll usually make something quick like baked beans and toast with some salad – I’ve often got a salad made and “ready to go” in the fridge.

Dinner
Some of my favourites are Cheesy Bean and Cheese Enchiladas, Grilled Tortillas with Sour Cream from Veganomicon and Autumn Pasta from Now Vegan! My partner and I have recently made a list of 30 of our favourite meals that have 30 minutes or less preparation time, and we generally rotate amongst those 30 recipes – although I’m sure this will be an ever-growing list!

Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy)
Banana ice-cream – cut up ripe bananas small and then once frozen, put them in a food processor with a little bit of non-dairy milk and a little bit of sweetener, then process until it is ice-cream-like. For variations, add some passionfruit or frozen strawberries to the mix.
Soy Chai Lattes
Raw pistachio macaroons from Loving Hut
 
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - My peanut butter and banana smoothie described above.
Calcium - Kale
Iron - Kidney beans in Mexican food like Cheesy Bean and Cheese Enchilladas and Grilled Tortillas.

What foods give you the most energy?
Definitely green smoothies!

Do you take any supplements?
No
 
Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle
- Noah Hannibal from Uproar is probably a good person to go to on this one – he recommends consuming 20-30 grams of protein after working out. The foods I have post-exercise (described above) all have an amount of protein that is in this range. Regarding the workout itself: heavier weights with fewer repetitions – 6-10 per “set”.
Losing weight - I haven’t tried this myself, but I’d imagine it would be best to avoid “fad” diets like low carb diets etc. It would probably be better to stick to a healthy, balanced diet you can sustain in the long-term and increase the amount of exercise you do.
Maintaining weight - Eat a healthy, balanced diet, stay active.
Improving metabolism - Unsure.
Toning up - Same answer as for ‘Maintaining weight’ – although there would be specific exercises for this goal, such as lighter weights with more repetitions – 20/30 per “set”.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I think the most important way people can promote veganism is just by “living by example” and showing how easy and healthy veganism can be. I try and do that.
 
Beyond that, I am currently studying my PhD on human/non-human relations and the animal advocacy movement and I try and use this research to promote veganism. My conference presentations often focus on veganism so I generally end up talking to other academics about veganism. I also give lectures on animal rights and veganism, which puts veganism “on the radar” for students.

I am also involved with Animal Rights Advocates where I live in Perth, Western Australia. With ARA, I promote veganism in a number of ways, sometimes using my PhD research and lectures. For example: I give public talks and promote veganism in other public forums such as on the radio or on panels; help to organise festivals; hold vegan information stalls at universities and public events; promote veganism online through the ARA Facebook page and also through our new Vegan Perth website and Facebook page; and write articles promoting veganism (including non-academic ones which reach more people), as well as flyers for ARA and content for the ARA website.

I also co-host the political podcast Progressive Podcast Australia that promotes veganism and other social justice causes.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
To get updates on what ARA is doing, you can like ARA on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
You can also read some of the articles I have published here and listen to my podcast here.

 

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