Benjamin Payne

Originally from Tasmania, Benjamin Payne is an avid hiker, adventure traveler, and writer.

As a student of philosophy and politics at the University of Melbourne, Benjamin seeks to advance the moral status of animals through critical thinking.

How and why did you go vegan?

After I became interested in vegetarianism at an early age, I made the transition to veganism when I was a teenager. It always seemed clear to me that our use of other animals presents a moral dilemma. When I couldn’t find any coherent justification for speciesism, becoming vegan was the logical step to take.

As vegan writer Dan Cudahy has argued, veganism is the least we can do for nonhuman animals. By refusing to support the use of animals for any purpose, we take a moral and political stand against animal exploitation. It is a personal and political acknowledgment of the fact that—as was made clear by vegan pioneer Donald Watson—our ‘present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves.’ Veganism envisions a world without our dominion over other animals, and provides a practical means to achieve that world.

Did you encounter any difficulties? If so what were they and how have you dealt with them?

Adapting to the vegan diet and lifestyle took some time, but being vegan is really very easy. Remaining committed to veganism requires that you remind yourself regularly about why you went vegan. Above all, I have found the social aspect of veganism the most difficult to negotiate. By being vegan, you make speciesism visible and set yourself apart. Learning to address others with care and respect is vital.

How have your family and friends reacted to your veganism? Have you influenced anyone else to go vegan?

My family have been largely supportive, even if they do not fully understand veganism! A few of my friends have gone vegan, but I hope I have also influenced many others to change. It is very important to me to be a positive vegan role model.

How do you feel switching to veganism has impacted your health?

Becoming vegan is a great way to prevent a whole host of serious diseases and health problems, and it has encouraged me to think carefully about what I consume. Learning about vegan nutrition has helped me to establish healthful eating habits, and I now choose a wide variety of organic fruit and vegetables as the basis for my diet. Being responsible for your health is very empowering!

Can you describe some of your favourite meals?

I love to cook a wide variety of dishes, something that emerged from the diversity of influences within vegan eating. I make soy products such as tofu and tempeh part of my daily diet alongside plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds. I especially love eating avocados, chickpeas, broccoli, bananas, and nuts. Those foods are always in my cupboard at home! I regularly eat out with friends, and Melbourne’s Vegie Bar is one of my favourite places to share a meal.

Have you encountered any absurd stereotypes, comments or negative attitudes?

Carl Lewis won multiple Olympic Gold medals training as a vegan, yet still 'the idea of a vegan athlete is a shock to many'

There must be millions of stereotypes about vegans! I have been told that I must be anemic, weak, or simply crazy. Being strong and healthy as a vegan is seen as an impossibility, and the idea of a vegan athlete is a shock to many. I have found that being a sane, friendly, and consistent vegan is enough to combat most of these misconceptions and prejudices.

Is there anyone who has particularly inspired or helped you?

Animal rights theorists such as Tom Regan and Gary Francione have inspired me to continue to think about our relationship with other animals, but all those who make up the vegan movement encourage and enlighten me. A passionate community of vegans is vital to the the success of this idea, and there are so many who work tirelessly to promote and develop it.

What do you think are the most effective ways of helping veganism to become more mainstream?

We must not marginalise veganism, dilute it, or be ashamed of taking a moral stand against animal use. Instead, we must educate others with respect and energy, making the moral basis for veganism and the goal of abolishing animal exploitation clear. We should share veganism with others and challenge prejudices, but I often think that it is most effective to simply practice veganism with integrity.

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