Thursday, 4 January, 2018
Sean O’Callaghan is widely known as a key influencer in the vegan community under the moniker Fat Gay Vegan. His Instagram account, showcasing a colourful array of vegan food and events, has close to fifty thousand followers and he also runs a drool-worthy blog.
Sean’s distinct no-fuss approach highlights the ease and accessibility of the vegan movement, attracting vegans and non-vegans alike. He’s also put his popularity to good use by launching the highly successful Hackney Downs Market, a weekly community market with aim of supporting vegan businesses.
If all that didn’t keep him busy enough, Sean has also found time to release a brand new book, , which looks at veganism beyond the plate and explores how we can all live a little more compassionately.
We caught up with Sean to discuss what motivated him to write the book and to find out what life is like for Fat Gay Vegan.
What was the main event that led to your decision to go vegan?
The motivation for me adopting a vegan lifestyle was when I developed a clearer understanding of how my personal choices impacted on the well-being of non-human animals. I could make consumer choices that contributed to suffering or I could try to lessen my dependence on industrialised farming and exploitation. It was a light bulb moment.
What are the key ways veganism has changed since you started out?
I see a huge swing in the way vegan food options have been commodified and marketed. It used to be that vegan was a dirty word in advertising and something that only a very small number of people were concerned with, but you can no longer pick up a magazine or walk down the street without tripping over the v-word.
As a long-term vegan, what do you think the main challenges to the vegan movement are? How do we overcome these to encourage more people to go vegan?
The biggest challenge is resisting oppressive forces such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism and wealth disparity which are (not incidentally) powered by the same forces of capitalism and colonialism that also power mass exploitation of non-human animals. By taking every opportunity to challenge these multiple oppressions, we make our vegan communities safer spaces for people to access.
From your perspective, how has the perception of veganism from non-vegans changed?
If I had to guess, I would say roughly 40% of the people attending Hackney Downs Vegan Market or my Vegan Beer Fest UK events are not (yet) vegan. I believe veganism has become an acceptable ethical consumer choice (such as Fairtrade, organic, sweatshop free) that people feel they can opt for when it is convenient. Vegans and vegan events are no longer seen as the unknown. We are no longer a mystery.
What was the key message you wanted to communicate through your book?
The main goal of the book is to ask people to unlock a blueprint of compassion they can use to navigate life. Our concern for animals can be acted upon at the same time as we work to redress other injustices. We don’t need to limit our compassion to simply non-human animals. I would like people to see that healthy communities and social responsibility are crucial elements of a compassionate life.
You talk about inclusivity in your book, can you explain why this was an important element for you to include?
I have come to understand that most of the good things that have happened to me in my life are directly connected to bad things happening to others. We live in an inequitable world and I have come to see it as my responsibility to help redress the imbalance. One tiny way I can do that is to offer some of the FGV platform (including the pages of the book) to voices that are often minimised or locked out of vegan discussions.
What’s life like for FGV? Can you talk us through what an average day looks like?
About 80% of my day is spent answering questions. Even when I am travelling, I answer anywhere between 30 and 60 emails, direct messages, Facebook messages, and tweets every single day. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a backlog of correspondence to answer. It is wonderful to be in a position to help people but I have to admit it can be incredibly draining.
You’ve already accomplished so much. What’s next for you as an individual?
I want to continue to be a contributing voice for my community, working to raise the vegan profile while doing my best to challenge human social injustices. I plan on becoming more involved with a water charity in Mexico City, where I live part of the year, and I have future plans for further books.
You can purchase Fat Gay Vegan: Eat, Drink and Live Like You Give a Sh!t here.
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