Monday, January 19, 2009

Veggie Hero: Nathan Runkle

Nathan Runkle is my kind of guy. He grew up on a farm in Ohio (so did I) and became a vegetarian based on his interaction with the animals (so did I). But Nathan took it a big step beyond the farm: he became a dedicated animal activist and founded the growing non-profit Mercy for Animals. I had a chance to meet him a few weeks ago and was impressed with his balanced presentation to a college class and his gentle but firm approach to changing minds. With Nathan at the helm, Mercy for Animals is sure to go far.

Are you vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Vegetarian for 13 years and vegan for 9 years

What inspired you to go veg?
Growing up on a small farm off the back country roads of Saint Paris, Ohio, I was surrounded by animals since the day I was born. Like most children, I grew up with a natural affinity for animals, and over time I developed strong bonds and friendships with our family's dogs and cats with whom we shared our home. However, it wasn't until later in life that I made the connection between my beloved dog, Sadie, for whom I would do anything to protect her from abuse and discomfort, and the nameless pigs, cows, and chickens who were transformed from living, feeling individuals to consumable corpses known to me only as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I came to understand that every time I sat down to eat I was making achoice that would not only affect my own health, but have a profound impact on the lives of animals. After reading about the true horror animals endured in our nation's factory farms and slaughterhouses, I decided to put my compassionate values into action in all aspects of my life - including my food choices.

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
Oh, there are too many to count. Being a traveling vegan, especially to areas of the country that are not always the most veg-friendly, has certainly encouraged me to become creative at times. When I'm in a pinch, I always find the vegan options at Subway and Taco Bell to be life-savers.

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
I think the best way to promote veganism is by offering information, resources, and most importantly, amazing food with an open heart and encouragement. This applies to our families as well. After years of this approach, I've found that most of my family has either adopted a plant-based diet, or at least enjoy and appreciate it. Many of our family holiday dinners are now completely vegan.

What's your favorite veg food?
The vegan Radical Reuben sandwich at The Chicago Diner. It's so good it has the power to turn the most die-hard meat-eater into a vegan injust one sitting.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
I adore VegNews magazine - it's filled with such uplifting, current, fun, and inspiring information, recipes, and resources. (It's published by another one of our Veggie Heroes, Joseph Connelley.)

Tofu or tempeh?

What did you have for breakfast today?
A raw Lara Bar, banana, and hot tea.


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