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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
September 2009

Interview with a Vegetarian Leader from Austria 
Mag. Felix Hnat is president of Vegan Society Austria www.vegan.at
He kindly agreed to be interviewed for IVU Online News.

What made you decide to become a vegetarian? When did that happen? How old were you at the time?

I became vegetarian in 2001, when I was 19 years old. My brother and I made the switch together, when we saw pictures of the slaughtering and burning of cows at the time of the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) crisis. We decided that we did not want to support the meat industry any more. I became vegan one year after that, after my uncle (an organic farmer) told me about the connection between the milk and the meat industries.

You are a leader of a member society of IVU. How long have you been a leader of this organisation?

Five years.

What made you decide to become active in promoting vegetarianism?

I got involved in activism at the age of 19 and learned that it is possible to achieve something. That gave me motivation.

What is it that sustains your desire to be active?

From time to time, I reflect on our achievements, and I feel proud to be part of a very large and vital movement here in Austria. Plus, I stay in touch with other organizations who are working towards similar goals.

What is an obstacle that you face in remaining active in promoting vegetarianism? How do you overcome this obstacle?

In Austria recently, there has been enormous police repression against animal welfare, animal rights and veganism. In 2007, a police task force was founded to counter our activities. In 2008, along with other activists, I was jailed for almost 4 months as a suspected member of a criminal organisation. Our organisation and others were threatened with bankruptcy. See more at www.vgt.at/english and antirep2008.lnxnt.org/?lang=en

What is one of your organisation’s accomplishments that makes you especially proud?

The publication of the biggest vegetarian/vegan magazine in the German-speaking countries (VEGAN.AT) with 15,000 copies per issue and running a website with 2,000 visits per day.

How do you try to maintain good relations and enthusiasm amongst your organisation’s members?

The two employees of our group earn almost nothing (€150 or less per month). About 100 activists engage voluntarily. There is no elite!

How does your organisation cooperate with other veg organisations?

Exchanging information, participating at meetings, being a member of EVU and IVU and supporting the V-Label project: www.v-label.info

Do you have any fundraising tips for other organisations?

Focus on big donors. We have motivated companies to buy advertisements in print publications and to support events via sponsorships in terms of money and products. Also, we are on the streets and use lotteries to collect addresses.

What is one thing that other veg organisations might be able to learn from your organisation?

Our Veganmania-Summerfestivals are the biggest vegan festivals in Europe (outside of the UK): www.veganmania.at. We have lots of volunteers, and we have good cooperation with animal protectionist groups.