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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
November 2008

Interview with Local Vegetarian Activist with 50+ Years Experience
Michael Maybury - michael.maybury2@ntlworld.com - has been a local vegetarian activist with the UK Vegetarian Society and other groups since the 1950s. Here, he shares his story and some thoughts.

1. When and why did you become vegetarian?

At age 15 I took a postal course on yoga, a discipline that was not well known in 1950 in the UK, although practised for 3000 years in India. Following this course, I enquired about many movements, ideas and organisations. Many of these concerned the welfare of animals, including vegetarianism. I read about the various arguments - moral, ethical, environmental and health - for the practice, as well as the history of vegetarianism. At 17, I became vegetarian, mainly to avoid unnecessary cruelty and killing.

2. How did you become involved in vegetarian activism?

I learnt of active groups and individuals around the world. I realised that, besides changing my own practices, it was important to pass this information on to others. Initially I promoted World Day for Animals, using literature from the World League Against Vivisection. I also contacted the London Vegetarian Society. Then, I called 12 vegetarians that I knew to a meeting in my house, where we formed Portsmouth Vegetarian Group. A year later, when no one would take on the responsibilities of officers, I decided to continue on my own to spread veggie ideas, eventually opening nine health stores in the Portsmouth area.

3. Has your diet changed since you first went vegetarian?

In the 1950s, my diet followed Food Reform ideas, which were based on nutritional studies from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Basically, this regime involves balancing one's daily food with 75% fruits and vegetables, both raw and cooked, including fresh, dried, and frozen. When possible the skin is used; food is obtained locally when practical and not overcooked. Protein is restricted to 10% and carbohydrate (bread etc.) also 10%. Fat is restricted to 5%. Certain foods like white sugar, white flour and bread, pastry and cakes made with such denatured ingredients are eliminated from such a regime, as is most fried food.
Modern research seems to confirm the benefits of a wholefood plant-based diet.

4. Looking back, any reflections on your vegetarian voyage?

As I get older, it becomes clearer to me that the way of life that I chose is correct, healthy and logical. It does less harm to other creatures. I have found a range of good ideas, including vegetarianism as the most important, which can sustain me in modern society. If I can spread these ideas among others, including caterers and food suppliers, it will possibly make life easier for others who wish to make the changes that I have done.

My freedom from major health problems through my life and my activity in my 70s encourages me. Previous generations of friends and relatives became ill and died early. Close relatives of my age who are not vegetarian, despite a non-smoking and fairly good lifestyle, have been plagued with health problems that diminish their enjoyment of life.

5. What are some of your current activities?

As a Life Member of the UK Vegetarian Society, when I retired I started to act as an Information Centre for The Vegetarian Society. I regularly pass on information that I gather to others, including family, via email, hoping to influence others. In particular, I target those in powerful positions, such as local councillors and city chiefs, with a view to giving them information that might encourage them to improve their own and constituents' health.

In 2007, a group on Facebook was started by others, without my knowledge:
www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=3070325502
By Sep 2008, it had over 1100 members. These are not vegetarians, being mainly clubbers whose main objective seems to be to get drunk during the evening, but the Facebook page is a way to reach out to them, and it seems to be working. For instance, 22% said that thy might attend The Incredible Veggie Show recently. Especially since the start of the Facebook group, I am known as “the veggie man” to many people. I attribute my health and energy to having been a vegetarian since age 17, so I feel that the site may reach people that other veggies may not reach.

6. How do you encourage other vegetarians to be active?

Although I visit a few vegetarians with information from time to time, I do no more to encourage them to be active. I feel that they will be active when their consciences encourage them and do not waste my breath, which might even embarrass them. I send regular emails to some.

I do find that many activists in vegetarianism and other fields appear to live rather unhappy and driven lives, neglecting to foster their own health. Some even appear to have a poor view of most of their fellow humans. I do communicate with organised groups and some individuals by email with ideas that I have found effective.