You might know Peter Egan as Paul in Ever Decreasing Circles or Shrimpy in Downton Abbey, but he’s also a key figure in the vegan movement. A dedicated animal rights activist, he campaigns with The Vegan Society and Veganuary, as well as helping Animals Asia to end bear bile farming and supporting a number of dog rescue charities.
Last November, Peter acted as a spokesperson for our World Vegan Month campaign and gave a number of radio interviews to spread the vegan message. He also gave a talk and met politicians at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vegetarianism and Veganism (or Veg APPG if you’re short on time), a forum for stakeholders and parliamentarians to discuss issues relating to veganism and vegetarianism.
Peter has been vegetarian for over 8 years but he put a full stop to eating animals in 2016 after taking part in Veganuary. He talks passionately about veganism: “I love that being vegan connects my head to my heart. It’s a very exciting way of living because you constantly explore new and interesting food.
“People get the sense that when you go vegan, you’re going to be without humour but it’s the reverse; it’s a very creative, colourful and compassionate way of life, and that’s what you become.”
Watching the documentary Earthlings when he first went vegetarian had a huge effect on Peter – he couldn’t speak for 3 hours after watching it. This planted the seed of curiosity about animal rights in his mind but there was something stopping him from becoming vegan. His diet was almost free from animal products but he occasionally had dairy, which he explained as simply being lazy.
It wasn’t until he took a good hard look at the dairy industry that he realised just how upsetting it is. To Peter, switching from vegetarian to vegan was purely about compassion for animals which made it easier to combat the laziness. “There are so many better and healthier alternatives and it makes the transition easier,” he added.
The actor sees supermarkets placing their vegan range next to animal-based items on the same shelf as a really positive thing. He said: “It’s better to have vegan food within the other items on the supermarket shelf as it might make other people think ‘That looks interesting, I’ll try it’. I’m very much in favour of all products standing side-by-side, because it might hopefully tempt them to pick it up.”
Image copyright: Maria Slough Photography.
Peter’s transition to veganism grew from being an emotional response to animal welfare to also be a committed response to the health of the planet and avoiding waste. His passion has even inspired some of his family members to try veganism. What’s his top advice for helping others to go vegan?
“I’d tell anyone thinking of becoming vegan to be brave and watch films on animal slaughter to see just how much it costs an animal to end up as food,” he advised. “The only way to be clear about your reasons for choosing veganism is to see what brings you to that point. An emotional choice will go deeper than a diet choice.
“You don’t have to cut out all animal products at once. It’s better if you can but you don’t have to. If people give up anything like alcohol or tobacco, there’s that lingering seed of addiction that keeps tapping them on the shoulder, saying ‘You don’t have to give it up’. You have to deal with that deep-rooted addiction and understand why you eat certain things – whether it’s to do with taste, laziness or tradition. We like to eat familiar things; you have to desensitise yourself to those pressures.”
Peter with our Head of Communications Sam Calvert giving interviews for World Vegan Month in 2017
A frequent attendee at vegan events and festivals, Peter is enthusiastic about meeting a lot of vegans in his day-to-day life. He believes the lifestyle has truly entered the mainstream, with a lot of young entrepreneurs picking it up and creating exciting new concepts.
Despite the number of vegan options in supermarkets and restaurants constantly growing, Peter does wish he could speed things up and bring the vision of a vegan world closer. At the same, he’s optimistic about the huge positive effect we have as vegans and has left a special message for Vegan Society supporters: “Well done for being committed and for choosing the vegan lifestyle!”
By Dominika Piasecka
The views expressed by our bloggers are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.