Billie Eilish is a vegetarian

"There is no argument against vegan"

It started with a 17 minute video. In it, the 22-year-old Daniel Felderer from Prad speaks about veganism and animal welfare. “If I can reach two or three people with it and give them food for thought,” he thought, “I'm very satisfied.” He would not have expected the attention that his video attracted: 10,000 views and 150 messages later, the fitness trainer decides and videographer to deepen the topic in his own podcast "Af Dialekt". Today he shoots videos for animal activists, including Joey Carbstrong. Carbstrong reaches several million people with videos like this, including the American singer Billie Eilish, who is also vegan. In order to bring the topic closer to South Tyrolean society, Felderer is planning further projects, of which he does not want to reveal too much yet. But he already starts with an interview for BARFUSS.

How did you find out about veganism and how long have you been vegan?
Five years ago I was with friends in an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Merano, at that time I was still eating everything. When I saw these mountains of meat and fish on the buffet, I first realized that these are living beings that must come from somewhere. Then it occurred to me: Something is wrong here. After this experience, I first became a vegetarian. Two years ago I went to Australia, where I was confronted with the issue of veganism for the first time at an event organized by animal activists ("Anonymous for the Voiceless"). Videos from slaughterhouses, animal farms and animal industries were shown there. I had an hour of conversation with an activist whom I told I was a vegetarian - the most inspiring of my life. This day was like a new birth for me, because I had the feeling that I had seen something essential: For years I lived according to a pattern, simply because I was used to it. And for that, tons of animals had to suffer and die. Shedding this pattern was an incredible relief. Since then I have been vegan, which means: I not only eat purely plant-based, but also do not buy any leather products, do not go to the zoo or circus and reject all products that have been tested on animals.

So you are less concerned with the ecological or health aspects of veganism, but more with animal suffering. Why?
Exactly. It is extremely important that you put yourself in the role of the victim. It is easy to argue that humans have always been carnivores, tradition, etc. But if you put yourself in the animal's position and see what it has to go through, when it is a fairly easy decision for us, to go to switch to alternative herbal products, there are no longer any arguments in favor of a non-vegan lifestyle. No one in the world is exploited more ruthlessly than animals: 74 billion land animals exist only for human consumption each year, which is 10 times more livestock than the population of the earth. Added up over 5 or 10 years, this results in an incredible number of animals slaughtered and abused. Fish are not even counted here.

"As a vegan, mon af nix, mon actively decides dorzua never to support the fact that animals are exploited and murdered" - a quote from your podcast "Af Dialekt". Nevertheless, many people are skeptical about a vegan life because they feel that they have to "do without" too much. How do you respond to these concerns?
First, I would reply: which weighs more - a temporary indulgence for your taste buds or the entire existence of an animal? You have to be aware of why someone is vegan. And if you really understand the motivation behind it and connect with the victim, i.e. the animal, then you no longer talk about “renunciation”. I don't say: “I renounce racism” or “I refrain from beating my wife.” By the way, I would recommend the documentary “Dominion” to anyone on this subject.

We kill the fish to get the algae oil out of its body that we could actually get straight from the plant.

So there is nothing that you miss about your old omnivorous existence?
Absolutely nothing. Thinking about it makes me feel sick. It's just that over time you develop a certain disgust for it. And you also perceive the smell of animal products very differently. You no longer see an animal as a product, but for what it is: a feeling individual.

A frequent criticism of a purely plant-based diet is: You don't get all the nutrients, so the diet is unhealthy. Fake news?
Interestingly enough, such arguments mostly come from people who are not even concerned with nutrition. If you follow science, you know: a vegan diet can cover all nutrients. Except for B12. But this substance is not found in meat, but in soil, roots and unwashed vegetables and is ingested by the animal when it is eaten. We eat the “middle man”, so to speak. Today, however, B12 is added to the animals' feed as a supplement, because of course it hardly occurs anymore because we wash everything so heavily and produce it differently than before. A vegan takes the supplement directly instead of through the animal. The same goes for omega 3: people think they need fish for it. But where does the fish get this substance from? About algae. That is, we go out and kill the fish to get the algae oil out of its body that we could actually get directly from the plant where the fish originally got it. Personally, I take omega 3 through algae tablets because it's easier. But you can get enough of it naturally, through seeds, nuts and certain oils.

Especially men who do a lot of sport often think they need meat and eggs to get their proteins. As a fitness trainer, you are very muscular and athletic: So fitness, “masculinity” and a vegan lifestyle are not mutually exclusive?
I am convinced that you can even build muscle better through a purely plant-based diet. The regeneration is better, you feel fitter. Plant-based foods sometimes even contain more protein than animal-based foods. And as I said, the animals only get their protein from plants. So why don't we eat the plant directly without making sacrifices? On the subject of masculinity: What is masculine about not questioning yourself critically and instead blindly chasing the crowd? What is masculine about paying others to exploit, abuse and brutally slaughter animals?

What is masculine about paying others to exploit, abuse and brutally slaughter animals?

Veganism has an impact on social life: going to a restaurant with friends has to be planned or canceled if the menu does not offer vegan alternatives. How do you experience that
My friends know I can't stop at barbecues and pretend everything is okay with chopped off body parts in front of us. But you don't go to the restaurant every day, and when you do, it is certainly no problem for your friends to get involved in something new. I think it's a matter of respect. And my environment is very open in this regard anyway. My best buddy has now gone vegetarian, my mom is now also vegan.

In places like Berlin or London there are vegan alternatives in abundance. But how easy is it to live vegan in South Tyrol, the land of bacon?
South Tyrol is extremely growing when it comes to veganism. Of course it's not the same. In London, for example, there is a vegan butcher. But it doesn't really need that. At Naturalia in Merano, for example, there is a huge selection for vegans. I think every place has a health food store with good tofu. There is also the vegan Hotel La Vimea in Naturno. A new substitute product that comes closest to meat is, for example, “Beyond Meat”, which is now also available in South Tyrol, I've seen it in Fantasy in Schlanders or in Pims in Bozen. Consciousness is also beginning to change in South Tyrolean society. For example, I've heard of people who have switched completely from animal farming to plant-based farming. All of this is possible.

That sounds economically but not so easy to implement when you consider that in South Tyrol the whole existence of a family partly depends on the rural cattle breeding business?
No vegan says: We all have to be vegan overnight. It's a process that will take years. The goal must be that those people who are professionally involved in animal husbandry are diverted from consumers and the economy. When people go into stores and say that I don't want to buy meat anymore, but plant-based products, then the market for meat production goes down and plant-based alternatives become more profitable. There are a few such examples: I was only recently on a former dairy farm in England that has now switched 100 percent to the production of oat milk. The consumer plays an enormous role here, because the supply adapts to the demand. I am sure that many farmers will continue to run their family businesses straight away, for emotional reasons or simply because of tradition and because they don't know anything else. That is precisely why one should show alternatives.

Nowadays, more people attach importance to where their food comes from and opt for a vegetarian diet or consciously consume less meat - and if so, then only the free-range cattle from the trusted farmer. But don't you think of these middle ways?
This is a sensitive subject. But I make a distinction between people who are conscious and those who are not. This means that many people are not even aware that their money is contributing to the mistreatment and slaughter of animals. Here it is important to talk to people, to educate them. If you then start to become aware, it is surely a first step to delete products of animal origin. But the ultimate goal must be veganism.I see those who continue to eat animal products even though they are aware of their role in the system as direct animal abusers. Imagine I give you the choice: Either I torture you and then kill you, or I kill you spontaneously during a happy life, or I don't kill you at all. Of course, the mass husbandry is worse than a happy alpine cow, but the cow is still torn from life against her will. We often forget that we have a third option. It is much easier for us to be vegan than to be stuck in the position of an animal.

Vegan recipe to copy by Daniel Felderer