Back off the bacon!

In a suburb better known for its fried chicken than vegetarian mix, it was a surprise to find the Vegan Society talking at the Avondale Library in June. And yet, it was no small crowd that attended the lecture and lingered for a taster of vegan delights. Along with TV One’s new series “How not to get Cancer,” it seems veganism is becoming less of a fad, and more of the food pyramid of the future because, as speaker Dr Mark Craig confirmed, the overwhelming evidence suggests it is better for you.


Rifton and Christian, only one of them is vegan!

And then there’s this guy… Waterview resident, unicyclist and vegan campaigner, Christian Huriwai. Growing up in Kaikohe, he chose a vegetarian diet when he was just 13 and later turned to veganism. But is veganism really an option for the meat-loving Maori?


“I would argue that veganism is part of my culture in terms of tikanga and Te Ao Maori,” says Christian. “It’s about finding a food source that’s sustainable and looking after the next generation, while animal farming is destroying our country.”


“But socially,” he says, “it’s not particularly welcomed. When I was a kid, I was the only vegetarian on the marae and people would fling bits of meat at me. But it’s changing. These days with the science coming out about the health risks of eating too much meat, people are opening up to the idea.”


How has your health been since you’ve been eating a plant-based diet?

My family were always quite sick, so I tried to look after myself. I exercise a lot and have been unicycling since I was a young boy and travelling the world competing. So, I haven’t noticed that I’ve got healthier, but I certainly haven’t gotten worse.


Is a plant-based diet expensive?

The most expensive food in the supermarket is usually the meat and cheese; the cheapest food is the rice, bean, lentils and potatoes. If you’re basing your meals around these it’s cheaper, but if you’re eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables it gets expensive. Vegan meat alternatives like Beyond Burgers or Sunfed Chicken are expensive, but that’s to be expected as these companies don’t yet have the benefit of scale. The price will come down as vegan alternatives become more popular.


Is it a challenge to understand what foods you need to eat?

With the old-style food pyramid, we have been told what to eat. When you go vegan, you have to learn exactly what nutrients your body needs, so it’s a little extra work. But if you can Google, it’s straight forward and there are plenty of vegan FB groups for support. My friends and I are all about supporting people to become vegan. We spend a lot of time messaging support groups and run community potlucks so people can come and try it for the first time.

If you’re interested in taking a look at veganism, you may like to sign up for the 21 Day Easy Vegan Challenge at www.tryvegan.org.nz.


Did you know:

  1. A plant-based diet is all about the food, while veganism more broadly promotes ethical and sustainable choices in diet, clothing, cosmetics, animal testing, cleaners, and entertainment.

  2. 80% of chronic disease are related to what we eat and the environment you live in.

  3. Humans are the only species that consume milk past weaning – euw!

  4. It takes 19,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of red meat.