An environmentalist and CPA-qualified accountant working in the not-for-profit sector, No Meat May co-founder Ryan Alexander gave up eating meat after a successful year of “meat minimisation”.
Keen to make a positive difference to global food security, animal welfare and the natural world, Ryan, along with his partner multimedia artist and long-term ‘vego’ Guy James Whitworth, went on to launch No Meat May in 2013, a global campaign and not-for-profit charity challenging people to eliminate meat, or all animal products, from their diets for the entire month of May.
As the month approaches, we interviewed the Sydney-based No Meat May co-founder and managing director to gain further insights into his vegan journey, how society can help to dismantle the meat-is-masculine image and learn Ryan’s top tips for successfully completing a meat-free month.
EWP: Attending a talk by Eating Animals author Jonathan Safron Foer at the Sydney Opera House was the catalyst for you embarking on a vegan journey. Do you remember exactly the points raised that really drove the vegan message home?
Ryan Alexander: It wasn’t so much a vegan message but more of less meat message. I recall Jonathan framing the challenge of getting half of the world to go vegetarian overnight and how that would be impossible… but getting all of the world to eat half as much meat is much more doable, and the impact being the same. This really resonated with me and was something I felt I could contribute to.
I also had no clue on the many interconnected issues with our global consumption of meat, and the scale of these issues. The environmental damage caused by factory farming was eye-opening for me, and I had also really disconnected from the grand scale of violence involved in the ‘farming’ of meat.
Jonathan is a beautiful writer and the way he weaved our past, present and future with a mix of personal stories and evidenced-based science spoke to me. I pretty much bought the book that day, and read it within the week, sharing new facts on my Facebook feed daily. It was a classic light bulb moment!
EWP: You and Guy launched No Meat May in 2013. Can you share your insights on how the campaign has grown and evolved?
RA: When we kicked off No Meat May it was a bit like pushing an elephant up the stairs, a lot of effort for a little bit of movement. But we listen to participants and improve each year to ensure we connect with more people and offer them the support and practical tools they need to try and change things up.
In the last five years there has been a huge shift in awareness around the why we need to change things up. It is really just a case of letting more people know about this thing called No Meat May and more people want to get involved– we help them with the how bit.
The elephant is well and truly up the stairs and has hit full stride and now all the hard work goes in to keep them on course. Though as a level six vegan I’m not condoning pushing elephants around… do this at your own risk.
EWP: What are some ways you think people can help to tackle the meat-is-masculine perception?
RA: We all must stop telling our boys and our men that meat = man. This myth is not serving us, quite the opposite– it is fuelling the destruction of our forests and oceans, and contributing to our warming planet. We all play a part to change the narrative, as individuals, parents, partners, as media, as employers and employees, organisations, leaders in whatever areas we work, to teach and expect our men to be compassionate, honest, to engage with science, protect the planet for future generations and take care of their own health and others.
EWP: What are some of your favourite cookbooks and films for inspiring a transition to meat-free living?
RA: Seaspiracy is a new one I urge everyone to watch, also Cowspiracy, Game Changers, What The Health, and Eating Animals. I’m looking forward to seeing the new film Gunda that is now showing at Dendy.
So many great cookbooks out there, though the No Meat May community cookbook is where it’s at; a compilation of creations from members of our community. Though you have to sign up for No Meat May to get this one!
EWP: What are your top three tips for people looking to successfully complete No Meat May?
RA: Find your ‘why?’ and really flesh this out– is it for your health, for the environment, for the animals, or social justice reasons? Then engage with this during the month seeking out good docos and books to read to help you with your pledge. It is much easier to change up habits, and resist that chicken’s wing when you realise the impact of your actions and how they align with something you really value.
Get prepared! Check out our new meal plans online, find some new Instagram or Youtube creators to follow, buy a new cookbook and have fun in the kitchen learning some new tricks. Get on the front foot by planning for some of the epic recipes in advance
Get social. Involve friends and family where you can, and or connect with others doing the challenge online via Instagram, #nomeatmay or our Facebook community group which is an incredible group full of inspiring people and food!
Can I add a fourth? Don’t be so hard on yourself if you slip up. Get back on the wagon knowing nobody’s perfect and you are doing good with every delicious plant-based plate.
Sign up to No Meat May to receive free recipes, meal plans, invites to in-person and virtual events and connect with a like-minded global community.
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Cover image supplied.