I met future politician Ned Taylor just after Canada’s 2015 federal elections, in which I stood as a candidate for the Animal Alliance/Environment Voters Party (thankfully now renamed the Animal Protection Party)! Ned, then sixteen-years-old, wanted my help in promoting his Change.org petition to “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,” fighting against the brutal treatment of factory-farmed chickens in the egg industry.
Ned’s petition exposed the reality that more than ninety percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens are trapped in cramped wire “battery cages” for their entire lives, forced to exist in spaces smaller than an 8 ½ x 11 inch piece of paper. It was a stellar document that I enthusiastically supported and promoted.
But I was also struck by its author, this fresh-faced, engaging and energetic youngster who was spending so much time researching and crafting his petition, and then guiding it through the rule-bound, paper-strewn path that is the only route to changing Canadian laws. And Ned’s eagerness to learn was real, and he listened to the more experienced animal advocates he sought out to help him. Clearly he was a caring, compassionate and effective politician still in embryo stage!
And I assumed that his passion about drastically improving the lives of the farmed chickens whose intelligence and sensitivity he admire meant that he must also be vegan, the logical consequence of his heartfelt opinions.
But when we spoke on the telephone and I mentioned our shared veganism, Ned quickly set me straight.
“Oh, I’m not vegan,” he said. “We humans are animals, too, and animals have been eating other animals for centuries. I believe that if we treat them right and they live a full life, then there’s nothing wrong with eating them.”
And so do humans have the right to kill healthy, usually very young animals at will, as they currently do? I demanded. And what about food culture that avoids all killing and cruelty? In other words, what about veganism?
“I completely support and understand it,” Ned responded. “In fact, I’m considering it. Not promising to do it, just considering it right now.” By the time our conversation ended, he had committed to one meatless day a week.
Ned’s meatless experiment has gone well. Almost a year later, he is a steadfast vegetarian. It’s a great start! And, Ned adds cheerfully, “It’s incredibly easy now.” He is mindful of how his food is sourced, what kind of oil is used in fried dishes, if animal-derived gelatin is used, and he has even abstained from fur and leather – “I really don’t mind the little details,” he says. His family, always supportive, has also become much more veggie-friendly, and his dad encourages him to eat more healthful nuts and beans. “My mom thought my vegetarianism was a phrase,” Ned says. “But now she realizes it’s forever.”
Ned Taylor’s Vegetarian Year!
Forever! That’s my kind of vegetarian (with vegan flourishes), and I renewed my efforts to recruit Ned for the Animal Protection Party. But Ned’s loyalty to the Green Party is unshakeable, and for compelling reasons. “Animal welfare issues are hugely important to me, and always will be” Ned explains, “especially the environmental issues such as climate change that directly relate to animals and meat consumption. People often don’t make that connection, and that’s what I want to focus on. I want to bring that awareness into the Green Party.”
How could anyone argue with that? And I’ve longed for years to see that awareness in the Green Party. With Ned and some of his cohorts, that will likely happen, with animals huge beneficiaries.
Ned has already caught Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s attention and, at her invitation, he spent a week in Ottawa volunteering, which reinforced his conviction that this is where he is meant to be.
But it’s not a loss for the Animal Protection Party, it’s a win for animals, as Ned and several of his friends transition to vegetarianism or veganism. “Kids and teens are now more receptive to vegetarians and vegetarian food,” Ned says, “and even friends who were previously pescetarian are ditching fish. My co-workers at Starbucks also notice that lots of customers order soy or other non-dairy drinks, and they make sure it’s available.” In other words, among young people, a slow and steady food revolution is unfolding, one squash soup and soy latte at a time!
Elizabeth Abbott is a writer, historian and animal advocate. website www.elizabethabbott.ca, twitter @ElizAbbott