You might know Peter Egan as Hugh MacClare from Downton Abbey, but he’s also a key figure in the vegan movement. A dedicated animal 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.
Dominika Piasecka chatted to the 71-year-old actor, who has even inspired his family members to give veganism a go, to find out what advice he has for Family247 readers.
Tell us about your vegan journey.
“I stopped eating meat about 8 years ago when I watched a remarkable film called Earthlings. I was so shocked by the unnecessary cruelty in industrialised slaughter that I couldn’t speak for 3 hours after watching it.
“I was virtually vegan before I took the Veganuary pledge in 2016 but that’s when I put a full stop to eating animals. It grew from being an emotional response to animal welfare to also be a committed response to the health of the planet.”
What do you like the most about being vegan?
“I love that it connects my head to my heart. It’s a very exciting way of living because you constantly explore new, interesting food. Veganism is growing exponentially, as shown by Tesco’s brand new vegan lunch range. I particularly love the hoisin wrap, it’s sensational.”
What advice would you give to flexitarians who want to become 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. Being vegan is a lifestyle, and an emotional choice will go deeper than a diet choice.
“Don’t not beat yourself up; 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 alcohol or tobacco, there’s that lingering seed of addiction that keeps tapping them on the shoulder. You have to understand why you eat animals – whether it’s the taste, laziness or maybe tradition. We like to eat familiar things; you have to desensitise yourself to those pressures.”
What do you think about current vegan food provision in British supermarkets?
“There’s a lot more work to be done. It’s happening in America, with huge investments going into the vegan market. It’s starting to grow here too but I wish it’d grow a little bit faster!”