James Aspey- Activist & public speaker
James Aspey took a 365 day (one year) vow of silence to raise awareness for animals and peace over violence. He has battled drugs, cancer and builimia and has replaced them with surfing, veganism and meditation. James has cycled 5000km, got tattooed for 25 hours and given over 150 speeches to make the world a better place. His goal is to educate, encourage and inspire others.
How old were you when you became vegan?
It took me 27 years to realise how much pain and suffering my choices were causing animals.
What were your reasons for choosing compassion?
I became vegan so I could be consistent with my belief that all animal use and abuse is wrong. Not just some type of abuse, to some types of animals. Initially, I went vegetarian for my own benefits when I was told, “It’s bad karma to eat animals.” It was only once I stopped eating their flesh that I started actually feeling empathy for them. It was the first time in my life that I actually cared about animals. Once I learned about the other ways I was causing harm to animals, and that it was so healthy to stop consuming animal products, becoming vegan was no longer a choice. It was a must!
Was it a difficult transition?
It was so much easier than I’d ever expected. I wondered how I would live without my favourite foods which were all made from dead animals, but now I eat more amazing and delicious foods than ever before! Also, I felt so happy and healthy. It helped me a lot to watch documentaries like Earthlings, Forks Over Knives and Gary Yourofsky’s Speech.
It also became much easier when I realised you can make the most incredible ‘ice cream’ by freezing bananas, then blending them with a splash of almond milk. I eat that for breakfast every day now.
How easy is it to be vegan in Australia?
It’s incredibly easy! There is a vegan version of just about everything! Chocolates, milks, burgers, cakes, mince, cheese, burger patties, schnitzels, meat balls... And this can be found at the same supermarket I have always shopped in. Even if there weren’t these alternatives available, it is still so easy to be vegan no matter where you are! You can still eat curry’s, pastas, pizzas, smoothies, fruit, salads, roast veg, dips, chips... You name it. Being vegan is easy. And getting easier as more and more people jump on board.
What city is the most vegan friendly?
In Australia, definitely Melbourne! There is a large and growing number of vegans there making a high demand for vegan restaurants and groceries.
What are you favourite vegan foods and products?
I love the Fry’s schnitzels, Sanitarium sausages and their veggie roast, Sukin deodorant and Bio-cheese.
What’s your favourite meal to cook/eat?
My favourite meal would have to be rice paper rolls with kale, avocado, alfalfa sprouts, marinated crispy tofu, with soy sauce and satay sauce for dipping. Healthy, delicious, easy and everyone loves them! Also, I love smoothies and love roasted potatoes and pumpkin.
How and when did you decide to do this act of silence?
I was doing a silent meditation course called Vipassana, where you meditate 10 hours a day, every day, for 10 days. A few days in I realised I’d never gone so long without talking before, which I found quite awesome and I started wondering just how long I could keep it up. I thought to myself, “Imagine not talking for an entire year! Is that even possible? There’s something kind of crazy about this idea, and I kind of like it! But what would be the purpose? Could a vow of silence be useful in some way? Perhaps I could do it to raise awareness for something I care about!” For the rest of the meditation course I kept revisiting this idea and although it was way out there, I felt certain it was the right thing for me to do and I was going to make it happen.
Why did you do it?
I did it to do my part in contributing to a kinder world. Because it was such an unusual idea, I figured it would generate a good amount of interest and bring people to learn about the cause. I also hoped it might inspire others to think outside of the box and be more creative with their activism. It was my way of doing something to start making amends for the pain I caused. I feel it was the very least I could do. And I will continue to speak up for them until I feel my debt is settled. Which will probably be the rest of my life.
Was it difficult? How did you communicate with people around you?
I communicated by writing notes, using expressive body language, and using my mouth without my voice for those who were good at lip reading. At first, it was quite fun. But 365 days is a long time. Over the year I got more and more frustrated with having no voice. It was especially challenging when explaining to someone things were important, like if they are opposed to animal cruelty, then the first thing they should do is to go vegan. Sometimes people didn’t understand me, and sometimes I wanted to scream, but in the end, it was worth it.
What do you think you achieved from it?
I travelled around Australia during my vow of silence and almost every single person that came into contact with me, wondered why I wasn’t speaking. This gave me the opportunity to spread the vegan message to countless people through ‘conversations’, handing out literature and DVD’s, and referring everyone to my website, voiceless365.com. I wrote a blog which was followed by thousands of people which I used to update everyone on my travels and also educate the readers on the facts of the current ways animals are being exploited, the many benefits and reasons why we should embrace veganism, and everything related. I also cycled 5000km's, from Darwin to Sydney, to prove that vegans are not weak and sickly like so many people wrongly assume. In fact, we are some of the healthiest, strongest people on the planet.
At the end of my journey, I broke the vow spoke for the first time, live, on Australia’s most popular morning show with a powerful vegan message. The interview was seen by hundreds of thousands of people on TV, and has now done the rounds of the internet and been seen well over one million times. I’ve received countless messages from people inspired to become vegan and from vegans who want to be more active in speaking up on behalf of animals. I also learned a lot from my personal journey but I could write a whole book about that. And I might...
Do you think our young Members would have more of a hard time doing something as big as this due to school and social life?
Maybe... But don’t let that stop you. If you feel strongly enough to take a stance and make a difference, then good on you. Go for it! I’m sure the animals would greatly appreciate it. If you can’t do something big, then do something small. But please, do something. Every action helps. First things first though, if you aren’t already vegan... Go vegan! Once you're vegan, help others do the same. First, stop hurting them. Then, start helping them.
What alternative acts of advocacy do you think that our young people can get involved in to help bring awareness about animal abuse?
The more you know, the more useful you will be when it comes to helping animals. It will also make you more confident and a stronger voice for them. Learn the answers to every single common question and excuse that people have about why they don’t think veganism is for them. It is for everyone! It is better for their health, the planet, and most obviously, the animals. Read books. Share your thoughts and beliefs with your friends and family. Watch documentaries with them. Cook vegan meals for them and let them try your food. Take them to meet animals at a rescue sanctuary. Show them just how happy and healthy you are as a thriving vegan. Show them how easy it is. Show them how to replace the foods they eat, with vegan foods. Never shy away from having a conversation about why you are vegan and care about animals. If they’ve ever had a dog they loved, or ever felt bad for a sick, injured or abused animal, then they most definitely have the capacity to understand.
Do you have any motivational words for the teenagers and young adults who look up to you and want to achieve what you are achieving someday?
My recipe for life goes like this:
1. Figure out what it is that you want, and put that intention out into the Universe.
For me, it was and continues to be my intention to contribute to a kinder world by being an instrument of truth and peace.
2. Don't let fear dictate your actions.
Once you have put out your intention, certain opportunities will start arising in your life. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. In fact, be sure that you do! It might feel uncomfortable to take leaps of faith at first, but if your intention is pure, than the Universe will be on your side.
3. Trust your intuition.
It is great to listen to the advice of your friends and family, but at the end of the day, you have got to do what really feels right for you. Your journey is uniquely yours and no one else can walk it like you can. If you really feel like you are on the right path, then stay on it. You are capable of great things!
Pizza with lots of shrooms and olives
Thing you to do keep fit?
Sprints along the beach or uphills. Weight training. Surfing. Skateboarding.
Best place to vacation?
Favourite "down time" activity?