Jonathan is doing a music degree at Melbourne University and can often be seen on public transport with his much loved cello and a broad smile for people. Jonathan has great joy in playing his cello and learning German. He comes from the NSW coast, north of Newcastle and is loving living in Melbourne, the vegan capital of Australia. Jonathan is also part of Animal Liberation Victoria's Openrescue team.
Q What made you become a vegan and when?
Jonathan: I went vegan four years ago when I was 18 years old. My first cello teacher was vegetarian, though she never made any conversation about her beliefs. Before meeting her, I had not come across anyone who did not eat meat.
I became curious as to 'why' this teacher didn't eat meat, and one day, it simply clicked! In that one moment, I looked at what was on my fork with a totally different disposition; seconds before, I wouldn't have thought twice at what I was eating. To quote Heinrich Miller, " it was like a lightning flash lifting the night off my eyes!".
I stopped eating other animal products, for instance dairy and eggs, after researching the world-wide animal industry - seeing and hearing the horrific lives and death billions of animals face. When I stopped and thought, I could see no justification for these animal industries. I wanted to see change for these animals, so I looked in the mirror and saw what I needed to do - change myself! This meant what/who I was eating, I asked myself this question: 'Am I justified in presuming that an animal's life exists for the one purpose of satisfying my own trivial wants and desires?'. This was four years ago now, and I haven't looked back since.
Q What's your favourite food/meal?
Jonathan: The Greek menu really does boast nectar for the gods. Fassolatha, Dolmades, Fasolia, Spanakopita and the infamous Baclava are just a few fantastic dishes from the Hellenic Isles. Similarly, I think Lebanese food is also enchanting!
Q. What do you cook the best? Do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share?
Jonathan: Yes, Baba ghannouj
Baba ghannouj is a popular dip made from eggplant and tahini. It has a smooth, creamy texture, and a slightly smoked taste. It is traditionally served with pita bread (toasted or fresh), however many people like it best with potato chips or tortilla chips.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 large eggplant
1 clove garlic
1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice (depending on taste)
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake eggplant for 30 minutes, or until outside is crisp and inside is soft.
Allow to cool for 20 minutes.
Cut open eggplant and scoop out the flesh into colander and allow to drain for 10 minutes. Removing the excess liquid helps to eliminate a bitter flavour.
Place eggplant flesh in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mash together. You can also use a food processor instead of by hand. Pulse for about 2 minutes.
Place in serving bowl and top with lemon juice and olive oil. Add other garnishments according to taste.Serve with warm or toasted pita or flatbread. Enjoy!
Q. Are many of your family and friends vegans?
Jonathan: I grew up in a relatively small town, north of Sydney. My family's ethics relevant to animals fit in well with their neighbour's. Hmmm, you can imagine! Anyway, since going vegan, I have seen a radical change in even my dad's thinking. Before she passed away, mum had always been cordial to the idea of animal-free cooking, cosmetics and clothing. On reflection, I think what was holding them both back was their perception that they would some-how be socially rejected by their more orthodox friends - I think they would have been completely mistaken!
At university, I have many vegan friends. When comparing a place like Melbourne University to a small-town like the one I grew up in, there seems to be a hugely disproportionate number of people who don't eat animal products. This definitely has its advantages! I can walk into just about any Melbourne restaurant, café or bar and order a great meal without trouble. In small country towns, explaining that a fish really is an animal and not a plant, and that milk comes from an animal becomes a little frustrating at times. The vegan community is also a very sociable one - there is always something to do, somewhere to go and new people to meet!
Q. What makes you happy?
Jonathan: Learning! My main two weaknesses are languages and music. I'm currently doing my Bmus at Melbourne University - the wealth of knowledge that opened up to me when I started at the conservatorium was at first daunting, but now, learning is such a gratification. My current cello teacher (Zoë Knighton) is also an amazing woman, who has opened my mind up to other possibilities and paths.
Q. What do you do to relax and unwind?
Jonathan: I (very) occasionally have days off to get through the (by then) monstrous pile of washing. This is usually interceded by listening to incognito musical works and dozing off. Other than that, visiting the beach or hiking in the Dandenongs makes a great day!
Q. What do you do to keep fit?
Jonathan: Before I moved to Melbourne, I was a regular at the Newcastle University Waterpolo club. Though with higher membership fees at Melbourne University, I have had to give up the sport for the time being. Carrying a 25 kilo load (cello + textbooks) everywhere is exercise enough!
Q Do you have a favourite movie/book/blog that inspired you that you'd like to share?
Jonathan: When I first watched it, the documentary EARTHLINGS hit me like a ton of bricks. It was very hard to sit through it the first time, but in hindsight I am so glad I did. It was almost like going through a Catholic Purgatory, to get to the Gates. It's also an amazing experience to watch other people sit through EARTHLINGS for the first time. No one who encounters EARTHLINGS can walk out the door unchanged; and that change, in my opinion, would be for the
Q Do you have a favourite restaurant?
Jonathan: Crossways on Swanston Street (123 Swanston St Melbourne VIC 3000 - Ph. 03 9650 2939). All you can eat, and cheap - great for a student. The food might not be too flash, but it is, according to the Hare Krishnas, good for the soul. There's also a meat-less café in Sydney called The Harvest (71 Evans St, Rozelle NSW 2039 - Ph. 02 9818 4201). Amazing food! I had my 21st there - the dinner was amazing! It even blew my conservative God-Parents right out of the water.
Q What's the best part of being a vegan?
Jonathan: There is this sense of peace that came over me when I first rejected being part of the violence I had seen in photos and video clips. That might seem a tad audacious, but it is simply how I feel.
Q Is anything difficult being a vegan?
Jonathan: Not really by comparison to what animals go through to provide a little flesh or secretion for someone's meal is an absurd exaggeration compared to my discomfort when I get looks from older family friends when I mention I don't eat meat, eggs or dairy.
Answering questions like "where do you get your protein from?" and "so, you eat lettuce all the time, right?" becomes almost amusing in that light.
Q Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Jonathan: To quote Jacques Deval, 'God loved the birds and invented trees. Man loved the birds and invented cages.' I think this encapsulates so well humanity's common attitude to the world around us. I really do hope this will change!
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