A solo adventurer. Shot four times. Left for dead deep in the Amazon. High adrenaline, a true account. The book, ‘Choosing to Live’, by Davey du Plessis, adventurer and now author.
I won’t tell you much more of Davey’s Amazon experience, as you’ll have the book to drive into. What I will share with you is that Davey is a fellow South African, and fuels himself on 100% plant-based foods. Here’s an insightful Q&A interview, between he and I;
I first saw your book on the South African Vegan Society’s Facebook page. I’m so pleased I did. I was smiling and captivated by the second sentence – and that was the forward! I was surprised that by the second line Anthony, your publisher, had already mentioned he and you are vegan!
Q. Do you think South Africans are open and ready for the vegan message? (Especially with the stereotypical South African man being a meat and potatoes eater)
A: I would like to think so but based on my reality the answer is no, not yet. Based on my experience there is much reluctance to embrace any form of positive change in any sphere of life. South Africa, much like the rest of the countries in Africa have a backward approach to many of the humanity related issues. There is still a resistance and oppression of the gay/lesbian community along with a lingering racial divide and the many other indifferences of humankind. Animals are unfortunately seen as insignificant and the last issue to arouse any concern in the majority.
Q. In the book it quickly becomes evident that you’re an aware, conscious young man. Tell us how you came to veganism at 21 years of age.
A. I changed purely from the desire to be a more congruent human being – I wanted to walk my talk. I have always had a firm stance against any acts of cruelty on humans and animals and made the decision that I will not support any industry that demonstrates acts of cruelty. I changed my lifestyle from an animal based to plant based overnight, purely based on the idea that I do not like cruelty so I will not support it.
Q. Do you think your veganism fuelled and fostered more self-awareness and drove your adventuring spirit or are you an inherently driven person, and therefore felt compelled to delve into a plant-strong lifestyle? Which came first for you?
A. Veganism provided an insight into industry and the systems of humankind. It bothered me how manipulated and deceived a human can be by businesses and governments – this became my driving force. It was through veganism and the insight into industry that provided a stronger self-awareness. My adventurous spirit was spurred on more so from the idea that adventure could be a platform to promote certain ideals, adventure became my form of activism to promote positive change.
Q. To give credibility to your cause you explain you literally needed to choose a path less travelled. That you certainly took upon in your solo journey from source to sea. Why this journey?
A. If I wanted the cause for the adventure to be impacting and reach a wider audience, I needed to set the project up with many factors that could promote an interest or appeal to the general public. The Amazon has a great symbolism for the world as its viewed as one of the last remaining jungles and areas largely untouched by man, it is a captivating environment that provided an opportunity to appeal to a greater audience.
Every aspect of the adventure had to have a hook, something that could capture someone’s attention, regardless of whether they were interested in the cause and reason behind the adventure.
Q. Do you think that being the type of person you are, courageous in testing your boundaries, keen to broaden your views and being spiritually aware, makes choosing veganism an easier choice than for others who might be more habitual, less open to change and challenges?
A. I became who I am today, after I adopted veganism and have since progressed to Raw Veganism. Veganism caused the transition from a disconnected individual to a connected, responsible and more caring individual. I have come to understand that diet choices are made largely due to influential factors, regardless of the qualities of the person. Vegan/Raw/Vegetarian are lifestyle choices made by millions all over the world and does not adhere to specific character qualities. It is the mediums of influence that make it acceptable to eat dogs in parts of Asia, yet the same practice is illegal in the Western World; to praise cows in parts of India, yet see a cow as nothing more than a burger in the Western World.
I am habitual and am reluctant to change my reformed diet, the only difference was that I made an informed and conscious decision on how I would live my life and what industry practices I would support, instead of blindly following the conditioning of how one should live. What definitely aided my shift was a questioning mind – looking at every facet of life and asking ‘Why is it this way and is it right?’
Q. In your book you speak of the gunman’s accomplice, recounting;
“I had never seen such a lack of compassion or empathy in a human. It was as if he denied my existence. It was a look that only someone who had lost all emotion, or someone who had perhaps killed before, could successfully pull off.”
This resonated with me, because it sounded similar to what I’ve read when authors write about the total disconnect slaughterhouse workers show on the job. Yet your story illustrates these beings been the exception rather than the rule. What a nice sense of hope this delivers. What message of hope would you deliver to fellow vegans who might get discouraged that our ideology isn’t spreading fast enough?
A. The advice I would give to the vegan community – Is that regardless of how fast the ideology of a cruelty free lifestyle is moving, remember that a plant based lifestyle is about your health, its about the livelihood of animals and preserving natural biodiversity’s. Regardless of how the bigger community views the ideologies, I remind myself that it’s not about me and my desires, its about the animals and promoting an existence that doesn’t support cruelty or suffering.
Any significant change is first met with resistance before acceptance, as individuals working for change; we need to develop a resilience to ride through any resistance.
Q. You also wrote;
“I felt that encouraging and promoting individual responsibility was the best way to inspire change. Donating money only seemed to perpetuate a continuous cycle of merely treating the symptoms.”
This is inspirational as it could just as easily relate to the empowering food choices that we all make, three times a day. It tells us that we are all capable of contributing to positive change, adventurer or not! Is this a fair and suitable analogy?
A. That’s exactly what I wanted to promote – a dispersal of responsibility regarding the state of this world, encouraging every individual to focus on their impact and make their own differences before promoting what to do or relying on someone else to clean up their mess.
Q. Back to the youth. As a mother of two young vegan daughters, I’m aware of the next generation being the ones who will bring increased momentum to the vegan philosophy. There’s no doubt that our kids’ home, schooling and society at large can foster or fail this ideology. Your thoughts?
A. Education is so powerful, yet unfortunately our education systems are based on old information. It is one of the systems that promotes this continuous and uninformed cycle of living. The catalyst for promoting the ideology in the youth, will have to come through the few who are actively and publicly pushing the boundaries of conventional living and through any significant influential structures such as media, social groups, parents and industry.
Q. What do you attribute your personal insights and awareness for environmental issue to, home influences or your schooling experiences? Tell us what pillars of childhood teachings you believe can foster the greatest enlightenment and awareness around veganism.
A. Reading has been my solace. I was never strongly influenced by school or home, but I would say the most significant external pillar I had was my grandmother as she encouraged a plant based diet, right from an early age. My strongest internal pillar has been that I cultivated a care for this world and all life it supports. I never wanted wealth or status, I just wanted to be part of the good qualities in humankind and know that my limited time on this Earth was dedicated to making the world a kinder place.
The book ‘Choosing To Live’, which recounts Davey’s exceptional Amazon experience, can be purchased at all independent and commercial bookstores in SA. The book is nearing a bestseller. The eBook can also be purchased online at Amazon.com. All information for up and coming expeditions, including events and updates are featured on his website, including on Twitter and Facebook.
Watch Davey’s Ted Talk here.