Joe Brock's Story in Canberra Times 16 May 2012
Written by Journo Larissa Nicholson   
Saturday, 19 May 2012 13:24

Activist determined to spread the good wordJoe Brock

 JOE BROCK, Red Hill, 27, ethical vegan

Joe Brock was working in the delicatessen of a large supermarket, selling count less boxes of disembodied chicken parts, when he really started to think seriously about becoming a vegan.

Brock had already begun considering animal rights as part of overarching commitment to nonviolence. The industrial nature of the way the meat arrived - bags of just breasts, or thighs, or necks - added to an existing unease with the way farm animals were treated.

''It was a gradual shift. The more I thought that something had to die to bring me that food, the more I didn't want to do that,'' he said.

Brock gave up meat, and not long after he cut out all animal products, including dairy and eggs, to become a vegan.

Brock has recently completed a PhD in biomedicine and is a manager at the ANU's food co-op. He is also more committed than ever to veganism, and has discovered plenty of like-minded people in Canberra - ''an eclectic, wonderful bunch''.

Brock falls very much in the activist camp of vegans. He has been involved in protests against the opening of duck shooting season in Victoria, waking up before the crack of dawn to trudge through the wetlands hoping to put an end to the practice. But he said it is not all about banners and megaphones.

''It's hard, and there's a place for that, but there's a gentler, non-confrontational activism too. Sharing food with people, talking to them,'' he says. Brock says while he has plenty of friends who eat meat, as a committed animal activist he feels obliged to spread ''the good word'', and he is unwilling to compromiseon an ethical issue. He is scathing towards the concept of a meat-free Monday - the idea of simply reducing meat consumption, rather than avoiding it altogether, holds no sway with him.

''I never encourage people to cut down on meat or animal consumption. It's a binary issue for me. It's a fundamental issue of rights,'' he says.

''It's like I wouldn't say, 'You're a bit sexist, don't be sexist one day a week.' ''

His strongly held views have posed some challenges along the way, and Brock says people who have grown up in farming families were most likely to find his outspokenness confronting. On one occasion a colleague from a dairy farming background asked him why he didn't have milk in his coffee.

''When I told him it was because it's a reproductive excretion meant for infant cows, and that I'm fundamentally opposed to the commodification of non-humans, he got quite upset and went away,'' he says.

But Brock says there have been plenty of people who have embraced his sense of commitment, including his Mum, once she was sure he was getting all the nutrients as he needed. He says that being friendly and judging actions, not people, can help smooth over tensions, and that if anything he feels stronger and healthier than when he was a carnivore. Casual meals with friends and family now take a bit of extra planning, and Brock says he usually takes his own food as he never expects people to prepare vegan food especially for him. ''I miss the ability to connect with people over food without any restrictions,'' he says. ''It's a bit of a hassle.'' But where others may see deprivation, he insists that learning to live without animal products has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. ''[Before going vegan] I never really appreciated food for what it was. Food is a really joyous event for me now.''



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