February 17th, 2011 by Gary Smith
Georges Laraque was known as one of the toughest professional hockey players in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was a forward, most commonly known as an enforcer on the ice. He played for the Edmonton Oilers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Montreal Canadiens.
Georges became vegan in 2009, and has since become an animal rights activist and political leader. Georges was kind enough to answer a few questions.
1. You’ve been vegan since June 1 of 2009. What prompted that decision and how has your life changed as a result?
That happened immediately after watching the Earthlings documentary. I have never felt better physically and mentally, and wished I had done that 20 years ago.
2. Please talk about your work with the producers of Earthlings and how you came to narrate the French-language version of this influential film. Will you be doing any more films in the future?
Well, after [director Shaun Monson] heard many times about me talking about how it changed my life, and the fact I was French and lived in Canada, together, we had the idea of doing a French narration of it so people that speak French around the world would be more encouraged to listen to it, because as we all know, a lot of people refuse to watch anything with subtitles; they want to hear it.
3. You were one of the toughest competitors in sports – any sport, anywhere. How do we combat the belief that “real men eat meat” or that we need animal foods to maintain body mass and strength?
Well that’s why the fact that I am being vegan now for just over two years is breaking that stereotype, and there’s many other athletes like me that were big, vegan and successful. You can go to my website for other example of vegan athletes. I have not lost any muscle mass at all and actually got stronger, so the meat quote is just a dumb way for people not wanting that lifestyle.
4. Speaking of tough guys, “Iron Mike” Tyson is now getting his iron from beans and green leafy vegetables. Did you have any influence on him adopting a vegan diet?
I have no idea, you would have to ask him, but regardless, people today are more open to the subject of health and veganism. You now hear it everywhere. It’s not taboo anymore – food we eat today is dangerous, and people want to be healthier.
5. Can you say a few words for others who are struggling to make this change in their own lives?
It was an easy transition. I became vegan the next day, threw all my food away and started from scratch. I did meet a nutritionist but mostly, I did all my research online where all your questions can be answered there. 30 years ago, there’s wasn’t much but today, you get it all, even if it’s looking for vegetarian places to eat in different part of the world. Everything is online, what to eat, menus, recipes…
Last thing for athletes or people that work out a lot, is to make sure they have enough protein. I would suggest Vega, which is a plant protein powder, and have it every day. It’ll help to make sure your body is not missing anything.
6. How does the practice and lifestyle of nonviolence play out in your life now, compared to when you were in the NHL?
What you do in sports does not define you as a human being. The person you are does, and outside of hockey, I’m really not a violent person!
7. You’ve faced enormous amounts of racism and prejudice growing up and in your career. Has enduring these experiences made you more sensitive to the abuse of animals, the exploitation of the earth, the suffering of third world people, the oppression of LGBT people? The list goes on and on…
Maybe, I’ve never thought about that point. After I saw how badly animals were treated to end up in our plates, how bad it was for our health and for the environment, I decided to stop this nonsense and educate others. After all, animals can’t talk and they need people that have notoriety like me to be their voices. I couldn’t imagine how life would be today if they were not protected.
8. Canadian activists work especially hard on certain issues like fur and the seal hunt that are considered national embarrassments. Can you talk about these and other animal rights priorities in Canada today?
The fur and the seal hunt is definitely really bad in Canada where we’re showcasing to the world how barbarous we can be, and that’s coming from one of the most advanced country in the world. The part that makes no sense is the fact that the seal industry is economically not a viable source of revenue for Canada, and that we have to inject money from our own taxes to support that terrible practice instead of using that money to help those hunters to get better jobs that will give them a better source of revenue.
9. Your animal activism seemed like a springboard for greater involvement in political issues. You’re now working with the Green Party, which unfortunately is not as strong in the U.S. as it is elsewhere in the first world. What will animal activists learn by following your lead and getting involved in political movements?
That the Green Party is totally for ethics towards animal because it is actually proven that this cause has a lot to do with the problem we have in our environment. For example, the meat industry is responsible for 20 percent of global warming, we cut down forests to grow grains for animals and for pasture, we use so much water also when the world is having water shortage, and I can go on and on…
10. We all know you are part owner of Crudessence, a vegan restaurant with two locations now, and still active in Haitian relief work. What other charities and projects are you committed to now? Here’s your chance to promote what you need to promote!
Ha ha, I do so many things that if I list them all, you wouldn’t have room for your article. The most important one is obviously my two restaurants Crudessence so I can promote veganism; I’m building Grace Children’s Hospital in Haiti with the NHLPA and World Vision; TerraSphere, which is a vertical farming company; I’m the president of Super-Glide, the synthetic ice company, etc.