Randall Cannon is a veterinarian from Orlando, Florida. We caught up with Randall to find out his perspective on animals.
1. What inspired you to become a vegan?
My inspiration for becoming vegan was, without a doubt, the animals. Any health and environmental benefits are a bonus. I was raised in a family that hunted and hunted myself until I was 20. Like most people, I looked at animals as a source of personal enjoyment whether it be for taste or sport. When I entered veterinary school, I cared for animals, but in a very selfish way looking at them more as a possession than a soul-I loved animals more for what joy they brought ME.
I was trained in the livestock industry and had full knowledge of the horrors involved in bringing animal products to the dinner table. I was able to keep my blinders on and continued to eat meat and dairy for about 10-12 years into my career. Somewhere along the way, my patients showed me time and time again that they were as special, if not more special, than humans. They certainly have purer souls. I began to look at animals as true beings deserving of all the dignity and rights afforded to humans. I enjoyed steak immensely—filet mignon was my favorite. After a good meal, I would be haunted by the vision of a cow’s eye, a beautiful trusting innocent cow’s eye. The hypocrisy of working all day to save a dog or cat and crying when I couldn’t, but then coming home and eating a steak began to gnaw at me. I gave up meats about 8-9 years ago, but continued to eat dairy and fish until about a year ago when I finally admitted to the horrors of those industries as well. I now realize that I have no right to use animals for taste, fashion, convenience, and entertainment, nor can I sit idly by while animals are abused by us humans.
2. In your opinion, as a doctor, do you regard the vegan diet as healthy?
As someone with a medical education, albeit veterinary, I whole heartedly believe that a vegan diet is the healthiest choice for humans. I did not make the switch to being vegan for health, but rather for ethical reasons. The bonus for me has been much improved health. I am 46 years old and I no longer require any cholesterol medications, am at my college weight and am in good shape. When I consumed animal products, I suffered from severe indigestion and frequently would wake in the middle of the night to take an antacid, but since being vegan, that problem has resolved as well. I encourage people to read The China Study to get an understanding of how bad animal products are for us. I look at my vegan friends and I am always amazed at how young they look compared to the general population.
3. I find it very strange that there are not more vegan veterinarians around. Is my assumption incorrect that vets love animals and would therefore not want to see them suffer through the animals agriculture process?
I find this strange too. As with most people, veterinarians are able to wear blinders and ignore what they know goes on in the livestock industry. I have a continuing education meeting every month which is held at a steak restaurant. I am the only veterinarian who orders a vegan meal. I sit at the table with rapidly aging, overweight veterinarians who ask for their steaks rare…one even said that he wanted it mooing when it hit his plate. I don’t mince words when I am at the table. I don’t accuse them of being bad people, but I do point out the hypocrisy of specieism…that we work all day to treat dogs and cats, but could care less about the livestock, whales and dolphins in Sea World, circus animals, etc. I almost always get asked the same stupid questions of protein, plant feelings, etc., but I bite my tongue and try to appeal to their hearts. I hope there will be a day when veterinarians take the lead on animal rights instead of defending the very institutions that indoctrinated us into the notion that is our right to use animals.
4. Can animals such as our pet cats and dogs be vegan? What is the best diet for our pets?
As for vegan veterinary diets, I think it is safe to feed dogs a good vegan diet. For cats, being true carnivores who require animal proteins, it is a different story. I have no personal experience with vegan cat foods, but I will be looking into it.
5. In addition to your vet work, you are also involved in the animal right’s movement. Can you tell us a bit about what kinds of projects you get involved with and what you are doing currently.
Once I was able to remove the blinders and acknowledge the horrors of the livestock industry, eating a vegan diet just wasn’t enough. I can not sit idly by while animals are born into a life of hell and then slaughtered for our tastes, convenience, fashion and entertainment. I actively try to show people the reality of their choices and show them the hypocrisy of loving a pet while participating in cruel industries. I am sure I offend many, but I always think to myself that I would rather offend them than to not stand up for the animals who have no voice. I really do not care if I offend someone who really doesn’t care if he/she offends helpless innocent animals in the worst of ways. Get over it and face reality.
I am also actively involved with the local animal rights group ARFF and frequently participate in protests at puppy stores, circuses, Sea World and the greyhound track. I actively adopt out animals from my clinic and hand out vegan literature. I believe that it is just not enough to care, you have to act!
6. Do you have any tips for us about how we can better protect our pet’s health?
Seek out a vegan veterinarian…they will always have the animal’s best interest at heart. Give your pet plenty of love, exercise and fresh foods. Learn about their diseases and problems. Well-educated pet owners have healthier pets.
7. If you had a message for the world on behalf of animals, what would it be?
That is hard because I have so many messages. I think the animals would want us to know that they are much more intelligent and aware than we give them credit for…that they feel emotional pain at the same guttural level as we do. Stripping a calf away from her mother hurts her as deeply as it would for a baby to be stripped from a human. Herding cattle down the slaughter chute evokes the same trembling and fear as humans felt in concentration camps being led to the ‘showers.’ It is not about superiority and who is more intelligent; it is about a sentient being experiencing suffering and pain. I have witnessed first hand the suffering that goes on in the livestock industry…it is real and it is horrific. Any veterinarian who tells you otherwise is either a liar or has a distorted view of suffering and killing.
8. Anything else you would like to add?
I have not met a vegan yet who went vegan because he/she did not like the taste of meat and dairy. It really boils down to if you value your tastes, convenience, fashion and enjoyment more than the suffering and lives of those animals. It really is that simple. As hard as I work as a veterinarian to save animals’ lives every day, the truth is that you can save more lives than I ever can by just going vegan….no degree required! The irony in all of this, humans killing animals, is that ultimately, our consumption of them is what is killing us. Karma.
Thank you so much Randall – you are an inspiration to us! 🙂