Charity worker, business owner and champion for change, Heather is a beacon of light in the vegan movement.
When did you first discover veganism?
My transition to veganism happened overnight after I was visiting the UK having worked on the frontline in the war in the then Yugoslavia. On my return I crossed the street, where a speeding police motorcycle hit me and clean chopped my leg of, crushed my pelvis and punctured my lung.
I was in hospital for five months and they kept chopping my leg more and more because of infection. My vegan girlfriend ran in and said I must join her, but being a Geordie – living off of sausage and mashed potato – I thought she was crazy.
However, I wanted to keep my knee which they were threatening to amputate because of infection, so she dragged me to America and I was healed in two weeks at the Hippocrates Health Institute (hippocratesinst.org) on a raw, plant-based diet. I stayed raw from 1993 to 1995 and then missed socialising and warm food, so that’s when I started developing meat, fish and dairy substitutes. I could it in with society and help my cravings for occasional fast food without harming animals, the planet or my health. This ultimately became VBites foods (vbites.com).
Did you find the transition easy?
”The fastest way to minimise animal cruelty is to feed people great food”
The hardest part was having a raw diet – not everyone has enough hydrochloric acid or digestive enzymes in their stomach to digest raw foods and can suffer from bloating and gas (there is only so long you can blame the dog!). I suggest to everyone that plant-based is best but you really should cook your food if you have any digestive disorders.
Does everyone in your household follow a vegan diet?
My household is 100% vegan – we make 130 products at VBites so we can replicate all the products people love. They have no reason not to eat vegan with joy in my house!
How are you catering for increased demand at VBites?
I have invested everything into three more plant-based factories – one will handle nuts and the other is allergen-free and produces cheese along with our new butter, mayonnaise and ice cream. The Walkers PepsiCo factory I bought in Newcastle is 200,000 ft.², so I’m helping incubator small start-ups manufacture and distribute through my VBites venture fund.
What do your roles as patron of the Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals and the Vegetarian and Vegan Association involve?
Having campaigned for years and created law changes with my team around the world for animal rights, I realised the fastest way to minimise animal cruelty is to feed people great tasting food. My focus now is on scaling up to meet demand as well as converting the carnivores at least to flexitarianism until they discover the benefits to themselves, the animals and the planet and do the full transition. The only way to do this is to create fantastic tasting food as we are only human, so give into temptation easily.
What motivates you in your work?
My passion and my belief that what we are trying to do is make the world a better place for all sentient beings. We have had many challenges, but when I compare where we were 25 years ago and where we finally are today – after so much abuse and criticism – it just shows you what can be achieved. As the movement grows, we can achieve even more – it’s becoming a lifestyle change, this is much more than a trend.
How can readers get involved with helping the cause?
The more they cook for their friends who are opposed to their views and the less they judge and criticise, the quicker they will get them to transition into a happier, healthier lifestyle. You will always find that people are interested in one of the three – health, environment or animals.
Tell us about your new book…
I was invited to St Tropez to do a speech about veganism to world leaders. I remained open-minded as the French are not generally into veganism, so I was enticed to try and do some conversions. Many of those who attended have become flexitarian since our weekend together, so that alone was an achievement, but the domino effect of getting these bright minds together will continue for years to come. We have another meeting with a group of them in London soon. The eclectic group all brought something to the event but the Fast Forward Files book that came out of it is inspiring and spot on with where the future lies.
What would be your top tip for new vegans?
Do your research, take regular B12 and algal oils and eat a varied diet. You need supplements even if you are a carnivore, but this is mainly all you will need on a whole food, varied plant-based diet.
Sum up your world view in one sentence…
I am hopeful that the smart millennials and their children will clear up the mess my generation has left behind, but some of us are doing everything we can not to leave a rotten stinking compost…
Fast Forward Files: Opening Up is published by Molden Verlag in the UK and is out now, priced at £28. Available at fastforwardforum.eu
Meet more vegan influencers at veganfoodandliving.com