Everyday Vegan Mum Podcast with Kristy Alger
From the archives – this is the Everyday Vegan Mum Podcast episode 16 with Kristy Alger from 2019.
The Everyday Vegan Mum Podcast ran for 26 episodes during 2018 – 2020 where I had the privilege of interviewing inspiring vegans across Australia and New Zealand about their views on veganism, parenting, activism, food and much more. It was recorded when I was living in Tasmania and my boys were 4 and 5 years old.
In this episode I learn about activism with kids, how to find balance and the perils of vegan chocolate!
Bryony: Today I’m welcoming Kristy to the show. She is a vegan activist, and she is raising three vegan kids. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Kristy: Thanks for having me!
Bryony: This was all a bit last minute but it’s wonderful to have you here – I would love you to give us a bit of an introduction on yourself and your vegan journey.
Kristy: I’ve been vegan coming up 7 and a half years now. After the 2011 live export scandals year I went vegetarian and then around Mother’s Day 2012 I was channel surfing and happened to come across the documentary The Cove. There’s a scene in that where the waters of the cove go from blue to red with the blood of dolphins and I just made the connection – I was crying over the blood spilled of these dolphins but I was still spilling the blood of chickens and cows and using milk and eggs, so I went vegan that night. With the kids, Sophia was the first one to venture down the vegan path – that was about 4 and a half years ago because she’s now 10 so she would have been about five and a half. Hazel followed not long after and Rowley – he’s a very easy-going kid who goes with the flow and did it because the whole house went down that path. So that’s sort of a very brief rundown of our vegan journey.
Bryony: So it was you who lead the charge – you went vegan first and then your kids followed later on?
Kristy: Yes – and my partner followed about 4 years after I went vegan after we went to see the documentary Lucent together. After seeing that – his response was ‘well what else can you do?’ – like there is no other response. It wasn’t just the animal cruelty in Lucent it was actually also the filth that these animals are raised in and he was like ‘why would I want to eat something that comes from that filth?’ So we’ve been plant-based for quite some time in the family – even the doggos have been plant-based 3 years in August.
Bryony: That’s something that really interests me – my dog isn’t plant-based yet – you’re in Tasmania too right? We’re in Launceston and I haven’t found much in the way of options yet. How do you go for that?
Kristy: Well for our dogs we do home-cooked; home-prepared and supplemented and it’s so much easier – sometimes it takes a bit of getting the balances right and the adjustments etc but Earl – our big dog who is 75kg – he went into the vet with a problem with his eyes as he is an older dog and all of his examinations came back perfect – he’s in perfect health and the funny thing was they offered him a Schmacko (meat-based treat) and he spat it out like ‘I’m not having this filth! Then went into the car and had a banana – so I was very proud of him!
Bryony: Our dog has got a long way to go to get to that point – she was finding KFC boxes in the park yesterday which was just horrifying! But we’ve only been vegan since January this year
Kristy: That is so awesome!
Bryony: I have a lot of catching up to do – I was vegetarian for a long, long time and had stuck my head in the sand so I’m trying to pick up the slack now and hopefully inspire other people that it’s really easy and there’s lots of other vegans out there – and that it’s much easier when you can connect and when you can get properly educated about being vegan. I always thought it was too hard – especially for kids: ‘I’m not going to force my kids’ is one of the things I used to say.
Kristy: It’s not even a case of forcing kids anymore as we now have so many available options. When I went vegan and it wasn’t that long ago – all we had was Biocheese (the original) and we had nutmeat in tins and some of the Veggie Delights stuff but that was really it and it was really limited
Bryony: So how did you go?
Kristy: (laughing) Look – OK – I definitely increased the amount of vegetables I was eating! And now I’ve gone back the other way there’s ice-cream and burgers and cake! But from a parental perspective it’s so much easier – you know your kids can still have their nuggets and they can still have little treats and the really good thing is that because they are just that little bit more expensive you actually consume treat products the way they should be consumed.
Bryony: Yes so true – and the other thing is that vegan nuggets and bacon etc are not carcinogens which is a real bonus!
Kristy: They are still highly processed but you know you’ve got highly processed vs highly processed and carcinogenic so I know which one I’m going to go for for my kids!
Bryony: And yet the vegan diet is still demonised in so many sectors.
Kristy: Ridiculously so! In fact I was just reading a comment on one of the pages I admin and it was about deforestation in Queensland being rampant for cattle ranching in the context of what’s happening in the Amazon – and this guy was saying that we have to eat beef and lamb and pork and chicken and fish because it’s how we’ve evolved. No we don’t have to. We’re beyond that point now – we don’t have to eat these things and millions and millions of vegetarians and vegans worldwide life-long and short-term are showing that no you don’t have to consume these products to be healthy and your kids don’t need them to be strong and hit their milestones and be healthy and making all the achievements that they should – we don’t need it!
Bryony: The boys had a haircut yesterday and I had a conversation with the hairdresser – this wasn’t led at all by me he was just talking about lambs and llamas. Very random conversation and as English wasn’t his native language he was confused between lamb and llama and he asked me ‘which one do we eat?’ – and I said well we don’t eat either because we’re vegan. He said he was really interested in veganism and we were still talking about it half an hour later – and he said while he’d give up meat he would always eat dairy as it helps the cows as they need to express their milk otherwise they’d be in pain. He had absolutely no idea of the actual process and was astounded to hear about it – when he thought about it he said it made sense that they needed to be pregnant but he was just so innocent about it and thought he’d been doing the right thing. I think that it’s just on such a grand scale that we just need to keep chatting about it and say yeah this is wrong and most people agree that it isn’t right at all.
Kristy: Exactly – I know people who are lifelong hunters who when they’re actually told about what happens in animal agriculture are horrified and these are people who themselves deliberately go out and kill animals and yet they hear about the processes in farms and they’re disgusted by it – absolutely disgusted and it’s when you actually start to open those avenues of communication and you talk to people as people one-on-one you know it starts to break down these barriers. These corporations and industries have built up walls and fences and locked gates very deliberately so people don’t see the processes and know what’s happening because if we had known what was going on from the outset none of us would have ever consumed it and these industries would never have been able to take a foothold in our society
Bryony: Yes and we’ve all allowed it to happen – I think a lot of people think that agriculture is like it was 50 or 100 years ago and say ‘it’s still traditional methods in my town’
Kristy: Or ‘I only use local farms’ – that’s my favourite – everybody I ever speak to – in the beginning of a conversation everybody eats meat that comes from a small local farm – well do you know what my local farm is? It’s a bloody Inghams – it’s local and it’s small – so there’s your ethics.
Bryony: It’s all word play isn’t it? And it’s so important to get that feedback out there that there is another way. But you do feel like you’re going mad quite often don’t you? Shouting it from the rooftops and no one is listening.
Kristy: Funnily enough I’m doing a talk in Adelaide at the vegan festival there in October and my mainstage speech is ‘Descent into chaos my journey into activism’ because it does feel like a descent into this madness in this chaotic life of just that we know these things and people are just so resistant to knowing themselves and just the repetitive excuses – like there is literally a set play book of excuses as to why we have to eat animals, why I can’t go vegan, why this person can’t, using other people’s experience; like using marginalised people’s experiences with not being able to go vegan as an excuse for a privileged person to not go vegan yourselves. It is so frustrating and chaotic and it is maddening – it’s been 7 years of it!
Bryony: It really must play on your emotional and mental well-being – so going back to the kids how do you protect them from this or do you not – do you help develop a strength against this?
Kristy: From a maternal perspective you want to protect your kids from this stuff and protect them from being afraid in this world, but we’re travelling downhill fast in this world and we have been for a long, long time and I think when we look at what’s happened with the climate crisis, with animal abuse, the Amazon – I think I’d be doing my kids a grave disservice to not be honest with them. And there’s being honest and there’s being brutally honest. It doesn’t mean I sit them down and force them to watch things – I’m not going to make the younger kids watch Dominion for example until they’re very much old enough to – because there’s certain things a growing brain does not need to be exposed to. But I’m very honest with them about what happens to animals. My daughter Sophia the middle child is very, very cognisant to the fact that chicks are macerated live at a day old in the egg industry. She knows that in our own backyard here in Tasmania there are horrors occurring in slaughterhouses – I’ve driven her past and pointed them out so she she’s very, very aware. My elder daughter, she’s actually an activist with me – she’s a burgeoning animal rights photographer. My youngest Rowley is a bit different in that he just cruises through life and honestly, he’s got nil interest in being an activist and I’m cool with that – he’s walking his own path – but I’m still honest with him and say look there are some terrible, terrible things happening out there and this is why it’s happening. So I think being honest with our children is the greatest gift we can give them to prepare them for the future, because if we lie to them and say everything’s ok, you don’t need to panic, you don’t need to stress – when they grow up and open their eyes they’ll be like ‘why didn’t my parents actually tell me? How dare they not tell me the truth?’ Just like I sometimes get angry that my parents didn’t tell me the truth but then I realised that my parents didn’t know the truth.
Bryony: They didn’t know the truth – and I think that’s a big difference. If you’re raising your kids eating meat and you know the truth and are turning your head away from it because you think it will make your kids’ lives easier then that’s not ok.
Kristy: And the truth is no matter what our kids do and no matter who they are life is going to be difficult. Why not give them the tools now through honest communication and open communication and dialogue and discussions and debates and information so that when they have to hit the world on their own two feet, they can do it confidently and competently and safely.
Bryony: I agree 100%. It’s funny you should say that – last night we were at a book week event and of course after the first book – out came cookies and milk. And I was completely unprepared – normally I have something in my bag for such emergencies – my boys are 4 and 5 years old. My 5-year-old is totally cool about it now and understands if it comes from an animal we won’t touch it – but my 4-year-old is a bit trickier as all he wanted was a cookie! But we had a bit of a chat, and he was alright about it in the end, and I was super proud of them both. There were strawberries there but they were next to a massive plate of chocolate biscuits so it was hard for them! I was having a chat about it with them, and I did say one day you’ll thank me I promise!
Kristy: You talked to your four-year-old and they understood and then they made a decision based on that understanding. We just assume that our kids because they are our children that they don’t know any better and we don’t need to talk to them the same way that we would talk to say somebody doing outreach for example. But our kids are so clued in and so understanding if we give them the opportunities to be.
Bryony: You are right they are – I was so proud of them. Rather than making it a sense of them being deprived or something I felt like it was the other kids that were being deprived and I felt a sense of pride in the moment like my kids are the ones who are ahead in the situation – they’re not missing out but being enriched.
Kristy: They gained so much from that one small moment in time and that’s a beautiful thing.
Bryony: But next time I will have snacks in my bag because it’s just easier sometimes! So how old is Rowley now? You said he’s not interested in activism…
Kristy: He’s 8 and he’s interested in dinosaurs on a terrifyingly scientific level so I’m just going to leave him at that!
Bryony: Do you take the kids along with you to events and activism?
Kristy: Yeah so Rowley doesn’t like going on the marches as he doesn’t like crowds of people. Sophia is a seasoned veteran of the marches she goes to all the live export marches and the marches to oppose slaughterhouses, and then she’s always there front-and-centre. She’s been on the news at these marches because she just gravitates towards them because it gives her that place, that sense of belonging, I think. Hazel’s usually there with her camera doing her photography.
Bryony: Yes I wanted to ask you about Hazel – where can we find her – does she have a website?
Kristy: Not yet but we post a lot of her work on my Instagram and on Animal Liberation Tasmania page – a lot of her photography is from vigils that we hold outside slaughterhouses. The last vigil we held down at Gretna meatworks I got this amazing photo of her standing on the roof of our car with her camera aimed up into the The Slaughterhouse and she was photographing the building – there’s this macerator funnel thing that comes off the back of the slaughterhouse that they put all the refuse through into skip bins to cart it out and there she is with a camera just standing tall on top of the car and was so god damn proud of her. I felt like crying to be honest just watching that and thinking that you child are a force to be reckoned with. She’s the co-organiser with me for Tas Animal Save so she’s running the show behind the scenes – she’s just a powerhouse. Her first shoot gig was for the Dominion rally and march last year in Melbourne – the massive big one that went through the city that I spoke at and she photographed and I’ll never forget this really surreal moment when marching through I completely lost her and of course panic stations oh my god where is my child? She’s literally just monkeying off things like hanging off posts and jumping from things to get this angle and that shot and I could see her because I saw this sudden flash of bright green hair!
Bryony: Brilliant! So as she was growing up did she have a vegan circle of friends – how did she cope in high school?
Kristy: Some of her friends sort of played with going plant-based – I don’t want to use the word vegan because they were just mucking about with their diet. This is so funny – she ended up in a relationship with a young man who she is still with who when they first got together he was very anti-vegan like staunchly anti vegan and now he’s at actions with us – he’s chosen to be an ethical vegan himself. Some of her friends came along but I think mainly what we did was connected Hazel with some of the the activists that I’ve been involved with over the years who are quite young themselves. There’s a really exciting young activist scene in Tasmania – I am 37 but the people I work with are in their early to mid 20s and they’re really, really passionate about not just promoting veganism from the animal rights perspective but veganism from this holistic, consistent, anti-oppression perspective where until all are free none are free across the board – which is really, really exciting. So being able to connect Hazel with these people means she’s made strong, strong friendships which has been wonderful for her – it connects her, it grounds her, and it gives her people she can turn to. That real sense of community which is so important.
Bryony: So how do and Sophia and Rowley go with it?
Kristy: Yeah Rowley has his moments – I’ll say did you know blah blahs happening and he’ll say ‘WHAT!’ and has a bit of a rant but by and large he’ll just follow along – he’ll have a chat with his mates at school about it but mainly his interest at school at the moment is running around with sticks and poking people and that’s what he like to do which is OK! He hasn’t been bullied for it though, and both the kids have had understanding teachers who if they have for example a reward system where occasionally a kid might be given a chocolate frog there’s on hand something else like a lollipop that I might have provided. Or even parents bringing cakes for their kids’ birthdays make sure there’s a cupcake that is vegan for Sophia or for Rowley. A couple of Sophia’s friends have expressed a real desire to go vegan themselves because they’re just appalled at what’s happening and there’s actually other vegan parents at the school which just blew my mind as it’s quite a small school.
Bryony: So going back to the bullying do you think a big part of why that’s not happened is because the teachers are being so inclusive and making it just not an issue?
Kristy: I think so yeah – I hear stories from friends whose kids cop it from their teachers saying things like ‘you’ll never fit in’, ‘you should do your project on that topic’, ‘you’re weaker than the rest of your classmates’ all of this sort of stuff. One of my friends in the northwest – she’s this fierce mumma bear and the protectiveness for her son who’s copped so much shit is just heartwarming to see. She’s so determined and it’s inspiring to see what she’s up against in that environment. I have friends in America who’s school group was going to the zoo and the child actually said ‘I don’t want to go to the zoo it’s a bad place’ and got a detention. He got detention for saying animals don’t belong in captivity, so I mean for my kids I’m so fortunate that they’re in this school group and school community that is supportive – of course there’s the usual shit that goes on with kids because kids can be nasty, and kids can bully, but they are never bullied on account of veganism and that’s very, very important
Bryony: That’s great to hear – I thought it was going to be inevitable that was going to happen so it’s really good to hear that is not necessarily the case
Kristy: And once again it’s just having an open dialogue with teachers let them know this is the situation and finding solutions where needed.
Bryony: That’s really good advice. If you have concerns with the school just to go in there and just talk to them – educate the educators.
Kristy: Nine times out of ten if you’ve got an issue with a teacher who has said or done something that’s upset your kid on any on any level – nine times out of ten it will just have been a mistake, a slip of the tongue or a brain fart. We’re hand raising some lambs – at the moment we’ve got three little babies and it’s seriously like raising children – it’s just pooping and shouting and feeds everywhere. One little girls is a Merino and we took her to school and the teacher started talking about how they produce the best wool and how she’s a special sheep because she’ll produce this amazing wool that we’ll use for jumpers blah blah. I just said ‘well in our household that won’t happen because we’re vegan and we don’t use any animal products and she’ll actually be allowed to keep her wool in winter to keep her warm and she’ll only be shorn back when it’s for her own health’. And the teacher just stopped and said ‘well I had just never considered it that way.’
Bryony: And the way you said that was so lovely – not judgey or an attack in any way. And then it becomes easier because you’re not causing any embarrassment or shame in the person because as soon as that happens you’ve lost them right?
Kristy: I ‘ve been so many different types of vegan. I’ve been the Namaste vegan, I’ve been the angry vegan, I’ve been the ‘good’ vegan who doesn’t talk about it. I’ve found out by doing a lot of street outreach that just talking is great. We’re we all just trying to get by in life so treat people the way that you want to be treated and you will get through to them. There are still times I want to say to people ‘will you shut up’ and I have my bad days, but I have found that if you just talk to people; they’re not stupid, they’re not arseholes trying to make your life hell – (well most of them!) just talk to them.
Bryony: Yes it’s all about planting those seeds. It’s what happened with me. It wasn’t someone in my face saying ‘you can’t be an ethical vegetarian’ it was just constant messages I kept seeing popping up here and there that made the biggest difference for me. It’s sometimes the conversations that you think nothing of that have the biggest effect. It’s like the conversation with the hairdresser – he ended up taking a card off me to do the 10-week vegan challenge and who knows where that could lead.
Kristy: Exactly. Whenever I go to the supermarket I’m always wearing an animal rights related t-shirt so usually I’ll wear my watchdominion.com t-shirt
Bryony: My kids have the same effect for me as a t-shirt in the supermarket as they quite often shout things out like ‘mum! It’s cows’ milk!’ Or ‘look mum, there’s a dead animal mum!’
Kristy: Hazel got a bit worked up one day in the supermarket and just punched a carton of cows’ milk! We were in stitches! The little ones see the word vegan on a product and yell ‘mum! Vegan stuff here!’ and everyone in the supermarket hears it. So that’s their own little form of outreach really – cute little blonde kids shouting ‘MUM – VEGAN!’
Bryony: That’s right – and especially two little very healthy kids who aren’t protein deficient or iron deficient and are still managing to walk!
Kristy: With the mum trailing behind exhausted trying to keep up looking like hell cos she’s so tired and thinking ‘maybe we should go back to the other way of eating because it’s slows them down!’ With Sophia it’s a bit of a surprise because Sophia has sensory processing issues so she has quite a restricted diet – certain textures she can’t deal with, new flavours, new things she just she cannot deal with and yet even with restricted eating – we do supplement just for safety’s sake – but you know she still bouncing off the walls, she’s still one of the tallest in the class, still hitting all her milestones and achieving great things.
Bryony: I think that’s one of the finest forms of activism and the best outreach that you can do with kids. I’ve been wondering how to get more involved in the movement but I think you’ve just made me realise that even just having healthy vegan kids is a huge advertisement really to the movement.
Kristy: When I was young, when you heard about vegans and vegan kids you thought they lived in a commune, didn’t wear shoes, ate brown rice: that was the basic idea of what vegans were so now we’re still trying to break down those barriers in society that just see vegans as on the fringe and a little bit weird or eccentric and maybe a bit hippy and all of this sort of stuff so having the active successful children who are shouting vegan in the supermarket is really a valuable contribution.
Bryony: You are right – my little boy won his first cross country and I was super proud of him – that night I thought – oh I should have given him a powered-by-plants t-shirt to run in!
Kristy: Next time! That is excellent!
Bryony: Yes it just breaks all these myths down – really vegan kids are just normal kids; they could be fast they could be slow; they could be into science, they could be into whatever like they’re just normal kids – it doesn’t give you superpowers. Same like us vegans – sometimes I think I need to always be a picture of good health because I’m constantly a message for the movement – but we’re just all human aren’t we?
Kristy: I’m sitting here eating a whole large Vego Bar literally pushing it through my face and I don’t give a shit what sort of message this puts out about veganism!
Bryony: I haven’t tried a Vego Bar yet and I’m refusing because I don’t want them to be so good that I have to eat them forever!
Kristy: You need to eat them forever! I’ve got mates from the mainland who allow themselves one square of Vegobar a night and I’m like how is that possible!
Bryony: Aldi have this chocolate called Moser Roth and there’s this sea salt flavour and as we don’t have Aldi here in Tasmania I rang my mother-in-law in Sydney and asked her to send me a bar as I was felling like a bit of chocolate – I don’t normally eat a huge amount of chocolate. Anyway about 2 weeks later a box arrived with about – no lie – about 40 of these bars of chocolate and they were all gone in about a week.
Kristy: oh my god they sound amazing!
Bryony: Yes and you can make muffins out of them and it melts so beautifully!
Kristy: IGA down in Lindisfarne is a dangerous place for this exact reason. They have got the Vego Bars, but they’ve also got vegan versions of Mars bars and Snickers, Peanut Butter Cups and Smarties and I’m like why did you people order these things in – thank you for doing that but why did you do this!! I’m getting married this year and all I can do is eat and eat and eat – I’m the antithesis of what a bride-to-be should be!
Bryony: Congratulations that’s awesome! And that’s a whole new conversation – vegan weddings!
Kristy: That’s for next time!
Bryony: And there will have to be a next time as we’ve been talking for ages and I still have loads of questions but don’t want to keep you – It’s saturday night and I’m sure you’ve got partying to do….
Kristy: The football’s on if that’s what you mean!
Bryony: Before I let you go I need to let people know where they can find you so can you let us know all your socials
Kristy: You can follow me at Kristy Bunny Alger on Facebook I also admin Animal Liberation Tasmania and Tasmanian Animal Save pages and Instagram it’s writing_liberation. Be aware that sometimes I do post some confronting stuff but more often than not it’s sheep and food and occasional selfies! There is also occasional activism that occurs – sometimes that activism will be as simple as a street outreach other times you might be seeing some more direct action so if you are going to follow me online be aware that these are the sorts of things I post.
Bryony: Awesome. I think it’s really important – for me especially – because I won’t watch Dominion or Lucent because it just breaks me a little bit more but then but I think it’s important to be constantly reminded of the suffering. Beacuse you can easily get fully distracted from it.
Kristy: Sometimes it can actually be that we can swing the other way – if we are completely flooded with it we desensitize to it and that is a problem as well – so trying to find that balance in life of celebrating the beauty whilst acknowledging the horror at the same time. Finding the balance between the two is crucial and so tricky – so hard to do. As an example last year at the end of November I was part of the team that occupied a duck slaughterhouse in Victoria. This place kills 22000 ducks every day – I’d never been in a slaughterhouse during operational hours – it was full and there were workers there – I was filming the kill line so I got a lot of footage and a lot of photography from that that day and it’s quite a traumatic memory. But then on the flip side I also have photos of the 20 ducks that were rescued that day – we just picked up a whole heap of ducks and we just ran them out of there. There were also moments of beauty – we took paddling pools for the ducks – we selected a few ducks out of the crate and put them in paddling pools because they have been deprived of immersive water when they’re farmed. The slaughterhouse operators they turned on the misters trying to make it uncomfortable for us and get us to leave, but then the sun started to shine through the mist and we had these beautiful ducks floating in paddling pools and instinctively preening themselves so it was absolutely beautiful. So in that moment I found my balance – I found there’s the horror there’s the beauty and I’m bang in the middle of it – there is that moment.
Bryony: That must have been intense.
Kristy: it was intense on so many different levels and I’m so happy to have been given that opportunity to be able to go in there and experience that because I think we did a lot of good that day for those individual ducks and also for raising awareness of the ducks that we didn’t manage to get out of there and who continue to be killed there but also for personal growth and embracing personal health as well as that was a crucial turning point in my activism journey.
Bryony: I would love to know more and to have you back on the show to talk more about activism because it’s something that I need to learn more about as well.
Kristy: I could talk for days! I’m in Adelaide from the 26th to the 27th of October for Vegan Festival Adelaide – I’m appearing on the main stage doing a speech and holding a panel on recentering animals in the Animal Rights Movement. There’s also a VIP breakfast panel and a social media panel – Vegans Behaving Badly.
Bryony: It has been lovely thank you so much for coming on the show and enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Kristy: It’s been lovely – thank you!
Bryony: Thanks so much to Kristy for coming on the show – I could have kept her talking for another hour at least and I was having the best time with so many conversations and topics coming up and so many more questions that I didn’t get to ask so hopefully we’ll see her on the podcast in the future. One of my favourite things I’ll take away from the conversation was activism with the kids and how you don’t necessarily need to be and out at rallies and protests to bedoing activism – if you’re raising vegan kids they’re doing it for you each and every day whether you in the supermarket at school or having conversations they’re just a shining example that vegan children are healthy and happy and thriving and it is the future so thanks for that Kristy.
Thanks for listening to the everyday vegan mum podcast please note that this recording is designed to support and inspire and not intended as a replacement for medical advice please take your own personal circumstances into account and consult your GP or health practitioner for specific nutritional or dietary advice.
Do you have vegan kids in your life? Check out my book Eating Animals is Weird