Prof Glynn Owens

PROF GLYNN OWENS has been vegan for over 35 years. Not only does he manage to be a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Auckland ... he's a pilot, a marathon runner, a rock climber and a long distance swimmer to boot.

Why did you become Veg and when?

I became vegan in 1976. My partner at the time was very interested in food-related issues and told me all about the cruelty involved in the dairy industry. I was living then in the countryside just outside Oxford in the UK and I used to go for walks and feed apples to the cows in the field. Somehow it didn’t seem right to be being nice to them one day and then supporting their mistreatment the next.

What’s the greatest thing about being Veg?

Oh, eating without guilt, no doubt. Nothing tastes as good as a clear conscience.

How did you make the change?

Quite simply just gave up animal products there and then, stopped buying them, stopped using them.

Was it hard to make the changes?

Ah, here I have to confess. No, it wasn’t particularly difficult for a number of reasons. One, I never liked cheese anyway, so that was one food I wasn’t going to miss. Two, the same partner who persuaded me to go vegan had considerable expertise and guided me very skilfully into my new lifestyle.

Are your family and friends Veg too?

My niece and nephews, back in the UK, certainly aren’t – neither were my (now deceased) parents or sister. My partner is vegetarian and for all practical purposes pretty much vegan, and I have a number of vegetarian and vegan friends, some of whom impress me tremendously with their enthusiasm and commitment.

What’s your favourite food?

Hmmm, difficult one this, so much depends on how I’m feeling – but I guess I’d find it very hard to give up on tofu.

What’s your favourite restaurant?

Aaargh, serious risk of offending some lovely people here. In Auckland I’d certainly recommend the Authentic Vegetarian Chinese in Panmure, and of course Raw Power’s food is wonderful. Internationally, the Loving Hut chain (also here in Auckland) has kept me happily eating vegan in lots of places including Hong Kong and Singapore – though in the latter I’d also recommend the “Eight Treasures” vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown. (Beware, though, most of the staff don’t speak all that much English – helps to practise a bit of Mandarin or Hokkien before going!)

What is a typical day’s menu for you?

I tend to make up my own breakfast cereals, often combining several commercial brands, (I recommend The Wise Cicada in Newmarket, who stock an excellent range), and mixing in things like dried fruits, oatmeal, cranberries etc. This with blueberries, soya milk and a weak black tea suffices for breakfast. I think the automatic bread-making machine is a wonderful invention; in two minutes I can set up a wholemeal walnut loaf to bake – only trouble is that fresh bread tends to be eaten very fast! A sandwich which includes slices of avocado with tofu heated in the microwave produces a very tasty lunch. Dinner tends to depend a lot on my mood and what’s in the cupboard, but a baked potato in the oven can be supplemented when cooked by a whole range of things: vegetables, assorted curries (chick peas curry well), a whole heap of frozen things from Fry’s that are vegan but meaty flavoured like sausages, cutlets etc – very good when I want something quick and convenient.

What do you do for fun?

I like to fly (I hold a pilot’s licence) and am a regular (if not very skilled) attender at Extreme Edge’s climbing centre in Glen Innes.

What do you do for fitness?

In my younger days I was a fairly successful judo player, but I retired from that after taking a silver medal in the NZ national championships in 1997; whilst there was some satisfaction in being able to beat nonvegans half my age, it really was harder work than I wanted! Today my fitness mostly comes from running, (I make it to most of the weekly 5Km runs from O’Hagan’s in the Viaduct Basin every Tuesday), and some swimming. (I compete in the Summer “Stroke and Stride” swim/run events every summer, and occasionally do some of the long-distance swims like Rangitoto to St Heliers.)

What is the funniest thing someone has ever said to you about being Veg?

Not so much said, as written. In an academic manuscript which I was sent the description of their study simply finished with something like “... three of the participants claimed to be vegan, although they still drank coffee and wore cotton clothes....”. I still have no idea why they thought coffee and cotton were relevant to veganism.

Are there any challenges in being Veg?

No, not really – can’t say it’s high on my list of difficult things I’ve done in my life. Occasionally it’s inconvenient, especially when travelling in strange places, and it does make some people hostile, (less so than in the past, though, I think). Any nonveg tastes you think you’d miss can easily be replaced these days by the various vegan substitutes. (Think Fry’s sausages, for example.)

Do you have advice for others about to Go Veg?

Think Nike. Just do it.