By Josie Moody, VO Office Manager
What is an activist? We use that word a lot in the animal rights movement—maybe so much so that we don’t really stop to think about what it means. While Vocabulary.com defines an activist as “someone who campaigns for social change,” it still doesn’t really clarify what that means. Campaigns how?
In the past I had a pretty narrow idea of what an activist is. I envisioned someone who attended or organized protests, sit-ins, and marches. While those are invaluable forms of activism, over time I’ve realized that activism takes many forms, and we’d like to highlight those various forms on our blog. My interview with Vegan Outreach supporter, Carl Pluim, is a prime example of what some of those can be.
Josie Moody: Thank you, Carl, for taking the time to thoughtfully answer my questions and sharing a little bit of your experience with us.
First question, where are you from, and how did you end up living where you live now?
Carl Pluim: I’m from Madison, Wisconsin. I moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1993 for the rock climbing (outdoor athlete) scene. I moved to Denver in 1995, as I liked the diversity and the feel better than Boulder.
I now live in Westminster—the ‘burbs—on a golf course. I’m not a golfer, but like the green space and tranquility provided by the golf course. Coyotes, foxes, eagles, hawks, lots of songbirds, raccoons, and skunks are prevalent—as good as it gets for ‘burb’ or city living.
Josie: How long have you been vegan, and what inspired that choice?
Carl: I’ve been vegan for eight years. Thanksgiving will be the start of year nine. I was pescatarian, then vegetarian, and then became vegan. I went vegan for two reasons: one being compassion—I read The Food Revolution by John Robbins—and the second being for help in athletic performance—to become faster, stronger, leaner, to recover more quickly, and to have more energy.
Now I am 100% compassion-based and would continue to be vegan even if it turned out that a plant-based diet was unhealthy.
Josie: What made you decide to become an activist? Describe some of your experiences as an activist. Is there one thing that you do that you find especially meaningful or effective?
Carl: My biggest form of activism—aside from giving money—is representing muscular athletic vegans. I’ve spoken at several VegFests with other vegan athletes, including Rich Roll, Scott Jurek, and Patrik Baboumian. I wear vegan-themed clothing often, and I frequently talk with people about how I can be “so lean, muscular, and vegan.”
I do attend various events and an occasional meet-up, but I am not solely focused on activism every weekend and with the bulk of my free time. I am good friends with activist and speaker John Pierre and will sometimes go to a gathering or protests with him, such as circus protests or protesting Whole Foods Market’s sale of rabbit meat. I am unquestionably vegan for life.
I have helped three people become vegan, some of who have helped others. What is most meaningful is when I can show or help someone realize that there is nothing in animal products that we need for optimal health. Most people—and especially weightlifters—are looking for something that helps with performance, so showing them the proof is pretty cool when they start to have honest curiosity.
Josie: How would you describe yourself?
Carl: I am fulfilled and happy with life like I never knew possible, and being vegan is a significant part of that. I am a 30+ year athlete—tall, lean, muscular (6’5″ and 220 fit lbs).
I live my life according to my values versus just talking about them. I am a feminist, emotionally aware, connected, and feel more blessed than anyone I know. I have gotten more compassionate as I have grown older.
I have seen enough slaughterhouse and animal torture videos to last me for the rest of my life, but I think people should see what they contribute to.
I am a big believer in trying to lead by example and not being abrasive about being vegan. I encourage people to look into their food choices and see the clear benefits of living cruelty-free to the extent that we can. I know that encouraging people to give up whey protein for plant-based protein and showing how that helped me is better than being condescending to those that have not seen the path toward living animal-consumption free.
I think that “something is better than nothing” and that it starts with a single effort—replacing dairy creamer with coconut creamer or trying a Tofurky brat instead of a meat one.
I am an athlete: I rock/ice climb, backcountry ski, road and mountain bike, and resistance train a lot (bodyweight plus various lifting workouts). I work out to be good at what I do, not to look in the mirror, but I have achieved a noticeable physique and presence as a result.
Josie: What do you do for work, and how do you spend your free time?
Carl: I work for a Tier 1 Internet Service Provider (ISP). I manage a team of infrastructure engineers who monitor and keep the IT systems working. There are disadvantages to selling one’s soul “to the man,” but there are also advantages in that—making enough money to contribute to causes I care about and finding a niche where I’m satisfied is pretty cool.
In my free time, in addition to all of my athletic interests, I also like not being active: I enjoy cooking, baking, hanging out with friends, reading, meditating, and listening to music. I regularly volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado and also at Longhopes Donkey Shelter.
One of my favorite things to do is hang out with my rescue cat, Lucy. She’s 12, cannot see very well, bumps into things and is the most snuggling, purring cat I’ve ever met. Having Lucy in my life is invaluable to me. International traveling is great—backcountry skiing and climbing is great—but staying at home with her? I can think of nothing better.
Josie: Finally, can you recommend a great place for us to eat in your area?
Carl: WaterCourse Foods and City, O’ City are awesome. The seitan wings at Watercourse are the best vegan junk food I’ve ever had! NOOCH Vegan Market is also amazing.
Also my friends and I are big fans of my homemade chocolate chip cookies which I always have in supply, and I’ll share the recipe with you here!
Josie: Is there an activist that you know whose story you think we should share? If so, please contact me at [email protected].
Carl’s Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields about 16 cookies.
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon molasses
- ⅔ cup vegan butter
- ¼ cup agave
- 1 egg replacer (see below for the ingredients)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (I always double this)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Dash of salt
- Dash of cinnamon or allspice
- 1 ½ cup flour (I use whole wheat)
- Handful of rolled oats
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips
- Macadamia, pecans, or walnuts to taste, chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoon Ener-G Egg Replacer and 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, soy yogurt, or blended silken tofu
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoons ground flaxseeds and 3 tablespoons warm water
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Mix ½ cup of sugar and ½ teaspoon molasses.
- Stir in the remaining ¼ cup sugar into the molasses/sugar mixture.
- Add the butter, agave, and egg replacer. Mix well.
- Then add the vanilla, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.
- Stir in half of the flour, rolled oats, chocolate chips, and nuts.
- Stir in the remaining flour.
- If you want large cookies, roll the dough into golf ball-sized dough balls. If you want smaller cookies, roll the dough into smaller sized balls.
- Place in the oven and bake for about 16 minutes.