Benjamin Zephaniah

Revered poet and author Benjamin Zephaniah was a vegan and advocate for animal rights since the age of 13. Before his death in 2023, VfL was fortunate to be able to ask him about his vegan journey.

At the age of 11 I went vegetarian, and at 13 I went vegan. I just knew that I didn’t want to eat animals when I was 11, and when I understood the implications of using animal products, I went vegan. I think my impact on the environment is better now, my health is better, but my main reason is still the love of animals. I just love life.

VfL: Do you feel being vegetarian/vegan has supported you through any health issues?

I don’t feel, I know. When you get to my age it’s normal to have various health issues, I know for a fact that my diet has helped me in my recoveries.

VfL: What is a typical day of food like for you?

I have always believed you have to earn your breakfast. So the first thing I do is some form of exercise. That could be Kung Fu, running, aerobics, shooting basketball hoops, Tai Chi, or anything that gets me going, then I have cereal of some type. Usually, muesli or Jamaica style cornmeal porridge. I don’t really do lunch, but if I do feel peckish halfway through the day I go for fruit or nuts. If it’s summer, then its mangoes. I like my late meal not too late, around 5.30pm. I like food with fire, I mean spices and peppers. My favourite meals are butterbeans, kidney beans, tofu, dhal, or some other high protein food, with rice, and vegetables that are steamed or lightly boiled.

VfL:Anything else you would like to add about your vegetarian/vegan journey or to inspire the readers?

As an older vegan I would say, don’t think that you’re joining a trend, or doing something that’s cool or fashionable. This is about what’s good for you. Being vegan for me is simply me, trying to do the least harm and the most good.