James Aspey is a 28 year old vegan, animal rights activist from Sydney, Australia. He became a Personal Trainer after winning his battle with cancer, and helped others live healthier, more positive lives for 9 years. During that time he learned about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet, adopted it for himself, recommended it to others, and after learning about the horrors of the animal cruelty industry, became vegan for ethical reasons. He then took a 365 day vow of silence to raise awareness for animals and promote peace over violence, in his campaign, Voiceless365.
Can you imagine not being able to speak for the whole year? I certainly can’t. When I heard about what James was doing, I was mind-blown. I have so much respect for this guy! James speaks for the first time after his campaign not too long ago and I thought, I need to have him on the blog! He kindly accepted my interview request and man, what an amazing guy James is. I am so thrilled to be sharing his story with you. Check it out.
Hi James, you recently made the headlines of the TV and Newspaper with your 365 days vow of silence. It must have been quite a challenging 365 days for you. How did you feel when you were able to speak again?
It took me a while to be comfortable talking again. After the interview on TV I fell silent straight away. My friends had to remind me the vow was over and I was allowed to talk! Even now, 2 weeks later, I still forget sometimes and use body language instead of being verbal. What a dummy! But it’s great to be able to speak and I get really excited having conversations with friends and being able to call them again. And to be able to rap! I was stingin to sing along to music all year!
Can you take us to the day, to the moment when you decide to do the 365 days vow of silence? What triggered this idea to voluntarily forgo your right to speak for an entire year?
I was at a meditation course called Vipassana. It is 10 days long, you meditate for 10 hours a day, and you don’t speak the entire duration of the course. On the 5th day I felt a strong urge to speak, which got me thinking about how cool it was I hadn’t spoken in 5 days and I started wondering how long it would be possible to keep it up for.
The possibility of not speaking for a year came to me, and I was instantly excited by the thought. I then considered it seriously, but knowing to go through with it, I’d have to do it for a cause, or I’d look a bit nuts. The only cause I was (newly) passionate about was animals. And so Voiceless365 was born.
Did you have any doubts about sticking to the challenge?
Yes, and no. The thoughts swirled in my head often that what I was doing was a bad idea. Also, I got told that from friends and family. But I never seriously doubted myself. The idea was born from a very pure place. My intention was to contribute positively to this world, and I always believed, no matter how often my head tried to talk me out of it, that Voiceless365 was something I just had to do. I try my best not to let fear dictate my life. So I acknowledged the fear, and did it anyway.
What was the best thing you’ve learned through the vow of silence?
I learned so much about animals last year. Before my journey began, I didn’t even really understand what animals were. Now I realise they are people just like us. Not human people, obviously, but they are individuals, with wants, needs, desires and all the things in between, just like us, that makes us who we are.
Through the vow I learned the value in listening, I learned new ways of communicating without words, and I was able to get some insight for what it would be like to have a voice, and still not be heard. Just like our non-human animal neighbours on this planet.
I myself have been a vegan for just a bit over a year. For how long have you been a vegan? What made you choose to transition to a plant-based lifestyle?
Congratulations on becoming a more compassionate human! I’ve been vegan for less than 2 years. I went vegetarian after being told that eating animals is bad karma, which made perfect sense to me. I then learned the many health benefits and realised how easy it was, to my surprise. Through more research I stumbled onto the horrific ways animals are treated to become ‘food’ on our plate, and I realised it was completely against the kind of peaceful, loving person I strive to be.
I like to help others, not harm them. And when I learned of the cruelty involved in dairy, eggs, and the other ways in which humans exploit animals, I decided it was time to be consistent. All animal cruelty and exploitation is wrong, so the rational response was to become vegan. And it was one of the best things I have ever done in my life.
You have a lot of resources on your website and I love the list of vegan quotes in particular. Do you have a favourite quote or mantra that you live by?
I love quotes. So much wisdom found in so few words. These are my 3 favourites, which I have tattooed on my body:
“Because the heart beats under a covering of hair, of fur, feathers, or wings, it is, for that reason, to be of no account?” -Jean Paul
“Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they are only animals.”Theodor Adorno
“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” -Gandhi
One of your mission statements is to show how delicious and fulfilling vegan food is. Can you give us a list of your three most favourite vegan foods?
With pleasure! For breakfast, every day, I eat banana nice cream. Which is frozen bananas, blended with a bit of almond milk, and sometimes I add some tahini, or raisins, or berries. It’s like having ice cream for breakfast, but perfectly healthy, and without any of the cruelty and killing. And it’s DELICIOUS!
I love rice paper rolls filled with salady stuff, avocado, and tofu, with sweet chilli or satay dipping sauce.
And for dinner, my favourite is roast pumpkin and potato, with brown rice or barley, and a couple of vegan sausages or crispy tempeh. Now I’m hungry!!
Now that you have finished your vow of silence, what plans do you have for the future?
Definitely no more vows of silence! I’ll be using my voice from now on to speak up for animals and educate others on why it’s so important if you care about yourself, the planet, and most obviously, not hurting and causing harm to others , that we become vegan. I have been asked to talk at various events in Australia, USA and UK. Apart from that, just keep doing my thing and try to contribute positively to this world.
If you could give vegans or aspiring vegans one parting piece of advice, what would it be?
Remember, the victims. If you keep them in mind, it will be far easier for you to become vegan. Get motivated by watching the documentaries like Earthlings, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Gary Yourofsky’s speech, and just know, you are doing the right thing. Becoming more compassionate to others is always the right thing.
Finally, how could we learn more about you and your work? (Websites, social media, etc.)