Accidentally ran into Sam Teo, who comes from a Rugby League background, at yesterday’s Auckland Vegan Food Festival on the North Shore and apart from asking about training and few other bits I couldn’t help but raise that testy old topic – what about the protein?

“Yeah I get that a lot,” he said. “It’s always a common question because so many people assume that meat, dairy and fish are the only sources you get it from. I guess that’s what we’ve been told and brought up to believe.

“But until you look into it you realise that protein is an essential part of life. It’s part of the building blocks of life so plants have protein as well. They wouldn’t be able to survive without it. We can get adequate amounts of protein just from plants.”

So, what made you become Vegan?

“It wasn’t something that was instant. I discovered a Ted Talk where a lot of the leading physicians in the field like Dr Neal Barnard, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dr John McDougall were speaking.

“The message that they portrayed was that this is something everybody can do and everyone can benefit from. The more I read into it the more it made sense logically for me. So I decided to try it.

“Then, about one or two months in, I watched Earthlings and saw behind the scenes of animal agriculture and the treatment of animals. I was pretty much set in stone from that moment on.

“After that it was about finding information – as much information as I could find to keep on the path.”

At the moment you say you are getting most of that information from overseas, do you think we need more of it from within New Zealand?

“Yes, most definitely. I think there is a lack of information coming from New Zealand sources. A lot of the information I get comes from the UK and the US but you have to search hard for it. You don’t see a lot of that information readily available in New Zealand for the public.

“That definitely needs to change for the movement to grow here.”

What about the training?

“I still train every week and being on a plant-based diet I’ve found that recovery is quicker especially from little niggling injuries. Of course, I played rugby league so you always have residual injuries from the game. Now I find that they come right quicker.”

How do you see the whole climate change aspect of all this?

“When you think about it, the amount of water and food it takes for a cow to grow from 40kg to 400kg plus is huge. You realise it doesn’t add up when you’re having to put more in than what you’re getting out.

“There are so many statistics on the inefficiency of animal agriculture whether it’s beef, or chicken, or pork – it’s a huge inefficient system we’ve created.

“The way I look at it is that if you were an investor you wouldn’t put money into an investment that you never got a return on ever. You would turn around and say well that’s a bad investment so I’m not going to keep pouring money into it and it’s the same with food.

“We put so much more water and food into animal agriculture than we get out. It’s definitely something we need to look at and change.”

Any tips for those looking at becoming Vegan?

“I guess when anyone is looking to transition it’s about information and having a strong reason for it. Everyone has a different story; where they’re coming from and why they’re doing it.

“But if you find your place in the movement and you find your reason why, you do your research and you find a community to join then you’re more likely to stay with it and be successful with it.”

Got a question?

If you have a question about what Whole Food Eating is all about then you need to check out our FAQ section.