Going vegan in later life may put a new spring in your step. To find out more visit VeggieWorld London on 8 and 9 April and scroll to end to win free tickets
Gil Osman is 77 and lives in Bristol. He has followed the vegan lifestyle for 47 years, enjoying an active life that includes going to the local sports centre (badminton and gym), being chair of his local community association, adventure holidays to far-flung places, collecting and giving talks for charities, going to Vegan Summer Camp every year and playing the piano at a local ballet school.
Recently he knocked on doors to get 700 signatures on a local petition to send to Bristol City Council. He also belongs to two choirs. Here Gil tells his unique story of how and why he became vegan...
“My father had three allotments, so we rarely bought vegetables. My diet then was an omnivorous one, restricted by rationing. There were no ready-meals or junk food.
"There were two incidents in my childhood that set me thinking and put me on the path to vegetarianism.
"My parents kept rabbits and chickens at the bottom of the garden, which I mistakenly thought were pets (although I knew we got eggs from the hens). One afternoon, I heard an awful screeching noise and rushed out of the house to see a headless chicken running around the back yard (my Dad had just chopped its head off!).
"I was both astounded and horrified. Our dog; Lassie, was always having puppies (she was not spayed) and my parents usually gave them away. On the last occasion they couldn’t even be given away. By accident I chanced on my father flushing them down the toilet – alive!
"I was vegetarian when I was 17. I had always had vague thoughts about not eating animals at the back of my mind. These coalesced info firm determination when I read a chapter on vegetarianism in a spiritualist book called The Teachings of Silver Birch by the Fleet Street journalist Hannen Swaffer.
"When I started work in a Bristol shipping office, I found a very good restaurant in Old Market Street where I could have lunch.
"However, then (in 1954) the only meals available for a vegetarian were cauliflower cheese, macaroni cheese and omelette!
"There were no health stores yet in Bristol, nor any Indian or Chinese restaurants, which could have afforded me vegetarian meals.
"I was healthy during this period, as generally people could not afford to overeat. But I knew no other person in Bristol who was a vegetarian, so I felt a bit isolated.
"My mum just accepted my new diet (‘You always want to be different!’). I ate well at home, because we always had plenty of food.
"I became vegan when I was 30 (1979), because of a growing realisation of how dairy animals suffered and what was involved with egg-production. I was married at the time, with two children and we lived in Farnham, Surrey, to be near my wife’s parents.
"I married a meat-eater and we shared the cooking and the housework. However, if I cooked, it was a vegan meal for all; if my wife cooked, the meal contained meat (which I replaced with something vegan). My German mother-in-law made excellent vegan dishes for me.
"By this time I had gleaned nutritional information from The Vegetarian Society. Then I joined The Vegan Society, being more appropriate. By 1979 books were already appearing on the bookshelves about vegan cooking.
"I’m the healthiest of three brothers. My elder brother died last year and I am sure a bad diet was partly to blame. My twin brother always complains about his health. Friends often make comments about me such as, ‘you’re doing well for 77’, or ‘you don’t look your age’.
"Although you can get most of what you need on a vegan diet, I take a VEG1 capsule from The Vegan Society which contains vitamins B12 and D, just for re-assurance. I also get omega 3 from flax oil and walnuts.
"I’m very fit for my age. I go to the gym to exercise my stomach muscles and I play badminton for two hours every week for exercise.
"I have been a school governor in Fiji (VSO 1993/95), in Farnham (teacher governor) and at both my old primary and secondary schools in Bristol, the last one being my primary school three years ago.
"My favourite meal is a vegetable curry followed by an apple tart or rhubarb crumble.
"It makes a big difference being part of a social group – my local one is Bristol Vegans, although there are lots up and down the county. It’s great being with like-minded people.
"I regularly visit my vegan friends in Spain (I met them at Vegan Camp 10 years ago). I’m especially looking forward to visiting VeggieWorld London this April, which should give me some extra ideas for recipes and give me a chance to try the latest vegan foods.
Dr Michael Hooper, GP and nutritional advisor adds: “It’s not a surprise that Gil has had a long and healthy life, and continues to be well, active and happy.
"A well-balanced plant-based or vegan diet is one of those with the most potential health benefits in terms of longevity and freedom from long-term illness; there is good evidence that people who eat mainly plant-based foods enjoy their lives with a lower risk of ischaemic heart disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and cancer, and are likely to live longer than people who still eat meat, especially red and processed meats.
VeggieWorld London takes place on Saturday 8th April and Sunday 9th April 2017 at Kensington Town Hall, West London. Admission is by advance tickets, available on-line priced £8 for adults and £6 concessions, or on the door – £10 for adults, £8 concessions. Entry is free for children up to the age of 12 when accompanied by an adult. Visit VeggieWorld for more information.
We have five pairs of tickets to give away. Just email: firstname.lastname@example.org making the subject VEGGIEWORLD TICKETS and include your full postal address to be entered in our our lucky draw. Entries No later than 1 April 2017
Please consult your doctor before adopting a Vegan diet as you may need to supplement it with vitamins. For more information click here