Philip Wollen


Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am an ex- merchant banker. I am now an advocate for social justice.

Why do you follow a plant-based approach?

To clarify, my diet isn’t just plant “based”. It is an exclusively plant diet.

Everyone remembers their first love. I remember my first hate. . . . Animal cruelty. . . . And that hatred has grown exponentially. My loathing of animal cruelty was where it all started. Killing animals for food is cruel. Period. There is no such thing as humane slaughter. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar or a fool. But there are other good reasons that some people also find compelling. Animal agriculture is massively polluting the air we breathe, the rivers, and the oceans, creating hypoxic Dead Zones; it is responsible for clear felling forests; it is a profligate waster of precious water; it is destructive to human health; it is bankrupting health budgets and national economies and it poses a massive potential vector force when zoonotic diseases are factored into the equation.
But for my own part, at the most fundamental level, even if these malign forces did not exist, I would still reject the barbarism of this morally bankrupt trade. Animals have a right to exist in peace, in freedom, and without fear – in their own right. Animals are more than a collective biology. Each of them has their own individual biography. It is only the inexcusably cruel, the indescribably ignorant, or the deliberately obtuse who don’t get this message. Human beings are quite capable of living a healthy, happy, ethical, joyful life without having to inflict an arbitrary “red fang and claw” existence on the powerless. There are no valid reasons to kill animals. Just excuses.

What benefits have you experienced from making the change?

I am able to look in the mirror with a clear conscience, knowing nobody was tortured and killed for my taste buds. I feel healthy and I sleep peacefully. I experience each precious moment more vividly. I understand perfectly what Auden meant when he wrote “If equal affection cannot be,
let the more loving one be me”.

What are your top 3 tips for individuals wanting make a switch/ depend less on animal products?

1. Commit yourself without compromise. Starting now. Getting off the meat and dairy drug is not a half-hearted, wishy-washy pursuit of a fad. It needs a decisive commitment followed by resolute action. As Confucius probably didn’t say “Jumping a chasm in two leaps is not a good idea”
2. Before you start, know exactly why you want to quit eating the rotting corpse of a murder victim in the first place.
3. Assemble your facts, watch the films, and when you are pressured to revert, remember why you quit in the first place.

What made you decide to do what you do?

There was no single seminal event, just a gradual realization that I had experienced a paradigm shift in my thinking. There was a time when I used to joke that the only thing that will change a man is if he:
a) finds religion or
b) Has a full frontal lobotomy.

Nowadays I say it is when he discovers his character.

If there ever was a Damascene event in my case, then it would be the time I visited a large industrial conglomerate in the course of my professional work as a merchant banker. I inspected one of their subsidiaries – which turned out to be a slaughterhouse. It was the most terrifying experience of my life and it affected me profoundly. I made the most important decision of my life that morning. To become a vegetarian; to leave my career; and become an advocate for social justice.

But I was not yet a vegan. I didn’t know enough. I thought that dairy was the bucolic, peaceful image of green pastures and crystal streams, rolling hills and the poetry of Wordsworth and Shelley. Little did I know that behind the dairy walls was a cruel industrial juggernaut, a vile gulag of despair?

I discovered that milk was meat in liquid form. During a business trip to India I saw a milkman dragging and whipping a cow. She had been badly injured in an accident with a lorry. To get her to move, he was throwing chili powder in her eyes, and shoving sharp objects in her anus. He had a chain around her neck and forced her to walk with a broken leg and severe injuries to her spine. Beside her walked her scrawny, starving and terrified calf, ribs protruding and her skinny legs trembling. At the slaughterhouse gate, he unchained her. But before he did so, the bastard milked her.

If that sight does not change the heart of a man, nothing will.

What are you passionate about?

The Golden Rule and the idea of “Ahimsa”.

The most beautiful word ever written, in any country, at any time in human history, came from India; From the Upanishads 5,000 years ago. “Ahimsa”, a Sanskrit word which means “Non Violence to any Living Being”.
The so-called Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is often attributed in the Western canon to Jesus. But in fact, these words predate the Nazarene. It actually goes back to the Babylonian Jew, Hillel around 70 BCE. Indeed, the truth be told, it goes back even further, to the Analects of Confucius around 500 BC.

So if one is passionate about anything, it should be something that really matters. Let us not major in minors.

What was a major physical/ emotional challenge you faced and how did you triumph over it?

It was no challenge at all. Once I knew the truth, it was the easiest decision I ever made.

I did not consciously decide to become a vegan. As time went by, I gradually discovered that is what I am.

What do you value in your life?

The knowledge that it is short, joyful and valuable to me, but intrinsically no more valuable than the life of any other sentient being to themselves.

What are 3 empowering beliefs that propel you?

In the end, only 3 things matter. How deeply you loved; how gently you lived; and how gracefully you let go things that were not meant for you.

What are your future plans?

Brendan Kennelly’s book, “The Book of Judas” asserts “If you want to serve your age, betray it.” What does that mean, to betray the age? Bono said something along these lines “Exposing its lies; humiliate its conceits; debunk its arrogance; demolish its certainties. Expose its secrets and condemn them to face harsher truths.” That is my plan.

How do you reach out to people?

I don’t reach out to people. I am not an evangelist. I make myself easily accessible if they want to reach me. I value privacy and I like to be invisible. Having said that, it now appears that my projects have attracted some attention. Consequently, my philosophies, methods and metrics (such as they are) seem to resonate with people.

How would you like to inspire/reach out to more people?

I don’t see it as my role to inspire anybody. But, for my own part, I am inspired by the courage of others in the face of powerful and violent vested interests.
I am constantly inspired by the capacity for joy, forgiveness and playfulness that I see in the most oppressed and exploited beings on the planet – the non-human animal victims.

If there was one thing that you would like to change in the world, what would that be and why is this important to you?

Anthropocentrism (where humans are considered to be the central focus on the planet), is the ultimate sin. If Moses could have spelled it, he would have put it in the Top 10. Carl Sagan imagined cosmological time compressed into one year. So the Big Bang occurs on 1st January. The whole year passes. The sun, moon and stars arrive on New Year’s Eve as the clock starts chiming midnight. After that came the animals.

The Johnny-come lately, puny, biped, human mammal, belatedly shows up with an opposable thumb at one second to midnight, arrogantly proclaiming that everything that had occurred in the past was divinely planned, with his precious needs specifically in mind. This tortured logic must surely offend our intellect. We need another Galileo and Copernicus to remind us we are not the centre of the universe.

What is the one idea that you can give to others to contribute to a positive change (on a personal level or the world at large)?

There will never be, and nor should there be, peace for us until we stop killing animals. The peace map is drawn on a menu. Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of Justice. Animals are not just other species. They are other nations. And we murder them at our peril. Just look into their terrified eyes as they are dragged onto the kill floor. And recall the words of the Greek poet Horace “Change only the names and their story is also about you.”

How are you Evol’ved (Our values: awake, connect, inspire ?

That is for others to judge.

How can you be connected?

Facebook and youtube.