Thank you for taking an interest in who I am, what I do, and why!
My name is Joey Visser, 32 years of age, and up until recently, I was working as a gelato chef in the Jordaan district in Amsterdam. On December 6th, 2017, I started my own journey towards a vegan lifestyle. I set myself a challenge: would I be able to survive 3 months on just vegan food? My vegan girlfriend had inspired me - whether purposely or not - and it was time to overthink and scrutinize this lust I had for spareribs.
How did this happen? One evening, she came home from work, visibly shook. Of course, I checked with her what was wrong, but she would not tell. We had a prior arrangement: she would not "bug" me too often about my dietary choices. She was welcome to question them now and again, but only as long as I felt comfortable, so she therefore would choose her battles wisely. Because, frankly, I cannot stand it when people expect me to reflect on my own behavior, shortcomings and... perhaps... outright mistakes.
That day, a few co-workers had teased her a bit, with one of them posting a picture of a slaughterhouse kill floor to the company Skype group. I am sure none of them knew at the time how this affected her, but there she was, crying at the dining table. I was intrigued by her emotions, which caused me to cast off my ego, shield, sword and armor, albeit just for a moment. From that moment on, the dialogue between us had started.
Once in a while, I would try to stump her with critical questions, and later that night I would Google her reply, just to fact-check her story. And she had her facts straight, every single time, no matter how unsettling or too-crazy-to-be-true those facts were. Why hadn't I listened sooner? Simply said: I didn't WANT to know. Many hours, days, and months later, I have learned that my reasons to consume animal products are not as strong as I once thought they were.
Two years ago, I had my mind made up: I want to eat my spareribs, hot wings and burgers in peace and without guilt. I want to avoid awkward social mishaps with friends and family caused by a different lifestyle. Going and being vegan is to be a burden. The fact that the products on my plate were once living beings does not even come to mind. That I, as a child, marveled at the hog - the main attraction at the petting zoo - and cuddled him lovingly, is an experience I have long forgotten. That animal products are a strain on the planet; who says!? It can't be that bad! That they are detrimental to my health; who cares? I feel and look ok! It's all good, as long as I am not confronted with these facts. Willful ignorance is my default mode. No need to ponder the consequences of my behavior.
Ordering a steak, and scarfing it down within 15 minutes, while that cow has paid for that steak with her entire life. Thoughts like this would never linger in my mind. I never truly realized that these animals could feel pain and be miserable, but that they could also experience joy and feel love. To be free of pain and to live a happy life, that is their birthright, just as it is ours. I never knew that it takes 4000 ltr of water to produce that one steak, or that rain forests are demolished to make way for animal feed and livestock farming. I also never knew that meat is one of the main causes of the deadliest diseases we suffer here in the West. But now I do. Nowadays, I have a very different mindset. How I choose to spend my cash affects the livability of our planet - the planet that needs to persist for the sake of my baby niece. The planet that might need to be rescued from the brink of extinction by future generations.
I do not believe that vegans and meat eaters/vegetarians are that different from one another. We all value compassion. Most of us have love in our hearts. And - as the Dutch proverb says - love goes through the belly. This is where we find the opportunity to connect two groups that, in today's society, are seemingly growing further and further apart. I started Feed the Rhino with this in mind.
Since I have discovered the abundance of foods that remains after cutting animal products out of my life, I have learned that vegan food is more than satisfactory in terms of nutrients, flavors and variety. I would love to share my dishes with you. Any one person can make a change in this world; your actions matter! Let's make the world a better place... but first: take your place at the table!
Founder, chef and delivery dude at Feed the Rhino