John Awen is a published author, public speaker for animal rights and veganism, vegan nutritionist and Beneath the Wood animal sanctuary co-owner. John openly shares with us his story of drug addiction, violence and experiences of animal slaughter, to his spiritual and vegan awakening, and journey into animal rights/vegan advocacy. His story is an inspiring example of how when you hit rock bottom, if you just get up and keep going, gifts and rewards, not to mention personal growth and evolution, await you on the other side.
There has never been a better time to start eating healthily and more cleanly than now. There are so many medically and scientifically endorsed facts which are easily and readily accessible now that show how many of the diseases which we can contract and suffer from are directly linked and attributed to the foods and drinks which we consume and place directly into our bodies.
All the evidence is out there, and we will have all heard of the saying, ‘We are what we eat’, well there is no better time to change than now.
From the studies of inspirational Plant-based Drs and various practitioners like Colin T Campbell, Dr Michael Greger, Caldwell Esselstyn and Neal Barnard, the evidence is stacked up in the favour of breaking the chains of the eating habits which we follow without thought and switching to a plant-based diet and Vegan lifestyle.
Having been Vegan myself for several years now I can fully endorse it and my own personal story shows and demonstrates that by changing the foods with which we fuel our bodies has a huge impact upon all levels of our being, Physically, mentally and spiritually.
When you actually stop to think about it all, its obvious, how can we possibly expect to feel good and function to high capabilities on any of our levels, when we are consuming the angst, pain and suffering of the animals that have been slaughtered needlessly and packaged up to be sold as food?
Medical complaints such as acne, eczema, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma and other bronchial disorders, cancers and many other human ailments can be and have been dramatically reduced and even cured with a Plant based/Vegan diet.
As the societies in which we live are now racked with illness and suffering, as individuals we must realise that taking medications is not always the answer and there is not always an instant, or quick fix. When we make the connections and realise the simplicity of our health, then it becomes so obvious and clear to see that we can become so much healthier by eating and consuming natural and clean foods, which in turn, create happier lives, positivity as our moods are drastically lifted, plus many other health benefits.
As a fully qualified Vegan nutritionist
I can listen; understand why you are thinking about changing your diet and transitioning into a Plant based/Vegan diet and lifestyle.
I can replace foods that you use as comfort, or go to foods, treats, etc. I will work out how I can best tailor a specific meal plan for you that will be nutritionally rich with all the correct amounts of protein, Vitamins, Irons and other dietary requirements our bodies need to power ourselves through each day and feel more positive and balanced in all that we do and on all levels of our being.
I am available to offer advice and help you make the switch to a better and much healthier way of life and after the initial consultation with me, I can then work closely with you to help you achieve any goals you would like to reach and achieve.
From cutting out meat in your diet, reducing and eliminating dairy products, switching to Vegetarian, going Vegan, I can help you achieve all of these and will be with you every step of the way.
As well as being qualified in all these aspects, I am also available and can help you lose weight, gain weight and get you out of any eating habits/disorders that you ay have and are now looking to change and break free from them.
My specialist subjects
I am fascinated with just how vital the foods we eat are to our health and how we can alleviate and reverse many symptoms which sadly plague Human health nowadays. As I said earlier, there is no better time to make the switch and start eating and enjoying a much healthier lifestyle than now.
With my knowledge and experiences, I am able to give talks on a multitude of topics which could and would help such a wide demographic of people
Please contact me if you are looking to change, I have listed already many aspects that I am fully equipped and capable of dealing and helping you with in relation to your dietary requirements and I specialise in: –
- Vegan Nutrition whilst Pregnant, covering all 3 trimesters.
- Baby & Child Vegan Nutrition.
- Reversing type 2 diabetes with a whole foods Vegan diet.
For any of your dietary requirements and starting your journey to Plant-based and Vegan lifestyles, please contact me.
The first consultation is free and from there we can both decide which plan of action is required and will be more beneficial to you.
Lets start your journey to better health and happiness now.
Below is an excerpt from their website www.realfmailyjourney.com where I answered some questions. Enjoy!
I understand you used to live on a small holding and have been on the other end of the vegan spectrum. Tell us a bit about that and how your journey into veganism began?
In the latter half of 2012 I peppercorn rented a five-acre smallholding in Ilchester, a small village just outside of Yeovil in the County of Somerset.
It was an idyllic setting, no immediate neighbours, it was off grid and the only power I had was from a generator that was in the barn and a solar panel that I erected up on the roof, this charged my phone, laptop and gave me some lighting if needed.
I lived in a large static caravan on the land and even this was altered so it looked like a log cabin, a wood burner gave me ample enough heating and I cooked on this at times as well, so I really did relish this way of life at the time.
I looked after all of the animals here, although I didn’t pay for any feed, the owner used to check in with me a couple of times a week, drop the various feeds and bits off and apart from that contact, I was pretty much left alone and to my own devices, which again at that time, was just fine with me.
I had never been responsible for so many animals, and to be honest I didn’t know what I was doing, just took it day by day and learnt as I went, same as most aspects we undertake I suppose, hands on practical, throwing yourself in at the proverbial deep end so to speak is often the best way of learning.
There were on average, around 12 Ewes, this number changed obviously with lambing and also at times, some went for slaughter, plus there was 1 Ram. Between 2 – 5 Pigs were kept constantly as well, and I used to love spending time watching these, they are so intelligent and amusing. Anything between 3 – 12 Turkeys were kept and all, around 100 Chickens, 3 – 4 Guinea Fowl, 6 Geese, around 10 Ducks as well, so it really was a learning curve and looking back upon it now, it was an incredible time, admittedly I reflect on it, although without this I would probably not have turned Vegan and could have been held in the stasis of ignorance a lot longer as to what actually happens to and with animals that are kept for ulterior motives and not just as pets to love totally.
During this time, just under 2 years in fact, I sheared Sheep, helped them with birthing if there was a problem, which I had to deal with a few times and have delivered healthy lambs and also delivered still born lambs, so the emotions I had, regardless of the ending to them, were extremely heightened indeed.
I have killed Chickens, Turkeys, Geese and Ducks myself, plus I shot Rabbits whilst living there as well, all because that is how I perceived what should be done. Hindsight is such a wonderful tool isn’t it, now I know better and wouldn’t dream of it, am totally against it, yet even though looking back I knew it wasn’t right, just went along with it blindly, inexcusable I know, yet without this intense lesson that taught me unconditional love and heartfelt compassion, I would not be who and what I am now.
Loading up some of the Pigs and Sheep, as well as young lambs, to take them to slaughter never sat well with me, although through my ignorance at the time, I still did it, so yes, I have had their blood on my hands, that lies with me, yet with a huge amount of soul searching afterwards, I changed my take on it all and went Vegan.
The slaughterhouse I used was a small one just over the border from Somerset and into Dorset. I used to drive there, help unload the animals and spend however long it was before it was their turn to be killed, comforting them, stroking them and talking to them, I suppose I was passing them over really even before they had been killed, ironic and totally hypocritical of me, I am not excusing my actions, not that shallow, I just know we all live many lives within this one and this is another life within this one that has helped mould and shape me into who and what I am now.
Because the slaughterhouse was a small one, I used to go into the killing room with them, still trying to comfort them, knowing full well what was going to happen and each one I was stroking at the very moment the bolt entered the skull, ultimately bringing about their deaths.
As I have mentioned before, I am not proud of what I did and was responsible for, although I have no regrets, as to how I see it, without these lessons and parts of my past, I would not be where I am now and believe me I am not saying this to justify any of my actions, I throw my hands up to all of this and know that this was all a part of the evolution of myself, I chose to stop and live life according to my compassion and baseline moral compass.
After 20 months of living on this small holding, I left and went to live in Glastonbury. It was now June 2014 and instantly I dramatically lessened the amount of meat and by-products that I was consuming, effectively and looking back I went Vegetarian without trying to.
I did an awful lot of soul searching during the next couple of years, I wrote 3 books, magazine articles and found myself through Shamanic studying, a subject which I am extremely passionate about and follow every day.
In March 2016, I went Vegan overnight. I awoke one morning and could not be a part of those industries anymore, the best decision I ever made, although on the funny side, I gave my shoes, a coat, my belt and Pagans, (my Labrador Dog) collar and lead away, all to a local charity shop, from this point I went shopping for alternatives in my socks, having to hold my trousers up and leaving Pagan at home as I had to replace all those items with cruelty free ones. I always smile when I remember this as it is funny, and it was the best decision I have ever made, even if I was barefoot and losing my trousers.
I know you do some work currently to support other people thinking of beginning a vegan lifestyle. Tell us a bit about what it is you do.
When I first went Vegan, I didn’t do social media and trying to find a rational Vegan to speak to and ask basic questions as regarding healthy eating was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, so I did some basic research online, read every label when out shopping as we all do, yet found I was only really happy eating fruits, vegetables and processed foods that were clearly marked as Vegan.
After about two weeks of this new to me Vegan diet, my energy levels had plummeted totally, I was a very odd looking pasty white colour and I lost weight, to be honest I felt absolutely terrible, I really did, although in my heart I knew that somehow, I could turn this around and beyond any shadow of a doubt, this new start in my life was going to be the greatest change I had ever embarked upon.
The lethargy continued for another couple of weeks and with more research I was starting to feel a bit better here and there, so I held onto that and started adding supplements to my foods and was taking a few each morning to help boost my diet and wellbeing.
Slowly and surely, my diet increased and I began purchasing a greater variety of Vegan foods, all of which combined helped me to gain clarity, strength, lose the white generalised Vegan look I had and eventually, after around six weeks of battling, I started to not only feel normal, but a lot better, my concentration improved, my skin felt better and across the spectrums of Physicality, Mental wellbeing and Spiritual awareness, I felt better than I ever had done before, like a huge weight had been lifted from within and around me, which in effect is exactly what happens when we move to a healthy Vegan diet.
I am the local POC, (Point of Contact) for the Vegan Society, which I absolutely love, and it really is about connecting us all together, coming together, helping, sharing and spreading the Vegan message through many contexts and within our society as a whole.
Can you share some advice with us today? What are your top tips for anyone considering veganism or for people who are new to this way of life?
I think the best advice I can give anybody who has decided to turn to a Vegan way of life is just to follow your heart, it really is the best choice and decision that you could ever make and is beneficial for all involved, yourself and your health, the animals that you save instantly from this point as you now no longer are a part of an archaic and cruel industry. The other positives will soon become apparent as well and the further you travel down the Vegan road, you will come to realise this, it really is the most obvious decision to arrive at and live your life accordingly within.
Research is good and nowadays obtaining information has never been easier, it really is within your grasp and so simple to get, literally at the touch of a button and it is infinite.
The Vegan Society is a great point of call and they have everything you need plus more available on their website, from supplements, recipes, and much more, also they will be able to connect you with local Vegans that live close by, or at least within a localised vicinity of where you are, they really do have all angles covered, there really hasn’t been a better or easier time to go Vegan.
For anybody beginning, or thinking about transitioning towards Veganism, social media is great and once again, in an instant you can readily and easily connect with many like minded individuals who will only be too pleased to help and share their knowledge with you, its about recognising, connecting and sharing together, from this point, bonds, friendships and passions are linked and forged.
If anybody has an aversion to, or doesn’t have access to the technological world, Holland & Barrett are a great shop, they helped me immensely when I first started back in 2016, the staff were always helpful, knowledgeable and gave me some great advice, I will never forget that.
The hardest part, as with anything, or any situation, is the actual decision to make and bring about change, once we make that decision, the rest will just fall into place and becomes so easy that we can only question is why we didn’t do it sooner.
You’ve mentioned before that you have some health problems in relation to your heart. Do you mind explaining to us how veganism has supported the management of your illness?
In 2015 I was diagnosed with Heart Disease, I also have multiple valve failings, Angina, dilation of arteries and vessels around my heart, calcification and solidification of the outer and inner heart plus a few other bits, all heart related, so I was told that I shouldn’t be waking up each morning, I am though. Having suffered three heart attacks I knew there was something very wrong with me, one of the first steps is being aware of this, then we can, hopefully, begin the journey of accepting change and adapting to cope with the trials that life can throw at us.
I take various medications for this, I have to, although I believe there comes a time when we have to ask ourselves what we can personally do to maybe achieve a better health for ourselves and within that, maybe even gain some longevity, who knows although I felt myself that the onus was falling towards me, rather than simply relying on the medical profession, which I believe helped me instantly as soon as I realised this.
From the very moment we adopt Veganism as a way of life and the diet that this envelops, we no longer consume all the heavy and hard to digest meats, this in itself alleviates some of the stress on our bodies simply because not as much energy is being concentrated on digestion alone. Also, we know now that all the additives, colourings, flavourings, preservatives and growth hormones that are injected and fed to animals, which is just wrong and cruel, will not be being eaten by us, so that’s another weight off our minds and our bodily systems.
I recently made another dietary transition and moved to Whole Foods Vegan, so now I just eat fruit, veg, pulses, legumes and grains, this in itself has got to be better on my system as I am just consuming clean and healthy foods. Having moved away from all processed Vegan bits, I also no longer have oils, sugars or alcohol, so I am now not consuming anything that is not totally natural and already I have noticed a huge difference in that my energy levels, although never good, I no longer have the huge dips of energy that I did before. I feel so much lighter, my skin is better, and I know it is this change that again, has and is helping me and my ongoing battle to stay around upon this planet, hopefully for many more years to come, then again none of us know when our time will come really do we?
You have been very influential in the vegan community. Always inspiring others to stay strong even when they feel like they’re swimming against the tide. What words of encouragement can you share with our readers to inspire the strength you do in so many others?
For many years I lived in a very dark place, I was a heroin addict for 11 years, served nine prison sentences and was on a course of self-destruction, I really didn’t care whether I lived or died to be honest, so I have lived within the very pit of despair and I personally believe that once you have faced the darkness, fought off, faced and confronted the darkness within yourself, then you can flip that over and see the positives that are around us in abundance.
Don’t get me wrong, I get extremely despondent with how our supposed race of reportedly civilised Mankind continues to wreak havoc upon our planet and the way we treat the most innocent of creatures upon it, its just I have great Hope, Faith and Belief that change is happening and across the spectrums, however as Vegans we are viewed, seen, ridiculed and treated, Veganism is the cure that will dissipate hate, judgements, exploitation, cruelty, mass slaughter and corruption.
At its heart, Veganism is based entirely upon Compassion, from this we evolve and see the devastation that we have been a part of, this then ripples out to how we view all other life, the impact upon the planet and all life contained within it, it is once we make this change, that we reawaken our core inner beliefs and base line morals, from this moment, we truly and intrinsically connect with the Universe as a whole, once we have tuned into this, we see and sense everything differently and rekindle the beauty, awe and wonderment we all had and felt as innocent children.
I think the best words of encouragement I could give anybody would be to simply follow your hearts, sense, know and believe totally in what you are doing and as Vegans we are bringing about and implementing every day.
Veganism for the masses cannot happen overnight, any changes that are to occur need to be bought about slowly. Lets not forget that what every Vegan is a part of, is the most influential change that this planet has seen and will ever see, its undermining and destabilising the very foundation of what every society has been built upon, so just remember that we are shaking and bringing down the very core of Societal belief and infrastructure, that’s obvious, so any mass change that will set a new benchmark and precedent has to be eased into and that is what every single one of us is witnessing, a new foundation for Mankind, a firm and solid base, a new beginning.
It is easy to become frustrated, especially when we are acutely aware of the deaths and destruction that are being caused due to the archaic, cruel and barbaric ways that we all oppose, yet a time of transition, on a huge level is the only way these changes can be bought about, so look at the positives, focus on them and know that however small they may seem, they are all a part of the greater jigsaw puzzle that will ultimately bring about a dairy free, meat free and cruelty free world, be proud that you are a part of this and remember it often.
What are your favourite and most inspiring vegan resources? Movies, books, people, groups that you feel would be helpful for others to use.
The amount of Vegan resources now is so vast, infinite almost, so there really are a wide array to read, watch, share and think about, so inspirational and great to see.
Films like Dominion, Cowspiracy and many others certainly make people think and that is the very start of it, once people can see an alternative, they then, hopefully start to think, from this, ways of being are often sought and transition into a new way of life can ultimately begin.
There are a whole host of books and pamphlets that people can read and absorb as well, and all of these provide a vital backdrop that again can be the very spark that is needed to start the fire of Veganism to burn brightly within us.
Many inspirational and globally influential Vegan speakers are around now, these people work tirelessly and need all the support and accolades they receive, they really are leading lights and to be given huge respect for what they are doing, fighting against and achieving, all credit to them.
The Vegan Society are a great resource and I am proud to be a member of this, also a local point of contact as well, which is a small part any one of us can do.
From all the bloggers, Vegan chefs, Speakers, Social media Vegans, Stall Holders, Authors, Vegan dieticians, all of these resources and invaluable and in their own way they are the stalwarts and bastions of a new beginning and a new world that we are all a part of and I salute each and every one of them, keep on keeping on, never stop.
My favourite Vegan film is Carnage by Simon Amstell, if you haven’t seen it, give it a try, absolutely incredible and covers many different angles.
On days when I feel beaten down by it all, which as I said before we all get and none of us are immune from this, I watch and listen to talks by James Aspey, humbling totally and I always mention him to people who are looking for a Vegan resource, incredible being indeed.
Lastly, is there anything else you feel we, as a vegan community can be doing to help encourage the momentum of the vegan movement?
The momentum of the Vegan movement is gathering speed constantly, none of us can stop though, we need to keep going, speaking up for the voiceless, even when your voice wavers and you feel you don’t have the answers, don’t worry, keep going and believe and know you are doing the right thing.
Support other Vegans, come together for food shares, meetups, anything really. Visit Vegan markets, influence others and show that being Vegan is about and all stems from the sense of Compassion.
However you give your Vegan message, just keep on keeping on and spread the word, just don’t forget, we are bringing about change.
It has been a pleasure to share my story with you here and thank you so much to the Real Family Journey for giving me this opportunity, really appreciate it.
My part starts at around the 20 minute stage.
Speaking at Vegan Festivals around the UK in 2019
Veganism has begun to explode in 2019, cruelty free and ethical lifestyle’s are now mentioned constantly, and can be heard across all aspects of our lives. This monumental and pivotal movement which seeks to end all cruelty, oppression, injustice, incarceration and mass slaughter is now being spoken about openly, candidly and all ages of people are now fully aware of its implications.
I am immensely proud to be a part of this movement and to be able to attend and speak at Vegan festivals, including one recently at the magnificent Anfield Stadium, as well as other events. It’s heartwarming and shows how much interest there is, not only about Veganism, but also the other topics I talk about and openly share. These range from overcoming drug addiction, living with advanced heart failure, living an ethical and compassionate lifestyle; as well as giving talks and book signings on my book subjects, as I am multiple published author as well.
Between February of this year and the end of July 2019, I have travelled several thousand miles and have spoken at different events and venues across England and Wales, Scarborough, Canterbury, Llangollen, Portsmouth, Essex, Newcastle and Liverpool to name but a few.
We now have more communicative devices available to us than ever before, yet people are actually talking and expressing themselves less, so to be able to speak to packed audiences, engage fully with them and show alternatives to life is truly humbling and makes doing what I do a real pleasure: and as anybody who knows me can vouch, I do love to talk!
I am taking a short break now, well from public speaking anyway, as I am now writing and expressing myself as I slowly start to piece together and formulate my 5th book. This will see me putting down on paper my life story and my personal battles with heroin, surviving several near death experiences, and coping with being in advanced heart failure and being given no time at all.
I fully believe that life is for living, none of us know how long we have, so it is up to us to enjoy, savour and make the most of every day that we have. There is way too much negativity and toxicity in the world, we all need to accept this, then counter it with positivity, love, empathy and laughter, in doing this we are expressing ourselves and showing that no matter how hard life gets, there are those who have it much tougher.
The onus falls upon each one of us as individuals to think, to act and to make changes for the better and to implement these changes wherever and whenever we can, basically it’s the small acts of kindness each day that shows us who and what we are and the direction we all need to be heading towards.
After my 3 week break, I start my Public speaking again on 10th August in Stourbridge and after that I have another 14 events where I will be giving talks and sharing parts of my life story and highlighting animal abuse, how we all need to start eating healthily and cruelty free and in doing so how we can reduce our impact upon this beautiful planet that we call home.
If you would like to book me to speak at an event, please fill out the form below.
In July 2018 I proudly became a Patron of Beneath The Wood Sanctuary. A Vegan run, no kill animal sanctuary in West Wales. It is a safe haven nestled in the Welsh hills where the residents can live the whole of their natural lives in safety. The sanctuary offers permanent residence to sheep, pigs, horses, dogs and cats. Some of which have not had the best start in life. All of the dogs are at the sanctuary because they have behaviour issues, rendered them unable to live in a normal home environment. Many of which were facing euthanasia without the sanctuary offering them a permanent placement. The sanctuary works with other rescues, sanctuaries, vets and people in the local community.
One of my favourite residents at the sanctuary is little Pixie the mini sheep. Pixie came to the sanctuary in July 2018 at the age of 4 months, She was given to the sanctuary by a local farming family. She had not grown properly and was half the size of all their other lambs and appeared to be visually impaired. Her differences set her aside from the other lambs and therefore ultimately saved her life. She can now live her full life in safety at the sanctuary. She is a very unique and friendly little character. Here she is sharing my best friend Pagan’s stick!
As someone that has farmed animals and taken them from birth through to slaughter before finding peace in veganism, the sanctuary is a place where I can reconnect with these sentient beings and absorb their calm and healing spirit. Reconnecting with these beautiful creatures is an important role for animal sanctuaries to help people on their journey of veganism. It is all to easy to look away and not face up to what really has to happen for non vegan food to become a ‘product’ on a supermarket shelf. But when you spend, quiet peaceful time with these animals there can be no doubt that veganism is the only right way.
Spending time at the sanctuary and helping feed the animals and walk the dogs has been very therapeutic. Seeing the dogs, even the one’s that have very serious behaviour problems and can still live a good and happy life. Knowing that no matter how challenging or difficult their problems can be they will always have a home and security at the sanctuary. They are always accepted for what and who they are.
The sanctuary has many future plans, including bigger premises to be able to save more animals and an education centre to help promote a cruelty free lifestyle. The sanctuary runs on and is reliant on donations to care for the residents. As Patron of Beneath The Wood Sanctuary I will proudly promote and help them wherever I can. In my talks at vegan events and in my daily life.
If you would like to help support the residents at the sanctuary you can donate via Paypal, bank transfer or via the website. You can also sponsor one of the residents from as little as £4 per month. The sanctuary runs entirely on donations and voluntary help and is a registered Not for Profit Organisation.