Vegan for life

How one couple made the switch

Jade de Souza chats to one-time meat eaters Amanda Rootsey and David Rafter, who are doing their best to inspire a new generation of vegans.

Fresh air and clean food are all that David Rafter, his partner Amanda Rootsey and their dog – a rambunctious staffy named Trudi – need to sustain their blissfully natural lifestyle.

They met in what seems like another life. 

“We were leading very different lives back then,” reflects David, recalling a time when hangovers ruled their world due to burning the midnight oil and drinking and dancing till dawn. It was a fast-paced existence the two 20-somethings were struggling to keep up with.

Needing a change, the then-bartending David was followed by his partner-in-crime and model Amanda to the Sunshine Coast, leaving busy Brisbane behind, to pursue a more peaceful lifestyle, communing with nature and getting back to basics.

The two chose the Sunshine Coast hinterland as their tree-change of choice, living in a caravan with no water or electricity, instead relying on the earth and the heavens to sustain them. A recycled shipping container became their permanent home. They purged many of their possessions, learning to live the way mankind had for centuries. Life was sweet.

Yet when David’s older brother Michael, one of 10 in the Rafter clan, introduced him to vegetarianism, everything clicked. 

“He’d always been in my ear about going veg, but of course, being younger and knowing better, I never listened!” David says. “Then one night I was cooking a meal and thought, ‘What’s the point of putting meat in it? I don’t need it’.” And that was all it took to set in motion a completely new way of living.

“I never put any pressure on myself, but obviously I loved it. It changed my life,” says David. “I saw a YouTube video about how animals have a soul and a right to life. At the end they showed images of animals in factory farms and it brought me to tears.” 

The experience, in no uncertain terms, affirmed David’s resolve to refuse to partake in an industry that causes such untold suffering.

He can pinpoint the exact moment his new existence really made sense. “I had just finished a run and I put my hand on a tree to rest. There was such an amazing feeling. I felt the whole energy of the world come through the tree and touch me. It was like my whole soul had been opened up by something as simple as dropping meat from my diet. After that point, there was no turning back.”

Just a few months after removing meat from their diets, the pair found themselves natural vegans and soon conceived a website to initially inform others on animal cruelty and the environmental impact of the meat and dairy industries. “We were surprised that this information wasn’t out there and felt really strongly that there needed to be a place where people could learn that the choices they make about their life and diet can have a positive effect on the planet,” says David.

“If someone had once told me ‘I would be a vegan or else’, I would have taken the ‘or else’ option,” laughs Amanda. But her veganism was soon no laughing matter. The once jetsetting, international model was brought crashing down to earth when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and being vegan came close to saving her life. “I was pretty shocked when I was diagnosed and I couldn’t get in to see an oncologist for about a month, so in that time I started doing lots of research and it just kept coming up over and over again. There is so much evidence of it now so it was easy to cut out that final part,” says Amanda.

“For about 12 months I treated it naturally, with changes to diet, meditation and holistic treatments. I was still having CT scans and they showed that the tumours were reducing in size, slowly,” says Amanda. “However, a new tumour was found pressing against my spinal cord. The doctors called me in a panic and said that if I didn’t do something drastic straight away I would end up in a wheelchair within a week, so we went down the conventional path.”

Forever the optimist, Amanda survived the horrific chemotherapy treatment and attributes her healthy lifestyle to being able to get her body back to good health.

“When we were in the hospital, it was such a shame to see that lack of education that other people had about nutrition,” reflects David. “Even the nutritionist in the hospital didn’t really know what veganism was. We didn’t want to get in anyone’s face about it, they were all going through so much, but if anyone asked we always tried to give as much info as we could about why not to eat meat or dairy.

“When we started going vegan, we really had to dig deep for information, but it’s different now. People are really questioning things. There’s a real enlightenment going on in people’s consciousness,” says David. Inspired by what they saw as a nation finally asking ‘Why?’, they turned into the indispensable resource that it is today. “We set up Vegan Era so others could easily find the information we had been searching for, and to encourage others wanting to make a change.”

From their new abode by the beach, they share their unique experiences and spread the word to all who will listen – and sometimes those who don’t. A portal for all things vegan, the site now offers information about everything from the climate to wellbeing, shedding light on many issues kept out of the media. It connects people and businesses from across the country, recruiting a conscientious and enthusiastic group of former carnivores to share information in the hope of making the world a kinder, healthier place. 

Importantly, along with videos, articles, ebooks and much more, Amanda and David provide compassion and support for their subscribers. “People can try and bring you down when you make an ‘unusual’ lifestyle change,” says David. “Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to.”

Conceived by Amanda, the site’s latest offering is the Vegan Card, which provides its proud owners with cheeky discounts at a huge array of vegan and vegan-friendly businesses Australia-wide. 

Next: Find out about Meatless Mondays or read more nutrition tips.


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