Meet Our Members: Janus

We’re continuing our series of posts introducing our network members – from the veteran vegans to those simply vegan-curious (we’re a very inclusive bunch). This time round, get to know Janus Van Helvert.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Suffolk County Council

I work in Environment Strategy – our team encourages SCC & Suffolk society to reduce its environmental impact.

My Mum was from Suffolk & apart from time at Uni I’ve lived here all my life; I’m very connected to the Suffolk landscape – part of me is straight out of the film Akenfield.

My Dad was mixed race from the Dutch Caribbean, he settled in Suffolk having fought in the war from here. I’ve four grown up children – two live in the Netherlands (we’re all dual nationals) and the other two who live locally have produced four amazing grandchildren.

How long have you been vegan?

I’m not entirely vegan. I still eat a few organic free range eggs each week. I’ve been vegetarian for over 40 years and gave up dairy 18 months ago.

Why did you decide to change?

I saw some pretty awful animal experiments whilst at Uni which got me thinking about the billions of intensively farmed animals and finding out more about their experience; this led me to give up meat. I gave up dairy more recently mainly because of animal agriculture’s climate impact, but also for its health and animal welfare benefits.

I gave up meat overnight but ate fish for a further two years. I wanted to go vegan even back at Uni but the challenge was more significant than it is today (few options when eating out!). I then got stuck in a rut for a few decades before the climate evidence and my vegan network colleagues inspired me to go further.

How do you approach veganism with others?

In my 20s I was a bit of a veggie evangelist, but I mellowed in my 30s when I lived alongside meat eaters in an organic farming commune (mixed arable and livestock); during this time I cared for a variety of farm animals.

My approach is to have conversations when people show an interest in my eating behaviour or start to judge it. This is most interesting when the conversation touches on beliefs about what human life is and its relation to other life (those animal experiments 40 years ago started me on a journey that led to a Buddhist perspective).

What does it mean to you to be part of the SCC Vegan Staff Network?

Humanity faces an urgent and immense challenge regarding the climate. One thing it has to do to survive is quickly and radically reduce its dependence on animal agriculture. Network members have a variety of beliefs and perspectives but what I think we have in common is a commitment to personally engage with this challenge and respectfully support others who wish to do so.

Further information

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