Name: Mike Wolf
Occupation: Investigations Manager for Compassion Over Killing - I'm a former undercover investigator, and now I recruit investigators and oversee them when they're in the field.
The last two investigations that we released have both gone viral. One is from Quality Pork Processors, a pork slaughter plant and exclusive supplier to Hormel. They're located in Austin, MN. Our latest was with Tyson Foods, released a couple months ago.
What inspired you to switch to a plant-based diet?
About 11 years ago, my dog Curly died. Curly was my best friend and like a brother to me. When he died, it was a very difficult time and hit me really hard. I spent a lot of time online looking up pet loss and came across information on how dogs are slaughtered and eaten in other countries. I'd heard of it before but hadn't thought about it, but then I thought, if Curly had been born in one of those countries, he would have been on a factory farm and hit and kicked and beaten, then one day killed and put on someone's plate.
The thought was really disturbing but then I realized I was still eating other animals. It seemed hypocritical and during my mourning, I thought about how I was participating in that treatment and slaughter of other animals. I went vegetarian within a couple weeks of Curly's death.
A couple months after that, I was working in the field as an investigator and shortly after that, I adopted a vegan lifestyle and diet.
Did you notice any physical or mental differences after transitioning to a plant-based diet?
Absolutely. Physically, I had a faster recovery after lifting. Overall, I felt better. I didn't feel weighed down after a meal. That bloated, sick feeling disappears after you start eating vegan. Mentally, I was happier. I was much more content and satisfied in my life and felt like I was living up to my morals. My eyes were opened, and once they're open, there's no going back.
Are you affiliated with any vegan-related organizations?
Compassion Over Killing celebrates its 21st year working in animal protection. Throughout that time, we've conducted dozens of investigations in meat, egg, and dairy industries, and they've led to several different types of positive outcomes.
I'm also affiliated with PlantBuilt, an all vegan, all natural fitness competitive team. It's comprised of bodybuilders, powerlifters, kettlebellers and cross-fitters. This year we're adding Olympic weight lifters and Strongman competitors as well. It started a few years ago by the founders of VeganProteins.com. They wanted to smash the stereotypes surrounding vegan diets.
What do you do to stay physically active?
I train for power lifting 4 days per week: 2 heavy days and 2 light days. The main focus of my training is the bench press. I also dead lift.
What book or movie relating to veganism would you recommend?
Movie: Earthlings was done incredibly well from start to finish, covering every aspect of how animals are used. I would also recommend our Investigation Page which will give you a glimpse into the lives of animal in every aspect of the animal agriculture industry.
Book: I recommend The Chain by Ted Genoways. Ted is a fantastic writer, very descriptive, and captures your interest right away. We've had the pleasure of working with Ted a couple times now in relation to the Quality Pork Processors investigation. (See the NY Times article here.) The book has a lot of really great information surrounding Quality Pork Processors, the USDA, Hormel, HIMP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points-Based Inspection Models Project) and issues that are really important right now. The USDA is going to make a decision soon whether or not to implement the HIMP program to all pig slaughterhouses, which is the program that they follow at QPP. It's essentially a high speed slaughter program that pulls USDA inspectors off of the lines and speeds lines up to a pace that forces the workers to conduct inhumane shortcuts in order to keep up.
Favorite restaurant: Sage... I love a lot of vegan restaurant but this has been one of my favorite places to go to. I'm very partial to their pizza. I'm looking forward to adding The Herbivorous Butcher to my list very soon!
Favorite place to buy groceries: Whole Foods and Sprouts - Whole Foods has a fantastic amount of vegan products. It's like walking into a vegan mecca. I'm a big fan of Sprouts' produce, and they carry a lot of vegan options.
Tell us one thing on your bucket list: I have a firm believe that one day we will live in a vegan world. Whether or not that happens in my lifetime remains to be seen, but even if not I think we'll see change on a massive scale during our lifetime on how animals are being used and abused. It's starting to happen, and we've seen a lot of positive changes in the last several years. It's the tip of the iceberg.
I want to complete a 400-pound competition style raw bench press. Competition style has 3 judges surrounding you and you have to perform it up to their standards. You have to do it with a pause, lower the bar to your chest, then wait for a press command. It makes it much more difficult to perform.
What's one piece of advice you'd like to offer someone who's working on the transition to a plant-based diet?
Congratulations! You'll look back on it as one of the greatest if not the greatest decision of your life. The only thing you'll question is why you didn't do it sooner. You'll feel amazing from Day 1 and it'll keep getting better and better: physical and emotionally/mentally.
Make it fun and diverse! When I first transitioned, it was all new to me since I was living on the road and in hotels. It was confusing and intimidating, and I lived off pasta that I cooked in my hotel rooms. It worked for the time being, but there's so much more. There are so many different things to eat; I'm still learning about them even. There's never a time when you won't be able to find something. Find what you really love to start and then expand.
You can see Mike speak at Twin Cities Veg Fest on October 29 at 11:30am. Learn more about Compassion Over Killing on their website: cok.net
RSVP to our Facebook event for TCVegFest for sneak peeks at our menu offerings and other news.