Out Health: Turning vegan

Tom Mazorlig holding a pet snake
Tom Mazorlig holding a pet snake

Sometimes we make changes in our lives because we come to a turning point. It could be a sudden epiphany that causes us to alter our course. Or it might be an event that transforms our perspective. For my friend, Tom Mazorlig, it was eating dinner at a restaurant.

“I was out with a boyfriend and his theater friends,” he recently told me. “I was talking about respecting and loving animals, and one obnoxious diner in our group turned to me and said, ‘You need to shut up because you’re eating a pepperoni pizza.’ It was right then that I knew I had to match my behavior to my beliefs.”

Tom became vegetarian for seven years, and then vegan for 20. When I asked him what inspired him to become vegan, he said, “I went to college to become a veterinarian. I have always had an interest in animals. I didn’t know much about veganism when I became vegetarian. I was just set up in that headspace of not eating meat. In the summer of 2001, I read Diet for a New America, by John Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream dynasty. The book tells of the impacts on health, animal welfare, and the environment by the dairy industry. My primary reason for becoming vegan is the impact on the environment. But it also affected my health.

“I noticed that my allergies immediately got better after giving up dairy. I was eating cheese pizza on Fridays when I would play Magic with my cousins because it was a tradition in my family. It was my one non-vegan thing. But then my allergies would flare up on the weekends.”

Tom then became a committed vegan. He noticed that he healed much quicker, too. After a car accident where he broke his pelvis in four places, his doctor remarked at how quickly his body recovered. The physician also commented that Tom’s bloodwork was a textbook example of good health.

I asked him about how things have changed since he became vegetarian, then vegan. Tom said, “Since I became vegan, things have become so much easier. It’s so much better going to supermarkets and restaurants now than it was before. Things are labeled so much better. Most people at least know something about it. For example, veggie burgers are so much better to eat than they used to be.”

One interesting paradox about Mazorlig is that he owns exotic pets. “Many might object to that since I try to lead a vegan life,” he said. “Most vegans would consider it exploitation of the animal and therefore not aligned with veganism. Additionally, there’s the issue of them eating other animals. Also, the pet industry does have a lot of issues. But I think it’s possible to maintain a good environment for them. I provide them with healthcare and regular food.”

Tom Mazorlig in his kitchen
Tom Mazorlig in his kitchen

I have to admit that I’ve never been to Tom’s house. I don’t like spiders and snakes. I know that he has them there. But I have eaten many times with Tom and his husband. I’m vegetarian, not vegan, but I do treasure the insight Tom has given me into a lifestyle I have been interested in for a long time. Could this be my turning point?