Dr. Ian McDonald and The Vegan Option

Hello Lovelies!

The new year is approaching so fast! Are you ready? I don’t know if I am! To help you get started off with a great vegan resource this year, I’ve interviewed Dr. Ian McDonald from The Vegan Option internet radio show. His radio show/blog is quite inspirational, touching on all sides of veganism and even topics you wouldn’t think of at first like- Cats: Can they be vegan? After viewing his site and listening to some of his podcasts, I decided it would be nice to actually get to know this guy! So now, you can get to know him, too. 🙂


Meet Ian: Q&A Session

Pic by Radka Bailey, Radiant Star Photography

Pic by Radka Bailey, Radiant Star Photograph
I’m a British new media person with a passion for radio, and interested in the kind of stories best told when we see humans as part of the world of animal minds. I blogged about why I’m producing The Vegan Option.
  • What was your inspiration for becoming a vegan?

As a late teen, I was curious and questioning about values and faiths, reading widely. I consumed Gandhi’s autobiography one summer; and before the new University year, I was faced with my student hall registration form. I had to tick a box to say whether my meals would be vegetarian, and this made me realise how trivial the decision was for me. So I ticked it.

My omnivorous mother, and her mother, often reminded me of my hypocrisy in eating milk and eggs. I think they wanted me to abandon my hypocrisy by abandoning vegetarianism. That didn’t quite work – I went vegan couple of years later.

  • What has been the most difficult thing you’ve experienced with veganism?

With veganism itself?

I try to base my reporting on evidence. I think veganism is a rational ethic that follows on from what science tells us about the suffering of others and our place in the animal kingdom. So I do sometimes find it a bit difficult to keep confronting ideas that have no basis in evidence – and yet find an accepting home amongst the vegan community.

  • How did your family react to the change?

Perhaps this is unfair, but I think I remember a sigh and an eye-roll. I didn’t give them much warning. But my mum always looks after her offspring well when we visit, and now has a stock of great vegan recipes.

  • How did The Vegan Option come about?

I fell in love with radio when I managed to get myself onto a BBC introductory course, and was told I had a talent for it. I then got involved in festival radio, as well as a spot of interviewing for a national technology show.

The Vegan Option itself sprang out of plans by Dr Diana Fleischman and myself to do a podcast. But we wanted to do two differents kinds of show, with Diana preferring something more opinionated, unscripted, and informal. So I built a format around that contrast. Being a bit serious I’m always better alongside a co-host (thus far Diana, Erin, or Catherine) who can puncture my pretensions.

  • Can you give us the link and tell us about your favorite show you’ve done so far?

I can’t pick on one, because I like different shows in different ways.

In terms of showing that The Vegan Option really stands alongside other public radio, I’m proud of the Palm Oil show because it’s a solid piece of current affairs; and of holding Eric Weisman to account over the unsubstantiated claims he uses to sell his cat food.

But it was also a real privilege to do the first interview with the UK’s 3 vegan MPs, to share my enthusiasm for science fiction and how it relates to animal ethics; and to share the incredible story of blind medieval Syrian philosopher-poet Al-Ma’arri with todays’ top vegan rebel poet Benjamin Zephaniah.

The listeners, on the other hand, seem to prefer Judgemental!

  • Did you find the transition from a normal diet to veganism difficult?

Not particularly. I was relatively new to cooking for myself anyway at the time. I bought a bunch of recipe books!

  • How does the vegan diet vary in the UK from the US?

My experience of the US fairly limited. People are individuals, but I think veganism in the UK is more strongly rooted in animal ethics; whereas in the US there are more people following the diet purely for health reasons. My perception is that Americans are more likely to call someone who follows a vegan diet but not a vegan philosophy “a vegan”; whereas Brits are more likely to use the words strictly for someone who follows the philosophy.

Pic by Sebastian Schmidt, http://gallery.short-world.de/

Pic by Sebastian Schmidt, http://gallery.short-world.de/

  • What’s your favorite vegan recipe?

I think that if you need to look up the recipe, you obviously don’t know it by heart, and it can’t be your favourite! My staple favourite is to stir-frying some onion, kale, and tomato together and putting it into a wrap with avocado.

But if I’m actually cooking a proper meal, I do like the seitan shepherdess pie from Veganomicon. But I still need to look at the recipe.

  • What advice can you give to people considering the vegan lifestyle?

It’s easy if you know what you’re doing; so reach out and get both the social and practical support that’s right for you. Know that the practical support ranges from pre-packaged vegan junk food to hearty recipes with high street ingredients; and that there are vegans like you whether you worship Allah, the old Norse gods, or Richard Dawkins. But try to get health advice from reliable sources (I’m constantly impressed by Jack Norris RD’s veganhealth.org).

And go for it 🙂


I’m so incredibly thankful for Dr. Ian giving us his time and answering our questions. I hope you lovelies will listen to his radio show and enjoy his blog! I know I have and will continue to! Happy New Year Lovelies!