Vegan bodybuilder, motivational speaker, and author and activist.
Robert Cheeke is an amazing activist and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. For many newly vegan people, his book is the first they buy to help educate them during transition. He spends his time touring the United States for speaking engagements and book promotions. Cheeke also runs a fitness site, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness. Additionally, Robert Cheeke is a Team Vega Ambassador for Sequel Naturals as well as their National Event Coordinator for the United States. Robert is the co-founder of C-VEG, a Corvallis-based Vegan group, a former Board Member for non-profit groups OrganicAthlete and Northwest VEG in Portland, and the Founder and President of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness.
SS: What made you go vegan and why?
RC: I grew up on a farm and developed an appreciation for farm animals similar to the respect and appreciation someone might have for a dog or a cat. Given this perspective of farm animals and my closeness to them through my involvement in 4-H, raising them as pets, it seemed fitting to stop eating animals. I no longer wanted to contribute to animal cruelty and suffering and decided to go vegan, as a teenager in the agriculture town of Corvallis, OR in the mid 90’s. My older sister, Tanya, was the person who influenced to go vegan on December 8, 1995 and is still an influential person in my life today. Ultimately, it was being exposed to videos of factory farming and animal testing at an Animal Rights Week my sister organized at our high school, supported by discussions about animal rights issues that moved me to make the lifestyle change immediately.
SS: Has it been difficult for you? If yes what was difficult and did it get easier?
RC: Being vegan as a 15 year old kid in the mid-90s in an agriculture town was a bit challenging. It wasn’t that being vegan itself was challenging, but the fact that I was 15 and didn’t have a lot of my own money, didn’t know how to cook very many items and didn’t know what healthy options to look for while shopping that made it challenging. Clearly we live in a different world in 2012 than we did in 1995 and being vegan is easier than ever. I often argue that being vegan has always been easy, if we stick to the basics and eat as many whole foods provided by nature as possible. The challenge isn’t being vegan, it’s adapting our own unique lifestyles around veganism that can be seen as the challenge (not having a lot of money, living in a remote area, being young without a lot of resources and support, etc.). In short, being vegan was a bit of a challenge in the first year or two and has been incredibly easy and accessible the past 15 years amidst my global travels and bodybuilding lifestyle. It should be noted that I also gained a lot of muscle as a vegan, going from a 120-pound high school endurance athlete to a 195-pound champion vegan bodybuilder less than ten years later.
SS: What are some animal rights related things that you participate in?
RC: After my sister organized the Animal Rights Week at Corvallis High School in 1995, I organized it for our high school in 1997. Around that same time I was involved in protests against circuses and the clear cut of old growth forests, and gave presentations about veganism in my high school. I’ve continued that kind of approach but have added many more components to it over the past 15 years. I founded the company, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness in 2002, which now has 10,000 members, in 2005 I filmed a documentary about the vegan fitness lifestyle, and have spent the past seven years on tour speaking at animal rights, vegan, and vegetarian festivals and conferences. I work hard to stay in good shape and speak about veganism often to make the connection of a healthy, happy and fit lifestyle being synonymous with veganism.
SS: What are your favorite animal rights organizations?
RC: My favorite animal rights organizations are the ones who make a whole lot of change by taking the approaches and actions necessary to create positive change. Some of my favorite organizations include Vegan Outreach, Farm Sanctuary and Mercy for Animals. I have some favorite regional groups including Northwest Veg Education Group, and Cleveland Animal Rights Alliance.
SS: What would you say to somebody who is considering going vegan?
RC: For someone who is considering going vegan I would turn to one of my favorite quotes, a brilliant thought-provoking message from Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things you did do.” I would encourage everyone to embrace that idea and not have to wonder what might have been years down the road. Go vegan today and make a world of difference in the lives of many.
SS: Do you have any memories that stand out in your mind about someone saving an animal? Or relating to an animal in a unique way?
RC: I have a lot of memories of lives lost, lives saved, and of courageous people taking a stand to make a difference. I think of Howard Lyman and others who influenced me at a young age when I first embraced a vegan lifestyle, I think of my sister Tanya and the difference she has made in the lives of many, and think of great friends who have been committed to saving lives for years. As I type this, I’m at my friend Kate’s house. Kate runs her own animal rescue organization, Straight From The Streets Animal Rescue, and I’m surrounded by rescued animals at the moment, including two Pit Bulls who arrived last night. I thank all of these people and millions of others who choose compassion over pain and who work tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of the innocent who just want the same things we want, to live a life free of fear, pain and suffering.
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