|Some may recognize Mark Raffety
from his stints on Xena The Warrior Princess, Hercules or from rolling
around in the surf in the Bolle TV commercial, but to most he is recognised
from his role as Darcy on Neighbours. Helen Rosser discovered that Mark
Raffety has principles, is a committed long-term vegan and is not quite
the unscrupulous character he plays on Neighbours.
Helen: How did you become involved in acting?
Mark: Ive been acting for 8-9 years. Before that I did a few things
an illustrator for children's books, designer in ad agency, pizza
cook, rubbish man. I used to do school plays and I just loved doing
it. I was spotted somewhere and was asked to do a commercial one day.
From that I got my first acting job and it just rolled on from there.
Helen: What about professional training?
Mark: No. I learnt by doing really. I'm always learning. If you're alert
and you're observant and you watch other people's work closely and ask
a lot of questions you can learn a lot. Acting came naturally - I guess
I never grew out of playing pretend.
Helen: Do you find acting fulfilling?
Mark: When I feel I have been able to deliver a truthful performance
that can entertain or move people its a great feeling. When I
feel I havent its really frustrating. Being somewhat of
a perfectionist, a lot of the time I feel frustrated but when
I feel Ive nailed something it a great high. Still I think that
in acting like most things the juice is in the challenge and struggle
of it all.
Helen: Anybody you admire in the acting world?
Mark: Anyone who does good work - period. When you see someone doing
something that touches you as a human being
its a wonderful experience.
Helen: Do you think acting has relevance in the crazy
world we live in now?
Mark: We as actors help to tell stories. Being told stories and telling
them is as old as human beings are. Stories are really all we have to
communicate experience. And as such are vital means of transmitting
knowledge. You can analyse cultures by the stories that are told. Stories
can help change hearts and minds so yeah I feel that acting has relevance.
Relevance and influence. If we do good work we help to hold a mirror
up to people and show them themselves. I think thats pretty essential
for our development as a species. The view might not be good sometimes
but maybe it can help us learn things.
When we watch good movies for instance we can be inspired enlightened
and entertained all in about two hours. It's an amazingly powerful art
form. Unfortunately most of its been severely compromised by corporate
greed and made into junk food for the brain. But there are some works
of film art out there that I believe are truly great. To be part of
a film like that is almost every actors dream. I know its
Helen: How would you describe your character in Neighbours?
Mark: Darcy is a complicated man
I like to think of him as being
misunderstood. He gets involved with questionable schemes, questionable
women and some nice women too! and acts like a bit of
a cad. But hes a good doctor and underneath is a nice guy. I feel
very fortunate that I've been given the opportunity to play him as it
means I can play lot of levels always fun for an actor
meaning I can put a lot of information into my role that wouldn't work
for another character that was shall we say simpler in his needs and
Helen: How does Mark Raffety differ from 'Darcy?
Are there any similarities?
Mark: We look kind of similar but hes a doctor and Im an
actor. Hes definitely not vegan he likes his steaks rare
but maybe I can influence him some way.
Helen: Do you see having a public profile as an opportunity
to promote a more compassionate lifestyle? Or do you see it as more
of a personal choice that you usually prefer not to
Mark: Hey I guess Im answering that by doing this interview! If
I can use my profile to help influence people to adopt a vegan lifestyle
then that would make me feel pretty good. I have no problems about discussing
my diet with anybody. It just gets a bit dull sometimes when all you
want to do is enjoy your meal.
Helen: There are many reasons that people have for adopting
a vegan lifestyle, including to boycott animal exploitation, environmental
concerns and for personal health. What was your main reason for choosing
Mark: I would say a mixture of the three. In being asked this question
pretty regularly over the past ten years Ive distilled it down
to eight words Better for me and better for the planet.
Helen: Was there any particular instance that triggered
your interest in veganism or was it a gradual awareness?
Mark: I was training quite hard at the time to compete in triathlons
I was an ovo-vegetarian (I ate eggs free range of course)
of five years standing I was curious to see if I could train
as efficiently on a vegan diet. So I knocked the eggs on the head and
I found that as a vegan I was able to train just as
effectively and in some ways better. In the ten years since I have found
veganism the way to go as far as providing me with good quality food
to help me to operate at optimum health and to live a lifestyle that
helps to promote planetary health. Its an all round winner really.
Helen: In what way did it improve your training?
Mark: Quicker recovery for a start. I believe that the associated toxins
that are in flesh and dairy foods leave a
residue in your body. I definitely find that my flexibility has increased
too and I don't suffer from muscle soreness as much as I used to if
I really pushed it.
I also don't have the problem with peaks and troughs of energy - I burn
pretty evenly now.
Helen: Have you encountered any difficulties?
Mark: Well eating out is a bit of a problem though its getting
easier to find places that cater for vegans.
The other slight difficulty is dealing with the attention you get from
other people when you eat differently to them. Sometimes its nice
to eat something without the twenty questions but I guess people are
curious. Which is good maybe I can inspire them to try veganism
Helen: Youve been vegan for 10 years, but before
that, what initially triggered your interest in vegetarianism?
Mark: When I was a kid I started getting irritated with all the toxic
rubbish that corporations pushing on our most valuable resource for
the future our children. It was unbelievable to me that they
were allowed to do it.
I didn't actually intellectualise it from that point but I definitely
thought something was out of whack and I just started investigating
nutrition. And from my research - and intuition too - I gradually moved
toward the diet I have now. The acid test was whether I could maintain
my health without buying into the meat dairy machine. It was kind of
scary as all the meat and dairy propaganda would have us believe without
a helping of their foodstuffs you can kiss good health goodbye. See
my understanding is that there's no use killing you to save animals.
If you destroy your own health by adopting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle
you're barking up the wrong tree because you're doing violence to yourself.
The theory I was trying to prove was that a diet that was in the planets
best interests was also going to be in my own. I figured rather dramatically
that if I was going to get sick from being a vegan then maybe we're
all doomed, but I did an experiment, and I found that being a vegan
actually did keep me at optimum health. So there you are
Helen: So it was something you discovered yourself with
no outside influence?
Mark: I started doing yoga and read any yoga book and it will tell you
to not harm other beings and eat fresh and natural. And also it will
tell you that if you ate in a certain way it would help your mind spiritual
development as well. I mean really it doesnt take a genius to
figure out that to help to get the most out of your life it helps to
give yourself the best food you can eat. I mean if you can try to surround
yourself with good things and things that inspire you then maybe you
can be a good person to be around yourself.
Helen: You emphasize the health aspect of veganism rather
than the animal welfare angle why?
Mark: Well I figure the main reason behind cruelty to animals is because
we think we need to eat them to survive - a kind of us vs them situation.
If people found that they could live longer and healthier without having
to sacrifice animals to do it, then animal suffering would drop markedly
yeah? So I emphasize the nutrition aspect of it because I want to debunk
the myth that being vegan you'll end up sick and weak and looking like
a stick figure. Because for most people that image is a turn off and
frankly it does the vegan cause a disservice.
Helen: Its like; nobody's going to take financial
advice from someone who's bankrupt, so why would they listen to a sickly
skinny vegan skeleton telling them what diet to follow!
Mark: So true! I want to help to try and prove its not the case.
If you do it the right way then you look after yourself in a holistic
sense eating sensibly and have a good exercise program then veganism
will be fantastic for you. Cosmetically and internally. We have to give
a positive image of veganism to people to sell it if you will. I mean
we are going against the might of the biggest corporations in the world
with advertising budgets the size of third world GDPs paying the slickest
image-makers to push poison down our throats. If we can present an image
of vegans as being the healthiest people on the planet then maybe more
people will go for it. Its a dream but as who knows as
Paul Kelly sings, from little things big things grow.
Helen: And what would you say to cynics who would consider
a vegan diet as being bland?
Mark: I don't think that eating vegan has anything to do with having
a lack of variety in your diet. We eat way more types of plants than
we do types of animals so theres a lot more to choose from. No
lack of variety in taste sensations there! I find my eating habits way
more adventurous than my meat eating cohorts. So blandness is really
more a case of bad cooking.
Helen: Have your views influenced your family and close
friends? Are they accepting of your choice and/or have any of them made
similar changes in their own lives?
Mark: As an actor I get to work with different people all the time
different actors, film crews and such.
And yes a few people over the years have given veganism a go due in
part to my example and support. Its cool when that happens. As
for my family I think that although none of them are vegan they definitely
eat healthier than they did ten years ago. I like to think I had something
to do with that.
Helen: What are your views about the growing trend towards
mass-producing animals for food production? Eg. Battery hen farms, cattle
feedlots, intensive piggeries and
Mark: What can I say? I believe its a symptom of greed above all.
Unfortunately the flesh/dairy eating diet of human beings is one of
the most destructive forces on the planet. I think that until humans
adopt a vegetarian diet weve all got big problems that will just
get bigger. We know that eating and producing animal products causes
major diseases in humans and major suffering for animals and yet we
bow to the almighty dollar and change nothing. Our whole economic model
at this point in time is geared around consumption at all costs. Only
when demand for vegan products causes an economic trend toward compassionate
and sustainable food production and environmentally sound product manufacture
will there be lasting change.
Helen: Do you feel that more people are becoming aware
of the welfare problems arising from the meat and dairy industries and
how do you see future trends?
Mark: I would say the existence of your magazine and others like it
indicates a positive trend toward an awareness of animal rights.
Helen: What advice would you give to anyone who was
considering a change in diet?
Mark: If youre considering going vegan first I suggest you do
a little bit of reading on the subject.
Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens is pretty good start
for diet and Diet For A New America by John Robbins and
Beyond Beef by Jeremy Rifkin are good to read if you are
interested in the global impact of the meat/dairy complex. Then, when
eating vegan, eat only organic and
Helen: Any final comments youd like to make?
Mark: Yes, Id like to plug a great organic food store in Brighton
called Wholefoods Foodstore where I get all my supplies. Where we spend
our money and on what determines our future, so support your local organic