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    Animals australia "wanted to interview me because I'm vegan. Usually I'm a bit sceptical about actors and media personalities being asked to comment on stuff they know nothing about" "Anyhow I kinda figured being a vegan qualified me to talk about veganism"    
    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: I’ve 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 it’s a great feeling. When I feel I haven’t it’s really frustrating. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, a lot of the time I feel frustrated – but when I feel I’ve 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
it’s 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 that’s 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 it’s 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 actor’s dream. I know it’s mine.

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 he’s 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 motives.

Helen: How does Mark Raffety differ from 'Darcy’? Are there any similarities?
Mark: We look kind of similar but he’s a doctor and I’m an actor. He’s 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
discuss openly?
Mark: Hey I guess I’m 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 this path?
Mark: I would say a mixture of the three. In being asked this question pretty regularly over the past ten years I’ve 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 went vegan.

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. It’s 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 it’s 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 it’s 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 themselves.

Helen: You’ve 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 planet’s 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… I’m convinced!

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 doesn’t 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: It’s 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 it’s 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. It’s 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 there’s 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. It’s 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
'Mega’ dairies.
Mark: What can I say? I believe it’s 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 we’ve 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 you’re 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
biodynamic produce.

Helen: Any final comments you’d like to make?
Mark: Yes, I’d 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 supplier!