Actress Jenna Dewan Tatum owns an Ojai farm with rescued horses, goats, chickens and dogs, which help fuel her well-followed social media presence and her advocacy for animals.
Tatum, 35, who plays Lucy Lane, Lois Lane's sister in CBS' "Supergirl," believes veganism positively affects not just one's personal health, but also improves the environment, all while reducing the suffering of animals.
"It's a huge one-for-three action," she says. "There aren't many things in life that let you affect the world so profoundly with just one decision."
Here, Tatum tells us how she became a devout vegan at such an early age, and why her husband — actor Channing Tatum, and their 3-year-old daughter, Everly, don't follow suit.
Tell us about your journey to your vegan diet and lifestyle.
I was a latchkey kid and when I was 10 or 11 I saw a [TV] program on slaughterhouses. I just remember being blown away, utterly traumatized. And I declared the next day that I was never eating meat again. And I didn't – it started then.
And you're from Texas, so that's doubly bold.
Yes. I'm pretty strong-willed. And as I got older, I learned more, and as I understood about the sufferings of factory-farmed animals it just tears into you. I've had my moments and try not to be so hard on myself, that perfectionism thing; I don't need to be perfect at it. But I do the very best I can.
What do you say to people who say, 'It's just too tough to give up meat. I want to, but I can't'?
It probably is tough for most people. For me, once I learned and once I saw, that was it. But gradually works really well for many; even one [animal-free] meal a week already improves the world. I don't believe things can only be one way; humanity is just too diverse. We all have to work at this together. So both ways are equally as important, especially regarding veganism. Gradual changed habits over many millions of people – add that up.
Are your husband and daughter also vegan?
No. My daughter is a vegetarian, and my husband tried to become vegan, but it didn't work out for him. And that was when I realized not everyone is the same and the more you try to force someone to be a certain way, the more they fight against it. I learned to have a certain grace about it. And people learn what works for them. But I certainly encourage veganism, not just for our health, but for the environment and also for the ethical and moral reasons.
What about people who just don't feel good without eating meat?
As a dancer, I know my body very well, and I've always been a conscious eater. Still, [as a vegan eater] one has to be deliberate and diligent about getting all your nutrients. But I think most people would be surprised how many proteins and amino acids a person gets in vegetables. In our society we look at a big vegetable salad as a side dish, 'Oh, that's not the real meal.' It's gone so far one way; remember, eating meat used to be for the wealthy, and for others seen as a special treat. I really think the pendulum is swinging back.
So what do you eat for dinner?
Lots of tahini, tabbouleh, lots of salads, a lot of hummus – I think my daughter must eat her weight in hummus – lots of avocado. We love Mediterranean and Mexican food. And we're a big fresh-vegetable family. I choose whole, real foods. And when I cheat, it's chips and salsa – I generally don't want to cheat with animals. I want to cheat with French fries.
Why do you think people seem to have a tougher time relinquishing eating animal meat and food products yet have more easily shifted from the culturally conditional exploiting of animals for entertainment, such as Sea World-type theme parks.
Everyone is a product of their socialization and condition; it's just the way it is. What makes me sad is that people often wait until they're already sick before they start to explore shifting these paradigms. We'd all be so much better off to shift way before, while you're healthy. I don't know the statistics, but just regarding beef and dairy and all the antibiotics they pump into the animals – you've got to intuit it's not something good for your body. Good nutrition isn't a cure all for all illness and disease, but thankfully we've come to a place in life and science where we truly understand we are what we eat.