An interview with Beauty Without Cruelty’s Beryl Scott

Posted on 26 April 2011

An interview with Beryl Scott, Chairperson of Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa …

By Antoinette Maake

Beryl Scott at a Robben Island rabbit culling protest, October 2008

Vegan SA: Tell us about who you are and what you do?

Beryl Scott: I have been the National Chairperson of Beauty Without Cruelty for the past 20 years and before that I was the Cape Chairperson of SAAAPEA, an anti-vivisection organisation. I am passionate about having animals reclassified as sentient beings and for their rights to be recognised in law. Cruelty, abuse and exploitation of defenceless beings, including humans, angers me and I will always speak out against those who perpetrate such cowardly acts.

Vegan SA: When did you become a vegan and why?

Beryl Scott: I adopted a vegetarian diet nearly 30 years ago and, as I learned more about the cruelty inherent in factory farming, I naturally started excluding offending foods from my diet, so there has been no fixed cut-off time when I started being vegan. I feel that, for some people, the journey towards veganism is a gradual process, but it should ALWAYS be the end goal for everyone who wishes to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle and especially those who call themselves *animal lovers*. Being vegetarian means you are only half way towards being the best person you can be!

Vegan SA: Tell us more about Beauty Without Cruelty

Beryl Scott: Beauty Without Cruelty is an animal rights organisation whose primary concern is to educate and inform people about the suffering of animals in vivisection/cosmetic testing, factory farming and wildlife issues (fur and ivory in particular). We are also hands-on when there is a need e.g. we were partly responsible for rescuing the feral cats on Robben Island and re-homing them at our sanctuary in Hout Bay. We have also been able to home lab rabbits from a local facility and have been involved with other groups dealing with animal rescues and sterilisation campaigns.

Education is absolutely necessary to change people’s attitudes towards animals and Beauty Without Cruelty has a progressive education programme through which we give talks at schools, universities and other social and community organisations.

An important part of our work is to investigate the humane claims made by cosmetics and household product manufacturers and we publish an approved product guide as a free service to the public. Beauty Without Cruelty has an on going ‘sentient being’ campaign and promotes veganism as a lifestyle choice. Our methods of campaigning include education, protests, negotiating with national, regional and local government and using any other peaceful means to improve the lives of animals. This is just part of the work we do and we would be happy to provide more information to those who may be interested.

Vegan SA: How strict are you as a vegan, i.e. do you eat honey, wear leather; buy cruelty free products etc?

Beryl Scott: I don’t eat honey, wear leather, silk or any other ‘fabrics’ of animal origin and, as far as possible in this modern world, I avoid anything that may be the result of the exploitation, suffering or death of any being, including things like coral, pearls, porcupine needles and many other less obvious ‘products’.

Entertainment that includes animal exploitation such as zoos, aquariums, horse racing and circuses are also not on my entertainment calendar. Veganism is not only about what one eats, but extends to all aspects of animal exploitation and there are many instances where this is hidden, so one has to be vigilant!

Vegan SA: What is your favourite place for eating out?

Beryl Scott: I don’t eat out much but they make great vegan hamburgers at Cafe Royale in Long Street, Cape Town. :-)

Vegan SA: What is your favourite meal? … and do you have a favourite recipe that we could publish on our site?

Beryl Scott: I love anything with mushrooms in it [Beryl’s Mushroom Risotto].

Vegan SA: What is your favourite place to shop for food?

Beryl Scott: I don’t really have any favourites but I love the look of fresh vegetables and am always looking around health shops for anything that will help make dishes more delicious.

Vegan SA: What obstacles have you faced in the past, and continue to face, by being vegan? And how did you overcome them?

Beryl Scott: As far as food goes, I don’t have much trouble except with cheese replacements. I am not keen on any of the vegan ‘cheese’ products that are available in this country so I either have to do without or grit my teeth and eat what’s available.

As far as people are concerned, I try to avoid confrontation when I am with people who question my ethics, but I will not back down if they persist. I do have a lot of criticism and lack of support from one family member and that is probably the most difficult obstacle I have to deal with.

Vegan SA: What improvements or changes would you most like to see in the vegan movement, both domestically and internationally over the coming years?

Beryl Scott: As always, education is vital to changing people’s attitudes, whether it is towards other beings or their own lifestyle choices. We need to use any educational tool at our disposal to educate and inform the public about the horrors of the meat industry; the destructive effects animal products/by-products have on our health; the benefits that changing to a vegan diet will have on one’s mind, body and spirit and the fact that by being vegan, kindness and compassion to all living beings will fall into place naturally.

Methods used to educate people must range from protests and demonstrations to negotiations with governments; civil society’s demand for change, to boycotting cruel industries. Anything to draw attention to the plight of animals. Vegans should realise that harsh criticism of meat eaters works sometimes, but often only makes them more determined to continue their flesh eating habits; sometimes less is more and some people respond better to example rather than bullying – one has to judge each case as it presents itself.

Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, we will probably have to wait until the earth is in a disastrous state before people wake up to the fact that the rearing of animals for the meat industry and the vast amount of food and water that is required to do this, that should have been used to feed humans, has damaged the environment to such an extent that veganism will be the only option left to feed the starving billions. Having said that, animals should not be expected to wait until humans ‘decide’ to stop eating them or exploiting them in other ways. They have a right to justice now.

Vegan SA: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to make a shift to becoming a vegan?

Beryl Scott: Don’t hesitate! Once you try vegan food you will realise that it is easy to prepare, tastes great and there are limitless ways of preparing delicious, healthy and compassionate food. If there is any doubt about this, Beauty Without Cruelty has published the “Living Without Cruelty” vegan recipe book which may be obtained by e-mailing toni@bwcsa.co.za. It’s full of fabulous recipes and cruelty-free hints to change your life.

Vegan SA: Is there any question that you would like to ask and respond to that we didn’t ask you?

Beryl Scott: People always like to think humans are the superior species and that the rest of creation is there for our use and abuse. The claim that one of the things that separates us from animals is our ability to have complex emotions, two of which are compassion and empathy. If that is so, then start having empathy with the suffering of others and apply your compassion – don’t be part of their suffering. If you do not do this, then you are neither superior nor more worthwhile than other animals!

Visit our website for a list of famous vegans, both South African and international.


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