#TBT | An Interview With Todd Kowalski (Of Propagandhi)

Propagandhi at the Rickshaw Theatre

“it’s not your fault
there’s nothing you can do
it’s just the way it is
there’s nothing we can do…”

Purina Hall of Fame by Propagandhi (Watch)

This sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek slap to the face of so many is typical of the words that have made up the musical history of a band called Propagandhi. If you know anything about them you know that any praises I may write in this magazine will be true, but not needed by them. The people who make up the band, including Todd Kowalski, are modest, intelligent and brutally honest. It is these elements in the things they do both as a band and through their label, G7 Welcoming Committee, that have inspired me to keep doing what I feel is right instead of what seems easiest. My move to Winnipeg has certainly not been easy, but there have been some great moments and one of those was the chance to see Propagandhi in front of a hometown crowd all for the benefit of Sage House, Sisters in Spirit and the CD launch for the Canada Haiti Action Network. The crowd ran the gamut from the “portage freaks” to the highly educated activist but the overall feeling of being somewhere for a good cause and knowing that so many others agreed almost surpassed the actual concert…almost.

Like so many others I know who feel convinced to question things around them, Propagandhi could care less if you are against them, but if you are with them they are more than willing to help you out. With that in mind I was very happy to be able to discuss veganism with Todd over a series of emails.

Might as well get this one out of the way, why vegan?

I think it is a reasonable and logical conclusion to become vegan if you are interested in justice for all living beings. I have no need to hurt animals for my own enjoyment or comfort. I do not want to contribute to the industries that are polluting the world, and killing and hurting animals. Being vegan is easy, healthy, and much more enjoyable than being curled up in pain after eating a bratwurst. haha…..

Was it a progression from carnivore to veggie to vegan, or did you go, for lack of a better term, cold turkey?

I went vegetarian in one night after thinking about it for a month or so. It seemed like the right thing to do.
I was vegetarian for a year or two before becoming vegan. It wasn’t a slow process though. I just decided one day to stop drinking milk and coagulated teat pus.

Is being vegan an active or passive part of your life and your beliefs? As in, do you believe that it is something to promote to other people, or simply something others can choose on their own?

We definitely use our band to promote veganism through music, interviews, articles etc…In my own life I try to let my example be my message to the people around me. It works. Many of my friends, as well as my brother, have become vegetarian after seeing how easy it was.

Is the whole band vegan?

Yes, the whole band is vegan. It is important to us that since our band has a certain ideology that we all believe what we are saying and playing or else it is not sincere.

How do you view someone who is vegetarian but can not change to vegan because of how good cheese/milk, etc. is, or some other reason that they have?

People will do their own thing and that’s the way it goes but I cannot understand how the taste of milk or cheese overrides compassion and justice in their lives. I would suspect that if they quit that stuff they would soon find it repulsive. I could never eat or drink milk or cheese again. It’s like pus. People can easily change if they have the will and desire to do so.

Do you find it difficult to connect with people who knowingly eat animals despite the harm?

Everybody who eats meat knows the harm in some way. I do feel somewhere in me a small bit of resentment for this. Of course it’s generally not changing my day-to-day existence or making me not like people but I constantly wonder how they can carry on like this if they consider themselves “just”. If people have no compassion for animals whatsoever I would tend to think that this person is a goof. Of course, we have to remember that there are certain cultures where, due to circumstances, vegetarianism has not even entered the national or societal conversation in any way. These people I would not fault too strongly. We in North America definitely have the information and cultural history to act in a different way, especially considering that most of our “meat” is produced in revolting factory farms. With this in mind, “Free Range” meat is not a justifiable substitute.

We in North America definitely have the information and cultural history to act in a different way, especially considering that most of our “meat” is produced in revolting factory farms.

Do you believe a large part of the world is simply ignorant to the harm towards animals that their diet and lifestyle cause, or do you believe people just ignore the facts?

I would say there is a lot of both. In a place like Sudan the entire history, social structure, and living conditions have made cow herding the backbone of the society. Inuit people rely on their age-old ways to sustain themselves up North. I don’t think these people are ignoring the facts. As I said before the idea of stopping these ways of life does not enter their society’s national or cultural conversation. We are in a different place under completely different cicumstances and it is clear that people here are defensive and looking to mock ideas, hide what they are doing, and know what they are doing is wrong. Factory farms are the least natural and sickest phenomenon on earth.

Do you feel being vegan is a natural choice for you, or something you can choose due to the modern society you live in? Would you be vegan if you lived somewhere without the choices of a “developed” nation?

Again understanding the above answer if I was born Inuit up north, Dinka in Sudan or if I was from some other place where eating meat was the backbone of my life I probably would have not developed into a vegetarian. If I was from one of these places and moved to Canada or the U.S. I could very well be revolted and become vegetarian very quickly. Of course society dictates how your life and choices go. In Winnipeg, In France, In London, In Greece, in Australia, Japan etc..there is no reason to eat any meat whatsoever.

Throughout your lyrics and your work you are avid promoters of many other things besides animal welfare. You also spend a lot of time promoting causes that are connected to various persecuted groups around the world. In fact, thanks to G7 I have learned so much more than I ever would have about the history and current state of Native American populations. I am curious as to your views on their cultural habits in regards to animals, and whether or not you believe that their connection with the animals is one of respect and equality or if you still view them the way you would view a white North American who eats meat?

I think I mostly answered this above. People who are living traditionally and out of sustanance I do not feel the need to fault. I’m not sure about the idea of “equality”, but necessity, perhaps? This is not a question for me to answer since it is a different culture. However, white or aboriginal, buying your meat off white factory farms is completey unjust and decidedly against nature and, as I understand, against aboriginal culture. It is not sustainable, logical, necessary, just or “spiritual”.

In your travels, have you noticed a cultural difference between North America and Europe? Which made it easier as a vegan? Did you find one area more familiar with the concept than another?

I find them very similar. Small pockets of vegetarians and huge amounts of flesh-thirsty freaks.

Name three of your favourite restaurants in Canada.

How about Merkato Ethiopian restaurant here in Winnipeg, Thidas’ Thai restaurant here, and I’ll say just for the hell of it Spring Roll here in Winnipeg since the woman there is so nice and they have a vegetarian menu. I like other ones in Canada a lot but I have no idea what they are called…

Find out more about Todd’s band, Propagandhi, through their website.

This piece was originally published in the first issue of T.O.F.U Magazine, which you can purchase in the online store for whatever price you want to pay, including free.

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