They might not know it, but gay vegan Eddie Garza is a dog’s — and a cow’s, and a pig’s — best friend
Eddie Garza is smiling. For anyone who knows him, this is not news. Garza is always smiling. He’s smiling when you see him out and about, even in the heat of summer, wearing his signature pink ties. (Except, apparently, the day we meet for his photo.) He’s smiling when he’s about to dive into a plate of tofu, and when he talks about his pet project — his Dallas Vegan blog, where he shares his passion for suffering-free food.
Garza is such a happy guy, you might not realize how passionate he is about animal rights. But when he talks about it in earnest, it’s sometimes enough to wipe the smile right off his face.
As with many vegans — who contrast with vegetarians in their rejection of consuming eggs, dairy and honey, in addition to eschewing silk, leather and other animal-based products whenever possible — Garza’s devotion to his lifestyle is more about ethics than health. Yes, the now-slender blogger once weighed hundreds of pounds more than he does today, and he shed the weight after becoming a vegetarian (and soon thereafter, vegan) about five years ago. But not like you might think.
"I call myself a junk-food vegan," he jokes over a piece of vegan chocolate cake at Cosmic CafÃ©, which he’s reviewing for the Dallas Observer’s City of Ate food blog. "Yes, I love brownies; yes, I want chocolate. I pretend I hate salads; I don’t. I hate boring salads. I put ketchup on everything — even a baked potato."
Clearly, then, it’s the touchy-feely part of veganism — the realization that the modern machinery of feeding the masses necessitates horrendous treatment of animals — that’s his chief motivator. He even has a tattoo written across his arm in Sanskrit which translates, "May all beings everywhere be happy and free."
Knowing that, you might expect Garza to be one of those radicalized, PETA-paint-throwing-"fur-is-murder" types, the kind who stands outside McDonald’s chastising patrons for destroying the environment. Actually, he hates that.
"It’s not about me — it’s about the bigger picture," he says. "Yes, I do drive a car and have a T-shirt that says ‘Vegan,’ but I don’t really announce myself."
Although that may change a little this weekend. Garza and several dozen other animal rights activists will be marching in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade on behalf of Mercy for Animals — "No. 47 … right behind the Dallas Eagle," he says. (The irony that his vegan group follows a club where most of the marchers will be clad in leather is not lost on him. But as with everything, Garza takes it with good humor.)
Garza became associated with Mercy for Animals earlier this year when he was introduced to Nathan Runkle, who, as a gay 15-year-old in 1999 began the group dedicated to the rights of our four-legged friends.
"This parade will be the first grassroots outreach event MFA has held in Texas, so we are really just in our initial stages of building local support," says Runkle, who will be in Dallas marching alongside Garza.
"Runkle is kind of an old soul," Garza says. "The work MFA has done in such a short amount of time is amazing."
Garza concedes that being a practicing vegan in beef country like Dallas presents some challenges — when he goes to a non-vegetarian restaurant, he might whisper behind his menu to the waitress, "I’m vegan; what non-animal options do you have?"
"I’m picky about food. It is easier to eat vegan in Austin," he admits, "but it’s not always good."
But there’s that smile again, leading him through the minefield of honey-infused pizza crusts (a no-no for serious vegans) and wines that use egg whites in the fermentation process (he actually doesn’t care much about that, since no eggs make it into the final product).
"It’s getting better. I really think we’re ready for a Mercy for Animals office in Dallas," he says.
Until then, he hopes writing his blog makes it easier for others to come out and proud as vegans.
"A lot of people don’t know how to eat," he says. "But [veganism for me] is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If one member of a family of three gave up animal products for one meal a day, that would equal an entire vegan.
"There’s nothing like a really good roasted eggplant. It’s not my fault I like the taste of good vegetables."
Garza’s blog is available at DallasVegan.com. For more information on Mercy for Animals, visit MercyforAnimals.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2009.