If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I could never go vegan,” raise your hand. Whether you already follow a vegan lifestyle, are considering trying a plant-based diet, or have simply discussed the topic of plant-based living, you’ve likely encountered this statement. Heck, maybe you’ve even said it yourself. If you didn’t figuratively raise your hand, you’re probably in the minority.

Like most of us, filmmaker Thomas Pickering has heard the phrase “I could never go vegan” multiple times in his life. “It’s not uncommon for me to have daily conversations with friends, colleagues, or strangers, and for them to utter these words to me,” he said in a recent statement. But unlike many people, he was brought up not eating meat, so he finds the phrase particularly curious. In a bid to find out more about why people feel they can’t go vegan, he set about combining his love of filmmaking and his passion for veganism to create a new documentary, aptly titled I Could Never Go Vegan.

I Could Never Go Vegan Poster

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With the help of experts and advocates for the vegan lifestyle, in  I Could Never Go Vegan Pickering carefully unpacks each of the common arguments that back up the phrase “I could never go vegan” (B12 deficiency, protein worries, and so on) to peel back the truth. Spoiler alert, but maybe, actually, most of us can go vegan if we want to.

“The idea for the film, and the title, in particular, stemmed from a conversation I had one day with my brother James [who also produced the film],” Pickering told VegNews. “I wanted to make something that actually had meaning, and had the potential to positively impact those who watched it.” And it seems he has achieved that goal. I Could Never Go Vegan is streaming in select cinemas across the UK now and has received rave reviews so far for its unique approach to the vegan conversation (The Guardian, for example, awarded it four stars and labeled it “cheerfully persuasive”).

To find out more about I Could Never Go Vegan, check out our chat with Pickering below where we find out more about the making of the documentary, including the parts of filming that will stay with him forever.

Tom Pickering with Pig


I Could Never Go Vegan

VegNews: Let’s start with the title of the film! Can you tell us more about what inspired you to approach the documentary from this angle?

Thomas Pickering: One day, I asked my brother if he had any idea why we were raised meat-free because this genuinely seemed to be something that shocked people. This is why I actually ask my Mum the same question at the beginning of the film. We then go down the route of exploring why we so frequently hear this phrase: “I could never go vegan.” It was James who had the idea to call the film I Could Never Go Vegan. It gave us a great way to explore all the arguments against the movement.

VN: During the making of the film, was there anything that really surprised you about why some people feel they could never go vegan?

TP: There were a few surprising findings we uncovered, ranging from comical to absurd. Some members of the public believe cows have to be milked or they’ll explode, we actually heard that while making the film! But another big one was the ranking system in the Animal Protection Index. The index ranks countries on farm animal welfare, and not a single country scored higher than a D, with the US scoring an E, yet in countries like the UK we boast about our so-called “high welfare standards.” I go undercover to a “high-welfare” farm in the film to explore this further, and what we uncover is truly horrific. 

“Some moments within the environment section blew my mind - I felt like I already knew a lot of this before going into it, and yet I still found I was shocked by some of the stats we uncovered. A big one is that we could free up 76 percent of farmland if we shift to a plant-based farming system.”

VN: Animal welfare is a key issue with farming, of course. But the film boasts a wide range of experts, who help to debunk many of the misconceptions surrounding veganism and plant-based diets. Why was it so important to you to include such a range of insights? 

TP: We didn’t want it to be a film where I was just giving viewers my opinion. We wanted to ensure we had the best possible people included in the film, and we’re extremely proud of the science and studies we reference. Whether we’re looking into the health impacts of a vegan diet and speaking with people like Dr. Shireen Kassam, Dr. Gemma Newman, and Dr. Alan Desmond, or debunking the myths that surround the climate crisis by talking with the incredible George Monbiot, there’s something for everyone. That’s really just scratching the surface with regard to the amount of wonderful experts who feature.

VN: You also feature several athletes in the film, which is so important for showing what a plant-based diet can do for many people’s bodies. 

TP: The athletes featured are phenomenal. Sophia Ellis, a British, European, and Commonwealth powerlifting champion, can deadlift over 240 kilograms! Mike Coppock is a humble teacher who breaks ultra-running world records on the side of his day job. I even do a 50-kilometer ultra marathon with Paul Youd, an 84-year-old vegan who wants to complete 100 ultras before he’s 100 years old! 

Tom and PaulI Could Never Go Vegan

VN: You’re hoping to change people’s minds with this film, but did anything you discovered during the making of I Could Never Go Vegan change your perspective in any way? 

TP: Making this film reaffirmed everything I already believed in, and massively reenergised me in terms of my motivation and work as an activist. We cover so many aspects of veganism in this film and so many of the arguments we commonly hear, and I honestly can’t think of a single reason why someone shouldn’t go vegan.

VN: Which parts have had the biggest impact on you as a filmmaker?

TP: One of the things that really stuck with me on a personal level was the undercover footage. I still have nightmares to this day about the things I’ve seen. But it’s worth noting that for those who struggle to watch distressing welfare footage, myself included, most of the film is put together in a light-hearted and fun way. 

“The narrative is engaging, fun, and comical in parts, but also serious where it needs to be. It’s a really nice mix, which hopefully gives the film a broader appeal.”

VN: On that note, how have you ensured that I Could Never Go Vegan appeals to all kinds of viewers?

TP: We have tried to blend styles to ensure we reach as big an audience as possible. The last thing we want is for people to turn the TV off because they find it hard to watch. We’re really proud of the finished film and can’t wait for people to see it. Hopefully, we can make a real difference.

I Could Never Go Vegan is streaming in select cinemas across the UK now. To view the trailer, and to find out more about how to watch the full documentary, click here

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