Voice for Compassion

| By Brynda Bechtold |

Maybe it’s because he stands so tall or it’s his smile and heartfelt warmth, or it might be his name that makes him so memorable. Rowdy. It makes you wonder, but Rowdy Keelor was named by his parents, with a smile, no doubt. He comes to us from Dayton, Ohio where his family still resides. Four years into playing with the rock band Jahman Brahman, they all relocated here in 2010. After years of touring the festival circuit from Colorado, Maine and Florida, writing heartfelt songs and speaking to cheering crowds, Rowdy wanted more.

Rowdy Keelor at last Vegan Fest

Rowdy Keelor at last Vegan Fest

Still in his 20’s, that idealistic age, he was searching for meaning and depth for making a difference in this world. Challenged to stay healthy while touring, his interest turned to diet and lifestyle. He began working at Earthfare between gigs and was introduced to new foods, amazing people, and alternative lifestyles. In 2015, he made the tough decision to leave the band and become an environmental activist. He hosted a radio show, started “Friends Against Butts,” a recycling program for cigarette butts, and a gathering at UNCA where documentaries were shown and discussed weekly. He had a temporary position as tour manager with the Dogwood Alliance S.O.S. tour for saving southern forests.

He then freed himself up and left Asheville for California, unsure if he would return. After realizing the huge impact that animal agriculture had on the environment, he chose to work in vegan activism. As opportunities in N.Y. and California beckoned him, he spoke to his friend Denise at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and learned they needed a coordinator of their new Vegan Outreach Program. So a new world opened up for him as he returned to Asheville and within a short time they have organized and launched multiple programs. Asheville Vegan Outreach intends on becoming the most active vegan advocacy group in the region. They recently launched multiple school presentations, bringing in speakers and hosting events at local markets where they bring in animals to connect with people, showing that each of them are real individuals.

His latest efforts have focused on bringing together the Brother Wolf production of Asheville Veganfest with events June 10th, 11th, and 12th with local speakers as well as others arriving from the Southwest and Germany. The world’s strongest human will be there who holds the record for the most weight ever lifted which is over 1200 lbs. He’s 100% plant powered! There’ll be vendors, panels, presentations and it’s all FREE, get details on the VeganFest website.

Rowdy: “In addition to massive amounts of animal suffering, I discovered that modern methods of animal agriculture are the primary cause of environmental degradation. After realizing the destruction inherent in this industry, I knew this was where I’d focus my efforts. One important aspect of my activism is that individuals believe they can make a difference. What we choose to consume is one of, if not THE, most impactful decisions we can make to help our planet. Thus, I’ve dedicated myself to vegan activism.”

Brynda: Consuming animal products affects health on a cellular level, do you think it changes the mentality of humans as well?

“I believe it does because you’re literally consuming fear, violence and oppression along with those anxiety hormones. So yes, I think that directly correlates to human mentality and where our society is right now. I also believe what we eat can change us spiritually and a plant-based diet helps open the heart.”

St. Francis helped open eyes to a different relationship with animals and the Yellow Emperor of China is credited with teaching domestication of animals 5,000 years ago. Do you think it’s possible that mankind has failed to have the type of relationship with animals that was intended?

“Well, trusting in the way things happen is important in my life because we have so little control over so many things. So I acknowledge that there’s something bigger than us, and trust in that process. I can’t say we were supposed to have a really different relationship with animals but I can say we WILL evolve to have a totally different one with animals than we currently do. That’s because we’re now exposing the flaws, sufferings and inherent injustices occurring with our current relationship with animals.”

Considering all the drama and pain that people witness through mass media, and knowing you want to expose the truth of animal agriculture without offending them, how do you meet this challenge to educate them?

“You listen. Listening is the number one way to meet this challenge. By listening we understand them more and we can be more tactical in how we bring awareness to them. If we assume we know the best way to reach people and stay stuck in that then we become less effective. But in listening to other people and showing them compassion, then we have a new kind of ability and understanding of how to reach them.

You know there’s a high risk for angry pushback if a child comes home from school and shuns mom’s dinner. How do you plan to keep the peace with the parents as you educate the children?

“With open and honest communication and staying firm in why we’re talking about this. We’re actually counting on these awesome kids to bring this message to the table and enlighten their parents. Children are beginning to understand reality and suffering. We won’t apologize for that because it’s not OUR actions that need to be scrutinized here. It’s the system that kills 75,000,000 animals everyday that is destroying the planet. We also understand that this is about core beliefs and values and thousands of years of people believing that animals are a commodity for our use. We understand that it’s a very difficult transition to make in life, and we’re ready to have a discussion on why we aren’t going to back down on this.”

Now for the big question that all plant-based eaters must endure… even elephants! What about protein, Rowdy, tell us how you get enough protein?

Laughs] “If you eat a whole food, plant based diet it’s literally impossible to be protein deficient. This is a myth amongst meat eaters. We have this idea that we need so much protein and it’s just untrue. I get plenty of protein from pumpkin seeds, legumes, hemp hearts and hemp powder, from vegetables;I get it from everywhere! We know that many current diseases stem from too much animal protein in the diet. While we advocate veganism, we also advocate a whole foods diet which is preferable to other possible vegan diets. You can eat a really crappy vegan diet and become unhealthy and suffer diseases. If you’re sticking with a whole foods, plant-based diet then there’re lots of studies that show your risks for certain diseases and cancers are far lower compared to a diet containing animal products.”

This is so true. I attended Plant Based Prevention of Disease, P-POD conference at UNCA and the studies and scientific evidence are overwhelming and ongoing. If these things most grieve your spirit, then tell us what you celebrate?

Rowdy Keelor

Rowdy Keelor

“I celebrate progression and baby steps and I see them all the time. Having interactions with people and seeing that growth first hand. I also celebrate the massive amount of other people who are working towards a more compassionate world, and there are lots right here in Asheville.”

Because he loves music and performing, Rowdy has joined the local band “I Star.” He loves the experience of creating with other people, especially this gifted group. He says, “Furthermore, I believe in their message that is strong and outspoken about conscious revolution and regarding unity and peace.” Those are all fundamental beliefs and concepts in his life. He feels proud to bring his drumming skills to that message.

From where do you draw your endless motivation?

“I believe I have a purpose, actually multiple purposes, to use the abilities I’ve been given to advocate for change and be a voice of reason. I’m very comfortable speaking in public or private. And believing so wholeheartedly in a message like this one of compassion, peace and non-violence, it’s very motivating. I’m also extremely empowered as I see changes happening in the world and experience them first hand.”

Do animals smile?

“Absolutely. And we’re working hard to give them lots more to smile about.”

Thank you, Rowdy.

“May your voice flow like a stream and pour into crevices of hearts
And your goodness, your righteousness spill onto the lost world
Keep shining the truth that propels your steps …
embracing justice, righting wrongs … in peace, love and smiles.”

Contact Rowdy: www.facebook.com/AshevilleVeganOutreach/

Brynda Bechtold teaches classes using raw, vegan, gluten free and superfood recipes, art and research showcasing food as medicine. Contact: [email protected] or Facebook.

This entry was posted in June 2016 and tagged brother wolf, , vegan, veganfest, vegetarian, . Bookmark the permalink.

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