PLANT-BASED: Giada Bontempelli and her daughter Myla O'Brien.
PLANT-BASED: Giada Bontempelli and her daughter Myla O'Brien. Trish Bowman

Vegan on protests: 'They're ruining something beautiful'

WHEN Yeppoon vegan Giada Bontempelli saw the picket signs and protesters storming Australian farms this month, she was horrified.

This was not what she stood for.

The 40-year-old Italian mum of one moved to Australia 10 years ago and then settled down in Yeppoon the next year after meeting her partner.

Instead of defending the actions of the swarms of activists, Ms Bontempelli said she didn't classify them as true vegans.

"They're not doing the right thing," she said.

"Vegans are about loving all humans and animals, so why would you do something like this to someone else?

"Everyone has the right to free will. If they're really committed to making a change, they should do it in another way and not be forcing it on others.

"It's so wrong. They're actually ruining the real meaning of being vegan and creating a lot of discomfort for people trying hard.

"They're ruining the name of something that's so beautiful."

Despite Ms Bontempelli's aversion to farming animals for meat, she said she felt "violated" on behalf of the farmers whose properties were raided. "I feel for them. I feel very sorry for them," she said.

"What they're going through is harassing and stalking. I'm happy the government is putting new rules in place because people should been protected.

"[The protesters] are doing a criminal gesture behind their ideology.

"If their ideology was strong, they would do it another way, not by striking but in a peaceful way."

Many other vegans have been tarred with the some brush as these protesters, said Ms Bontempelli.

She likened the resulting prejudice against other vegans as to the country's attitude towards Muslims because of ISIS.

In her opinion, the divide between harmony and radicalism comes from the school and government systems.

"I think the system is lacking on teaching people kindness and respect for differences, no matter what race or religion or type of diet," she said.

"Terrorist attacks in all those things show a lack in kindness and understanding, something that should be taught since an early age.

"They haven't been taught how to deal with things on a different level without stepping in on others' places.

"In the end [everyone is on] their own journey. Creating bad situations and trauma is not going to change who they are."

Veganism is one of the most divisive topics, and Ms Bontempelli said the ridicule vegans face is one of the reasons activists are now becoming intrusive.

"They are just mirroring our society," she said.

"They are acting on the same level. That's what they see; everyone does what they want and has no understanding of others.

"They're doing the same as those who attack vegans and write not so nice messages about how stupid they are.

"There is an attitude that shouldn't be in those people."

Ms Bontempelli abides by one simple rule: "respect all life".

The energy healer avoids fake meat products and tries not to kill any plants, but instead eats the fruits from them.

"Instead of potatoes, which are alive and have a root, I eat things like tomatoes and pawpaw, and fruit of trees and vegetables so I'm not killing the plant itself," she said.

"If I have ant or spider inside the house I take it outside. It's a big connection."

After being vegetarian for eight years, Ms Bontempelli began to feel ill when she substituted meat for excess cheese and bread.

However, after reverting back to eating fish she was hit by guilt and questioned her decision on a moral level.

"It's a hard choice. We decide to sacrifice taste and a love of meat and fish for what our heart is telling us to do," she said.

Learning from her mistakes when vegetarian, Ms Bontempelli researched how to remedy her low iron levels by consuming vitamin C with iron plant-based foods.

"Vitamin C helps absorb iron, but I try not to have any calcium with iron because it limits the effects of vitamin C," she said.

"So when I have something with a lot of calcium like broccoli, spinach or kale, I try not to have vitamin C with it and vice versa.

"I'm 40 and I'm doing things I couldn't do when I was 20.

"I don't do the gym or anything but I can hold myself up with both hands on my chair beside me for a long time.

"I'm so light and strong. I've never felt like that before."

Although Ms Bontempelli doesn't believe in forcing her views on others, she has faith that one day the common diet of the world will shift towards veganism.