“What’s the difference between my dog and the cows I see across the street?” twelve year old Tobias used to wonder. Vegetarian at heart but liking the taste of favorite meat-based meals, it took him until his college years to eventually turn plant-based. “I picked out the human-animal relationship for my master’s thesis, and got really obsessed with the topic of meat consumption from there.” He joined a local animal rights group and, after a series of internships in various animal rights groups in the States, started an organization in Belgium – and the basis of Proveg International was formed. It now works across 4 continents with a team of 200 members and $14 million in revenue – a result of one curious question and the power of ripple effect.
Proveg International, a leading international food awareness organization driving change towards more plant-based diets globally, strives to reduce the consumption of animal products by 50% by 2040. Within that, Tobias tries to do his part in convincing food industry leaders that they have an incredible opportunity to do good (and to profit from it) by shifting to more plant-based. “We need people who will help create a new norm.” He believes they are real heroes.
In 2015, when he worked as the director of his own organization, he burnt out and fought with depression as a result. It took some time, but eventually, he was able to reinvent himself and become a meta-activist: “Rather than going back to my organization, I ventured off by myself and started sharing what I had learned in fifteen years of campaigning with other activists, through my talks, and later in my book How to Create a Vegan World.”
3 things about Tobias
He practices the art of “slow opinion” – to think deeply about things and people before coming to conclusions, instead of judging and forming opinions rapidly without enough information.
He is involved in the Effective Altruism movement.
And he’s currently working on a philosophical speculative fiction novel on the side.
How does he stay on top of events, especially having gone through burnout previously? “By focusing on positive things. There’s a lot of horrible stuff that we hear about and could watch and read if we want, but there’s also so many good deeds being done. I try to believe in humanity, and see us as a species that is still climbing out of some primitive state and turning into something beautiful,” Tobias says. If he could send a message to his younger self, he’d influence his field of study: “I’d go for business, finance, management, economics, or even medicine rather than literature.”
Seitan bourguignon with French fries.
The timeless classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, despite its corny title, is a must read for everyone trying to influence other people for the better.
My superpower would be making people really care about other beings, just by looking at them.
…the idea that so many of us are working hard to create a better world.
I try to be as transparent about myself as I can, so I’m not sure if there are many things no one could guess. I suppose many people who see me talk on stage would not guess that a part of me is very, very insecure.
Peter Singer, for how he managed to have a big impact on so many people through clear thinking and caring.