Dale Bennett on being vegan
One of the things we get asked most about our vegan football club, Forest Green Rovers, is do the players HAVE to be vegan outside of work?
Well, the answer’s no – but one player has found his plant-based diet on the pitch so beneficial that he’s now totally vegan off the pitch too. To celebrate #WorldVeganMonth, Dale Bennett talks about why he decided to take the plunge and go vegan, and how he’s finding it three months in.
It was a trip back to Jamaica, the birthplace of his parents, on honeymoon with his wife in the summer that sparked Forest Green Rovers defender Dale Bennett to take the plunge and go vegan. Having grown up on the Jamaican staples it wasn’t until the club introduced a completely meat-free diet for the players that the 27-year-old had his eyes opened to the possibilities.
Now, with the club marking its second anniversary of being a vegan football club, the full-back has explained the reason behind his decision to fully commit to the ethos at FGR.
"It was after I got married in the summer," said Bennett.
"I had the experience of trying all the foods from my home country of Jamaica and it got to the stage where I thought, I don’t really need this stuff.
"I’d tried the vegan food from being at the club for so long and it’s something I enjoy and why not take it forward.
"It can only benefit my football, it is not going to make me any worse off."
Rovers chairman Dale Vince, a vegan himself, started the process of taking away meat products from the menu at The New Lawn and employed head chef Em Franklin to transform the menu. Bennett, who has been at the club since 2013 and made more than 150 appearances, admitted that not all the players in the squad were as open to the change as he was. However, having already stopped eating pork and red meat as a personal choice, it wasn’t too much of a stretch for the Londoner to take the plunge.
"It was different when I first got introduced to it for sure," he added.
"I didn’t expect it to taste as good as it did. I think the chef definitely helps because I have tried to make a few things myself and it hasn’t come out as well.
"I’m the type of person who is open to trying different things so it was easy for me to make the change to being vegan, whereas a few of the boys previously didn’t really take to it."
The change doesn’t come without its challenges and Bennett concedes that he has had to make some adaptation to his home life to ensure that he is not left hungry on the long away trips with FGR.
"Preparation is key to it," he explained.
"With the travelling I do, I have got to make sure I have the right things on me and I can’t just stop off to the nearest McDonalds or Burger King, everything has got to be prepared.
"A lot of it I do in advance, the night before I will be cooking it up for the next day.
"It’s also about trying new things. I remember Em, the club chef, telling me to experiment. There will be things you like and things you don’t and I have always taken that on board"
However, with the likes of three-time Formula One world champion, Lewis Hamilton, and former heavyweight champion, David Haye, taking up vegan lifestyles, Bennett feels that it justifies his own decision and is happy to reap the benefits. Bennett said: "Everything I have done this season, which I have done in previous seasons, I am doing better at.
"I don’t know if there is a correlation with that but it hasn’t had any negative effects.
"I feel fine, I feel like I have much more energy in the mornings and any effect it has had is positive.
"I would definitely advise people to try it before they put a downer on it."