Although I'm not a vegetarian (I was for a time, but went back to omnivorous eating after a couple of years), I admire this man embracing his moral and ethical concerns, and his willingness to live them, completely against the grain of his majority culture. In men's sports, that culture is intense.
I can't help but wonder if being a person of colour playing hockey - already a tiny minority - figures into the picture at all. Perhaps Laraque has been going his own way his whole life. Or does being Canadian cancel out the black-person-playing-hockey factor?
I really appreciate Laraque's reference to puppy mills in his home nation of Quebec.
No dairy, no poultry, no fish, no more leather shoes or animal byproducts, Laraque has been on a strict diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes since June 1.
While he says he was partly motivated to improve his health for the hockey season, Laraque insists the decision was made primarily for political, rather than nutritional, reasons.
Everything changed, Laraque said, after he saw Earthlings, a 2006 documentary that is widely celebrated in animal-rights circles.
“It’s unconscionable what’s happening to animals in this country and the way we treat animals we eat....I realized I had to make some big changes,” Laraque said.
Though Laraque said he will no longer buy leather of any kind, he hasn’t rid his closet or hockey bag of previously purchased leather products because, “that would be a further waste. And this way I don’t forget.”
Laraque, who also does yoga daily, an activity he picked up as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, said he’s never felt better and reported for training camp at a comparatively svelte 245 pounds.
“I’ve lost some weight, but I’ve been working with a really great nutritionist and I’ve never had this much energy,” he said.
“I think it’s also important to break the stereotype that all vegans are skinny people with long hair,” added Laraque, as unlikely a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as the NHL has ever seen. (This summer he sent a letter on the group’s behalf to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, protesting the Canadian seal hunt.)
Laraque couldn’t think of any other vegan NHLers off the top of his head.
But the burly winger finds himself among a vanguard of current and former pro athletes who are eschewing most meats.
Laraque cites Major League Baseball player Prince Fielder, former Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez and retired NBA player John Salley as vegetarians who inspired him.
. . .
So in a tough-guy, famously hidebound culture like pro hockey, Laraque remains a curiosity, but he’s resolved to carry on spreading the word.
“People still think it’s kind of funny, but I’m not doing this to be funny,” he said. “There are more puppy mills in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada, and no laws to shut them down. People get slapped with a fine and six months later they reopen. Do you think that’s funny?”