Yes, the heroes who save the world are always in fairy tales or movies… But today, I want to talk about a real hero, a vegan Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Alwaleed who dedicated all his fortune to encourage clean energy… 38-years-old Khaled is completely an animal lover and an active animal rights activist! Khaled who has been living far away from all kinds of animal exploitation and oppression more than 5 years describes his diet as “plant-based diet” and indicates: “Every time I use the word that starts with V, people automatically keep their guards up but they do not feel any problem if you say “plant-based diet” and you can easily get along well with them!”

He is also a very successful businessman and he set up Plant Cafe, the first vegan restaurant of Middle East in Bahrain. We had a pleasant interview in Manhattan, New York and he sincerely answered my questions…

How and when did you become a vegan?

It’s been years now. It was a transformation that started slow and then escalated quickly from both a mental and physical perspective. I increasingly felt that the status quo was both unethical and harmful, and flat-out wrong. Eating meat and using and wearing animal products was just the tip of the iceberg for me. It’s about living a plant-based life for health, for ecological purposes, and for a general goodwill and fairness that all living beings deserve.

What was your diet like before becoming vegan?

I guess you could say it was the typical diet of anyone uneducated about how to live a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t work out, and I was even the type to eat fast food if you can believe it – since going plant –based my focus on health overall has skyrocketed. My eating habits prior to going plant-based wasn’t the only problem, it was also a mindset of minimal challenging physical activity. After adopting plant-based living, it was a perceived improvement in energy level, clarity of mind, and even my sleep quality and restfulness.

What were your biggest challenges to becoming vegan?

The education aspect. There was so much to learn – I was going down the “rabbit hole” learning more and more about the benefits of plant-based living, mixed with the strong economic and environmental implications. It’s a journey that fueled my interest in getting personally involved in the global community that advocates for a cleaner diet that preserves a cleaner planet.

What physiological changes did you experience after becoming vegan?

This is one of my most important messages: I’m deep into CrossFit and I’ve had the privilege of studying Jujitsu. Now, if you’ve ever done CrossFit, you’ll know how intense it is. If you aren’t properly nourished, you really can’t take it – my diet helps me work toward my fitness goals. I share a lot of my workouts through social media, and I always point out that my protein intake is what is supporting all of this heavy activity – plant-based protein!

What spiritual changes did you experience after becoming vegan?

I don’t think it was a “change”. The past few years prior to my lifestyle overhaul, I didn’t feel that I was doing the right thing. After going plant-based, I felt that I was now fully living in line with my moral compass. There’s a quote about using your purchasing power to influence the type of world you want to see, and I believe in that wholeheartedly.

Has veganism changed your investment philosophies and objectives?

I definitely believe in plant-based business models. There’s no shortage of success stories in that space. Mathew Kenney Cuisine, under the Plantlab banner, is doing amazing things in the plant-based culinary and hospitality movement. He rightly points out that at the end of the day, we want food that appeals to all of our senses, and like many other groundbreaking vegan chefs he’s putting forward palate-pleasing fare that is ethical. Many business models with plant-based roots, grocery stores for one, clothing lines for another, are transformational. I believe in both the longevity of these concepts and the ever-growing market potential.

Why do people dislike vegans in your opinion?

I don’t think they ‘dislike’ vegans, I think it’s a question of awareness levels and the lack of education about plant-based alternatives and benefits. Throughout history it’s been the case that the less you know about something, the more likely you are to feel alien from it and even have cause for suspicion.

How does your family feel about you being vegan?

My family and friends, and even my colleagues are all empathetic and they all understand how I feel and where I draw the line. Respect for all living beings is of primary importance to me, and I am very clear on where I stand on that. I’m proud that some of the people closest to me have gone plant-based, others are vegetarian and transitioning to vegan.

After becoming vegan, what’s the strangest question someone ever asked you?

The strangest is also the funniest: “Where do you get your protein?” Second: “But what do you eat?” Check out my Instagram account for my response to both of those questions.

What is your message to the aspiring vegans in the Middle East?

Continue to educate yourself and deepen your journey into a plant-based lifestyle. You will find yourself surrounded by likeminded people who all want the same thing: the world to be a better place.

What advice would you give someone who was about to make the switch to plant-based diet?

Explore the myriad of options available to you. Participate online with other people living plant-based lifestyles, and really involve yourself in the movement from the get-go. It’s an inclusive community, and you will get the support and information you need to take this to the next level.

Khaled bin Alwaleed, who showed the people that being a vegan is not giving up the flavor and taste through his vegan pizza restaurant “00+Co” in New York, is continuing to be the voice of animals and rising star of Middle East thanks to the association with world-renowned animal rights organization Mercy For Animals.