By Rebecca Drew
MEET THE polar opposite husband and wife duo – he’s a HUNTER who eats the animals he kills and she’s a VEGAN who makes him store his meat in the GARAGE, but they’re raising their four-month-old on a PLANT-BASED DIET.
Yoga instructor, health counsellor and plant-based chef, Tandi Rolen (28) from Wenatchee, Washington, USA, met her husband, gunsmith and fishing guide, Mitchell Rolen (28) when they were just 16.
Tandi grew up on a standard American diet of meat and processed foods but when her grandma sadly passed away from cancer when she was 20, Tandi started to focus on her own health and went vegetarian. Tandi immediately felt revitalised thanks to her new diet and later turned vegan after researching the dairy industry, a month after her wedding to Mitchell which was in January 2015.
At first Mitchell didn’t understand the reasons why his wife turned to veganism as hunting and eating animals was considered normal for him. Tandi didn’t push Mitchell to become vegan himself but eventually he started to see things from her perspective and only eats meat from animals he has killed using a bow and arrow. The couple have a separate freezer to store the meat he has hunted.
The couple have a four-month-old son, Brooks, who they are currently raising vegan but Tandi says she would not stop her son from following in his father’s hunting footsteps when he grows up.
“I was actually raised on a typical American diet. Highly processed food with animal products at every meal,” said Tandi.
“My grandma who I was extremely close to growing up passed away from cancer when I was 20 years old. After that cancer experience, I turned my focus to my own health and began a vegetarian diet. I immediately felt vitality and energy that I never felt before. I soon became vegan after realising the horror of the dairy industry.
“I became so passionate about the positive effects of a vegan diet and I wanted to share it with the world. I understood the negative habits the western world has and wanted to be a part of the conscious shift towards healing for all. The animals, the planet and humanity.
“So I opened up a juice bar cafe in the yoga studio I worked at called The Hunter’s Wife. Because my husband is a hunter and I’m a vegan and I thought it was catchy. When I found out I was pregnant I decided to close down the cafe to focus on my new goal which is raising a conscious human.
“My husband enjoys bow hunting and hunting for a source of food for himself. Not as sport. Once he was exposed to animal agriculture, he made the connection to be a better hunter. He only eats the meat he kills himself and that I can honour.
“He packages the meat and freezes it. We have a separate freezer in our garage for it.
“I became a vegan a month after we were married. I never looked at his hobbies in an objective way before. Hunting and eating animals are so normalised, I never questioned it. But when the veil of animal agriculture was exposed to me in a new way I went through a period of being mad at the world. I felt lied to. And my husband and oldest friend didn’t make the connection right away. Which was also devastating.
“What saved my marriage was realising that people will not change if you tell them what they’re doing is wrong. You have to lead by example and lead with compassion and understanding.
“When I let the pressure of my husband having the same food values as me go everything changed and slowly but surely he caught up to me.
“My four-month-old is currently vegan because I am. Once he’s old enough to understand how food is sourced, he can decide if he wants to eat animal products. But until then he will get all his nutrients from plants. His paediatrician says he’s in the seventieth percentile.
“I feel like everyone has their own choices. I can only try my best to raise a child who is aware [of hunting], questions things and makes decisions based off his own values. And if they’re genuine values I will absolutely support him.”
Tandi admits that the couple are sometimes questioned about their contrasting views on animal product consumption but says that their relationship is proof that both vegans and non-vegans can integrate.
“People think it’s really far out. But it works for us because we’ve able to honour our authentic and integrate our values to be the best version of ourselves,” said Tandi.
“People of the far vegan way and people of the far conservative way seem to have the biggest misunderstanding.
“We eat whole plant foods plus my husband has deer or grouse, it’s quite easy actually. We have dairy free alternatives as well.
“Everyone is so far on one side of the spectrum. But the truth is everything is not a one size fits all. Lifestyle and diet included. We have to integrate. And we must take the best options on both sides and practice them.”