Sporting the beard of an outdoorsman, his feet worn by weeks on the trail, Josh Garrett happily devoured various vegan dishes at Wayward Cafe in Seattle’s University District.
Just a few days prior, Garrett broke the known record for completing the Pacific Crest Trail hike in an effort to raise awareness about the treatment of livestock in the American industrial food system.
Garrett made the grueling 2,655-mile trek from Northern Mexico to the Canadian border in 59 days.
The previous record holder had completed it in 64 days.
Garrett’s journey raised about $8,000 for Mercy For Animals (MFA), an organization that raises awareness about animal cruelty and sends undercover operatives to document what goes on in slaughterhouses.
Naturally, a strict vegan diet fueled his trek. Garrett, a California native and avid hiker since his younger days, turned vegan roughly 18 months prior to the Pacific Crest endeavor. He said he made the change after forging relationships with turkeys that his girlfriend Karen had saved from Thanksgiving butchery.
He was also influenced by the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” a film that advocates for plant-based diets, and includes footage of slaughterhouses.
“We don’t need to eat meat or animal products in order to be healthy or strong,” Garrett said. “I hope by setting the record on the Pacific Crest Trail that I prove to be a good example of that.”
Apart from the moral objections to eating meat, Garrett touts the physical health benefits of a vegan diet, which he said includes lower levels of cholesterol and acidity as well as decreased risk of obesity and cancers.
Garrett said his vegan diet helped him to recover more quickly from the effects of physical exertion, something he noticed during his hike. On the third day, he collapsed on the trail due to heat stroke and was “in the fetal position shivering in 100-degree heat.”
After 24 hours of rest, he was back on the trail, thanks in part, he said, to his sense of perspective.
“No matter how miserable I was out there, no matter how much pain I was in, it’s nothing compared to what animals on factory farms go through,” he said.
Garrett said John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, challenged him to break the Pacific Crest record. Mackey and Garrett had hiked together previously and Mackey, inspired by Garrett’s hiking abilities and dedication to the humane treatment of animals, offered to finance and support Garrett’s hike.
Mackey is a controversial figure, mainly due to his libertarian political views, his questioning of the legitimacy of climate change and his comparison of employee unions to herpes.
When asked about Mackey’s comments, Garrett said: “I know that he is an incredibly conscientious and generous person. And I wouldn’t be here today without him. So I have nothing but positive things to say and [positive] feelings about John Mackey.”
While this is not his first time tackling the Pacific Crest Trail, Garrett said this trip was different because of its purpose.
“I was hiking for the animals this time. Last time I was not hiking for anything but myself. It just didn’t mean as much to me. This time it meant so much more to continue fighting and to finish,” he said.
Garrett is now meandering down the West Coast back to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, sampling vegan delicacies and regaining some weight along the way. Upon returning home he will teach classes on exercise physiology and return to work as a track and field coach at Santa Monica Community College.