Shari Black Velvet: When did you eat your first ever vegan hotdog?
Justin Ryan: I ate my first vegan hotdog at a BBQ some vegan friends of mine were hosting. Nick and Phoebe were very influential in me becoming vegan. We would hang out all the time and Phoebe was an amazing cook and for ages I didn't really notice that everything was vegan. It was just really yummy.
SBV: What made you choose vegan hotdogs – rather than say vegan burgers or anything else?
JR: I had decided to do a vegan fast food cart and after a bit of googling I stumbled upon this beautiful hotdog cart / tricycle that I ended up buying and that clinched the deal.
SBV: You don’t advertise that they’re vegan hotdogs so that meat eaters will actually eat them. Can you tell us about that? How is the reception from meat eaters when they know they’re vegan compared to when they don’t know they’re vegan?
JR: I have sold thousands of hotdogs over the years and only once did someone guess it was not meat. She still liked it but said it tasted like the mock meat stuff her vegetarian mum used to make for her. And one other time a guy didn't like the taste. So out of all the hotdogs I have ever sold only one guy didn't like it.
SBV: How do you think meat eaters will go vegan/vegetarian if you don’t tell them the hotdogs are vegan and if they do just think they’re eating meat?
JR: I don't think my hotdog cart is going to turn anyone vegan. That's not why I do it. I use it as an excuse to go to see bands I want to see and feed people yummy vegan food. It's not a soap box from which I preach.
SBV: You sell the hotdogs outside concert venues, at festivals etc. Do you have to pay to be able to trade in a specific place?
JR: Yeah, nowadays I just do smaller festivals and gigs. The big festivals charge thousands of dollars to sell at and I do it for fun not for money so I'd rather keep it small scale and not stress about whether I sell enough hotdogs to cover my seller fee.
SBV: What are your usual trading hours?
JR: I don't have any. If I see a show I want to go to at a venue that has room for me I contact the promoter and ask if I can come along. I usually feed the staff and bands in return for them letting me setup.
SBV: You have a mobile stall which has a bicycle attached so you can ride it to where you want to go. Do you have many cyclists over in Brisbane/Australia and have you had any interesting reactions when you’ve been riding anywhere?
JR: I used to ride it three times a week through the city to get to my spot outside a night club in Fortitude Valley and people would stop and stare and take photos. On my way home one night I had a couple of hotdogs left and stopped at a traffic light and a guy leaned out his window and asked if I had any hot. I made him a hotdog and reckon I made his night.
SBV: Do you have any stand-out memories? Famous people eating one of your hotdogs? Or a great event that you were at?
JR: There used to be this rad DIY venue in Brisbane called The Fort. A few hardcore bands were doing a show there including Carpathian from Melbourne and Ghost Town from the Gold Coast. It was a great show and I got a photo with the guys around my cart afterwards.
SBV: Who would you most love to eat a Hellhound hotdog (and why)?
JR: Probably Paul Watson or Hayden Panettiere - rad vegans.
SBV: You use Redwood’s Vegideli hotdogs. Are they easy to get hold of in Australia?
JR: The lovely people at Vegan Perfection have been very helpful in keeping my stock levels up.
SBV: What are your prices like compared to meat-based hotdogs?
JR: I have no idea how much people pay for other hotdogs. I just keep my price at $5 because its easy to count in multiples of 5.
SBV: I really think we need some good, cheap vegan fast food sellers. In USA, the nearest thing seems to be Veggie Grill. In England (where we are), big cities mostly have more expensive vegan restaurants – but there’s nothing to really pull people away from McDonalds et al. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think the world needs more inexpensive vegan fast food available for the mainstream?
JR: Tough question. On one hand I think it is important to educate people more on nutrition and its importance. On the other hand I think people are already used to the convenience of fast food and to provide a vegan option helps. Maybe if you could combine the two and offer vegan fast food but also either make it healthy or encourage some kind of diet analysis. Maybe even offer fast food but compare the fat content to non-vegan options. I guess there are lots of ways we could improve the food industry as a whole. And the education system.
SBV: If there are any meat eaters reading who aren’t in Australia and can’t actually try one of your hotdogs, what would you say to convince them they should try any other vegan hotdog? Do you think people should order/buy some Redwood Vegideli hotdogs themselves?
JR: Redwood Vegideli hotdogs are so delicious I would trample my own mother to get one. Yep they are that good.
SBV: You first had the idea for Hellhound Hotdogs when you were a stage manager, on tour and you had to make your own vegan food. You’re currently on tour as a lighting operator. What do you like about the touring lifestyle?
JR: Touring can be fun. Depends on the tour though. Constantly discovering new places is a bit of an adventure. I found really good salt n' vinegar chips in the supermarket in New Zealand. Oh and vegan dark chocolate with mint gooey stuff in the middle. Work is secondary to the food most of the time.
SBV: You’re also a musician yourself and have written animal rights related songs such as ‘To Be Free’. Can you tell us about all of the animal rights/vegan inspired songs that you’ve written?
JR: I have only written a couple of songs about animal rights. They are pretty sad. The whole concept of how so many humans treat non human animals and each other can be overwhelming. I use the songs to express my feelings about it and feel a bit better for it. My friend and bandmate Steve (These Dirty Bones) writes amazing songs and one of my favourites is 'Bones In My Marshmallows' - a discussion about the hidden animal products in just about everything we use.
SBV: You have also volunteered for multiple charities including Bat Rescue and Conservation Brisbane and Sea Shepherd. Tell us about that. What was the first organisation you became aware of and wanted to help and how did that progress?
JR: I did a little bit of fund raising with Sea Shepherd and played a gig at one of their events that Xavier Rudd played at. That was cool. I like their hands on approach to maritime conservation. Bats are the coolest animals in the world. I love them. I have been too busy lately to help out with bat rescue stuff but it feels great to rescue, mend and release such a beautiful intelligent creature.
SBV: You’re also straight edge (like me) – or to be exact, you’ve not smoked drank or taken any drugs in 3 years. What made you stop those things and how has stopping benefitted you?
XVX!!! I could give you a hundred reasons why being straight edge makes my life better or easier but the main one would be for the clarity of mind I have now more than I have ever had in my life.
SBV: How long do you see yourself running Hellhound Hotdogs?
It's my hobby so I will probably do it until Monsanto have me assassinated.
Check Hellhound Hotdogs out over on Facebook (add them as a friend) - https://www.facebook.com/hellhoundhotdog
And if you have time check out these links, that Justin recommends: