When Forest Hills resident Rob Bigwood gave up meat to live a vegan lifestyle a few years ago, he was scared he would become weak.
Bigwood, 30, is an interactive art director in Manhattan by day and a professional arm wrestler by night. He has been competing in tournaments for more than a decade and aspires to be the best, but wanted to stop thinking of animals as just protein.
“I don’t feel it’s right to eat an animal when there are so many other options,” Bigwood said. “They don’t have a voice so I speak for them.”
Bigwood is now being featured among various accomplished vegan male athletes in a new documentary called “The Game Changers” by James Wilks, a former MMA welterweight champion and fellow vegan.
The concept of the film is to study whether males need to eat meat to be physically strong and the psychology of why eating meat is a requirement to be a “real man.”
Wilks and his film crew have traveled around the world to talk with various vegan athletes, including strongman Patrick Baboubian, who carried 1,216 pounds 10 meters, setting a new record; four-time NBA champion John Salley; and Andy Lally, a NASCAR driver who was the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year in 2011.
“Our goal is to create a new vision of what eating plant food is like,” said Joseph Pace, creative producer and the script writer of the documentary. “There have been too many stereotypes like that’s something for weak people and women. Our deeper message is that it won’t make you less of a man to care about stuff.”
And Bigwood really cares for animals. His change to veganism began after seeing piglets at a farm. Later that day when he tried to eat a bacon and egg sandwich, he felt sick remembering how the pigs were like little puppies.
The arm wrestler dislikes factory farms and even that humans kill animals for clothing. His love for animals has actually had an adverse effect.
But Bigwood’s compassion hasn’t affected his ability. In 2011 he won the won the New York City Big Apple Grapple arm wrestling tournament and various professional arm wrestlers said that Bigwood has gotten stronger since his lifestyle changed. More surprisingly, they say, his stamina has also grown and he has become more difficult to pin. Despite all the benefits, some in the field said they said can’t make the commitment just yet.
“It’s the way to go if you can handle it,” said Gene Camp, president of the New York Arm Wrestling Association. “I personally cannot, because I still like a hamburger and I still like to have a steak.”
“The Game Changers” is set to be released across the country next year.