Warwick Firefighter Lt. John Halloran won’t admit that he’s hot stuff, but PETA begs to differ, as the 41-year-old married father of three has been named a winner of PETA’s 2013 “Sexiest Vegan Next Door” national contest.
The honor not only grants Halloran bragging rights, it also earns him a free trip for two to Maui, Hawaii. He and his wife, Maryellen, who suggested he enter the competition after reading about it online, hope to head to Hawaii this winter.
“This will be the first trip I take with my wife without the kids since the year 2000, which is just before my wife got pregnant with our first son,” said Halloran, who began the process of eliminating animal products from his diet four years ago. Maryellen, along with their children, John Jr., 12, Vince, 9, and Sophie, 7, also incorporate vegan foods into the diets.
For Halloran, the win means more to him than a snazzy title or exotic vacation. He’s pleased the competition has given him the opportunity to educate people about the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle and recently created a Facebook page, “The Plant-Based Firefighter” to share recipes and advice.
“Every time I come across good information pertaining to the diet and lifestyle, I plan on posting it and sharing it with other people,” he said. “It will be a nice forum for people who are curious about it.”
He’s also happy it allowed him to explain his experience to acquaintances that question him about whether or not going vegan is a healthier alternative. They used to often ask him if his weight loss was normal, as he shed 20 pounds soon after making the vegan transition.
“They don’t know that when I came on the department in 1997, I gained 20 pounds,” said Halloran. “When I put on some weight, I knew I needed to cut back. I finally got around to fix the problems that I had by switching over to the vegan diet. I’m the exact same weight now that I was then.”
As noted in a Warwick Beacon article a few weeks ago, Halloran said eliminating animal products from his diet helped with health issues he had been dealing with, including high cholesterol and acid reflux. Being the lead singer for cover band Those Guys NPT, his throat is loving the fact that he’s no longer eating foods that once caused him discomfort. He also feels more energetic as a result, which gives him more stamina when fighting fires or rocking out on stage.
And while his buddies at the Warwick Fire Department once “busted his chops” for going vegan, as well as entering the competition, Halloran said they are taking his advice more seriously these days.
After he informed them that moving toward a plant-based diet decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among firefighters, they changed their tune. Heeding his advice, a group of them began eating vegan during shifts at the station. They aren’t practicing seven days a week, but Halloran said it’s a step in the right direction.
“Even if they are doing one meal or one day a week, that’s great,” he said. “That’s how I started. The guys at work are smart and progressive in all aspects and their health is no exception to that. When they come across good information, they try to implement it into their lives if they know it’s going to make them a healthier person and healthier firefighter.”
While he hasn’t worked since learning of the win, as he is on vacation, his comrades at the WFD have offered congratulations via calls, texts and e-mails. He’s grateful for the support.
“Deep down, they know it’s a positive thing,” said Halloran. “The ‘sexy’ part was just kind of a marketing tactic on the part of PETA, which worked really well at getting people’s attention.”
And he certainly got PETA’a attention. Judging for the contest was based on votes, enthusiasm and attractiveness.
“John is as attractive on the inside as he is on the outside because he has chosen a lifestyle that’s kind to animals, the planet, and his own health,” PETA Associate Director of Campaigns Lindsay Rajt said in a press release. “The more people get to know him, the more likely they are to say, ‘yes, please’ to hearty vegan meals, such as John’s scrumptious black-bean veggie wraps with vegan mayo – and that’s a good thing for everyone.”
But Halloran said he wouldn’t have won without help from friends and family, and the local media for sharing his story. He thinks a little bit of luck came into play, too, as he’s had a streak of good luck lately.
A few years ago he won a raffle for a 55-inch television, and more recently won a Kindle and iPhone at a fundraiser he attended.
Still, there’s no denying Halloran deserves the title, as evidenced by his respect for animals and passion to improve not only his own health, but also the health of others.
“There are really no bad reasons to go vegan,” he said. “It’s all good.”