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Georges Laraque - Hockey Tough Guy and Vegan

Full article at: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Sports/ Habs+tough+joins+fight+better+treatment+animals/1626608/story.html

Habs tough guy joins fight for better treatment of animals "He's targeted June 1 as Day One of his vegetarian life."

By MIKE BOONE, The GazetteMay 25, 2009

Laraque: "DVD opens your eyes."

I don't want to blow his cred as a National Hockey League tough guy, but there's a sensitive side to Georges Laraque.

Generally recognized as the heavyweight champion of the NHL - in 700 regular season and playoff games, he has scored 56 goals and served 1,166 minutes in penalties - the Canadiens' forward has joined the fight for more humane treatment of animals. Laraque was among the protesters when the North American Fur & Fashion Exposition was held here early this month.

I did not attend the demo and would not have known about its celebrity participant except for a photo that surfaced on the Internet. Pictured are Laraque, wearing a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals T-shirt, and a woman holding a placard on which a photo of a butchered baby seal bears the caption "Your Fur Had a Face."

The woman is my daughter. She is active in the animal rights' movement, a political commitment of which I am immensely proud.

"Georges Laraque is a great guy," my daughter reported. "He's becoming a vegetarian. You should talk to him about it."

I reached Laraque on his cellphone last week and asked what was up.

"I saw a video called Earthlings," Laraque said. "It shows the way animals are mistreated by humans."

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with an original musical score by Moby, Earthlings is, as Laraque says, a powerful indictment of human cruelty toward the species that share this planet (thus the title).

"(Earthlings) shows slaughterhouses where animals suffer," Laraque said. "They're not even killed in a way that would prevent them from feeling pain."

There's an old joke in the parliamentary press gallery that anyone who enjoys sausages and respects the law shouldn't watch either being made. Earthlings shows what happens several stages before sausages are prepared.

Hidden cameras were used to capture stomach-turning footage. You don't have to be sentimental about animals to be horrified by what happens to them before they end up on our dinner plates.

And it's not just the food industry.

"The movie shows how they use 60 animals to make a fur coat," Laraque said. "And then they're thrown in the garbage.

"There's so many cruelties to animals. The DVD really opens your eyes."

You can watch Earthlings on Google Videos. DVDs can also be ordered from www.earthlings.com, which is how Laraque got his copy.

Earthlings is not easy viewing. But it's a well-crafted and very provocative documentary that, at minimum, will give you pause to consider what you put in your mouth or on your back during winter.

One of the most shocking segments, for Laraque, was Earthlings' exposé of how circus animals are trained.

"Starving them, whipping them," Laraque said. "You never think about what they must do to an elephant to make it sit on a stool.

"We take our kids to the circus to see animals who have gone through so much pain to become entertainment. Children love animals and have no idea they're mistreated this badly."

Children, at least those who follow hockey, love Georges Laraque. He has been immensely popular during an NHL odyssey that has taken him from Edmonton to Phoenix to Pittsburgh before signing a three-year contract with the Canadiens last summer.

Everywhere he has played, Laraque has been active in the community. Yesterday, he was playing indoor soccer in Brossard. Today, it's wheelchair hockey at Joseph Charbonneau high school in Villeray.

For a guy who makes his living pounding on opponents, Laraque is a big, kid-friendly teddy bear away from the rink. The key adjective is big: Laraque carries about 250 pounds on his 6-foot, 3-inch frame.

It will be interesting to see whether the champ can remain a heavyweight on a diet of tofu. Laraque had an appointment with a diet consultant last week. He has targeted June 1 as Day One of his vegetarian life.

I asked whether he'd be able to do his job if vegetarianism got him down to 220 pounds.

"The last time I was 220," Laraque said, "I was 17 years old. I'll just be healthier and happier."

On the web: www.earthlings.com , www.georgeslaraque.com

mboone@thegazette.canwest.com

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