YouTube is probably the greatest anthropological project ever launched. It has managed to expose the multitudes of the human condition more than any other medium ever created, and allowed people to express themselves in more diverse ways than at any point in history. This weekly column is an outlet for me to share with you some undiscovered gems, as well some very well-trodden gems, and discuss just what it is that makes the chosen accounts so intriguing.
WHO: Vegan Gains
WHAT: Acerbic vegan bodybuilder and activist.
HOW MANY SUBSCRIBERS AT TIME OF WRITING: 167,418
WHY SHOULD I CARE: In July 2014 VICE's West Coast Editor, content stalwart and personal friend of mine Jamie Taete penned this diatribe about being shouted at for being a vegan, and having the tenacity to tell people about it out loud. And what he says in it is absolutely right: that the reasons for veganism (and to a similar extent vegetarianism) are sound, that the process of harvesting meat is a callous, heart-wrenching, cruel, often evil practice, and that the idea of the 'preachy vegan' is for the most part a myth expunged by people who take an irritating pride in their heavy consumption of the flesh. But there is one man who takes his fight for veganism to dizzying heights. A man who courts so much controversy and virulent hatred he might as well be a necrophile who preys exclusively on miscarried puppies. We are talking, of course, about the one and only Vegan Gains.
Vegan Gains, AKA Richard Burgess, is a Canadian YouTuber who has made a lot of enemies. He is at the crossroads of two different types of account: bodybuilding and nutrition tips, and ultra heavy-going vegan quasi-rationalism. The blending of the two vibes makes for a strange concoction of moody, statistical brow beating and emotionally driven, highly charged insults. Needless to say, Vegan Gains can be quite unpleasant.
I first heard of Burgess when I was looking into another YouTuber, a fellow Canadian by the name of Furious Pete. Pete 'lifts' too, but supplements his channel with food challenges and travel blogs and whatnot. Pete also has testicular cancer (for the second time now), and did an emotional vlog announcement of it. Vegan Gains saw this and thought 'fuck this guy'. He made a video entitled 'Furious Pete Has Cancer Again! Oh No!' (above), which featured this delightful frame as a response to Pete wearing a parody 'Peta' t-shirt which encourages meat-eating:
Since then I have been watching Mr. Gains more and more, unable to look away from his dead-eyed stare at the camera, only broken momentarily for him to give an incredulous eyebrow raise as he reels off some iffy stats from a study that suits his argument (though what he says about meat potentially causing colon cancer is true). He does this with a completely blank face, which has led to many commenters and cod psychologists alike diagnosing him with a variety of mental health disorders, specifically sociopathy. Now, in this age of heightened internet sensitivity, I'm wary of also making the mistake of casting aspersions on someone's mental condition, but it's clear from the incredibly violent and inhuman way he speaks about his fellow person that there's something amiss with Vegan Gains. For someone who claims to have such a burning desire to protect animals and save them from cruelty, he certainly has a laissez-faire attitude towards constantly calling women bitches, laughing at people with cancer and other assorted bad behaviour.
But recently your boy Gains had a change of heart, it seems. In a video he called 'I'm No Longer A Sociopath #Spirituality Gains', our much maligned friend sits in a snowy forest, wrapped up warm, and talks about a recent shroom trip of his. He says that after much torture and anxiety, he came out the other end with an ability to feel for other people, a greater understanding of emotion, a better disposition towards his parents and other people, and the lack of a desire to "tear [a Christian he had a disagreement with] to pieces… with a knife."
Which is great, right? He's all better, it's all love and daffodils and vegan chocolates, yeah? Well, not exactly. He has posted two videos since then, the first repeatedly calling a Cosmopolitan writer a 'stupid bitch' for suggesting that vegetarian diets might not be as good for you as you think, and the other lambasting recent UFC loser Conor McGregor for tapping out against vegan Nate Diaz. He may have a sunnier disposition towards all human life, but when it comes down to it he still hates two things above all else: meat-eating and lies about nutrition.
Aside from all the blustering and shroom trips and cancer, Vegan Gains is just a regular run-of-the-mill troll, in the classic sense. He isn't a dangerous demagogue, he's just a guy with a computer who says mean stuff about people. The different between him and the rest is that he wants to put his face out there, as a freedom fighter for the world's oppressed non-humans, and caller of bullshit to all and sundry who have the gall to say a raw food diet will make you weak. He's no keyboard warrior, just a regular warrior, though he is fighting a strange cause in a massively bizarre way. I hope he found some peace in his recent dalliance with hallucinogens, as I don't think laughing at people with cancer is good for the soul, a concept I'm sure he would have a thousand studies ready to debunk.
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