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Kootenay Co-op Radio CJLY
Nelson, B.C. Canada
May 11, 2006
Title: The Food Revolution
Producer/Host: Jon Steinman
Transcript: Pat Yama
Jon Steinman: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded in the studios of Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. I'm Jon Steinman.
Deconstructing Dinner is a weekly one-hour radio broadcast that takes a closer look at our food choices and how these food choices impact ourselves, our communities and the planet.
There has been a tremendous number of excellent books that are based on the very concept of this radio program - this concept of taking a look at the impacts our food choices have. One of these books published in 2001 was titled "The Food Revolution - How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World." The author of this book is John Robbins, who prior to its release was most well known for his book - "Diet for a New America."
In June of 2002, John Robbins spoke in Vancouver at an event recorded by the Vancouver-based Necessary Voices Society.
Today's broadcast of Deconstructing Dinner will feature segments from John's speech, and will explore how all of us can become a part of The Food Revolution.
increase music and fade out
In providing you with a quick bio on the featured speaker of today's broadcast - John Robbins, as mentioned earlier he is most recently the author of the book "The Food Revolution." He currently lives in California, however, he did once spend ten years living on Salt Spring Island here in British Columbia. He touches a little on his time here in Canada during his speech. John is also the founder of EarthSave International, an organization dedicated to healthy food choices, preservation of the environment, and a more compassionate world. He is also the Board Chair of the Youth Network for Environmental Safety.
But most interestingly, John Robbins is the only son of Baskin-Robbins founder Irvine Robbins, and as you will slowly gather while listening to John Robbins speak, the contrast between the two of them in relation to their principles of food production is rather stark. On the one hand you have Irvine Robbins advocating the consumption of highly unnutritious ice cream of which the principle ingredient - milk, is produced in very unethical ways, and then there's John Robbins, his son, advocating more healthy and ethical food choices. And that part of the story will be expanded on as this broadcast progresses.
John Robbins: What will we stand for in our lives? What will we live for in our lives? Will it be an ethical world, a sustainable world, a thriving world, a just world for all beings? Can we play a part in the creation of that? Is there anything you can do, anything we together can do to help restore our society to ecological balance, to the honours our connection with our brothers species and sister species and all the web of life? That honours our connection with each other and interdependence with one another? I believe there is many things we can do. Why don't we make that commitment to do that, to find them and let them find us.
And my work is focused a lot on food, on what we eat and how we eat and how that food is prepared and how it gets to us, and how we think about that process, if we think about it at all, what we're aware of. So what is the statement we're making when we eat? Is it a statement that is consistent with who we really are, with our love, with our caring, with our connection with each other? Or is it a statement of loyalty to the cultural trends? Because if it's that then what we'll be eating is what McDonald's or Monsanto wants us to eat. We'll be eating what those corporations and others like them find convenient and profitable to bring to us. We'll eat what is advertised.
Have you ever noticed how often - it's almost a law - the foods that are most heavily promoted and advertised are the ones that are least healthy? And all the ads are saying - buy, eat, eat more, what if there was an ad that said - eat less? (audience chuckles) And most of our diseases today are from eating too much - too many calories, too much cholesterol, too much saturated fat, too much transfats, too much junk. And we don't - very many of us eat diets that are optimally nutritious and in balance with our world, with ourselves. Food choices can be an opportunity to take a stand on behalf of what you cherish. If you love the world, if you love the natural world, if you love clean air, clean water, a thriving ecosystem - if you see that these are in danger today and these are being devastated increasingly by the impact of human activities then you want to find a way to learn and to eat that serves as a statement in a healthier direction for the planet and all the lives it holds.
I remember when I learned that every fast food hamburger made from rain forest beef represents, per quarter pound patty, the destruction of 55 square feet of tropical rain forest. I remember how I felt when I learned of a study at Cornell University that found that it takes (can't remember the numbers here) 38 times more energy to produce a pound of protein from feedlot beef in North America today that it does to produce a pound of protein from soybeans. And 22 times more energy to produce a pound of protein from feedlot beef than it does to produce a pound of protein from corn or wheat. The amount of fossil fuels that are burned, the amount of pollution that is created in the feedlot beef and the whole factory farm system of animal production, is really an insult to our collective urge and instinct to create a healthier planet. It's really extreme the degree of environmental devastation ensuing from our food choices when we eat the standard North American diet - the meat-based diet.
And isn't it amazing that the food choices which are healthiest for the planet are also by and large the ones that are healthiest for us personally? They give us the lowest cholesterol levels and the best ratio of different kinds of cholesterol. They give us the least susceptibility to degenerative diseases such as heart disease and cancer, diabetes. They give us lower rates of obesity. They give us lower rates of all of the degenerative diseases, virtually and stronger immune systems. Longer lives and higher quality lives. Moving in a plant-based direction, not consuming the products, the factory farms and feedlots, makes us healthier, more vital people with clearer minds, freer hearts, more presence in the world.
So, to me every meal is an opportunity. I can take a stand. You can take a stand. We can take a stand together for healthier selves, healthier cells, healthier lives, healthier world. And in so doing isn't it amazing that these same choices are kinder for the animals that are otherwise involved. I mean, down through history there have been ethical vegetarians. People who have taken the position that they would choose not to eat meat on the grounds that meat is obviously the product of killing and they didn't want to have a part of that. They didn't want to depend on that for their food when there was other food available. These are people like Pythagoras was an ethical vegetarian. George Bernard Shaw, the English playwright was one. He put it this way, he said "A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses" (audience laughs). Plato was an ethical vegetarian. A lot of people that you historically respect - Albert Einstein was one. But it's interesting. They said well because of the killing, they don't want to do that, be responsible for that, encourage that.
Today, actually we have a whole different situation because today not only the animals that people are eating are killed for that purpose which they indeed are but there's another factor that was not historically the case. Today, in 99 point something percent of the cases the vast, vast, vast majority of cases, the animals' lives, not just their deaths, their lives have been a nightmare of suffering. Because they're kept in confinement under conditions that frustrate all of their natural instincts, that violate their natures to such a extent as to represent a violation of the human animal bond of what our responsibility to our fellow creatures is. You don't have to be a vegetarian or an animal rights activist. If you see what's done to livestock today to find it deplorable, to find it appalling. It's so severe, it's so extreme, if you see it. But there's a lot of effort being made and a lot of money being spent to keep you from seeing it, to keep the veil in place.
On Saturday morning television, McDonald's takes out ads in which a clown, Ronald McDonald tells kids who are watching Saturday morning TV - it would be nice if kids weren't watching Saturday morning TV but a lot of them are and here they pay to have this clown present to them the fact that hamburgers grow in hamburger patches. That's what Ronald McDonald says. It's like Peter Rabbit or something, you know. If hamburgers grew in hamburger patches they'd be plants (audience laughs). They're not. They're ground up cows. That's what a hamburger is. But McDonald's doesn't want children to think about that. And so they present what is really a lie and they get away with it.
Jon Steinman: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one-hour radio broadcast. A reminder that should you miss any of today's broadcast or want to find out more about the topic, you can visit the Deconstructing Dinner website at www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
We are currently listening to a speech conducted in June of 2002 by John Robbins, the author of the book "The Food Revolution." This speech was recorded in Vancouver by the Necessary Voices Society.
In that last segment, John spoke of the marketing McDonald's uses in selling their products to children, and he used the example of the Hamburger Patch - a fictionally-based garden where hamburgers grow, and certainly a diversion from some of the highly-questionable methods used to raise animals for food. But when I first heard this speech, I had completely forgotten the hamburger patch McDonald's used in commercials and advertisements, and so I conducted an internet search to find out a little more background on the origins of this field where hamburgers grow. And I did come across the following description listed on the user-edited encyclopedia Wikipedia. And it mentioned how "The Hamburger Patch is part of the fictional city of McDonaldland used in an advertising campaign to promote McDonald's to children in the US since 1971. And hamburgers in McDonaldland were anthropomorphised characters which "grew" like fruit on plants on the Hamburger Patch, and were picked by characters such as Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar." And that's the description from the Wikipedia website.
If you do visit the Deconstructing Dinner website, a link has been placed on the page for today's broadcast that will take you to some vintage television commercials featuring singing hamburgers growing in a field.
But as John Robbins continued on, he used yet another example of the ways in which food is marketed and attention is diverted from the facts.
John Robbins: Today, the California Milk Producers Association - California is the largest milk-producing state in United States, has a series of ads which are spending a tremendous amount of money airing throughout North America - I believe it's up here too - in which they say "Happy cheese comes from happy cows. Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows comes from California." Have you seen these? You haven't? Maybe they don't have them here. Sorry. Well all over the United States they're there and they have these cows - did you see the movie Babe (audience rumblings) where you have - they animate the voices as they did in Babe? And the cows are in this beautiful pasture, gorgeous pasture. And they're talking about how happy they are, how much they love the sunshine, how much love the beautiful meadows and how much they love giving milk for cheese (audience laughs). It is just enough to make you want to wring their necks because it's not true at all.
And as a matter of fact I've been involved in a lawsuit against these people, California Milkers Association and one against the Attorney General of California to require him to actually enforce the law. Wouldn't that be a concept (audience laughs). And to require them to have some resemblance to facts in what they're saying. Because the dairy cows of California like the dairy cows of most of North America are increasingly kept in dry lots. Fenced in areas where there's no grass - not a blade. They never see a blade of grass their entire lives. And they're not happy. As a matter of fact their udders are so distended from three different causes. One - they've been bred for increasing milk production for so long their udders are so big to begin with. Then they're fed diets that produce even greater udders and now many of them are injected with bovine growth hormone - genetically engineered hormone that creates them to produce even more milk. So the result is their udders are so big that they can't walk without banging their knees into them. The poor cows their udders are against their legs and they're so down to the ground, they reach down a couple inches from the ground. If you can picture the distension of this, their calves couldn't physically nurse, couldn't manage it if they were allowed to try, which they're not. They're taken away at birth. Now I think the cow produces the milk for the calf but in ads the cows tell you, the very cows themselves tell you they do it for your cheese! (audience laughs) And they're so happy about it. They're happy.
Well I think that what the industry is realizing is that people are getting wind of what factory farming is, the degree of cruelty. And this is an ad campaign to make fun of it. Underlying message is - you don't care. Not really, we'll just tell you a story. We'll give you PR. We'll make up a fantasy. We'll tell you hamburgers grow in hamburger patches and we'll make it into a fun game to space you out from the reality of your food choices and what's involved.
Jon Steinman: And a quick interjection, it is interesting to note that this speech was recorded in 2002. Now with a marketing campaign that features happy cows who make cheese, while behind the scenes these animals are certainly not happy, one could potentially think such a campaign would be short-lived given the many groups who have exposed the real conditions in which dairy cows spend their lives. But this is not the case. In fact the Happy Cows campaign is still at the forefront of The California Milk Advisory Board's marketing campaign. And you can view some of these ads or perhaps purchase t-shirts showcasing the happy cow characters by visiting their website - and that website is www.realcaliforniacheese.com.
But if you don't have access to the internet or perhaps don't have the time, I'll quickly play one of these happy cow television ads, which of course will lack the visual effect. But to give you the scenario of the visual - there is a lush green field with a fence running through it and on one side stands some female dairy cows, while on the other, some male bulls, and here is the conversation they have.
Happy Cows Ad
Cow: Okay again, who rules?
Bull: (sighs) Cows rule.
Cow: And why do cows rule?
Bull: Because they are the farm masters.
Cow: And do you think they're pretty?
Cow: Yes what?
Bull: Yes I think cows are pretty.
Cow: Do you want to marry a cow?
Bull: Can I just get the ball back?
Cow: Oh, this ball?
Bull: Whoaaa (splash sound). Okay, she's on our team.
Commentator: Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California. Real California cheese.
Jon Steinman: So this Happy Cows ad campaign has stirred much controversy, and so much so, that a website can now be found called Unhappy Cows, and there is actually a radio spot for that website.
Unhappy Cows Clip
The California Dairy industry is allowed to lie to the public about how their dairy cows are treated. The truth is the California's dairy cows live on lots without even a blade of grass, forced to produce unnatural amounts of milk and routinely neglected. Most suffer painful udder infections and other crippling diseases. Frightened calves are taken from their mothers and chained in tiny crates before being slaughtered. Decide for yourself if Californian cows are happy at Unhappycows.com.
Jon Steinman: Now that website describes the court case when PETA which is a group also known as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the California Milk Advisory Board for false advertising. Now that was back in 2002, and PETA lost the case with Judge David Garcia of the Superior Court of California, ruling that the government cannot be sued for violations of these laws and these laws he's referring to false advertising, and he said no matter how deplorable such violations may be.
Again, you can visit that website at www.unhappycows.com.
Jon Steinman: And without further delay, here is the continuation of author John Robbins and that speech is recorded in Vancouver by the Necessary Voices Society in 2002. This is Deconstructing Dinner.
John Robbins: It takes a courage in this cultural situation to penetrate this kind of thing, lift the veil and see what's really going on. And it can be painful to see the way animals are treated like this. But that pain can be the breaking of the shell that encloses our understanding so that once that shell is broken open we then have the commitment and ability to act differently. While we stay inside the shell it may not hurt but we're numb. And the breaking of that psychic numbing, to recognize our responsibility as people on this planet that we're having an impact on each other, on the world, on the other species, on our own future every minute with how we eat, with how we act. You see the trance tells you it doesn't really matter what you do. The problems are so big, they're so immense, the momentum behind them is so great, you're so puny, you're so disconnected, you may as well just have another burger.
The truth is very different. The truth is revolutionary. The truth is very powerful and sometimes facing the truth can be painful. And that's why we need each other. That's why we have a taste of health. And this is the underlying truth of it. So we can feel that we're not alone in this - in this endeavour to become conscious, to become responsible, to become alive with who we really are, creating a world we really want and doing it together. Then we see that we're not alone and there are many of us who are sick of being sick, who are tired of feeling powerless, who don't buy into the trance that we're alienated, disconnected and really don't have much chance to change anything because we'll always change things. It always matter whether you lash out in anger or reach out in friendship. It always matters how you act with the people that you're close to. We're always having an affect and to take responsibility for that effect. So we choose it so it's what we want it to be. So we are present in what we're doing. It's such a wonderful thing.
That's what we're here to do today. Help each other do it. Help ourselves do it. Every time we eat it's an opportunity to take a stand. It's take a stand along with, in solidarity with all the people who aren't eating. It's easy in North America to sometimes forget about this although if you travel much, you're reminded. If you're not too numb you're reminded. There're an awful lot of people in this world who don't - whose basic needs aren't being met. They are a billion people on the planet today who are suffering seriously from diseases caused by not having enough food to eat. There are also a billion people on this planet - a different day, suffering from diseases caused by eating too much. Most of them are in North America and in western Europe. We have developed a way of feeding ourselves that must rank as one of the most insane things in human history because what we're doing is we're using vast fields to grow grain and soybeans which we then feed to animals while there are people who are going hungry.
It takes 16 pounds of grain to make the average pound of North American feedlot beef. It takes only one pound of grain to make a pound of wheat bread or pound of pasta or pound of brown rice. Which do you think is going to feed more people? So for me and I hope for you to remember the people who are less fortunate and to make our life statements of connection to those people. So we don't forget them, we don't abandon them in our hearts but we try to live in such a way that as more and more of us understand this and do it, and we become a living example of this direction, then more of the world's resources - food resources can be used in an economically just and social just way instead of just feeding the rich at the expense of the poor.
Now when I say the rich at the expense of the poor it brings up class issues for some of us and I want to tell you where I - because I've lived on both sides of that divide. I grew up in a very wealthy family. My father as probably many of you know was the founder and owner of Baskin-Robbins, the ice cream company which became the world's largest ice cream company, billion dollar company. He owned it with his partner, Burt Baskin, my uncle, his brother-in-law. These two men owned this company and I'm an only son and my father groomed me to succeed him. And he expected that I would follow in his footsteps. He planned for that. And as I was growing up I was walking along that path. I was working every school vacation and every summer vacation in different facets of the business, learning it and taking those steps.
But as I was moving towards my maturity I began to feel pulled in a different direction and that was very hard for him to understand. I tried to explain it. I remember telling him one time - Dad, look we live in a different world than when you grew up. Every two seconds somewhere on the planet a child dies of starvation where elsewhere there's abundant resources going to waste. The environment is getting worse. The gap between the haves and the have-nots is increasing. I don't feel secure in that situation. I don't feel that's a viable situation. I said can you understand that for me feeling these issues as deeply as do, inventing 37 flavours would just not be an adequate response for my life (audience laughs). And he said - Well, grow up. Get over it. As if growing up meant forsaking your ideals and values. As if growing up meant being so "realistic." I mean to me realism is recognizing the power of goodness in this world. To me, recognizing the fact that life is a miracle and life is precious. And that we have responsibilities. To me that's growing up. But he meant it in this other way. And we didn't see eye-to-eye and I left.
And I made a decision at that time not to depend on his achievements, not to rely on his fortune and in fact not to take any of his money ever in my life and to live in a very different way. And at that time, in 1969, my wife Dale and I, we've been together 35 years by the way (audience claps). I honour her. We moved to Salt Spring Island which was then not so densely populated. And we built a log cabin at the far end of the island where we grew most of our own food in on our land there and lived for ten years with virtually no money, no car. Very simply. Very simply. And it was like a pendulum swing from the lifestyle I'd grown up with. Because I'd grown up with this, you know in my family I use to say "roughing it" meant that room service was late (audience laughs). But now we were really roughing it in the sense that we didn't have a lot of distractions and we didn't have a lot of the luxuries that we take for granted in our culture. And we were living very, very close to the bone and very close to the earth and trying to weave ourselves back into the web of life. Trying to feel the rhythms of the natural world in ourselves again and restore our connection and our responsibility - the privilege of being part of the earth and a voice for the earth. And feeling the earth's pain and feeling the earth's joy and creativity and renewal - all the cycles of life. And that was a beautiful time and I always respect and honour that and be grateful that we had that chance.
When I wrote "Diet For America" I hadn't spoken to my father very much for many years. We just didn't have a lot to talk about. We had gone separate ways. I had made a decision that disappointed him tremendously and in a way I had rejected his life work and his values. And although I tried to do that as respectfully as possible, and with as much affection as possible, he was still mad after that. But when I wrote the book I sent him a copy. I autographed it (audience laughs) hoping he might read it but not really thinking he would. He had always taken the position that there was no connection between diet and health, particularly ice cream and heart disease by the way (audience laughs). When my uncle, Burt Baskin, he died of a heart attack at the age of 51. He weighed 250 pounds. He loved ice cream (audience laughs). So did I. But when he died I asked my dad - do you think there might be a connection between the amount of ice cream that Uncle Burt would eat and his fatal heart attack. My father said - absolute not! His ticker just got tired and stopped working. Denial! He wouldn't consider the possibility there could be a connection.
But time has its way with people and a few years after I wrote "Diet For America" and had sent him a copy, my father was very ill. His cholesterol level was over 300. His diabetes had progressed to the point that they were talking about amputating a foot or even a leg, possibly putting him on dialysis. His eyesight was very bad. His blood pressure was completely out of control and he was having to take a great deal of medication for it. And the pills he called horse pills had very severe side effects and he was told he'd have to take them for the rest of his life. He was far overweight. Still by the way believing that there was no connection between what you eat and your health or wanting to believe that but I think by then finding it a little harder to believe that. He went to his cardiologist who told him and I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that particular meeting seeing the look on my dad's face when that happened but the cardiologist said - Mr. Robbins you're a very sick man. All we can do now is try to juggle your medications and try to make your few remaining years a little more comfortable. But if you're really serious about wanting to get better, there is this book you should read (huge audience laughter and clapping). And he handed him a copy - a Diet For America - handed him a copy. He didn't tell him that the book - he didn't actually know that the book was written by the son of his patient. He didn't know that. He just thought the book would help my dad. My father knew that! He knew! I know he knew! But he didn't say. He didn't tell the doctor - oh that's my son (audience laughs). He just took it and he took it home and now he began to read it. Now you see he had two copies but he read the one that the doctor gave him (audience laughs) because it had been blessed by the high priest of western medicine.
And he started to make changes and he got results. And made more changes and got more results. And pretty soon he was dropping a lot of the drugs he was taking and losing weight and his cholesterol was going down. His blood pressure was normalizing. His diabetes went into remission. His blood sugar levels lost all their brittleness. He became something of a prototype of healing. He said to me - this is amazing Johnny. It turns out you were right (audience laughs). Now, actually I honour him more for that then I do for all his business achievements because to be able to say that to me, to the son who walked away from everything you're about, who lives by such different values than you do. When you have achieved so much in terms of social status and recognition and wealth and then to be able to say that you might have been wrong - that's of the heart. That takes real courage. That's real beauty to me.
And I really honour him for his willingness in so far as he has been able. which is far more than I would ever have imagined that he could and is proud of me and loving me. And actually he did something I've been talking about for years and what a lot of us have been doing for years. Things that Dean Ornish is talking about, things that John McDougall is talking about, things that Neil Barnard is talking about things that a lot of physicians are talking about but they're not always listened to in the pill for every ill mentality. But his cardiologist didn't push pills past a certain point. He realized there was not much he could do.
Well my dad today is 85 years old. He would have been dead 10 years ago I'm sure. And there's been a kind of a reconciliation that I find great - I'm very grateful for and I thought well if my dad can change, there's hope for all of us (audience laughs). Because he's not the changing type, as a rule. But he also said to me, he said - thank god some of us have lived long enough to learn a few new things. To learn a few new things. That's what we're here to do - learn a few new things. Learn a different way of living that brings us inner peace. That brings us outer peace. That doesn't create enemies so much as it creates opportunities and friends. That creates healthy healing.
So I ask you to take stands with me. Whatever stands are real and appropriate and honest for you. Whatever stands truly serve your healing, your wholeness and your humanity. To take whatever stand serves your beauty, express your love, help you to bring yourself present, collect yourself in what you're doing. Because when we stand up and we make our life statements of who we really are and the power and the passion and the beauty inside of us, then we are connected with each other. Then we're connected with the animals and we don't want to hurt them. Then we're connected to the oceans and the sky and stars. And we want to protect our world because we love it, because we see how interdependent we are on it. Because we are in love with it and revere it. Because we see what it really is and we're restored to our connection to it. Then we want to live in such a way that the bounty of the earth and the beauty of human nature is shared, not cornered by the wealthy elite but create a kind of social justice and a context in which everyone's basic needs are met and everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and prosper. These things, you can call them ideals. To me they are the very bedrock of who we are. Without them, when we lose touch with them, then we are unreal.
Jon Steinman: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one-hour radio program produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. On today's program we have been hearing segments of a speech conducted by John Robbins, author of both "Diet for a New America" and "The Food Revolution." His speech was recorded in Vancouver in June of 2002. And you can listen to or purchase the entire unedited speech by visiting the Necessary Voices Society at www.necessaryvoices.org. This particular broadcast will also be archived onto the Deconstructing Dinner website and that website is www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
Here is more from author John Robbins as he creates a story that sees the character of whom could be either you or I, discovering the "insanity of a culture gone askew."
John Robbins: I want to tell you a story I brought. A person in North America in the early part of the 21st century - could be anybody in this room, male or female, age isn't that important. You're walking along the path, your journey, your life. You're walking in the world to learn to grow, to sense, to feel, to experience the human condition here, this time, this historical moment and you come one day to a building. And it's a building that draws your attention, there's a fascination that you feel towards it. So you walk towards it but then you can't tell what is inside that building. There're no signs on it telling you what it is. There're no windows to look through. It's just a big building with a door. And you go up to the door and you put your hand on the door knob but just before you open the door you have a pause and there's a moment of hesitation because you're suddenly aware that if you open this door and see what is inside, you will be transformed in ways you can't predict or control.
But you want to be aware, you want to see through the trance. You want to wake up and so you open the door to look in and what you see is a factory farm. It's the way animals are raised for meat and dairy products and eggs in our culture. It could be chickens crammed into cages, concentration camp conditions from 99.9% of our eggs come, crammed into cages so small they can't even begin to lift a single wing ever. Or it could be veal calves chained to the neck by a chain so short they can't even sit down or lay down in a normal sleeping posture. They can't take a single step in their entire lives. Or it could be hogs immobilized for months at a time in crates so small they can't move at all, barely larger than the size of their own bodies. You see these animals and you think of an animal you have known that has enriched you, that has loved you, that you have loved and cared about - maybe a dog, maybe a cat, maybe a bird - whatever animal it might have been. And it's part of your life and it's possibly still part of your life in a meaningful way. And you think, why is it that we call some animals pets, lavish our love on them, get so much in return, often times experience them as part of the families, but then you call other animals dinner. And by virtue of making that distinction feel it's justified to treat those other animals with any manner of cruelty so long as it lowers the price per pound.
You walk on your path having seen this, absorbing, integrating, seeking to understand what this asks of you. Seeking to be worthy of what life wants of you in the truest sense. You walk down that road. You come to another building. Again you can't tell what it is. No windows. No signs. Again you walk up, open the door. This time you see a slaughter house, a packing plant - the next step for the animals you saw before - an assembly line of death, of killing. And you see that the animals here, no effort really is made to protect them from what is in store for them. They hear it. They smell it, often times see it. And these are animals that are very close to their instincts more so than we actually are. And they have what is called, what we call in humans a fight or flight reaction also in which their adrenal glands secrete adrenalin and other similar compounds - the biochemistry of terror which course through their bloodstream, enter their muscular fibres to enable their muscles to contract very rapidly, very powerfully, or immediately to enable them to fight or flee for their life. They know their life is in danger. They sense their life is at stake, they secrete these compounds. They want to run or fight but they're not allowed to. They're restrained and then they're killed.
And these chemicals remain in their muscles uncombusted, unused. We then call these muscles steaks or McNuggets. And, you ask yourself, if you're somebody who harkens to the prayer - let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me. If you're someone who wants to have some degree of emotional equanimity in your life, some ground of clarity from which to respond to - life's crisis and challenges and difficulties and promises and possibilities, what sense does it make to feed yourself the products of such terror, such injustice, such exploitation, such intentional cruelty.
You walk on. You come to a school. Children are playing, children are being taught. And on the wall of the school there's the four basic food group chart or the eating right pyramid or some form of indoctrination that's telling you about the meat group, telling kids about the dairy group. You're supposed to eat so many servings of meat and so many servings of dairy every day to have a healthy balanced diet. And you ask - why do we do that to our kids? Well we know that vegetarians live on average seven or eight years longer than meat eaters, have far lower rates of heart disease and cancer, less diabetes, less obesity, less of all of the degenerative diseases that plague our culture. But we tell our kids you've got to eat meat every day. You've got to drink milk every day. Why do we do that? There's politics. There's economics. There're people profiting, people with a market share to protect and expand. Just happens to be that the targets are kids. Schools are used as a marketing vehicle. And you see the vending machines with the Coke and Pepsi and Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew - the kids walking around in dazes, more and more of them on Ritalin and diagnosed with ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Who knows what's really going on.
You walk on. You're sad. You feel the weight of what you're just seeing. The insanity of a culture gone askew, lost balance, lost connection to such a basic thing, how we feed ourselves, each other, our children. You come to a hospital and you see in the basement of the hospital McDonald's has opened up a franchise (audience rumbles). They're doing that increasingly. It's like a Fellini movie you know (audience laughs).
And you walk on. You decide to leave this culture, enough of this. You want to get some perspective. You want to expand your horizons a little bit and you walk around the planet - different places, different cultures, different ways of life. You come to the tropical rain forests but you see they're being destroyed increasingly for cattle grazing. So the people in North American whose cholesterol levels are primarily too high can have hamburgers a quarter cent cheaper. These jewels of nature, the world's oldest and richest biosystems, species being extinguished, indigenous cultures being exterminated, obliterated for the march of progress - what we call progress.
We're walking along and what we call a third world, it's really the majority world. We come to a child crying. A little girl is crying and crying and we see that her mother comes to her and picks her up, rocks her and holds her. And as the mother is rocking the baby and singing to her, you feel in the presence of mother love, the cosmic mother working through this mother. And you feel something healing that's kept us as a species going - the nurturing, the caring for so long. But the baby's still crying and you understand why. She's hungry. And you think why doesn't the mother feed the baby? Because she doesn't have food for her. And the baby only stops crying when she stops breathing. At which point you stop and you say - God, why don't you do something? At which point a voice is heard clear as crystal to say to you - I did do something. I made you. I made many others like you. Find them, work with them, join with them, connect in the heart, connect in the soul. Bring your lives together, work together to create a world worthy of the pain and the tears and the prayer and the efforts that have been legacy of humanity for so long. Find these other people, work together.
And this is why we're here. Why we have a taste of health. Not to run from the world's problems and create an isolated, secluded illusion but to become strong enough to address ours and the world's problems at the same time. To work for inner and outer peace, to work for healing for ourselves and the greater world making our lives consistent with, congruent with the deep heart love that brought us here in the first place that we have for our children. That great need that we have to be part of a healing, the part of the great work of our times, bring our world back to sanity.
Life is precious. Each moment is precious. We have the time we have. Let us use it well. May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved. (audience clapping)
Jon Steinman: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner, a weekly one-hour radio program produced at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. That last segment concludes the formal speech given by John Robbins, author of the book "The Food Revolution."
In taking this show up to the end of the hour, I will leave you with the follow-up questions that took place shortly after John Robbins speech recorded in Vancouver in 2002. The questions range from whether his father - Irvine Robbins co-founder of Baskin-Robbins is now a vegan, why there are never commercials throughout the mass-media that showcase the real conditions farm animals live in and questions surrounding the controversy of organic milk production, particularly in the United States.
And here is that question and answer period.
Q & A Session
Q1: Is your dad a vegan now?
John Robbins: Is my dad a vegan now? No. He's as close as I would ever have thought he'd be. He doesn't eat any ice cream (audience laughs). Other questions?
Q2: Hi. The power of the story that you talked about where if you ever go in the slaughterhouse or even if you read your book is completely transforming as all of us know, who have done it. Is there an organization that either has tried or could try to put together a 30 second ad and use the tools of mass media to just show that. Wouldn't that be helpful or too intense for people?
John Robbins: Well, PETA's tried - People for Ethical Treatment of Animals has tried. They have the footage, they've put together spots, tried to get them aired. A lot of the networks won't air their spots. It's very interesting. They'll air ads for McDonald's. They'll air ads for products that are undermining the health of people but they won't air ads that show the truth of what's really going on. That's the trance again. They're protecting, in some cases they're protecting their revenue from the advertisements from the industries. In other cases they're protecting their own denial packages. They don't want to see it either. Other questions?
Q3: Hi. Thanks for your talk today. And I was interested to know of you talking about the trance, what I would call global corporatization. And I was wondering how one dealt with the stock market in that regard and how we financially supported that and what were some things we could do around the stock market.
John Robbins: Things we can do around the stock market? I've always found it odd that local papers - you can go anywhere in the country and you can get every day an update on all the fine details of every stock transaction. This stock whether they're up or down, how and this and that. I don't know how many people really care about that. People who own those stocks maybe do but how many people do? (Q3 adds more direction with question).
Pension fund - good point - it was about where I was going to go actually. There are increasingly what are called socially responsible investment funds. They have screens. They don't invest in tobacco stocks or they don't invest in South Africa or they don't - there's different kinds of screens. They are kind of puny screens frankly. The seams are pretty big and in most cases lackluster but they keep out some things and if you look you can try to find and use your investment money if you have some, to put it into to supporting good things - and not funding in effect and owning and profiting from the bad things.
Q4: John, thank you so much for the most beautiful and inspiring presentation and to your lovely wife Dale. I'm just so moved and grateful that I made the trip from Vancouver Island to come down and hear you today. I think we have a lot to celebrate now with Bill C15 in Canada having finally altered the cruelty to animal legislation for the first time in a hundred years. I'm mostly moved today by hearing you speak so eloquently about our animal brothers and sisters and I wonder, as the industry begins to see the impact that we're having on their bottom line which is the dollar and begin to co-opt our agendas some of which is great of course as pharmaceuticals move to introduce herbal products and that kind of thing and conditions are improved for animals. I worry though that as people move towards organic for example which is a good thing that they may use the excuse that animals are raised organically to continue and to entrench as a way of life, this false belief that we need to power over and dominate other beings. And it pains me deeply. I wonder if you have any comments and inspiring message to those of us that really dedicate our lives to the animals to take away from this. Thank you.
John Robbins: Thank you (audience claps). Organic doesn't mean free-range necessarily. The debates about what organic means or doesn't is still going on. What it generally means is that the animals were fed feed that was grown organically without pesticides and so forth. In the United States, the largest organic dairy is called Horizon Dairy's. It actually has a market share of about three-quarters of the organic dairy market in the United States. It's Horizon - I don't know whether it's up here. But Horizon Dairy makes a big deal about being the happy cow company. Their newsletter is called The Happy Cow Gazette. All of their logos on all of their ads, all their products have a picture of a leaping cow with a big smile. And at their headquarters on the east coast - their corporate headquarters, they have a four and a half acre maze, you know like a little puzzle that people walk through, in the shape from above you can it from a helicopter, of a happy cow. And everywhere you go you see these pictures of the happy cow - you are here and you are here. And they're making this happy cow thing but the reality is that Horizon Dairy's, which is a very large, by far the largest organic company in the United States, keeps their animals, keeps their dairy cows in dry lots. So they're not, they're not happy and they're not outside and they're not really running around. Hopefully this will change in the future.
One of the things that I've taken hope from is the success of PETA - People for Ethical Treatment of Animals - their campaigns are targeting first McDonald's, then Burger King and eventually just very recently Safeway. These companies have under the pressure of PETA's boycotts, picketing and publicity campaigns and also I think as a response to the rising tide of awareness in the culture that cruel things are being done to animals and people don't want that. I've taken stand, major steps actually to reduce some of the most egregious parts of the cruelty to animals. There's a long way to go but the corporations are starting to see it that they have to deal with it. They have to deal with us. This is the important thing, they have to deal with us. They can't ignore us anymore. And that's a good thing (audience claps).
Edited Happy Cow Ad
On today's dairy farms mother cows are treated as nothing more than milk machines (sound of milk machines). Forty percent dairy cows are lame by the time they reach the slaughter house. They're hooked up to machines a few times per day. Machines that often injure them.
(sound of laughter) Cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows, happy, happy, happy cows come from California.
Jon Steinman: And that was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded in the studios of Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op Radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant, Dianne Matenko.
If you want to learn about learn more about topics covered or would like to listen to previous broadcasts, you can visit the website for Deconstructing Dinner at www.cjly.net(slash)deconstructingdinner.
Till next week…