RACHEL O’MARA: Thanks everyone
for joining today. Thanks for coming during lunch
in San Francisco, and welcome to Authors at Google. My name is Rachel O’Mara, and
I’m really excited today to host our author, John Robbins. So John Robbins is the author of
nine best-sellers that have collectively sold more than
3 million copies, and been translated into 26 languages. His books include “The Food
Revolution,” “The Classic Diet for a New America,” and most
recently, “No Happy Cows, Dispatches from the Front Lines
of the Food Revolution.” Currently, he is also one of
the most bloggers on the “Huffington Post.” As an advocate for a
compassionate and healthy way of life, John is the recipient
of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer
Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscious
Award, Green America’s Lifetime Achievement Award,
and many other accolades. Well done, John. That’s great. The only son of the founder of
the Baskin Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed
to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose
to walk away from Baskin Robbins and the immense wealth
it represented to pursue the deeper American dream, the dream
of a society at peace with its conscience, because
it respects the lives in harmony with all life forms. John is the founder and board
chair emeritus of EarthSave International, and has served
on the boards of many nonprofit organizations. His work has been the subject
of feature articles in the “San Francisco Chronicle,” the
“LA Times,” “Chicago Life,” the “Washington Post,” “The
New York Times,” the “Philadelphia Inquirer,” “Time,”
“US News and World Report,” “Newsweek,” and many
of the nation’s other major newspapers and magazines. His life and work have also
been featured in an award-winning hour-long PBS
special titled “Diet for a New America,” and that’s the book
we’ll be talking about today. John lives with his wife of 45
years, Deo, and their son, Ocean, and his wife, Michelle,
and their grandsons River and Bodhi, outside Santa
Cruz, California. Their home is powered entirely
by solar electricity. John also has a website, www.johnrobbins.info, for more details. So please welcome with
me John Robbins. [APPLAUSE] Thank you for being here. Thank you. As was mentioned in your–
thank you for the introduction. I was born into an ice cream
company family, Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors. My father and uncle founded
the company, owned the company, ran the company. I’m an only son. I have sisters, but
no brothers. And my father groomed
me to succeed him. That was his plan for my life,
that I would one day run Baskin Robbins, which was
becoming and became during my childhood the world’s largest
ice cream company. It’s a billion dollar company. And it was assumed that’s
what I would do. And I loved it. I grew up eating more
ice cream– I don’t eat ice cream anymore. And when people find that out,
they sometimes look at me as if they’re feeling sorry
for me, I think. And I say, please
don’t, please. Really, I ate enough
ice cream in my childhood for 20 lifetimes. We had an ice cream cone-shaped
swimming pool in our backyard. We had freezers with all of the
month’s 31 flavors, plus experimental flavors, plus– it was every kid’s dream, in a
way, in a way, in that there was unlimited ice cream. I did eat ice cream
for breakfast. It’s true. It was really gross, actually. There’s a shadow side
to all that. Ice cream is really
not a health food. It’s not kale. And you can put some fruit
in some of the sherbets, and so forth. It’s still basically very high
in sugar, and most of the flavors are very high in fat,
and the fat is highly saturated fat. It’s not healthy. And so people who eat a lot of
it have health problems. My uncle, Burt Baskin,
my dad’s partner and brother-in-law, died of a heart
attack at the age of 54. He was a very big man. He ate a lot of ice cream. And when he died, I asked my
father, do you think there could be any connection between
my uncle’s fatal heart attack and the amount of
ice cream he would eat? And my father looked at
me and very piercingly said no, no, no. His ticker just got tired
and stopped working. And the expression on his face
and the tone of voice said something else. It said, don’t you ever ask
that question again. Do you understand
what I’m saying? John Bradshaw, the psychologist
used to talk about there being “no talk”
rules in families, taboo subjects that you just don’t
talk about in a given family, elephants in the living room
that take up a lot of space, but no one mentions it. Because there’s some kind of
family dynamic at play in which there’s not an ability
to talk about that topic. In my family, one of the big
elephants in the living room was that there could be a
connection between ice cream and heart disease, or ice cream
and health, or even food and health, that there might
be a connection there. Because if you start down
that slippery slope– food and health– you pretty soon get to ice
cream and heart disease. And my father did not want to
even consider the possibility that there might be a link. And I couldn’t understand why
he would not want to. By that time, by the time of my
uncle’s death, which was in 1968, my father had manufactured
and sold more ice cream than any human
being that had ever lived on planet Earth. He didn’t want to think the
family product was hurting anybody, much less than it could
have contributed to his partner, his brother-in-law,
my uncle’s death. But I felt I should. I felt I needed to consider,
might there be that link? And the more I looked into it,
the more I felt there was. And not just between ice cream
and heart disease, but ice cream and diabetes. My father developed diabetes– serious diabetes– later on. Everybody in the family had
these various issues, problems with weight, everywhere. And want to make it clear, it’s
not just Baskin Robbins as a company. It’s ice cream. You know Ben and Jerry’s. Ben Cohen– marvelous man, peace activist,
very engaged person– big guy, ate a lot of ice
cream, co-owned Ben and Jerry’s, co-founded it,
had a quintuple bypass in his late 40s. These kinds of things tend
to happen when you eat a lot of ice cream. And if you’re in the ice
cream business– if you’re running Baskin Robbins
in particular, that’s what I would know about– you want people to buy
as much as possible. That’s the business model. That’s how it works. So you want them to consume as
much ice cream as possible. And the reality is, when people
eat it in excess, they get these health problems. So I was faced with an
existential quandary– on the one hand, a lot of
financial security; on the other hand, my integrity. And I made a choice
for integrity. And I told my dad that under the
circumstances, I was not going to follow in
his footsteps. I was not going to work any
longer in the company. And what I specifically
said to him was this. I said, dad, we live in a
different time now than when you grew up. We live under a nuclear shadow
where at any moment the unspeakable could happen. We live in a time when the
environment is deteriorating rapidly under the impact
of human activities. We live in a time when the gap
between the haves and the have nots is increasing. And that does not, to my eyes,
create social stability or security for anybody, even the
wealthy and privileged. It’s undermining the
social fabric. We live in a time when 60,000
people on earth, many of them children, die of hunger, die of
starvation every day, while elsewhere there’s abundant
resources going to waste. And then I said to him, dad, do
you understand that for me, feeling these issues and
concerns as intensely as I do, inventing a 32nd flavor would
just not be an adequate response for my life. And he understood to the
extent that he could. But I needed to be true to
myself, and so I made a choice for integrity and
I walked away. And I also walked away
from the money. To be in alignment with my
integrity and my choices, I needed to have no
access to it. And I told him that I didn’t
want a trust fund. I didn’t want to depend in any
way, not one dollar, on his fortune, his achievements. And with Deo, my wife– we’ve been together 46 years
now– we moved away, and lived very simply, back to the land,
built a log cabin, grow our own food. 95% of what we ate for
10 years we grew. And it was a real
pendulum swing. In the family I’d grown up in,
I jokingly would say, perhaps flippantly would say that
roughing it meant that room service was late. Now we were really roughing
it, because we were living very simply on land and trying
to grow our food and dependent on what we could grow. Eventually I wrote “Diet for a
New America,” and it became a best-seller. It sold over a million copies,
and became something of a phenomenon. I received 60,000 letters– these are actual letters. This is before email– from people who read the
book and wanted to communicate with me. And almost all of them said,
this touched me deeply. How can I get involved? What can I do? And I want to give you a little
bit of what I was– tell you a little bit about what
the book says, that so many people felt that they
wanted to respond to that way. We just recently came out with
a 25th anniversary edition of “Diet for a New America,” and
that’s what we have here today, with a new– not a preface, but a new
epilogue by me, a lengthy epilogue describing what’s
happened in the interim years. And I will talk a little
bit about that too. Basically, something has
happened in modern meat production, and dairy
production, and egg production, and animal factory
industries that most people don’t know about, and the
industries do not want people to know about. In fact, this year, they are
initiating in many state legislatures what are
called ag gag bills. This is legislation that makes
it a felony to videotape or photograph what takes place in
slaughterhouses or feed lots or factory forms. Because there’s been a series
of exposes where people went undercover working for Humane
Society United States, or Mercy for Animals, or Compassion
Over Killing, or some other animal protection
group– have gone undercover as workers
in these places with hidden cameras, and gotten
footage of what takes place. And it comes out, and people
who see it are abhorred. They just find it deplorable– the cruelty, the lack
of sanitation. Sometimes there’s
fines, sometimes there’s jail sentences. People get upset. There was a recent one in a
California feedlot where one of the largest suppliers of
beef for the school lunch programs, and they were breaking
all of the rules. We don’t have very many rules,
but they were breaking all of them that we have. And so the industry doesn’t want
this kind of footage of getting out. They don’t want you to know
what’s happening. They don’t want you to know– this is a war against awareness,
basically. So the ag gag bills make
it illegal to do that. And they’ve passed in
four or five states. They’ve been initiated
in another 12 or 14. There’s a real effort. All of these are the bills
are almost identical. They were written by ALEC, the
American Legislative Exchange Council, which is a corporate
front group. And they’re basically trying
to lock the veil down so people can’t know. Well, I’m trying to
lift the veil. And I have been for 25 years,
wanting to lift the veil so people can see. I think you have a right to
know how your food is produced, where it comes from. I think actually any animal
would want to know. This is a basic biological
thing. Before you eat something,
you’d want to know, is it safe? Is it what it says it is? What’s the back story here? How did it arrive here? Is it healthy for me? What’s going to happen
to me if I eat it? We have a food industry that
does things to food. The problem isn’t the food. I’m not trying to make
you afraid of food. I don’t want you to
be afraid of food. I want you to love food. But you can’t love what they’ve
done to the food. Because if they genetically
engineer it, and much of our food is today, if it’s grown
with poisons that residues are in the food, these
things harm us. And they harm the biosphere upon
which we depend, and on which our economy depends,
on which our whole future depends. So when we expose when I expose,
when others like me expose what’s being done in
the media industry, in the dairy industry, in the egg
industry in particular, I do so because I want people to have
freedom of choice, not because I’m trying to tell
you what to eat. And this is a critical
distinction. I myself, I eat a very
plant-strong diet. I’m virtually vegan. But I’m not asking
that you be. I’m asking that you be authentic
to who you are, to what your values are, to what
is in your heart, to what helps you live the highest and
best life possible for you. And that’s your decision
and your determination. But you can’t make those
choices honestly and authentically if you don’t have
accurate information. And the industry won’t
give it to you. In fact, the industry is working
very hard to prevent you from having it. I’m working very hard to allow
you to have it, so I’m at odds with them. They don’t like me very much. And that’s OK. What I want you to know is that
modern meat production has become– it treats the animals very,
very differently than the images most people
have of farms– Lassie and Timmy running
around on a farm. They will use photographs
of beautiful– I’ll give you an example. The California Milk Producers
Association has an ad campaign called “Happy Cows.” It’s
a national campaign. They’ve spent hundreds
of millions on it. And the tagline is “Great cheese
comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from
California.” And they’re selling California cheese
nationally. We try to compete with Wisconsin
to become the largest dairy state. So the photographs show cows
grazing on beautiful green grass, pastures. Those photographs were taken
in Auckland, New Zealand, because the California dairy
industry is centered in the Central Valley, particularly
the San Joachin Valley. And it’s a desert there. It’s dry. There’s no grass. These are feedlot dairies. There’s 20,000, 15,000 cows
in a penned area. It’s nothing like the images
shown in the ads. In fact, I have sued– along
with PETA, sued the California Milk Producers Association over
this ad campaign, because I think it’s false
advertising. And I think there’s
a point here. If you– we know that people will pay
extra for organic food. There’s a subsection of
the marketplace– I happen to be part of it–
that values organic food. And we’ll pay a little bit
extra for that value. If someone were to sell as
organic, label as organic food that was not, that was grown
with poisons, that would be false advertising. That would actually be a
criminal act against the people, cheating the people
who value this. And I’m willing to
pay extra for it. We don’t allow that. We have organic certification,
which is third party, and it’s objective, and it’s
verifiable. But when it comes to claims
about humane treatment of animals, “happy cows come from
California,” they say. That’s a claim. It’s not true, but we don’t have
any way of asserting any kind of verification on that. So they can get away with it. And then the people like me,
maybe like some of you, who care about how animals
are treated– and we’re going to be eating
their flesh or their milk. It’s going to be consumed
by us– and want those animals to have
a decent life, to be treated with some degree of basic
respect for their needs, are being exploited. Because we’ll pay– we
see an ad like that. Oh, happy cows come
from California. That touches us. That speaks to our heart. So we’ll go out of our way to
get the cheese that actually comes from a feedlot, but we
don’t know that, because they’re lying. This is one example. The examples are numerous,
way, way numerous. And what’s happened is we have
put modern livestock in confinement under conditions
that frustrate their natures, that violate their natures to
such an extent, you do not have to be a vegetarian or an
animal rights activist or even a particularly empathic human
being– if you see it, how severe it’s become– to find it abominable,
appalling. If you have any feeling
whatsoever for animals– and most of us do. Most of us, actually– most Americans, actually, love
animals, to some degree. Now, I’m not saying you love
them more than people, but you love them for who they are. And as a country, we treat our
dogs and our cats pretty well as a rule– not always,
but as a rule. Many of us to consider them
part of our families. We pay their vet bills. We buy their food. We have them sleep on
our beds with us. We give them names. They’re part of our families. We feel enriched by those
relationships as human beings. We love them. They love us, very often quite
beautifully, back. But sadly, we also have a very
schizoid relationship to animals, in that in this
country, if it’s an animal that we call a companion animal,
we treat it very well. But if we call the animal
dinner, if we find its flesh tasty, we put it in a
different category. Now, there are laws in every
one of the 50 states about cruelty to animals, restricting
certain things you can’t do. But in every one of the 50
states, the legislation that exists exempts animals
destined for human consumption. So, animals destined for human
consumption have no protections under the law. And this is how the
industry wants it. And so their standard operating
procedures, the way they treat the literally
billions of animals in modern meat production that are
involved, if you did it to a dog or cat, if you treated a dog
or cat that way, you would be subject to felony
prosecution. And I am not talking
about the fact that the animal is killed. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the lives
that the animals lead in factory farms. It’s severe. It’s really extreme. I’m going to give just one
example so you know what I’m talking about. And that’s what happens to the
baby calves, the male calves, born to dairy cows. If you think about it, they
have to keep dairy cows pregnant all the time, because
they need them lactating to get the milk. Otherwise their udders
would dry up. So they’re re-impregnated
every year. And then half the calves that
are born are female. Half are male, roughly. And the females are shunted off
to become four-legged milk pumps like their mothers. But what happens to the males? Can’t get milk from a male. Infant calves, newborn calves,
are taken from their mothers at birth, and they’re put in
veal barns where they’re chained at the neck. And they have the space in
each stall so small, they can’t take a single step
in any direction. And they they’re chained
there for four months. They can’t take a single step
in any direction, and they can’t lay down in their normal
sleeping position because the chain is so short. So to sleep, they have
to kind of hunch. They’re kept in the dark for the
most part, often for four months in the dark. Most of them go blind. They are fed a diet that
is deliberately and systematically devoid of iron,
so they become increasingly anemic, eventually
pathologically anemic. Now, why would they want
them blind and anemic? Well, if the animal’s
anemic, its flesh– which, at birth, is kind
of a grayish color– doesn’t become pinkish
or reddish. That’s the iron that
would do that. And we’ve been taught– that the culture at large has
been taught that white meats are healthier. So they call it milk fed veal. Now, it’s not the
mother’s milk. It’s actually government surplus
skim milk powder. That’s part of what
they’re fed. It keeps them– and there’s no iron in milk
at all, nor in anything else they give them. They don’t use nails. They use plastic nails in the
stall so the animals can’t lick and get any iron
from the nails. The whole thing is designed to
make them anemic so that the flesh will be this
white color. Now, they chain them at the neck
so tightly because they don’t want them to move. The reason they don’t want them
to move is because if the animal moves, it will develop
some muscle tone, so musculature. And they want the muscle
tissue to be as flaky and tender– ie., as undeveloped as
a muscle as possible. They call this tender veal. So this high-end product
that’s made into veal cacciatore and these dishes
that you’ll find in fancy restaurants, particularly
Italian restaurants, is actually the flash of a tortured
baby animal, a newborn animal that is kept
under conditions that I think violate just about anybody’s
sensitivities. I really want to emphasize,
again, this isn’t an issue, I don’t think, for animal rights
activists and vegetarians. In fact, the vegetarians
are the people what don’t eat this. If I were eating meat, I’d
really be alarmed about this. I don’t want to eat the
products of torture. And I actually believe, to tell
you the truth, that there is some correlation. I can’t prove this. I don’t know how to
document this. But I do feel intuitively
there’s some correlation between when animals are treated
with this degree of cruelty, their lives are this
much misery and fear, what happens to the people’s
emotional states who eat this, day in, day out? What happens to us as human
beings if the meat we’re eating, the dairy products we’re
eating, are coming from conditions, animals kept in
these kinds of conditions? That kind of question I think
needs to be raised. I think it’s an authentic
question. I don’t know how to
answer it totally. But I think it’s a question
we need, as a society, to look at. If your prayer is at some level,
let there be peace on Earth and let it begin
with me– you know that old prayer– if you hearken to that, if that
speaks to you, does it make sense, does it help
the manifestation, the actualization of that impulse
to be eating food that comes from conditions like that? I don’t think so. I really don’t. And if you see how
severe it is. And what I’ve described as the
conditions in veal calf raising is equivalent– the details are a little
different– but the degree of control and the degree of
restriction of movement and the degree of giving them
feedstuffs that are unnatural to their physiology,
that’s rampant. That’s across the board, in
feedlot beef, in dairy cows, in chicken– in hens producing our eggs, in
turkeys, in hog production. The industry has become all
about the dollar, all about the dollar. Not about the dollar and other
things, like the health of people eating the product. It’s only the dollar. So the health of the people
eating the product is not part of the equation. It’s not part of the thinking,
nor is the well-being of the animals involved. These people don’t wake up in
the middle of the night thinking, how do I be
cruel to animals? How I produce a product that’s
as unhealthy as possible? They don’t do that. They do wake up in the middle
of the night asking themselves, how do
I cut costs? And it just so happens that the
things they end up doing that cut costs almost invariably
end up being harder and harder on the animals, and
producing food that is less and less healthy
for us to eat. So I think we need to be aware
of this, in order to protect ourselves, in order to reclaim
our food system, from Monsanto, from McDonald’s, from
industrial agriculture, from the agrochemical
orientation, from the GMO mentality. You see it in factory farms,
this a degree of chasing the dollar at all costs. Nothing else matters. The well-being of the
environment doesn’t matter. If you pollute– you find a way to externalize
the cost. Someone else picks up the tab,
eventually the taxpayer, eventually the larger earth
community does, and then you just move on. And that’s how it’s done, and
we’re all paying a really terrible price for it. Right now, as a country, we
have the highest rate of obesity that any country
has ever had in the history of the planet. We have the highest rate of
childhood diabetes of any country that has ever existed
in the history of the earth. We spend more money on what we
call health care than any other country. In fact, we spend more money
on what we call health care then the next 10 countries
combined. And we are the only
industrialized country that doesn’t provide basic health
care to all of our citizens. We don’t really have a
health care industry. We have a disease management
industry. The money is not in helping
people to keep their blood pressure level, which is pretty
simple to do with a healthy diet, actually. But the money is in the pills,
and so we let people eat food that raises their
blood pressure. We actually encourage that. We subsidize those foods. Make them cheaper. People buy them. Their blood pressure goes up,
then the drugs companies profit from the sale– this is
a disease-based economy. We spend $300 billion a year in
this country annually every year on drugs, pharmaceutical
drugs. That is half of the amount
that’s spent in the entire world. We’re 4% of the world’s
population. We buy 50% of the drugs, and
70% of the antidepressants, which, you can decide
what that means. Why do we have a Food and
Drug Administration? Did you ever think about that? Did you think food isn’t
important enough to have its own agency? Our food? It’s because if you eat
the food, you’re going to need the drugs. This is the system
we’ve created. And under these circumstances,
it’s a revolutionary act, I think, to be aware, and to take
action, to swim upstream, against the current of society
which will wash you down to the fast food joint, the Burger
King and McDonald’s. And that’s your choice. That’s your freedom. That’s consumer freedom. I don’t think so. I don’t think freedom
is, which of the 31 flavors do I want? Believe me, I grew up
with that stuff. I think the freedom that we want
is to live– how do we choose and have available
choices that we can live healthy lives and create healthy
communities, have healthy families, look forward
to a healthy future on a healthy planet? I mean, I think that seems
like a radical thought. That seems like pie in the
sky, almost idealistic thinking, under the conditions
of today. That’s why I call it
revolutionary. It does go against the grain
of our “ain’t it awful” society, and our victim
thinking. But we can take these actions. I just finished, a couple days
ago, a food revolution summit, which I co-ran with
my son Ocean. And we had 73,000 participants
for the week, for eight days. There are a lot of people waking
up, a lot of people wanting to be part of this food
revolution, wanting to make their lives a statement of
compassion and how they eat and their health, so that what
you’re eating is actually contributing to your well-being,
and actually contributing to the kind of life
and experience in your body that you want to have, the
vibrancy, the vitality, the beauty, the mental clarity,
the emotional serenity, and the spiritual
alignment that makes life fulfilling and wonderful. So that’s the basics of– [INAUDIBLE] there’s
lots I could say. But why don’t we open to some
questions or comments. What’s being invoked
in you hearing me? Do you have any thoughts? Do you want to share
a question? AUDIENCE: And I think the open
question, at least in the omnivore’s dilemma, as far as I
know, is whether sustainable farming is scalable. We know that Big Food is
mistreating animals and polluting the environment
in order to maximize their profit. But at the same time, they
do produce a lot of food. And so has anyone figured out
whether the sustainable farming methods can feed
our entire country? JOHN ROBBINS: Yes. Well, the reason that Big Food
is profitable and does produce extravagant amounts of food-like
substances is that they are subsidized heavily. For example, feedlots and
factories farms don’t pay their own pollution costs. The government’s
picked that up. If they had to pay for the
pollution they caused, that would raise the prices of their
foods considerably. People would be less inclined
to buy them. Another example is the
feed that they’re– it’s basically corn and soy– that they feed to the hogs and
the cattle and the chicken and the dairy cows comes from
industrial plantations, huge monocultures, most of them
GMO, saturated with herbicides, just saturated
with them. And that’s subsidized. So the cost to the industry of
those feedstuffs is almost nothing, almost nothing. We pay for it as taxpayers, be
you vegetarian or a meat eater, you’re paying for that
through your taxes. And also to the pollution that
we live with, the decrease in soil fertility, the loss of
water resources, the drying up of the wells throughout
the Midwest. We’re paying for it
in so many ways. But those costs are
externalized. We don’t subsidize organic
agriculture. We subsidize agrochemical-based agriculture. So that tilts the playing
field and makes organics very expensive. Have you ever wondered why when
you go to Whole Foods or anywhere, the organic
food costs more? I mean, some people want it
more, will pay that premium and can, but why does
it cost more? Because of the subsidies. In the Farm Bill,
it’s all there. I think– and more than think I’m
working for this– that we should not just tilt
the playing field so it’s level, although that would
be an improvement. I want to tilt it in the other
direction so that organic– I want to put a tax on
pesticides, for example, and then use the income from that
to lower the price to the consumer of organic food. It’s a revenue-neutral
solution. It’s fairly simple. And what happens, is then,
that conventionally-grown food, as we call it, food
grown with agrochemicals becomes more expensive. Same thing, I would tax factory
farm meat production and use the revenue to decrease
the cost of humanely raised, again, turning the
turning thing topsy-turvy from where it is now. The incentives are perverse
the way they are. Could we produce enough meat
that way, as much as we produce now? No. We eat way too much. We have heart disease. It’s still the leading killer
in the country. And people who eat far
less meat, we know– all the data show. There’s a mountain of studies
that shows this– have far less heart disease. They have far less
colon cancer. And it’s a healthier diet
to get away from that. So we don’t need
nearly as much. Now, McDonald’s, though, wants
to sell all– see, they’ve got a tremendous marketing plan. I have to tell you, Ray Kroc
was the founder, owner for many years, CEO for many
years, of McDonald’s. Ray Kroc, before he started
McDonald’s, worked for my father. And my father invented
franchising. Baskin and Robbins was the first
franchised food place. And Ray Kroc was in charge of
the franchising department. And he said to my dad, I want
to go and try this with burgers, and that became
McDonald’s. I’ve actually never even
at McDonald’s, because I don’t want to. I may be the only one in the
country that hasn’t. When I see those signs, you
know, that brag about how many billions have been sold, I
always think of how many thousands of square miles
of rainforest have been destroyed, how many heart
attacks have happened, how many animals have
been tortured. I think of the families who,
like my uncle when he died at the age of 54, his family,
what happened, the loss, the pain. I think of the families where
that’s happening. So I’m not, oh wow, another
billion sold. I’m like, how do we get
them out of business? I would like to see plant-strong
diets become the norm, people eating lots of
fresh fruits and vegetables. How about we put into a tax on
junk food and then use that income to lower the
price of fresh vegetables and fresh fruits? So people now who are very
price-sensitive, the cheapest calories are always junk, always
junk, high fructose corn syrup, isolated soy
ingredients, highly processed foods, McDonald’s. You get a lot of calories per
your dollar, but you do not get a lot of nutrition. That is why we have poor people,
financially stressed people, who are obese
and malnourished. It’s a terrible predicament,
and it’s what we’ve created with our food system. And there are ways we can change
the food system, and then we could feed everybody
with good food, not at the level of meat consumption that
we’ve grown accustomed to, that we identify
with affluence. We’ve come to think of meet as
the reward of affluence, and eating things like legumes,
lentils, and split peas, and garbanzo beans as
peasant food. We have a class stratification
there. And when you think that way,
then you feel bad about yourself if you’re just
eating peasant food. And you’re eating baked
potatoes, and you’re eating cabbage, and you’re eating
carrots, and you’re eating lentils, and you’re eating
split pea soup. And you feel like you’re at
the bottom of the rung, whereas veal parmesan is
like the high thing. But that’s going to kill you. It’s killing– it’s a terrible
thing to the veal calf. We’ve got to find our roots back
in the earth and not be ashamed of it, that
we’re creatures– human comes from the same
root as the root humus, or earth, or soil. And we can find our roots, and
then we can feed ourselves a plant-strong diet, a healthy
one, with less resources, less land than it is now going to
produce a meat-based diet. Yes? AUDIENCE: What actually is going
on in terms of the data? Because if you look around,
I feel like I see a lot of people giving up meat. You see juice bars popping up. You see a lot more
healthy food. I read an article about
hummus taking off. But then you go to the Ferry
Building and there’s a store called Salty, Tasty Pig Parts. And there’s all these cool
restaurants popping up that are all about the most obscure
kind of meat you can eat. So, you know the data. What really is growing? What’s happening? JOHN ROBBINS: Both. The light is getting
brighter, and the shadows are getting darker. We’re living in an interesting
time of crisis, in many ways, in which both sides– we’re seeing some signs of real
progress, more awareness, people take steps to live
healthier lives. We’re going to have a GMO
labeling bill nationally within the next two years. We may have Washington state. Vermont may pass
one this year. There’s a lot of different
things. Organic food production
has increased 26-fold in the last 25 years. Feedlot beef consumption, after
“Diet for a New America” was published, went down 25%
in the next five years. There’s a lot of good signs. But, on the other hand, Monsanto
is really trying to control policy, and they’re
succeeding to quite an extent. On the other hand, there’s a lot
of dark things happening. That’s why it’s so important
to be alive today, to be present, to be engaged,
to be aware. Because each of us makes
a difference with the way we live. And sometimes you can
say, well, these forces are so great. The numbers that are involved,
the dollar figures are so great. These entities, corporations,
industries that have so much to gain financially from the
way things have been, even though it’s destroying the
health of our nation and our people, they’re not
going to accede lightly to their profits. So what can we do? It’s very important that we
do everything we can. My experience has been that
when you do what you can, truly, and stretch yourself in
that way, you find yourself capable of doing more. Somehow you become more
capable of bearing the responsibility. You meet people, things happen,
you become stronger. Kind of a simplistic analogy
is to weight training. If you work out with a weight,
and you confront a weight that’s heavy for you and you do
so systematically, you find it becomes lighter for you,
and you become capable of lifting more weight. That’s how the muscle responds
to the stress. That’s a simplistic analogy,
but when we, as existential beings, as spiritual beings,
as people on a journey here together, do everything we can,
and stretch, and work on that edge of ourselves, that
growing edge of how accountable can we
be for our lives? How engaged can we be with
others in a respectful way and a passionate way? How connected can be to the
earth, so that speak on its behalf, we act on its behalf,
we live on its behalf? And how engaged can we be with
the whole earth community, so we find ourselves living with
some reverence for life, even in a society that is as
materialistic as ours? What happens is you become
a greater person. You become more human, and
more powerful, and more connected to your soul. And that’s where your
power comes from. And more of us that do this,
the more we become a force. That It’s certainly going
to be heard from. Will we be loud enough? Will we be able to turn
the tide in time? We’ll find out. But we’re going to find out
kicking and screaming, and we’re going to find out doing
everything we can, as opposed to just hiding in the “ain’t it
awful” attitude, and being passive and resigned and
suspicious and cynical. It’s very cool. People are like, oh, yeah,
yeah, yeah, yeah yeah. That’s going to get
us nowhere. AUDIENCE: I actually had the
pleasure to host Ingrid Newkirk here at Google. So I learned a lot about the
dairies, and how, like you just mentioned about the cows,
how they’re impregnated, and then their calves
are taken away. So I contacted Straus
to learn. Because I don’t need meat, but
I do like my milk and cheese, because I wanted to find
what is available out there as a consumer. And one thing they shared with
me, and I’m glad they actually share this, was the cows, yes,
they’re in the field. They’re fed pure, natural
products. But when it comes to the actual
slaughtering, not only is their life span extended
because they are given good food, which means, like, to
three to four years more of horror, of being constantly
impregnated, but then what they also shared is that the
slaughtering, it’s the same process, whether it’s organic
or non-organic. JOHN ROBBINS: Yeah. It’s true. The USDA requires this. By the way, Straus Dairy, if
you’re going to eat dairy products in the bay area, Straus
is one of the best. I don’t, personally. I feel healthier without it. I feel the data show most people
would be healthier without any dairy products. But if you’re going to, and want
to get them as humanely as possible, Straus is
not a bad choice. But it’s a low bar, because
the factory dairies are deplorable. And as she was saying, the USDA
has requirements about slaughtering of animals destined
for hamburger, or any other form of meat
consumption. So they have to be slaughtered
in USDA-certified slaughterhouses, which are
these horror chambers. So someone like Straus or Niman
Ranch, there’s these niche groups really trying
to do something in a more environmentally positive way, a
more humane way, and a more healthy way. And oftentimes they do,
to some extent. There are improvements there. But then when it comes
to slaughter– and every diary cow, by the way,
every dairy cow ends up as hamburger. So it’s not that there isn’t
killing involved there. And every one of their male
calves ends up as veal. So they’re killed at the age
of three or four months. So the dairy cows, instead
of in the typical factory dairies, they live to four or
five, at Straus, they may go to seven, but they end up
being slaughtered in a conventional slaughterhouse,
trucked there under conditions that are exactly the
industry norm. Nicolette Niman, whose husband,
Leroy Niman, founded Niman Ranch, the largest
humanely raised operation in the country, I’ve talked to
at length about this. She just hates it. She used to go, because she
would know the animals. She’d have names for them. And then she would actually go
in the truck with, because the poor animals were under
such stress. And she saw the misery, and she
got out of it because she couldn’t bear that part of it. We don’t let them do their
own slaughtering. We don’t let them find a
humane way to do it. And I’ve got to tell you, if I
were to describe to you in detail what goes on in factory slaughterhouses, you would cringe. You just would not
want to hear it. Would ruin your lunch. I promise you. I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to inflict that. But at the same time, if we
eat the products of this system, that’s how we really
inflict it on the animals, because we’re paying them, the
producers, to do this. Every time we buy a product,
we’re basically saying to the seller, do it again. And they will. They’ll read your purchase
that way. And I don’t want to support
these people. I don’t want to support them
with what they’re doing. That’s another reason why I am
abstinent from their products. And also because I feel
so much better. I’m 65. I’m a marathon runner. I’m a triathlete. I feel great. My blood pressure is 90 over 60,
and that’s not with drugs. And I see at my age of 65,
I see guys aging very differently, depending on how
they’ve lived and the choices they’ve made. And there’s no guarantee. Some vegans die at 30. There’s no guarantees. But there are probabilities
that are very strong. And if you want a higher quality
of life and a longer health span, eat a
plat-strong diet. Don’t eat processed foods. Don’t eat a lot of sugar. Don’t eat a lot of ice cream. I have to say it. It’s true. And if you make a choice for
your own integrity, you own well-being, instead of the
consumer obsessions of our society, you’ll be a healthier
person and a happier person. You’ll have more beauty
inside yourself Your life will be richer. Your relationships will
flourish more. And you’ll be glad that
you’re alive. And I think that’s
quite a lot. Thank you. RACHEL O’MARA: Hi. One more question. Don’t clap yet. So can you talk a little
bit more about the Food Revolution? It sounds really interesting. Is that for folks in the
industry, or is it consumers who can go? How would people get involved
with that to learn more and really be part of that? JOHN ROBBINS: The best way to
do it, there’s a fantastic website if you go to
foodrevolution.org– food revolution, one word, dot
O-R-G, you will find a great amount of resources there. And the Food Revolution
Network, of which I’m co-founder, just put on– and
we do this annually, an eight-day summit. And that just ended, but we’ll
do another one soon. But there are a lot of things
happening in the meantime. It’s a network to support people
at whatever level of political activism they
want to be at. Some people, their activism is
just to buy more consciously. That’s a good step. That’s real. That’s valid. That matters. Other people start getting
involved with writing, or signing petitions, informing
other people. There’s those opportunities
too. We started the Food Revolution
Network 14 months ago. We now have 150,000 members. It’s growing rapidly. And what we have found is that
if something is happening in Washington, and it’s right that
day, we can send out an email that day, telling people
what they need to do and giving them the wherewithal to
do it, and we can get 150,000 people signing a petition
within 24 hours. And we can deliver that to– and we can do it state by state,
so if we’re trying to influence a particular
legislator, or on particular legislation, we can do that. We can tailor it. It matters. So it’s a way that
you can become involved with these issues. And you might be more concerned
about GMOs, or you might be more concerned about
pesticides, or you might be more concerned about the
treatment of animals in factory farms. Or you might be more concerned
about something I hadn’t mentioned, but it’s very big, is
the targeting of kids with junk food ads. The soda pop Industry spends a
billion dollars a year on ads that target children
with soda pop ads. There is a small effort that
the CDC just this month started to do. They have a budget of a million
dollars for it– that’s not much– to try to encourage kids– high school kids in particular–
to have a soda-free summer. There is a congressman
from Illinois. His name is Aaron Schock,
young guy. He has just proposed a bill that
would make it illegal for the CDC or any other agencies
that CDC supports, or the National Institutes of Health,
or an organization that they support, to educate or
communicate any message that would try to reduce the
consumption of any legally marketed food. ie., he’s trying to make it
illegal for the CDC to spend a million dollars telling kids,
soda pop isn’t great for your health, whereas Pepsi and Coke
spend a billion dollars telling kids to drink
the stuff. This is a weird world
sometimes. He says that the messages of
the CDC are propaganda. The reason that this guy, Aaron
Schock is doing this, his district is the home
of Hostess company. They went bankrupt a
little while ago. They made the Twinkies,
and the– you talk about junk food. They’re kind of our
junk food central. End they’re in trouble,
and they’re going through a buyout. They’re going to be back in
business soon, and he doesn’t want the government to put out
messages that would increase the consumption of Twinkies. Well, I ask, why are Twinkies
cheaper per calorie than carrots? Because of our subsidies. We’ve got to take this twisted
situation, this perverse situation, and twist it back
so that we’re in alignment with our the goodness in our
hearts and in each other. I think we can do that. And that’s why I’m
involved in this. And I invite all of
you to join me. RACHEL O’MARA: Great. Thanks so much. JOHN ROBBINS: Thank you.