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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