Conversation with Caryn Hartglass
Caryn Hartglass has given reprint permission for this 2014 interview with me on the show It’s All About Food. This transcript is proofed and edited for Vegan Place. Original podcast and transcript, titled Animals, Environment, and the Law, appears on the REAL Radio site.
Lee Hall, an author who’s taken on subjects from anti-terrorism law to vegan cooking, wrote the “Vegetarianism” entry in the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. Lee has taught Animal Law and Immigration and Refugee Law, and is today working on a second law degree—a legal masters in Environmental Law with a focus on climate change from Vermont Law School. Lee’s work is a bridge between environmentalism and our personal relationships with agriculture, confronting the way animal farming usurps habitat. For years, animal-rights advocates have operated under the belief that at least pasture-based or organic ranching represents a “step” in the humane direction—but only looking at how domesticated animals seem to be affected. Lee champions the animal communities displaced by farm sprawl, and explains how our chosen cookbooks can offer a genuine humane response for all animals, reduce greenhouse emissions, and even stop extinctions.
Lee Hall, Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Lee Hall: Thank you, Caryn. It seems to be perfect timing given that you’re the Lone Vegan ready to speak with two hundred cattle ranchers.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, I was hoping that you would give me some really good tips for Saturday.
Lee Hall: I am imagining that we are going to have quite a good conversation given that we are both studying the same thing right now.
Caryn Hartglass: I know. And the first thing I wanted to ask you, I’ve been following you and your work for a long time and it’s incredible and the thing that I know about you is your intensity, your passion, how principled you are.
Lee Hall: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And I wondered were you born that way, or was there something that happened in your life that made that happen, or was it a slow process, or none of the above.
Lee Hall: Well, I wasn’t born that way. I actually saw a bullfight when I was a child and it didn’t change me. I look back on it—and maybe it did, ultimately. I look back on it and I think why didn’t that change me, witnessing a bullfight; I mean, the bull was killed. This was in Mexico. My parents worked there they got free tickets from a business associate. Right, so we went and saw the novicios, who are the people that are learning to do bullfights. Which I understand is more difficult to watch. I wouldn’t know; I’ve only seen this particular instance. And I was—I hid myself in the bathroom for over a day. I wouldn’t come out after it. And what I guess I thought was weirdest—as terrible as this was, as traumatic as it was to see and hear people standing up and cheering for the slow death of an animal, not to mention what the horses were going through in the ring—of all of the horrific feelings of this the very worst was that I was surrounded by hundreds of people that were cheering.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Lee Hall: And so here I am locking myself in the bathroom and I remember trying to make a soap carving for hours and I heard my mother trying to get me out of the bathroom, saying “It’s all right, the meat, the flesh of the bull will go to the poor children of Mexico.” My mother knew I was very concerned about poverty; I did have a feeling of social justice as a little kid, as I think most little kids do. But, I think back and the tie: right there, my mother telling me. Of course that didn’t help me feel better that they were going to eat the bull. But: why didn’t I connect as a child? What didn’t I connect? And I know people who see an animal killed and immediately they put it all together.
Caryn Hartglass: Most don’t.
Lee Hall: Most don’t. It takes—I don’t know what happens. I don’t know how. If I knew how to make this all work, I would tell you. But, I was 21 and I met Robin Lane who is now the co-facilitator/founder of the London Vegan Festival, the longest running vegan festival anywhere in the world. It is the one that inspired all the vegan festivals to come. This was long before that had been started.
Robin Lane in London had been vegan for 1 year and met me. As far we know, I am Robin’s longest running protégé. It was a leaflet. It was all the ways we use animals. And I considered myself a feminist—it was one of the areas I was reading about myself; and something just clicked then and there. It was: How can I think about oppression and want to get over oppression and want to transcend that in my life and get over that in my life and be working so hard mentally to transcend differences and hierarchies—and how have I not noticed this before? Then of course the bullfight came back to me. But, I just said, that will be it! So I’m one of the weird people that did decide to go vegan all at once.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, for the weird people. Let’s hear it for socially peculiar. Yeah! Making the world a better place.
Lee Hall: So that was 31 years ago.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Good for you. I just wonder, because I want to think that we all have the potential to not exploit to not cause pain and suffering; I want to believe that. And I want to believe that we are not born with one kind of DNA that makes us more compassionate then others. I want to think that we are all flexible and once the veil is lifted we can move on and do better.
Lee Hall: Well, I think that is true, Caryn. I was that person until I was 21 and I knew and I didn’t change. So look at other people as people who could change any day. You have had Harold Brown on the show?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Lee Hall: That is a wonderful example. Harold came from a dairy and beef farming family and would have been a successful dairy and beef farmer today and had been doing that for many, many years, and a light bulb—this is also somebody that had been hunting regularly.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. You are in environmental law now. I want to talk more about animals and the environment. And one of the things we are hearing about is people that care about the environment and seem to have more compassion for animals. They want to go for the—quote—more humane ways of raising animals for food, pasture grazing; and I am doing my studying for this climate change talk. There is this guy on the panel that believes in animal agriculture intensification because unfortunately we have learned that animal agriculture intensification is—quote—more efficient and produces less greenhouse gases when you are cramming this animals in small space and feeding them the wrong foods. But nobody talks about the things that are wrong with it. But it’s encouraging this horror instead of the other way around. And let’s just talk about how all these other things affect the environment.
Lee Hall: Let’s talk about that. It’s a very interesting sort of squeeze that you bring up. You mentioned that the intensify of farming can be controlled in a way that it is less of an emitter of greenhouse gases, that it takes up less space environmentally, these kinds of things. That is a very significant point to bring up. I think a lot of advocates want to think that everything about factory farms is wrong and that’s the answer and we just say that. Just say factory farms. We are saying something that of course everyone understands. Of course it is all kinds of animal farms, the problem we are dealing with. It’s animal farming; it’s not factory farming, certainly not factory farming per se. It’s animal farming: any kind of animal farming has its problems. We, as animal advocates or environmental advocates, we understand sprawl. We understand sprawl and yet we don’t see it when it is happening with farms that are being spread out. We’ll say: `Well, that is a step in the right direction.` Well, how can that be, if we in the United States are outnumbered by farmland animals, 5 to 1? So, how could it be that the problem is intensive farming? That it is a step in the right direction to have the pasture-based farms when walking around, three hundred million of us in this country, and we are outnumbered 5 to 1, and that is just the land farm animals? So the problem isn’t the factory. The problem is both. If you have concentrated farms you have dense runoff, you have emissions—you do have emissions, and they may be controlling them to some extent but they are still there—you still have ruminant animals, and they are emitting methane. There is fine particulate matter that goes up to the air, and all the things that lead to acid rain.
Caryn Hartglass: And they still make manure, piles of it.
Lee Hall: No matter how they are raised. If you’ve got farm expansion…
Caryn Hartglass: The shit continues.
Lee Hall: It’s in either one. When you’ve got the expanded farms, the pasture-based, the grass-fed, you’ve got other situations. The destruction, and of course, with the intensive farm you have all the humane questions—the whole idea that humanity would treat animals as things to put into tiny boxes that is there—but when you have expansion, at the end we kill them, so it is a myth that it can be humane, because they are being slaughtered at the end. But there is more: when you expand the farm you are fragmenting habitat. You are setting the stage for systematic predator control, followed by a cascade of consequences.
Caryn Hartglass: Wait a minute. What is systematic predator control?
Lee Hall: Well, for example, coyotes and foxes are the animals who are normally targeted.With coyotes in pastures, they are irritating to farmers. Obviously. A coyote, bobcat, fox, a grizzly bear is going to be tempted, understandably, to eat an animal; so the more free-range the farm is, the more vulnerable they are…Shooting coyotes is legal in most places; coyotes can be shot from aircraft; there are forms of poison. The very first coyote synthetic attractant, a lure to attract and kill them, debuted in 1973 and was made from the fatty acids of rhesus monkeys’ vaginal secretions. Since then we have come up with all kinds of traps and lures to attract coyotes and foxes. One infamous one called Compound 1080 goes into predacide collars, and those are strapped to free-range goats and lambs. So here is this poison: it will not save the goat or the lamb; the point is the coyote goes to the animal and if the coyote bites the neck of that farm animal that coyote is about to enter Hell. The poison takes somewhere between 3 and 15 hours to kill. Then there are the traps, the snares, the M44—another lure. Wildlife Services, our federal government, helps the ranchers. These poisons are often picked up by pets, bald eagles, turkey vultures, wolves—unintended animals. Migratory birds, porcupines, mountain lions. So all these things are happening out there with these free-range farms. To say “Well, stop factory farming” totally ignores that.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, and who thinks up these things? Who thinks up these poisons and these traps? The thing I was wondering about is who are these scientists, these educated scientists that invent these incredible killing materials? The minds that come up with these things …Yes. So there are all these “compassionate” people, who want to get humanely-raised animals and go for pastures. But there are all these issues with that. Of course, there are the intensified farms and there are all animal farms and when we look at it from an environmental point of view the winner is the one no one is looking at, which is feeding plants to people directly.
Lee Hall: Exactly. People are looking at it, just maybe not in a way that connects it directly to their plate. I am in school now studying with scientists and lawyers. I am seeing that the people in environment law course are aware. For example: There is a study by Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews at Carnegie Mellon and they have done calculations of greenhouse gas emissions and they have said a “protein shift”—and that is their word for it, when you get protein and nutrients directly from plants instead of feeding it to animals and getting all the nutrients through them—when you do this protein shift one day a week it would be like driving 1,160 miles less every year. What they are talking about is sort of like a vegan Monday. They are saying: Replace meat and dairy and this is what would happen 1,160 less miles a year. So that suggests that animal agribusiness per se is non-local…
If you cut it out even one day it would be more than a thousand miles saved driving so right there they are getting somewhere. So this is what I bring up when we are having these conversations: Wait a minute! That means a 7-day-a-week shift is more than eight thousand miles as though you were not driving every year, more than eight thousand miles. If you have that kind of power that a vegan diet can have, and anyone can have that kind of power, and they can have it a dinnertime, they could decide right now, why not? Being vegan in North America is not a real big difficulty, and it would decrease all of this harm all of these climate chaos caused by the taking away of habitat of other animals. It’s ranching: taking away the other animals’ habitat is what it does. In the last five hundred years more animals have gone extinct in the US, more than any other place; we are wrecking this land and water for ranching.
Caryn Hartglass: You know this show is called It’s All About Food but it’s really all about money, and the animal food industry is a 160-billion-dollar-a-year industry in the US, and I think I am going to be talking to these cattle producers and telling them we need to reduce or eliminate animal livestock, and I am getting right to the heart of their livelihood. What do we tell people like that?
Lee Hall: Right. There has always been forms of livelihood that the economy has depended on that we had to say: There is a problem with this. We need to transcend this, and start acting differently. You can think of three or four examples right now. The chocolate slavery is not okay. It comes from massive chocolate companies and they are selling loads and loads of chocolate at the expense of people on the Ivory Coast that are selling their children into slavery. It’s not okay.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not okay. But you know most people don’t know about it. It has taken a long time to get Hershey’s Chocolate to budge.
Lee Hall: Yes. And when you are out there talking to two hundred cattle ranchers, you have people that are talking to many, many more. … A lot of people, including environmentalists, need to know this it is not just the cattle ranchers that you are informing, that you are having these conversations with; you are talking about getting to a tipping point. And because climate change is upon us, we may be right about at the tipping point.
Caryn Hartglass: There are plenty of people, and there is one guy on the panel that I will be talking to is a climate change denier. And doesn’t believe it is happening.
Lee Hall: Yes. Who is now connected to the Food and Agriculture representing the UN.
Caryn Hartglass: And it is really hard to know. We live in a very complex world. There is a lot of information on the Internet but it takes a lot to figure out what is credible and what is not; I can’t go into every lab and see what they are doing. When I read things in a study, that I think are interesting. I will go to the original source and read all I can when the study was done and see if I think it was good or not if it is something that I want to repeat. Most people don’t do that. But still I can’t see everything….
Lee Hall: We do know that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere is at the highest point in more than 600 thousand years. We do know that global average temperatures, even though they fluctuate madly, are higher than they have been over ten thousand years.
Caryn Hartglass: There are people that do not believe that. I have seen that data and I believe it. But some people see it and still say they do not believe it.
Lee Hall: Well, it is becoming a part of policy.
Caryn Hartglass: There are—95% of climate change scientists that think the climate is changing.
Lee Hall: It becomes: how much it is from animal farming? And the consensus seems to be about 1/5 but as you know specialists from the world bank including Robert Goodland, who unfortunately passed away recently, had said more like 51% is attributable to animal agribusiness. So Mark Bittman invited Robert Goodland to do a blog on Mark Bittman’s column for the New York Times, and Robert Goodland wrote: One might expect the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to work objectively to determine whether the true figure is 1/5 or 51%. Instead, Mittloehner, known for the claiming that the 1/5th is too big of a figure to use in the US, was announced as chair of a new partnership between the meat industry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. So Mark Bittman titled that guest blog FAO Yields to Meat Industry Pressure on Climate Change; it is very frightening .
Caryn Hartglass: It is frightening. We are going to have to talk about this more another time because we are out of time. Can you believe it?
Lee Hall: No.
Caryn Hartglass: I know. I am going to have to have you back and dig more into this, especially after I am on this panel with Frank Mittloehner and see what he has to say. Lee, thank you so much for joining us for this have hour as for all the work you are doing some time soon and we can have some delicious food vegan food the best.
Lee Hall: Wonderful Idea. Meanwhile, I am rooting for the Lone Vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: We have come to the end of It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me. I am Caryn, and remember: Please have a delicious week.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER: Cancer survivor and vegan activist Caryn Hartglass founded Responsible Eating And Living (REAL) as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation. For 9 years Hartglass served as Executive Director of the nonprofit EarthSave International, founded by John Robbins. Hartglass has appeared on Dr. Oz, Geraldo At Large, 20-20 and CNN and is the host of It’s All About Food on the Progressive Radio Network. Caryn Hartglass can multitask, showing your group how to make healthy, delicious foods, while inspiring you to do so. Have Caryn Hartglass speak at your next event. For more information send email to info@RealMeals.org or call 657- I M 4 REAL (657-464-7325).
You are brilliant, Lee! Thank you for your important, profound, yet down-to-earth ideas.
Thanks so much for your kind words, Char.
It is unlikely that anyone who thinks that the so-called family farm is a viable alternative to its factory counterpart will continue to believe the myth after reading Lee’s interview.
It’s weird that people think “animal rights” can ever involve more space for the custom of husbandry, Maryanne. Thanks for sustaining a continued dialogue about this with the CARE board. I do believe we need to press that same dialogue with groups that project that inherent contradiction as advocacy policy. Love & liberation,
Thanks for sharing this interview. I finally got a chunk of time to read it tonight after waking up in the middle of the night and finding that I was wide awake.
Nice interview! I hope all is well with you.
Robert Grillo Executive Director Free from Harm tel. 773-329-7977 email@example.com web: http://freefromharm.org PO BOX 607604 Chicago, IL 60660
Robert, thanks for stopping by in the midnight hour! I hope we get a chance to meet in person one of these fine days. Love & liberation,