John Robbins: 25 years after Diet for a New America

After 25 years, the food fight is just beginning
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published by News Press on January 29, 2013.  Posted with permission. 

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Twenty-five years ago, John Robbins published the first edition of “Diet for a New America.”  With no apologies but far less in-your-face than today’s “Skinny Bitch,” Robbins dragged vegetarianism out of the hippie closet and into the mainstream.

I called Robbins to discuss the state of humanity since the publication of his seminal work because a lot can change in 25 years. Given recent reports of dwindling life expectancy and poorer health of Americans compared to peer nations, sky-high healthcare costs, and global climate change, I asked him, “Is this war?”

“It’s revolution,” he said.

“In our ignorance, greed, and fear, we may have set something in motion that can devastate life on Earth,” he said.

He’s talking about the global food supply system, not nuclear power.

Since “Diet for a New America,” Robbins has written six more books about healthy food and living, and, with his son Ocean, he has launched the informational and activist website FoodRevolution.org.

What’s next?  According to Robbins, the American people must be aware of the aggressive corporate marketing of unhealthy food, specifically meat and dairy.

“Remember when we were indoctrinated with the propaganda that milk was the most perfect food?” he asked.

I distinctly remember my high school Foods teacher telling me that.

“Only if you are a baby calf,” Robbins countered.  This comes from the man who walked away from the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire.  Why?  Ice cream makes people unhealthy, of course.

Now, meat-eaters beware.

“Diet for a New America” described, in agonizing detail, how animals are not just killed in the corporate slaughterhouses; they are tortured.  Our dismissal of their suffering, he argued, is convenient and self-serving, a profound disconnect from the very nature that should be sustaining us.

“Diet for a New America’s” publication was a plea on animals’ behalf, a quest to minimize unnecessary suffering in the world.  Animals, he argued, have heart, mind, and soul.

But eating animals wasn’t only an ethical issue. Robbins’ book also debunked the misinformation that animal products are dietary necessities.  Twenty-five years ago, mainstream America said, “No way!”  Today? Well, duh.

Robbins’ vegetarian advocacy, what he hopes will be the new “cultural normal,” is stronger in the twenty-fifth anniversary edition, notably because of global climate change.   Mounting studies connect the livestock industry with significant greenhouse gas emissions.  Even the mainstream Time Magazine noted that a steak was like “a Hummer on a plate.”

“Eating a plant-strong diet… is probably the single most immediately effective thing you can do to take a stand for life on earth,” Robbins writes in the anniversary edition.

So, what gives?  Although vegetarianism appears trendy with celebrity eco-stars publicly embracing the lifestyle, the number of American vegetarians has remained the same for the last ten years, hovering around 6%.

“People don’t want to change.  They’re afraid they will lose the enjoyment of their food.  But people have to understand the enjoyment of living in a healthy body, one that isn’t burned out, clogged, and toxic,” Robbins said.

And, it’s not that easy to get a fresh, local, organic meal in America.  In many places, it is easier to buy beer or candy than an apple or a carrot.  Some communities, particularly low-income neighborhoods, are food deserts with no access to fresh food.

On the 25th anniversary of his book, Robbins reminds his readers that corporations (Big Ag) are in control of the food supply, now more so than ever, and the number one priority for these companies is profits.

“People need to know what they are eating, and corporations don’t want to tell us that,” he said.

He’s as serious as a heart attack.

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