For the first few decades of his life, Bob Comis was oblivious to the suffering of non-human (and human) animals. Thanks to the courage and bravery of undercover investigators who secretly capture and share footage of the twin horrors of factory farming and industrial slaughter, Bob was roused from his ignorance. He became a vegan, but quickly failed. Then he became a humane pig farmer, and quickly succeeded. He raised pigs for slaughter for ten years, until one day in January, 2014 a powerful vibration of empathy, compassion, and love overwhelmed him, and with the strength of the universal goodness that is our unfettered state of being behind him, he decided to quit pig farming, start a vegetable farm, and become a vegetarian (vegan, in January 2015). Today, when Bob pulls a beet out of the ground, or unearths a brilliant cluster of potatoes he is able to be fully present, which is very much the opposite of his experience when he farmed pigs, which he did from a distance, divorced from the moment, disconnected from himself. Bob is the subject of the upcoming documentary film “The Last Pig” by filmmakers Allison Argo and Joseph Brunette.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, how are you doing today? I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food and we have a very special program today and I can’t wait to get started. I just wanted to tell you something that I thought was amusing, I love, I don’t believe in coincidences and I love synchronicity and I’ve been experiencing a lot of that this week but just when I was on Facebook a little while ago promoting this program, I normally write tune in live because this show is live, we’re live right now and well of course if your listening to this in the future, if you download the program and listen to it later we’re not live but right now here we are Tuesday November 3rd and it’s live. I wrote in instead of tune in live, I wrote tune in love and I really think that was the universe kind of channeling through me what we do on this program and when you tune in, we’re tuning in love and we’re spreading love because love is the only thing that matters and will really make this world a better place, so feel that love right now. We’re all tuning it in, tune in love, I’m going to be using that a lot because I absolutely love it. Ha, love it. Ok, my guest is Bob Comis and for the first few decades of his life Bob Comis was oblivious to the suffering of non-human and human animals and thanks to the courage and bravery of undercover investigators who secretly capture and share footage of the twin horrors of factory farming and industrial slaughter, Bob was roused from his ignorance, he became a vegan but quickly failed and then he became a humane pig farmer and quickly succeeded. He raised pigs for slaughter for ten years until one day in January 2014 a powerful vibration of empathy, compassion and love overwhelmed him and with the strength of the universal goodness, that is our unfettered state of being behind him, he decided to quit pig farming, start a vegetable farm and become a vegetarian, later vegan. This past January and today when Bob pulls a beet out of the ground or unearths a brilliant cluster of potatoes, he is able to be fully present, which is much, very much the opposite of his experience when he farmed pigs, which he did from a distance, divorced from the moment, disconnected from himself. Bob is the subject of the upcoming documentary film The Last Pig by filmmakers Allison Argo and Joseph Brunette, We’ll be talking all about his story right now, welcome to It’s all About Food, Bob.
Bob Comis: Hi Caryn, thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for making the choices that you’ve made most recently.
Bob Comis: You’re welcome.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve read a number of your articles, you really are an excellent articulate writer.
Bob Comis: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And you have a very interesting story. You know I’m involved in the arts, in acting, in theatre and a lot of times we like to say, don’t read your press, weigh it and I’m imagining although probably a lot of press these days is electronic and the cyberspace. You probably gotten a lot of comments supporting and attacking your choices.
Bob Comis: Yeah I have and you’re right. I’ve gotten both supportive and not supportive but to be perfectly honest, I would say that it’s been 98 percent supportive. People have just been wonderful in terms of welcoming me into the vegan community and congratulating me for making the change and very few people have been critical but those people when they’re critical, they’re very critical.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m glad to hear that, I like to think that the vegan community is all about love and we don’t always see it but I think for the most part we do. You made some very difficult choices and one that I liken it to some extent to the movie that came out a long time ago Sophie’s Choice, where this woman in this story, it was during the holocaust and she was polish and not Jewish and she had to choose which child she wanted to survive and she had to choose which child would die and it was…I’ll never forget that movie and that story but you also when the veil was lifted I guess and you could probably explain your feelings, you had some very difficult choices to make.
Bob Comis: I did, you know it was obviously difficult choice to make but on the one hand but on the other hand it was actually quite an easy choice to make, when as you said the veil was lifted because as soon as the veil was lifted there was reality staring me right in the face and couldn’t be ignored and so making the choice in the end was actually kind of easy.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you weren’t in one of these industrial scenarios right you were raising pigs outdoors. They were roaming around, something people like to say is humane, is that correct?
Bob Comis: That is correct. The pigs on my farm were absolutely happy, joyful and you know it wasn’t a factory farm or anything like that at all, it was pasture based.
Caryn Hartglass: And in reading what you’ve written you describe the pigs and maybe you could do a little bit of that now it terms of the unconditional love that you got from them.
Bob Comis: Yeah they’re really wonderful amazing beings that have an incredible capacity for forgiveness and for love of each other, of other beings, they’re incredibly, they’re actually empathetic. I saw a number of times the pigs’ exihibit empathy and there were times when I was actually pretty mean to the pigs. I was actually violent, I was depressed and I would get frustrated with them and I would sort of you know, I would even kick them, you know this didn’t happen very often but it happened and they always forgave me and that was incredible. I still haven’t forgiven myself but the pigs always forgave me. They wouldn’t act as if I had done anything wrong the next time that I saw them and I don’t believe it’s because they didn’t remember.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, I believe that there are many things that we can learn from many different species of non-human animals and unfortunately most of us aren’t paying attention to see what we can love and unconditional love is that thing that I think most difficult for human beings.
Bob Comis: Yeah I would agree absolutely you know since I decided to stop raising pigs and become a vegan and start an veganic vegetable farm I’ve really embraced the idea of unconditional universal love and I’ve sort of done mind games in my head to challenge this idea of universal love. Who could I love, what would it take for somebody to do something that would make it so that I couldn’t love them and in the end universal love wins out because universal love is the way to peace and it’s an incredible thing to be able to embrace even the most monstrous person because ultimately at the core of their being, they’re good, it’s just missing, lost, but love can bring that out.
Caryn Hartglass: So it sounds like a lot of this experience has really been a form of therapy for you and your individual challenges. I’m not a person who gets angry very often and I know others who do and it’s difficult to understand and I’m learning about it and I’m sure your learning through your own discovery, some of that anger and depression. Do you think some of it was related to what you were doing with the pigs unconsciously?
Bob Comis: Absolutely, there’s no question in my mind what I realized I actually decided to become vegetarian and at the same time I decided to continue to raise pigs because I think I actually still think that it’s important to have alternatives to factory farming because you know the reality is that people are going to continue to eat meat unfortunately and if they are going to we should have alternatives. So I was going to continue to raise pigs but the next day I had a tremendous experience which led me to decide not to raise pigs, but one of the things I realized when I was thinking about my relationship to the pigs and to things like depression and happiness, was I realized that as long as I were raising pigs or any other animal for slaughter there was always going to be a barrier to true happiness for me no matter how far my depression receded, no matter how good my life was, no matter how happy I felt, fundamentally on an unconscious level I wouldn’t have been truly happy.
Caryn Hartglass: Now I know that some people get really angry when they’re scared, when they’re full of fear and in some ways it’s a reaction, where they don’t want to face their fear and they get angry and kind of violent actually and I had a experience over a year ago when I talked to 250 cattle ranchers about the impact of animal agriculture on climate change and my nonprofit actually did a documentary about a couple lone vegan preaching to the fire fortunately I got out alive. I was a little concerned that they wouldn’t like a vegan preaching to them about eating plants. I believe I did it in a loving nonjudgmental way and they liked me but afterwards when we had one to one conversations even during the presentation people were concerned about their livelihood and if I was reaching their soul in any way I know that they were thinking, how could I possibly not do this, it’s been in my family forever it’s my livelihood, what else can I do, what else would I do.
Bob Comis: Right, it’s a major issue that we need to think about when we are interested in helping livestock farmers to decide to stop raising animals for slaughter because it is true you know they’re sixth, seventh generation livestock farmers out there who feel that livestock farming is a fundamental part of their identity and as you mentioned it’s not only part of their identity but it’s also their livelihood. Luckily for me you know I was a new farmer, I raised pigs for ten years. I’m still farming now, I’m raising vegetables but before that I had no experience with farming and my wife also has a job and so the income that I made from the farm wasn’t our only income so when I made the decision to switch we had a buffer and some farming families don’t have that buffer and it’s an issue.
Caryn Hartglass: Many are just getting by.
Bob Comis: Absolutely and even the ones that aren’t just getting by, it’s like any business, if you decide one day to change the business to something else entirely it’s a new start up, so there’s going to be no income, so it’s a real challenge because you have that gap where you know you have a thriving business let’s say one day and then the next day you’re back at the start up stage and I think that people that really want livestock farmers to make a change, we need to think about things like loans and grants and funding. Support to make that change, I think is important.
Caryn Hartglass: We need a lot of governmental support to make those changes and that will require a lot from many angles because right now the government is supporting the growth actually in livestock, meat and dairy production and fish production and all of that. Now, I want to talk about courage, where I became a vegetarian, I got the idea about not killing animals when I was fifteen years old, it was easy for me, I was a teenager, I liked being confrontational, I didn’t have a problem arguing with my parents, I kind of thrived on it. It’s easy when your young I think to do it but then when your older and you have a business, you have a history to look back on, it takes a lot of courage to say no, I cannot do what I’ve been doing all along because it’s not right, that takes so much courage, where did you get that courage from?
Bob Comis: From the pigs to be perfectly honest, for me when I think about it, when I think about courage and whether or not what I did was courageous, where I see myself as having been courageous is questioning my identity as a meat eater more than anything else because that’s really what we are, you are an unusual case, most people don’t decide at fifteen years old to become vegetarian or vegan most of us decide sometime in their adult lives and in the United States we’re raised as meat eaters, we’re fed meat as soon as the pediatrician say that it’s ok to feed babies meat and we’re fed meat every meal from there until the day we decide not to eat meat and it becomes part of our identity, meat eating is literally part of our identity, so when we say one day, this isn’t something that I want to do anymore, your basically saying the person that I was, that I’ve been my whole life, was in a way a bad person because I’ve been unethical my whole life and that takes courage and so I can see courage there more than anything.
Caryn Hartglass: We have so much to learn from our non-human animal friends and non-human animal quote food that really shouldn’t be food. Ok so now you’re a vegetable farmer and you’re doing it veganically.
Bob Comis: Yes
Caryn Hartglass: How’s that working out for you?
Bob Comis: It’s working out great, the farm, this is my second year raising vegetables and things have gone tremendously well, well I should say the second half of the season went tremendously well, the first half of the season was a disaster but the second half has been fantastic, things grew really well, the business side of it is now doing very well and there’s this idea that you need to for organic farms, most people don’t realize, most vegans and vegetarians don’t realize that main source of fertility on organic farms is animal manure based compost and slaughterhouse by products like bone meal, blood meal and feather meal and organic farmers think that that’s the only way to build and maintain fertility on their farms and it’s simply not true there are veganic farms out there that have been doing it for over that gate, they’re doing it well.
Caryn Hartglass: We talked to a number of veganic farmers on this program and one of the things that I learned is some of the how to knowledge came from farmers in Europe that didn’t have access to animal manure and they were growing vegetables without using non-human animals and now days where so many non-human animals are raised for food in these factory farms, these filthy intensive systems, they’re diseased and their manure has disease in it, their manure may have E.coli and salmonella and things that aren’t healthy for us that when we put them on top of soil for manure to grow vegetables, the vegetables can become contaminated or watering these farms with water that’s become contaminated from the animal’s manure and we’re seeing more and more food borne illnesses related to just that so knowing that we can access some vegetables that have been grown organically and veganically without contaminated manure is good, very good.
Bob Comis: It’s wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: So thank you for that, we need more of that.
Bob Comis: I agree absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah do you charge a premium for that?
Bob Comis: No I would like to give it away for free to convince people to do it.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s nice, that’s very nice. Now has your family, have they been supportive during this major transition?
Bob Comis: Very, completely, totally supportive.
Caryn Hartglass: Are you all eating the same way?
Bob Comis: My wife and I well not quite, my wife and I became vegetarian at the same time but a year later I became vegan and she is still eating dairy and eggs.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah it’s hard.
Bob Comis: And the rest of my family, they are all meat eaters.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh ok, but they’re still supportive somehow.
Bob Comis: Yeah, very.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, so let’s talk about The Last Pig, This documentary film.
Bob Comis: Sure.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s going on? Has it been filmed already?
Bob Comis: It has been, we just had our final shoot about two weeks ago actually Alison Argo and Joe Brunette who are the filmmakers first came out last spring and it’s been, it’s going on 18 months, I think that we’ve been filming and it’s been a wonderful process, an emotional process, a thoughtful process, an introspective process and you know they were able to capture my last year of pig farming and my transition to vegetable farming. The first time that they came there were only pigs on the farm and the last time they were here there were only vegetables on the farm.
Caryn Hartglass: Now may I ask what happened to those pigs?
Bob Comis: All but eight were slaughtered, there were two hundred and fifty pigs on the farm when I decided to make the transition and for a few reasons, I realized that the vast majority of them would end up being slaughtered but I wanted to save at least a few and I was able to find a sanctuary for eight of them with the help of Gene Baur from farm sanctuary and farm sanctuary they were able to find spaces for them and I say that they helped because it’s not easy to find sanctuary for lots of animals, to find sanctuary for two hundred and fifty pigs is quite difficult and so I was lucky in a way to be able to find sanctuary for eight.
Caryn Hartglass: Right and do you miss not eating animals?
Bob Comis: Not at all, no. My experience with the pigs was so profound that it was literally life changing. I liken my experience to my mother in law had, she was a lifetime smoker, pack a day, tried to quit a bunch of times, never could, had a massive heart attack and was told that if she continued to smoke she would die and she woke up the morning after her heart attack and heard that and has never smoked a cigarette since and not only has not smoked a cigarette, hasn’t craved a cigarette and that has been my experience with eating meat, the pigs affected me so profoundly that I don’t miss it, I don’t think about it, I’m not interested in it at all.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you have any wise words for any of us when we’re confronted by people who love their meat, especially their bacon. There’s that big bacon movement.
Bob Comis: Yeah, bacons huge. I would say speak to them lovingly, to return to love, to remember our interests in unconditional universal love, be compassionate and empathetic and understand that they are acting on impulses, that as I mentioned earlier, I believe are functioning at the level of their identity and so to rouse people to question their identity is a tremendous task and it also requires some sensitivity.
Caryn Hartglass: Tune in love that’s what I’m going to start saying after today, tune in love, we all need to tune in a lot more love now my last question for you is, I was reading some of your work is going to be helping other people transition from livestock to vegetables is that true?
Bob Comis: That was true, that was what I had set out to do but in the end I was actually approached by somebody who was, who was not transitioning. I’m sorry I misunderstood the question, did you say transitioning from livestock to vegetable farming?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Bob Comis: Oh I’m sorry I was thinking of continuing to help people raise animals for slaughter. I would be absolutely thrilled to help people transition from livestock farming to vegetable farming, I don’t think I have the experience yet to be able to really do that, but I can certainly provide as much guidance as I’m able to.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah well, that’s really where we need to go as we were talking before farmers livestock farmers need to know there’s a place they can go to learn quickly and the government of course needs to be behind it with financial help to make people make this transition, because I’m sure you know the number one reason for me and it sounds like for you for not killing animals because they’re, I can’t really describe it but they’re sentient, they’re feeling, they’re loving, they’re wonderful beings but it’s also devastating to the planet raising all this livestock and factory farms, it’s just horrible what it’s doing to our biodiversity and our water and our air and the greenhouse gases that we’re putting out, it’s just a disaster and the government needs to be behind making significant change to get people to eat more plants and then of course my health, we’re designed to eat plants not animals and it’s killing us literally.
Bob Comis: Indeed.
Caryn Hartglass: Indeed, so is there anything, there was a crowdsourced funding project going on for The Last Pig, is that still going on?
Bob Comis: It is, there is about a week left and it’s on Indiegogo and you can search for under The Last Pig and we’re almost at our goal, there’s still a week to go and Alison and Joe actually to finish the film need more than the funding goal that they set, so even if they get to the funding goal, keep contributing because they need a lot more money.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s expensive to just about anything these days and it just adds to the challenge of really keeping your integrity and doing what you believe in, there’s always this hovering thing over all of us, how am I going to afford it? I am so glad that you have had your experience and you’ve had the courage to make change and that you’ve, your open and willing to learn from these beautiful pigs that you learn from and also your dog there was a beautiful article too on your dog monk that taught you quite a bit as well.
Bob Comis: Yeah, for sure he’s the best he’s actually about ten feet away from me sleeping on the couch.
Caryn Hartglass: Woof.
Bob Comis: He’s deaf
Caryn Hartglass: Oh right you already said that he’s deaf well let him. I’m sure he can feel my energy, feel my energy, alright thank you so much for joining me on It’s all About Food Bob it’s a pleasure talking to you I look forward talking to you watching The Last Pig.
Bob Comis: Thank you very much for having me
Caryn Hartglass: Okay take care.
Transcribed by Lara Allan, 12/3/2015