Charles Horn is the author of Meat Logic: Why Do We Eat Animals? Charles is an Emmy-nominated writer and producer with credits including Fugget About It, Robot Chicken, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars. He has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University, and holds five degrees in engineering and mathematics.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass, it’s time for It’s All About Food. Here we are, it’s July 1, 2014. Wow. I’m saying wow because here in New York City, we just got through a beautiful month of June. Everyday was an incredible surprise for me because I don’t think there was any humidity this month or not much of it in my memory of June is a hot painful one. It’s just been delicious. Do you not agree with me? Back in 2002 to 2006 I organized every summer in June, a vegan festival. It was a big one. It was on the campus of Lincoln center, it was called Taste of Health. Maybe some of you remember it. It was a wonderful event but every time we had it, it was hot. So many people complained about the heat and the humidity. I picked June back then because it was available but also wanted to have the less risk of rain and it never did rain for those events. Just thinking back on those hot humid days and just getting through this delicious month of June, I am so grateful and how do we continue to have wonderful weather like this? Well, let’s see what July will bring. We’ll talk a little bit more about that later. Now, I want to talk about food, my favorite subject with my guest today, Charles Horn. He’s the author of Meat Logic: Why do we Eat Animals? He’s an Emmy nominated writer and producer with credits including Forget About It, Robot Chicken, and Robot Chicken: Star Wars. He has a PHD of electrical engineering from Princeton University, and holds 5 degrees in engineering and mathematics. Charles how are you doing today?
Charles Horn: Good how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good! So we’re going to talk about your book and whatever else we feel like talking about in the next half hour or so. You have five degrees in engineering and mathematics and I’m sure you’re a logical guy.
Charles Horn: Hahah. Well, I try to be.
Caryn Hartglass: Was that some of what inspired you to write Meat Logic because your mind thinks the way it does? Or is it trained to think the way it does?
Charles Horn: Well I guess that’s the case. How it started was, I was watching a lot of people who argue on Facebook.
Caryn Hartglass: Hahah. Oh gosh, there’s a lot of violence on Facebook.
Charles Horn: Yeah, and they would just have the same kinds of arguments that they would just repeat over and over again and kind of end in the same ways. Then I was thinking, “Why isn’t there a place, why is this done already? Why isn’t this a place you can go and have this?” So that’s how I sort of got the idea for the book. In fact it started off being something completely different because I have a background now in comedy as well. Originally, I was going to make it a comedic book.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmhm!
Charles Horn: And I started actually kind of doing that. I would answer the same types of questions, but do it in a comedic way.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah
Charles Horn: It became clear pretty quick that while it could be funny, it really wouldn’t be affective because the reader would take this as an attack. I would be writing for the wrong audience if I were to do it in a comedic way. So it became clear that I actually couldn’t do the comedic approach. I sort of had to go more straightforward logical approach. People have been trained to think a certain way biased on our society for thousands of years.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup.
Charles Horn: So we’re at this level where we can’t even think properly on this subject.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup. You can’t think properly, that’s a good one.
Charles Horn: Yeah, so that’s what it sort of became about. It became sort of just, no like, “Hey you’re wrong” kind of thing, but just “Hey let’s think about this for a second.” Let’s not tackle your question itself, but let’s tackle how you’re thinking about the problem. Maybe I can illustrated, like here’s a way of looking at it that’s different, and here’s a way of looking at it compared to different situations where you already know how to think better.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think this book is really helpful for people who are already there and vegan and need to have some good comeback arguments when they are posed with these things that we hear over and over and over again. So we can use this as a starting point. All of the things you mentioned in the book, we’ll probably go over some of them, we hear them over and over. Sometimes we don’t have the right response or we don’t know what the right response is. Sometimes, even if we hear some of the things over and over, it’s still hits us. We’re dumbfounded when we hear it. Like really? That reminds me, I was at a book-signing event maybe a month ago, at Moo Shoes, which is a vegan shoe store in Manhattan. The owners of the shoe store are two lovely sisters, and they are very generous with their space. There’s a lot of signings and vegan events there. I was there for Gene Stone’s newest book he co-authored, Awareness; I think it’s called. I’m just walking in and scoping out that I know and checking out the free samples of vegan food. I over heard this guys say “oh really? Where do you get your protein?” And I thought, this guy has got to be kidding right? We’re at a vegan event and mostly every one there is vegan. So I looked at him because I just passed him and said, “You’re not serious right?” It turns out he was. He was a friend of the author. He was not vegetarian and he was sincerely asking where do you get your protein. You didn’t talk about that in your book obviously. It’s such an over done question. But we never know where the questions are going to be asked or where they’re going to be. It’s good to have the answers. So thank you for providing some very logical responses.
Charles Horn: Well, thank you for saying that. You’re right the protein question is something that…. The one type of response would give them the explanation of “hey here’s a list of all the different plant based to where you can get your protein.” I sort of wanted to take a broader step then that. I’ll point you to a book that has more info about vegan nutrition. I wanted to talk about a broader issue about… you know a lot of people aren’t ready to believe things. So we could say, “here’s where you could get your protein.” And think that we are done with the question, but we’re actually not. There’s still a block on their end where they do not believe us in anyway. So I kind of wanted to tackle those questions. Those hypothetical questions of what if it were true that we actually needed to eat animals. How would it change how we go about things? By tacking that type of broader question, I kind of wanted to show them that in a sense that even if you were hypothetically right, you’re still thinking about it in the wrong way. So I wanted to get them thinking that it’s not vegan vs. status quo. You have no status quo. It doesn’t exist. Whatever you’re going to think, you’re going to think different at this point. So I kind of wanted to address those things.
Caryn Hartglass: In a number of chapters you end with a summary and use the abusive boyfriend as a comparison. Can you give examples of that or why you decided to use that guy? You know, there are some abusive girlfriends out there too.
Charles Horn: There are, but it’s more well known.
Caryn Hartglass: yeah there are more abusive boyfriends out there than girlfriends.
Charles Horn: Yeah. I kind of wanted to point out that some of the things that people say, if you actually analyze them, and you really take them apart, the person is basically saying, “I’m only hurting you because I love you so much.” Think about that for a second. This is exactly the abusive boyfriend situation you know? I kind of wanted people to see that this is what you’re saying.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s so hard. It’s so hard for them to see that.
Charles Horn: Yeah!
Caryn Hartglass: Very hard, which is why we need so many books, so many restaurants, and so many more cookbooks. People need to hear this information front and center, and hear it all the time. It’s improving, but they need to be bombarded with this information from so many different angles.
Charles Horn: Yes, that’s absolutely true. Most of the time people don’t really have to think about it, because it’s the social norm. It’s tough for us vegans. We want to form them to think about it, but that puts us in the situation of being thought as the aggressor. It’s a tough situation where they take life around them as normal, but then never forced to think about his.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you brought that up. I wanted to talk about the image that many of us have of being preachy. You talked a little bit about it in the book. It’s hard not to sound preachy. It’s hard not to sound smug, even if you’re presenting logic that seems so obvious. It still sounds to those who don’t agree, that we’re the high and mighty.
Charles Horn: Yeah that’s very true. I try very hard in the book to not be that type. I would constantly rewrite it if I felt that it was going in that direction. But yeah we’re basically going to be in that situation because they willfully don’t want to think about this. The only way to change is forcing them to think about this. So you’re in a dilemma. It’s the same thing that other social justice issues went through in the past where people didn’t like them, but now we consider them normal and heroes, you know?
Caryn Hartglass: Right. George Washington was a terrorist.
Charles Horn: Exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, hindsight. To know what people will think about us in 50, 100, or even 20 years.
Charles Horn: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: I look forward to that, but I don’t know if I’ll know. Hahah. So I’ve been doing this for a long time. I don’t know about you, and I started as a teenager. I was a bit abrasive in my younger days. I worked as an engineer for 20 years in a semi-conductor industry. In any opportunity that I could, I was preaching about the power for vegetables. I was never shy. I learned that the softer, more loving, compassionate approach works better. I tend not to preach officially, when I’m out eating with people. I don’t bring it up, I made it a personal thing with myself, I don’t bring it up. But everyone who knows me, know what I’m about. They all feel guilty or something when we’re eating together. They bring it up. They bring up a question. I was having lunch with some people the other day. One of them said, “I don’t know understand. What’s wrong with eating eggs if a chicken just leaves it? What’s wrong with eating it? ” And it just started a whole conversation. I’m open when people want to ask a question. But what I find is that a lot of people that are eating animals are either subconsciously or consciously uncomfortable with it. And they have to talk about it.
Charles Horn: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I think you’re right in saying that, just the fact that we kind of exist is something that make them feel awkward. A lot of people find that when they actually go vegan, it’s important to find other vegans because a lot of people just can’t deal with it. You need those other people. I’m sure you must have friends who’ve stopped inviting you to things.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Charles Horn: As if you’re going to their home and pointing fingers, you know? It’s funny, but there’s that sense of an awkward situation.
Caryn Hartglass: I think that a bigger part of that is that most people, at least the people that I know who are really busy or a two person family, they don’t know how to prepare food. Any kind of food. They’re use to eating out or bringing in. My partner Gary and I are both into cooking our own food. We post a lot of recipes in my non-profit website: ResponsibleEatingandLiving.com. People are intimidated by us, vegan or not. We know how to make food. So many people don’t which is why when then know people who are vegan, they don’t even know what’s in their food to know what to eliminate.
Charles Horn: Yeah, that’s true too. I’m actually not in the same case as you. I’m a guy that doesn’t know how to cook very well.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, most people are like that today.
Charles Horn: Yeah, exactly.
Caryn Hartglass: so tell me, where do you go to eat and what do you eat?
Charles Horn: well, I’m lucky that I live in Los Angeles. There’s a margining number of restaurants and it’s wonderful. I actually was a long time vegetarian. Only two years ago I finally went vegan. I find that my palette has expanded enormously.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just amazing and I laugh every time I hear it.
Charles Horn: it’s like we put ourselves in these boxes and by finally making a change, you kind of take that opportunity by saying, “Well now I’m giving myself permission to try all these new things.” And I would just rule those things out before. But now it’s like “Hey this is great, I’ll just try these new things.”
Caryn Hartglass: When you don’t have the crutch of grading salty fatty cheese on everything, all of a sudden your taste buds get clean and you’re open to new flavors. Now you talk a little bit about the excuse that people give to themselves whether they’re vegetarian or flexitarian. What were you telling yourself when you were vegetarian?
Charles Horn: Well, basically, a lot of it I think was similar to a lot of vegetarians who are ethical vegetarians. They don’t know better. Here’s somebody like me, who has five degrees, I got a PHD from Princeton. I did not know that you have to get a cow pregnant to get milk, I mean, that’s embarrassing.
Caryn Hartglass: But you know, I remember watching Sesame Street as a kid. I was about 9 or 10 and I was watching with my baby brother. I still enjoyed it at that age. I’ll never forget this, but there were these beautiful images of cows and it said, a cow makes much too much milk for her young calf to drink.
Charles Horn: Ahh.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ll never forget those words, exactly those words. And we were taught that that milk was extra and it was for us.
Charles Horn: Yeah. Cows give milk.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmhm.
Charles Horn: Not that we take it. Cows give milk.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so how did you discover that cows needed to become pregnant and all those things associated with that, that isn’t so nice?
Charles Horn: I don’t remember the exact moment. I know that as a vegetarian, I basically knew that I want no part of this. I didn’t want to think about it any further because I felt that I can’t win this fight. So you know, I don’t want to think about this every day. I want out and didn’t want to think about it anymore. That’s how I was for so many years. I guess more recently I’ve been feeling that things are starting to move and I kind of wanted to be apart of that and I wanted to push it in the right direction, however little I can. So then I was more open to learning more. Looking at how to replace the remaining fusions vegetarian in my diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Where are your friends and colleges in this? Are they bummed out that you’re becoming more of a drag or are they happy?
Charles Horn: I definitely have lost some Facebook friends.
Caryn Hartglass: Hahah.
Charles Horn: You know I guess a part of me just thinks it’s necessary. If that’s what’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. It’s more important for me to speak the truth. I think that we are getting closer and closer to the point where more people are being more open to hearing it. I think that, that is more important to me at this point. So whatever consequence there is, that’s what still worth it. I’m also looking for more ways to turn it into a positive in other ways, for both my self as well. for example, I’ve been writing comedy so maybe I could find a way to do some entertainment.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. I think that’s really important to do that. I was going to say when we were originally talking in the beginning, how you decided to make your book serious rather than comedic. There’s a place for the comedy too. We need message everywhere.
Charles Horn: Yeah absolutely. I think it’s important for things I want to do. Obviously it’s something that take funding and all of that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh that.
Charles Horn: Yeah I haven’t fully figured it out. I’d love to do one of those Stephen Colbert types of shows where you are just showing the insanity.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah you need that. We’ve been playing with the idea too in my non-profit site ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com so we need more of that. We need to read.
Charles Horn: Another thing I wanted to do, we write a lot of sitcoms as well, and I kind of wanted to do a comparison to The Cosby Show where I just want that family that’s normal but they’re vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh! Love it, yeah.
Charles Horn: So I want to do that as well.
Caryn Hartglass: For me, it’s a big picture. I’m against racism, homophobes, Speciesism, and all those isms whatever. I want to eliminate pain and suffering. Let’s get away from exploitation. With the big picture, everything applies. Unfortunately, history has shown us that we take baby steps. And we’re not even there in places where we think that we’ve gotten far. Like with women’s rights or civil rights. We still have slaves around the world and in this country. Although it may not be apparent to people, there are semi slaves. People recognize it as horrible, but these things still exist. So we move slowly in improving women’s rights, and people of color where ever we can and animal exploitation seems to be last because they don’t have a voice.
Charles Horn: yeah. That’s true, but there is one important difference. We’re kind of seeing it in terms of how we speak. The LGBT. We could see in our lifetime, of how they’re not fully there, it’s turning the corner where it’s not going to go back. Like did you get that sense that we have turned that corner?
Caryn Hartglass: It’s inevitable. It’s frustrating but inevitable. Television, and the sitcoms have helped that.
Charles Horn: Hahah that’s true, that’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: I need you to write one!
Charles Horn: I have one that needs funding.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh funding. I’m so tired of that. We created so much for nothing just because the funding is so hard. Yeah, all right a few more minutes. So tell me about some of these things in your bio. Robot Chicken. What’s Robot Chicken about? Is there any good veg messages in there or is it just a nice funny story?
Charles Horn: No, it’s like these other projects, like I’m one writer on a team of writers. So I’m not in charge of these. Robot Chicken, Seth Green is one of the people behind it. It’s basically a stop motion animation sketch comedy show. So they take little puppets and move them frame-by-frame.
Caryn Hartglass: Love that.
Charles Horn: Yeah, and they just make pop culture jokes and all that. So it has a really strong cult following. You know, it’s on Adult Swim at night for adults.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay.
Charles Horn: So that’s a lot of fun, but no unfortunately most of the writers are not there yet.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. I remember hearing, I may get this wrong, and something about the movie Finding Nemo was the most popular video or most watched something or other. And I was surprised to hear it was as popular as it was. Officially because whether people realize it or not, there was that subliminal or not so subliminal vegan message with the sharks trying to not eat other fish.
Charles Horn: Yeah there are. I remember hearing that they changed the script where they were going to end it at Sea World and they actually changed a script where they took that out because they realized that where they were going long term. Sea World just won’t stand up to history.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Sea World is not very nice these days or any of those days, but they’re getting a very bad animal treatment reputation.
Charles Horn: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, because fish have feelings too, and sea mammals have feelings too.
Charles Horn: I know. There are still a lot of missed information out there. There’s still a lot of work to do, but more and more people are getting to that point where they know something is wrong and they realize that it’s time, it’s time.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. So we’re pretty much at the end. I wanted to run through the table of contents of your book just to wet people’s appetite about what they could find in your book in terms of the information that they need when people are going to hit them with some of the responses that you talk about.
So you’ve got:
Biased and Misconception,
The Philosophical Bases for Animal Rights
A Few Problems with the Arguments for Speciesism
Animals are Just Things; Animals Don’t Feel Pain
Animals are Dumb
Animals aren’t Human
Humans are Omnivores
(There’s some good ones here)
We’ve Been Eating Meat Since the Beginning of Time
You talk about the Paleo diet. (Which is so amazing to me, all of the excuses for Paleo and it’s not a good diet. Hello! The only thing good about the Paleo diet is it gets people away from eating processed food and junk food, but the rest of it, forget about it. )
Bacon is one of your chapters
The Role of Farmed Animals is to be Eaten
Death at Slaughterhouse is Better than Death in the Wild. (Who thinks of these things? A lot of people do!)
I Was Brought up Eating Animals; It’s Tradition. (I certainly know that one.)
And – The Animal is Already Dead
God Gave Us The Right to Eat Animals. (Please!)
Yeah, so very good. You hit them all pretty much and thank you for writing it.
Charles Horn: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. All right Charles, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Charles Horn: Thank you very much.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad to meet you.
Charles Horn: You too.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay have a good day.
Charles Horn: You too, bye.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. That was fun. Meat Logic: Why Do we Animals? If you are eating animals, maybe you could give me your logic as to why you are because I would like to hear about it. Let’s have a nice conversation because the only way we’re going to move forward is to communicate and communicate with each other. You may remember, I recently spoke to 250 cattle ranchers about climate change in Nevada. It was so powerful because here were two groups of people. Well, me the lone vegan, one person, and 250 other people. We were going back and fourth and sharing our thoughts and ideas. The only way we are going to move forward is when we talk, communicate, and stay open.
Transcribed by Jo Villanueva, 7/28/2014