Part I: Caryn talks about fasting, making maki, food borne illness and the law, the VegNews Comfort Food Shindig, and… bowel movements.
Part II: James Aspey, Voiceless365
James Aspey is a 28-year-old vegan, animal rights activist from Sydney, Australia. In 2014, he embarked on an unprecedented and life changing challenge. James took a 365 day VOW OF SILENCE to raise awareness for animals and promote peace over violence. He did this while traveling around Australia, and also whilst cycling 5000 kilometers from Darwin to Sydney, in his popular campaign, Voiceless365. He then ended his vow, live, on Australia’s most popular morning TV show and now he’s sharing what he’s learned with the world! Find out more at www.jamesaspey.com.au.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. How’s it going today? I’m going to be talking for the next half-hour and then I’m going to bring up a guest, James Aspey, in about a half-hour, and we are going to talk about his year of not talking. And I think that’s going to be a really, really an interesting time. Can you imagine? Not talking for about a year? For a year exactly. There’s a lot we can learn from that and we’ll discover what he learned, coming up in a little bit.
It’s fall! It’s not fall yet and we have another week of summer, but the cool air is coming through. I’ve even got a sweatshirt on which is fun and I bought a new teapot. To me, fall is about being comfortable either in your leisure time or during work and getting a little cozy and drinking tea. And I’ve just got a new teapot. Now, I’ve mentioned a number of times that I’m really anti-tea bags for lots of reasons. And I like to use bulk tea and teapots that come with these lovely little baskets that you can put the bulk tea in. And that way you can make it as weak or as strong as you like. And you don’t have all of that environmental waste of paper or nylon that they use in some of the fancier tea bags. And I just got this cute little teapot. I’m so in love with it. I think I might buy another one because this one is so particularly cute, but I always have to see how they hold up. Because we go through teakettles and teapots a little too quickly, which is why I go with stainless now because I tend to break the porcelain pots, unfortunately. Yeah, so if you go to my What Vegans Eat blog you can see what my new teapot looks like because I posted it yesterday and today.
And another thing I want to share with you – you may remember John Joseph? I had him on years ago. He wrote a book. Please excuse me if I offend you by saying his title, but it is called Meat is for Pussies. And the title is actually offensive to many people, but what I like about him and his work is he appeals to a very specific demographic. He’s had a very challenging life and he’s come out of it very miraculously and a hero with a wonderful message. And he’s just been featured in a great video. You might go to munchies.vice.com/ and check out the Fuel the Vegan Iron Man Diet of Cro-Mags’ John Joseph. Oh yeah, he’s also a punk rocker of the group Cro-Mags’. It’s not my kind of music, but some people like it and I don’t care what kind of music or what people do for their entertainment, as long as they don’t hurt anybody. All I care about is eating plant foods, that we all should eat – healthy delicious plant foods. I can’t say it’s all that I care about, but you know that it’s really important to me. So, you might check out munchies.vice.com for that really inspiring video. One of the things that it made me want to do is work out more and we could always use a little inspiration to work out more. Don’t we? Couldn’t we?
Now, today is, starting at Sundown in New York, the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. I can’t say how many times I’ve said it on this show – I am not a religious person. I like holiday parties and food. And this particular holiday is not really about food until the holiday is over because during this holiday you are supposed to fast from sundown to sundown and I do not plan on fasting. But I want to talk about fasting. I thought it would be a good topic to talk about. We touch on it from time to time. This show is called It’s All About Food. Well, what happens when you abstain from food and why would you want to do that? Folks that are doing it during this holiday, it’s what I was told originally when I was going to religious school when I was a little girl, is that people are supposed to be so wrapped up in their prayers: their prayers for forgiveness, their prayers for what all of this holiday is about. It’s the Day of Atonement where we ask for forgiveness for all of the things that we’ve done that we shouldn’t have done or made mistakes during the year. That you’re so wrapped up in these thoughts of prayer, that you don’t have time to eat. And I think that most of the people that I know, they’re thinking about eating most of the day while they’re not eating. They’re not that wrapped up in the concept of forgiveness. And fasting can be a wonderful, wonderful thing. And there are different kinds of fasting. There’s the popular juice fast that many people will partake in; and I think juice fasts are great, but I don’t really think they’re fasts. I think they’re just a very simple way to get nutrients which is very light on your digestive system and can help cleanse and can help alleviate a lot of different problems. Fasting is really when you abstain from foods and water fasting is the true type of fast, where you’re not really eating food, but you are drinking water as necessary because it really isn’t healthy to go without water. Water is really important and it’s an important part of fasting. The essential thing that we have in life, number one, is we must breathe and as soon as we stop breathing the game’s over; then after that it’s taking in water. We absolutely need water and of course we need nutrients, but water takes priority in terms of how long we can go without it. So, you may not know this, but Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who I have said many times is my favorite doctor, has written some wonderful books about food and eating and his famous Eat to Live Diet. His first book was about fasting, called Fasting and Eating for Health. And anyone who might be curious about fasting and thinking about whether they should or should not fast, I really recommend his book Fasting and Eating for Health. I really enjoyed it when I read it, which was sometime around 1999 or 1998 – I don’t remember when it came out. But I was fascinated by it and it did ultimately lead me to do a three-week water only fast. I did it mostly out of curiosity. Some of my family and friends thought I was a little nutty at the time. And just like we are going to talk about not talking later on, not eating for a substantial amount of time really opens you up to learning a lot of things. And during a fast when you’re not eating the one key thing that’s necessary, other than not eating and drinking water, is resting. It’s really not advised to have a prolonged fast and continue normal activities. When I did my three-week water only fast, I was a bit of a chiseler. You had the opportunity to go to Dr. Fuhrman’s fasting center and I really couldn’t afford to do it for three-weeks, so I fasted at home for about 10 or 11 days; and during that time I didn’t slow down that much. I had a lot of energy and I was feeling pretty good. It was actually over Thanksgiving and I made a Thanksgiving Dinner for a few people. That was the early part of my fast. I didn’t eat anything. That was kind of a fun thing to do: make a lot of food, not taste it, and then serve it. But that fast, the key part was the resting portion of it. When I was at the fasting center, which he doesn’t have anymore, there was a lot of time for self-reflection. I would go on walks and my metabolism was so slow at this point that I felt like I was in slow motion or everyone else was in super speeded up, fast forward kind of motion. As I walked along everyone was moving at a much more rapid pace. But this is an opportunity for your body to focus on areas that need healing. And there have been some miraculous stories about people that have been in health crisis and have done water fasting and have healed themselves. Dr. Fuhrman has his own personal story. And so when we’re talking about a day fast during a religious holiday, there are things that I think people should consider – and they don’t. Very often people think that if they go on a fast for a few weeks that they’ll lose a lot of weight. It’s true, you do lose weight, but the ideal way to fast, for anyone who’s doing a day fast or any length of time, is you want to be eating an ideal healthy diet before you fast and to continue with a very healthy diet after you fast. If you think the fast is going to clean some things out and then you go back to a toxic diet, that’s not healthy. That can be really damaging. And I know people who have spent the money, gone to one of these fasting centers, lost a bunch of weight and then gone back to their regular unhealthy diet. And what happens? Not only do they put on the weight again and probably even more, but they’re probably doing themselves some harm. So, before you go into a fast, you want to be eating well. And maybe even you want to ease into it by eating particularly clean before you go into a fast. I have to admit that I did very well during my three-week water only fast, but some years later I thought I would try another fast, just on my own for just a few days. So, in Dr. Fuhrman’s book he recommends a long fast once every five or ten years and I didn’t follow up with something like that, but I thought I might try it. And I wasn’t being careful and I had a bit Thai dinner before the day I was going to fast. And I could not do the fast as long as I wanted to; because that Thai dinner which was rich and full of that starchy rice noodle stuff and fat and oils, that kind of just got stuck in my intestines and I could not continue a prolonged fast. You need to have a lot of hydrated foods with lots of fiber, so that it’s going in and coming out, and then when you’re ready to fast your body is prepped for a fast. Now, some people find that a prolonged fast is scary and is not something that they want to do or can do because of their schedule, and fasting once a week has shown to be very, very positive for many people. And there is even some evidence that those people who are going through chemotherapy have a better impact or better results with chemo if they fast the day before they have chemotherapy. There are a lot of fascinating things about fasting. People often think if they’re tired they need to eat or maybe they’re not eating the right foods and I think for most of us who are fortunate to be able to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, the problem is probably too much food or not the right choices. So, when we’re tired, we don’t need more food, we need to sleep or maybe we need to eat different foods; food that are energizing, rather than foods that slow us down. Things to think about for fasting.
Now, let’s get back to eating food because that’s really the fun part. And I want to talk about some foods that I was fortunate to enjoy this week. So, just yesterday, for example, we were thinking about the restaurant Beyond Sushi – I think I mentioned that a few times. It’s a relatively new restaurant. It’s been around a few years here in Manhattan. I’m not sure if they’ve branched out yet to other places, but they make some great hand rolls and vegetable maki and sushi. It’s all vegan and in addition to just white rice, like you’ll get in most Japanese restaurants, they’ll use black rice and red rice and a number of other grains and some wonderful sauces – like different flavored vegan mayonnaises that you can use to dip or enhance the different items that you are buying. So we thought last night that we’d kind of make our own. And I had some tri-colored quinoa, red, black and white and I used that to make our maki. And thanks to Gary, I said, “We got to make one of those good tasting mayos or aiolis that they have at Beyond Sushi”. And he did just that. He made one of these, wow, this great, spicy aioli. And I posted the recipe for you today should you want to try it. And it’s great. It’s great for anything that calls for mayonnaise or an aioli: for dipping, you can spread it on bread and make a sandwich. Of course you can use it for vegetable maki and it’s not hard to make and wow, it’s good. And he made enough so I can have more whenever I want.
And then we went to the Veg-News, the Veg-News Comfort Food Shindig. I don’t know if any of you are subscribers of the Veg-News magazine – I’m sure you are. You may know that Veg-News went through some difficulties. I spoke with Colleen Holland a few weeks ago, who is the publisher of Veg-News. And boy, vegans know how to party! Let me just say that. We love our food. We love having a good time. And this party was at Mooshoes, which is a vegan shoe store in Manhattan and they are so generous there. Eric and Sarah Kubersky, the owners of this store, have hosted many great events, book launches and other vegan events. And we were at this Veg-News party. Jay Astafa, who is this young celebrity chef, was making little treats for us, like little mini cheeseburgers and fries and vanilla shakes. And my favorite was the mini grilled cheese with creamy tomato sauce served in a shot glass – that was fun. And Vegan Treats offered up so many stunning deserts. It was quite a party! And then, we were given goody bags filled with all kinds of wonderful foods that I don’t normally buy because, I don’t know, I’m not someone who buys treats very often. If I want to have a treat I usually make it. But if you look at my What Vegans Eat blog, I think it was number 219, you can see all the goodies we got in our goody bag and some of the people who were there at that party. It was major fun.
What else is in the news? I wanted to mention, when we eat, for example, any food that comes from a grocery store, food that comes from a restaurant, food that comes packaged to go, in a convenience store, whatever, it is always a leap of faith. We really need to trust where that food came from, every step of the way. And we want to believe that the companies that are producing this food take care in keeping their facilities clean and buy quality products. That we have a government that inspects along the way to make sure everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do. And there are all kinds of rules to follow and we just take a leap of faith and assume that these rules are being followed. Well, if you follow what’s going on with food borne illnesses, you can realize how much of a leap of faith you are taking every time you eat in a restaurant or eat food where you haven’t followed it every step of the way and checked it every step of the way. And one of the big food borne illness related cases was just resolved yesterday. I don’t know if you remember the story about the salmonella tainted peanuts that sickened 714 people and killed 9 in the year 2009. One of many food borne illness cases, it was a particularly fascinating one because the people involved, Stewart Parnell, his brother Michael and an employee, Mary Wilkerson, were all served yesterday: Stewart Parnell, 28 years in prison, his brother Michael, 20 years, and the employee Mary, to 5 years. And they were involved and they knew. They knew that they were shipping salmonella tainted peanuts. And where it gets complicated. This is where efficiency comes in. And this is one of the reasons why I don’t like the word “efficient”. Being efficient or thinking of efficiency as an important parameter. In some ways it is, but what do we lose when we try to be very efficient when we merge companies? When companies get so large it’s really impossible to keep track of where things come from. So, if you have a company that makes a particular product, that needs peanuts, for example, and they buy peanuts from a variety of sources, and they blend them up and cook them up and extrude them and put them in packages. It’s really hard to tell where the problem started when you have salmonella lurking in your food product. And I would prefer to see, in addition to better inspection and better ways to keep people honest, that companies could be smaller. When it comes to making food, companies should be smaller, locally sourced. This big corporation thing, especially when it comes to food, can be very, very dangerous. This is just one small story out of many, but the good news is that justice was served and these particular people didn’t get away with it. And I think that we’re going to be seeing more of that. And you hope that this is going to be a deterrent for food manufacturers, so that they work very hard at keeping the bad bugs out of their food.
What else do we have here to talk about? I talk about bowel movements sometimes on this show, right? The thing that’s amusing and interesting is I think most people realize when they change their diet and when they start to incorporate healthier foods in their diet one of the first things they notice is what happens when it all comes out the other end. Because things change and anytime you change your diet, it can be adding good food to your diet or it can be adding bad foods to your diet, your bowel movements are going to change. I always like to tell the story that I went to a raw food conference in Costa Rica, a little over 10 years ago, and the food was so full of oils and nuts, was so rich, that I actually became constipated; which you wouldn’t think is what would happen when you’re eating raw foods, but the diet changed and it was challenging for a few days. So, I like to talk about bowel movements because they’re really important and they let you know how healthy you are.
I can’t imagine going a day without moving. And I think two foods, for me, that are really powerful in keeping my intestines scrubbed are oats, which is one of the reasons why we eat a lot of oatmeal here at home, for breakfast, not everyday, but many days, other than the fact that we love it, but it’s really a good scrubber, and lentils. Wow, I love lentils. I love their flavor. You can do many, many things with them. You can put them in a puree, you can put them in a soup, you can put them in a loaf, but no matter how you eat them they keep you clean and they keep things moving. Now, fiber is a really important thing to keep things moving and rather than taking fiber from a jar and mixing it with some water and thinking you’re going to get the fiber you need, fiber is best from food and fiber is the most delicious from food. And it just boggles my mind, that this food that we eat, these wonderful plant food dishes, they are delicious, they are nutritious, they keep things moving, they keep you energized, and yet it has taken so long for people to get on this wagon – this plant based food wagon. Come on! It’s fun, it’s delicious and it will take you a long way, deliciously! I really believe that.
I just wanted to mention one more thing before we take a little break and then bring on my guest. That’s just a little message from Coca Cola. Coca Cola, the CEO last month promised that he would make Coca Cola’s funding transparent. And they have done that. You might visit the Coca Cola website. They have a number of different pages, frequently asked questions and they tell you who they have partnerships with, which the scientists are working on their research and they tell you whom they’re funding. And they say they will continue to update every six months. And okay, that’s nice that they’re being transparent, but I don’t think that anything’s going to change because who has time to look at these sites and make the connections that the people that they’re using to do research are also supporting their agenda? They say, and this is just an amusing thing to me, amusing, sad, but they say, I don’t have the exact wording, but there is a one piece in one of these transparency pages where they say that they’re concerned about obesity and want to work getting people to reach their ideal weight. And they say that they will do it and they do it already by offering low sugar and no sugar beverages. That’s amusing to me because aspartame actually encourages your appetite; it increases your appetite. People that are drinking these no calorie beverages thinking they’re not getting any calories are made hungrier and these companies know that. Yes, they know it. So, I’ll leave you with that little thing to digest for a moment and we’ll take a quick break and then be back to talk with James Aspey of Voiceless365.
Transcribed by Jolene Gervais, August 7, 2016
Transcription Part II:
Hey everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s part two of It’s All About Food. I want to bring on my guest James Aspey. He’s a 28-year-old vegan animal rights activist from Sydney, Australia. In 2014, he embarked on an unprecedented and life changing challenge. James took a 365 day vow of silence to raise awareness for animals and promote peace over violence. He did this while traveling around Australia, and also while cycling 5000 kilometers from Darwin to Sydney, in his popular campaign, Voiceless365. He then ended his vow, live, on Australia’s most popular morning TV show and now he’s sharing what he’s learned with the world! Find out more at www.jamesaspey.com.au. Good morning James.
James Aspey: Good morning Caryn. How’re you doing?
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Thank you for starting your day early to talk to us up here in New York as you’re down there in Australia.
James Aspey: I actually started it earlier yesterday because I thought it was yesterday so it’s two days in a row now.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sorry about that. That’s because it’s Wednesday for you, right?
James Aspey: Yeah. I always struggle to keep up with what day it is. My weekends and my weekdays all blur into the same thing really.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s all made up.
James Aspey: That’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: And there is no time.
James Aspey: Time is but an illusion.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes but in order for us to have these programs we have to have a method so that we know when we’re going to talk to each other.
James Aspey: It does make it a bit easier.
Caryn Hartglass: So you have quite a story and we’re going to touch on some of that today. I was actually watching earlier the video of your first words after not talking for one year. I’ve been thinking a lot about choices. Many of us are fortunate to have so many choices. We don’t even realize what our choices are as we whine and whine, complain about all the things we want and don’t have. Whereas if we just shifted a little perspective and realized “Wow! We have so much. Our lives are so rich.”
James Aspey: We really do. I saw that in every talk I do.
Caryn Hartglass: This is a little bizarre. I was just talking about bowel movements so why don’t I just keep with the potty talk. I wake up most nights and I have to go to the bathroom. Most of the time I wake up and I think “Oh, I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m tired. It’s so warm and cozy. I don’t want to do this.” And I get up and then I feel better. Last night I woke up and as I was going to the bathroom I thought, “Wow! I’m so lucky to be able to do this. I have freedom and I can take care of whatever it is that I need to take care of in a moment.” And then I think about those who are imprisoned—humans and non-human animals—who don’t have that kind of freedom or luxury for the simplest basic needs.
James Aspey: That’s something that I never thought to be grateful of—that I could use the bathroom in the middle of the night. I’m the same, “Oh I don’t want to get out of bed. Why did I drink so much water before bed.” Yeah, that’s a great point. We just have to walk a few meters there to just do that which some people and non-human animals stuck in their cages don’t have that luxury. I think it’s pigs that they actually make their own spot to go to the toilet. When they are out in the world and that they do it away from their bed. The pigs that are kept in xxx [4:37 ?] stalls and those cages, for example, they don’t have that opportunity to be able to do what they would in nature. They have to defecate right where they stand, where they lie, where they do everything because they are in a cage so small they can hardly even move. That’s the vast majority of pigs who are killed for the vast majority of pork products that us humans or some of us humans, most of us humans are still consuming.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and there are so many bacon lovers out there that just celebrate the privilege of eating bacon. It’s very difficult because, as you probably know, in your face vegan activism, screaming at someone and telling them what to do is something that doesn’t work. Although you may want to shake them and slap them around it’s not effective but that’s what I want to do.
James Aspey: I guess for me it has its place. Do I think it’s the most effective way to create change? No I definitely don’t but then again I do think that there’s some people who, for example my personal method which is coming from a peaceful, respectful, understanding place—I’m sure there are some people out there who it won’t resonate with and some people do need to be yelled at for them to respond and go “Oh, hang on a second.” I agree, I think that type of activism is going to be effective for a minority where the vast majority of people might…they are going to respond to an approach that is… I have this quote which I like to say, “Don’t blame and shame. Inform and explain.” Just by telling people the facts which most people have never even thought of before and teaching them you can survive and thrive and not even survive but be healthier on a whole foods plant-based diet and live longer and reduce your chances of so many diseases while saving so many animals lives. Not putting animals in such pain and torture and exploit them or kill them for food and drugs we don’t even need and it’s better for the environment and we can save…there are so many people starving every day of hunger. We can do so much just by going vegan. What you were talking about a minute ago, having luxuries and having the choice to be able to do so much…we had everything we could ever want. We have so much and then we have so much more. We have all the basic necessities. We can drink out of our taps. We get food out of the fridge. We’ve got a place to sleep that’s under covers. We have all the base needs and then we have on top of that just so much more. We are so blessed and so lucky. Isn’t the least we could do, the very least we could do, stop enslaving and exploiting and killing innocent beings who feel pain and suffer just like us for food and products that are easily avoidable, that we don’t need at all. That is really an abuse of our power, of our, I don’t know if you even call it, privilege. An abuse of what we can do. We dominate rather than try and live in harmony. I mean clearly it’s not working. Now we’ve got an epidemic of disease and illness. The planet is being destroyed and we’re taking along 1.5 trillion innocent beings with that. We’re killing them every single year. So things need to change. It starts with each and every one of us.
Caryn Hartglass: Each and every once of us and for those of us who are there it’s so hard to understand why others haven’t joined us yet. Especially those who know about what’s going on. For some reason it’s hard for people. I can’t speak really too well of that difficulty because I gave up eating meat when I was a teenager and I’ve been doing it for decades. So it’s just had for me to understand. It’s easy, it’s easy, I’ve been doing it all my life practically. Why can’t you do it?
James Aspey: It’s definitely easy. I think I understand a little bit why. I think it’s because mainly of all the lies we’ve been told and have believed for our entire lives. For me, particularly on animals and their sentience I’ve been wracking my brain… I didn’t used to care about animals really at all and I’ve been wracking my brain, why is that? Why didn’t I care about them? I’ve just kind of figured it out—because I didn’t think they could care about themselves. I didn’t think a chicken had the capacity to care about his or her own life so why would I care about their life? That’s what I thought. And then there’s the lies, “we need casein from dairy”, “we need protein from flesh”. There’s free range. There’s humane ways to kill someone who wants to live, is humanely slaughtered. We believe so many lies because that’s what’s fed to us from when we’re young. We have to eat animals to survive and be healthy. I think an important part for helping someone to go vegan, which is what they really want to do inside because almost everyone is against animal cruelty and hates animal abuse and wants to be a good, positive, kind, loving person. You’re not convincing anyone of doing something they don’t want to do. It’s helping them realize why what they’re doing now isn’t in alignment with where they’re at and then help them get rid of all the myths and all the lies they believe by telling them one by one actually you can get casein from all kinds of different foods. Consuming dairy products is actually acidic and leaches casein from your bones and you can explain the world record holding strongman is a vegan. So he’s obviously not having a problem from not getting enough protein. That’s what I think’s important—just helping people cross each and every one of the myths or lies off. And when you’ve done that—because one of the best things about being a vegan—is there is an answer to every single one of these lies. So when you learn them and you can help other people by teaching them the truth as well, by the end of that…you only might be able to get a few excuses or a few lies done each conversation you have. But whatever, you just do what you can do and in the end there, when they’ve got no excuses left, they’ve been told the truth about everything they didn’t realize before. Veganism is the only thing that starts making sense. Then you go, “Why aren’t I doing this now? This seems better in every way.” Which it is. I think that’s why people start going, “OK. This is definitely something I’m going to consider or move into now.
Caryn Hartglass: You mentioned that at first you weren’t aware or you didn’t acknowledge that animals had feelings and they could think and you weren’t relating to them in any way. When we were talking about pigs urinating in their stalls, they are very sensitive to smell and it’s painful for them to live in these confined environments with so many other pigs because of the odors. It’s just something that…I don’t know…do the farmers acknowledge this? They must know but don’t seem to care.
James Aspey: That’s probably right at the bottom of the list of things to care about when it comes to pig farming.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and making money.
James Aspey: That’s right at the top there. When we’re valuing profit over somebody’s life and someone’s wellbeing we’ve made a serious problem somewhere along the way. There’s no taste more valuable than somebody else’s life. That’s what we’re doing every choice we make that’s a choice that isn’t vegan. We are valuing our own comfort, our own taste or pleasure or entertainment over somebody’s life. When you really realize that and realize what you’re doing, it hits home. For me that’s why what I spend most of my time doing now…is trying to help people live in alignment with the kind, peaceful, respectful person they are. Being vegan is so easy for us yet for them those small changes we make to our everyday life which are so easy to do that has just such an incredible positive effect on the animals and the planet. How could we not do something so easy which stops so many beings from being in such suffering and such sadness and misery. It’s one of the greatest things you can do and it happens to be one of the easiest things you can do.
Caryn Hartglass: James, you don’t seem to have any problem talking. You seem to have a lot to say and it’s all good. How is that it you took a vow of silence?
James Aspey: So hard honestly. It started I took a ten day vow of silence for meditation called vipassana. That’s where I had the idea to do a vow of silence for a year. So when I started the vow of silence for a year I communicated with writing things and then I met someone who does sign language and I noticed that they communicated also by using their mouth with their words they made the mouth movement, as if you were speaking. That’s kind of how I communicated. I was expecting it to get easier throughout the year. I thought I’d get more used to it. I’d figure out other ways of communicating. It got harder and harder and harder, right up until the end because I was learning more and more. I was a really new vegan. I went vegan the day I started my vow of silence. I was still…I used to say “slipping up”. I wasn’t slipping up, I was deliberately choosing animal products on occasion before that. That’s it, I’m done now when I did my vow of silence. As I took that year of silence I was learning more and more and more about some of the things we’re talking about which made me have more to say and want to express this more to everyone I came into contact with. It was a really, really challenging thing actually. I was just so happy it was over by the end of it because I wanted to just start being able to talk and use my voice which is a far easier way and more effective way to communicate. Taking the vow of silence raises awareness. Throughout the year every person I came into contact with they wanted to know, “why are you voiceless?” I wrote in my blog every day or so on Facebook and online which thousands of people were following. The real awareness raising happened when the interview I did on television when I spoke for the first time with a very clear vegan message to the world which I spent ten days in meditation figuring out exactly what I wanted to say. That interview spread all over the world. It was shared thousands and thousands of times. I caught just two of the shares that had a large number of views. One was 250,000 and the other was 780,000. So that was just two views out of thousands of shares and had been seen over a million times. Who knows how many times it’s been seen altogether? Not having my voice for a year gave me a voice that potentially millions of people listened to for that three minute interview and what I said in that three minute interview was very clear, very direct. If you love animals and you’re against animal cruelty then by your own beliefs you are morally obligated to come vegan which is easy and healthy and happens to be delicious.
Caryn Hartglass: When you were doing that show and you were speaking for the first time in one year, you could see how moved you were in your face. I know that when I talk about factory-farmed animals I can get choked up very easily because I know the horrors are out there but as soon as I express it it’s a very emotional thing for me. I kind of have to push back down inside me. So you’ve had a number of things going on. You’re on national television and big audience and you hadn’t spoken for a year plus you were talking about this terrible situation that we’re in. What was going on inside you?
James Aspey: The main thing…those things were a little bit nerve wracking, having the cameras on and not having spoken in a year…that was all on my mind but the main thing that was on my mind was that I wanted to do the cause justice because it’s not often that a vegan gets to talk about veganism live on national television. I really wanted to do the cause justice so that’s why I spent those ten days trying to figure it out…what I was going to say, to get it really right, really kind of cover it all as best I could in just a few minutes. I was nervous but…because I’d never been on TV before, never really been in front of a camera before. The bottom line was that was going to be the best thing to raise awareness for animals. Although a big part of me didn’t want to be there on TV doing that, a far more important part of me said this is the best way to raise awareness for them. That’s what I just kept in mind. After that interview I received messages from people all over the world, countless messages, constantly for weeks from people who never thought of it like that, many people who saying they wanted to go vegan now after just that three minute interview. It was all worth it. The whole vow of silence was worth it to go and express that thought and what I put together to end my vow on it was all worth it just for that three minute moment.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s back up even further. What was it that made you go vegan?
James Aspey: I went vegetarian for a week after meeting someone who told me that eating animals is bad karma. He was a very, very wise man so I thought there’s probably something to it. I’d been a personal trainer for 8 years. I thought, it’s bad karma, you could be right. I don’t want that for myself. I want good karma so obviously I’ll just go vegetarian, just for my personal benefit. But then I felt so amazing after just a few days of just cutting flesh from my diet that I decided there must be something to it. So I looked into it. I started researching more and more. I expected to feel so weak and tired, all the usual wrong beliefs you think, like you need meat for energy and blah, blah, blah. So I started looking into it because I felt so good. I thought what’s going on here? Then I learned that not only can it be healthy. I’ve always believed there’s no such thing as a healthy vegetarian after a mentor of mine in the health industry told me that. So I started looking into it and I realized you’re reducing your chance of heart disease and cancers and diabetes and osteoporosis and obesity and you’re increasing your longevity. And I just thought, “What! How did I not know about this?” This is shocking. Not only can it be healthy but it’s healthier. Through learning more and more about the health side of things I started coming across the things that happen to animals before they become this neatly wrapped package on the supermarket shelf. I decided, well hang on a second, I’m no animal lover by any means but I know when something is wrong when I see it. I know injustice when I see it. I know oppression when I see it and this is not something I’m ok with. So, I’m no animal lover but I don’t despise animals. I don’t hate animals. What I was seeing done to animals is something I wouldn’t even want done to my worst enemy. And I had a whole new reason to be vegetarian then—for the animals. Then looking into it further and further—because I was just blown away by all of this—how had I never thought of this before. I start learning it’s not just about flesh. It’s about eggs and dairy and leather and places that exploit animals for entertainment and products that test on animals and animal products. All these things, right? And I thought it’s not just about flesh. It’s about all the ways we use animals. All animal use is abuse. That’s all wrong. All of a sudden, I heard about veganism before, a little bit. I had one friend who was vegan. I didn’t know anything about it. My friend came to me and told me one day that Grant has gone vegan. I was like, “What’s that?” He said, “He doesn’t sit on leather couches any more.” That’s what he told me about veganism. I was “What the hell is that about?” It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. That’s all I really knew about it. In my research I started seeing vegan pop up more and more. I didn’t think it was a moral obligation of mine. I thought it was just more of a lifestyle choice because I thought, “Why wouldn’t we not need to also use all those other things.” I didn’t understand there was cruelty in a glass of milk. I didn’t understand there was cruelty in eggs. After learning more and more I decided, “Hang on, veganism is actually not as extreme as I once thought. In fact when did not wanting to exploit and kill animals become the extreme way of living?”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I think meat-eating is extreme.
James Aspey: Yeah, what’s extreme is saying you love animals and you’re against animal cruelty while you’re paying people to mutilate and torture and slaughter them for food and products that we don’t need. That’s what’s extreme.
Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to say when you were talking about not being an animal lover. I’m not an animal lover either. I don’t live with non-human animals. I don’t have a problem with those who do. It’s just not something for me but many people who do live with dogs and cats and birds and turtles and whatever and they say they’re such an animal lover—they don’t think twice about what’s on their plate.
James Aspey: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: That doesn’t make any sense at all. We just have like three minutes left. What do you eat, James? What things do you like to eat?
James Aspey: I mean for breakfast I have banana ice cream every morning when I can which means… This was the best recipe I learned when I went vegan. You freeze a few bananas. You put them in a blender, add a splash of almond milk or rice milk or oat milk or soy milk or coconut milk or whatever plant-based milk that didn’t kill any cows. You splash that in over your frozen bananas and you blend it and you’ve got banana ice cream. You throw in some berries with that, peanut butter or something…delicious. I really love rice paper rolls with tofu, marinated tofu in there. I love potatoes. I eat so many potatoes…those big sweet purple potatoes. I like the Hawaiian potatoes. I have brown rice with stir fry, veggies or with a curry. I love Mexican food. I love tacos. I love burritos. What else do I love? I eat better food now than I ever have. That’s good vegan food now. I love my vegan food. I just wanted to touch quickly on one thing you just said. People don’t think about where their food comes from and that’s so true. It’s not our fault. We’ve been born into this world where exploiting and killing animals is the normal way. Loving these animals like dogs and dolphins and cats is normal and killing and eating pigs, cows and chickens and fish is normal. That’s the norm. We’ve been born into this. It’s not our fault that we’ve been conditioned to think this way. The good news is that we can easily change. As Einstein said, “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.” And by acting you’re not only helping animals you are helping yourself. You’re reconciling something inside of yourself that was at first a conflict with one of your core values—the core value of nonviolence. You can reconcile that and become a kind, peaceful, loving, compassionate, respectful person by going vegan.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow! What a mouthful and a good one and I agree. It may be naïve but I think it’s the way to solve all the world’s problems. Once we realize we don’t need to exploit non-human animals then we don’t need to exploit human animals then we don’t need to exploit then we find ourselves in a very peaceful place.
James Aspey: The world has a lot of potential. The more peace we increase the better things will be. It starts with each and every one of us. This isn’t something happening in another country. This isn’t something we have no control over. This is something we have total control over. What we put in our mouth. What we wear or products we use. This is something we have total control over and together we can make this world a far better place.
Caryn Hartglass: Whoo-hoo! Amen to that James. It was such a delight to talk to you. I’m glad you’re on the planet. Thanks for doing what you’re doing down under in Australia. We need you there. Thank you!
James Aspey: If anyone wants to check out my stuff online go to jamesaspey.com.au. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Instagram. I’m on YouTube. So check it out. Send me an email and say hi as well.
Caryn Hartglass: James Aspey, a delight. Thank you.
James Aspey: It’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thanks for having me on your show. Keep up the good work.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 10/9/2015