Tom Lieber & Lee Hall
Part I: Tom Lieber, Organic Food & GMO’s, An Artist’s Perspective
“I lived on Kauai from 2002-2011 and began to split my time between L.A. and Hawaii in 2011. The Hawaiian life has had a strong effect on my paintings……i.e. the energy and the way the vines grow, the jungle tangles. And, so, organic gardening became a big part of my life while on Kauai. Things grow like crazy there.
As I lived there, I noticed that each year the bio-chemical companies crops were taking more and more land with their ‘perfect’ GMO/PESTICIDE riddled crops and that ROUND-UP was being sprayed more and more along the roads instead of mowing along the roadsides. Many people on the island were feeling the same oppression. Residents on the westside of the island were getting the worst of it. Schools were getting hit by clouds of overspray. People were getting sick (many still are).
Through many people’s efforts Bill 2491 was written and passed. Bill 2491 makes all the bio-ag companies report and limit their spraying of pesticides and creates boundaries between the GMO fields and populated areas. It also calls for an EPA report on the effects of the spraying on the air, the rivers, the reefs, and the people.
I am in the process, along with Mel Bell-Grey, of creating a documentary about Ron Finley visiting Kauai and all of the positive and negative realities he (and all of us) witnessed during his stay. I curated an exhibition for Galerie 103 on the south side of Kauai, that artists donated works for and the profits went to five organizations that educate and take action concerning organic life and opposition to GMOs. I also organized a dinner/mini concert at Common Ground (an organic farm and restaurant) with Jackson Browne, Donavon Frankenreiter, Mike Cambell and Graham Nash that also benefited the same organizations. Money was made, but the greatest thing that occurred was connections that people made at the dinner. Three Pentagon lawyers attended as well as local council members and a sprinkling of celebrities…..Bette Midler, Julia Roberts, among others, exchanged ideas and contact information. Connections that will ripple on and on.”
Tom Lieber (born 1949 Saint Louis, MO –) is an abstract painter and printmaker. Lieber’s large-scale abstractions are notable for their bold, natural colors and fluid marks placed against a layered, neutral background. Informed by nature and meditations, Lieber’s work reflects his efforts to channel his interior life onto the canvas.
Lieber’s use of gesture stems from post WWII abstract painting. His subtle color and tonal variations and marks reveal an affinity to the unique and painterly specificity of Georgio Morandi, Alberto Giacometti, Philip Guston and Joan Mitchel. The early canvases from the 1970s consist of expansive, monochromatic color zones that, over time, take on increasingly explicit and more painterly gestures. Lieber’s later work represents a more physical and powerful approach. Oftentimes, a single brushstroke or gesture anchors the painting, allowing the underlying color fields and tonal variations to recede and advance across the ground.
Lieber uses a variety of techniques to achieve his effects, most notably monotype printing rollers. By interposing a mechanical device into an intuitive act, he arrives at a form of deep expression that is unforced, in which the paint becomes raw and direct. Lieber believes that the human body is more equipped than the mind to invent. He treats the act of painting as a full-body experience, open to unpredictable and challenging imagery.
Tom Lieber is a recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Grant and has exhibited extensively since 1974. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Tate Gallery, London among others.
Those familiar with Lieber’s past work will recognize his calligraphic mark-making, the supple flow and arc of his line, and the dynamic rhythm of his abstract compositions. In these new paintings, however, the dense, dark paint prominent in work of the 1980s and ‘90s has given way to a lighter, more buoyant, palette which is thinly applied to a stripped surface.
The strong horizon line of the Hawaiian landscape and the elegant shapes of the tropical leaves and flowers Lieber sees from his windows have sent his work in new and enticing directions.
Part II: Lee Hall, Animals, Environment & the Law
Lee Hall, an author who’s taken on subjects from anti-terrorism law to vegan cooking, wrote the “Vegetarianism” entry in the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice. Lee has taught Animal Law and Immigration and Refugee Law, and is today working on a second law degree—a legal masters in Environmental Law with a focus on climate change from Vermont Law School. Lee’s work is a bridge between environmentalism and our personal relationships with agriculture, confronting the way animal farming usurps habitat. For years, animal-rights advocates have operated under the belief that at least pasture-based or organic ranching represents a “step” in the humane direction—but only looking at how domesticated animals seem to be affected. Lee champions the animal communities displaced by farm sprawl, and explains how our chosen cookbooks can offer a genuine humane response for all animals, reduce greenhouse emissions, and even stop extinctions.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. Thanks for joining me today. It’s time for It’s All About Food. What day is it today? The fourth of March 2014. It’s Fat Tuesday, isn’t it? Mardi Gras! So let’s celebrate. There’s a different food holiday for every day of the year so it’s the International House of Pancake’s National Pancakes Day. I think they give away free pancakes on this day. Not that I recommend anybody to go there and get free pancakes. But pancakes are fun and any excuse to eat them is good and of course at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com, my non-profit website, we have many wonderful pancake recipes and I think they’re pretty good for you. I think all of them are gluten-free, actually, and today we enjoyed a new recipe I made recently for chestnut flower pancakes. I had a guest on last year, Elizabeth Wholey, who is an American living in Italy. She was talking about all of the food traditions, all these artisan wonderful products in Italy, and when she came back to the States she sent me fresh chestnut flower and I enjoyed chestnut flower pancakes today on IHOP National Pancake Day. Okay, I’m not exactly doing it right I’m doing it better. I love food – it’s all about food. And you know what, there’s an art to food and we’re going to be talking quite a bit about art today and in some ways how it connects with food. So I’m going to bring on my guest. He is here with me in the studio. Tom Lieber is an abstract painter and print maker. Lieber’s large scale abstractions are notable for their bold, natural colors and fluid marks placed against a layered neutral background informed by nature and meditations. Lieber’s work reflects his efforts to channel his interior life onto the canvas. Thank you for joining me today, Tom.
Tom Lieber: Thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Where do you live now?
Tom Lieber: I live in Los Angeles and on Kauai.
Caryn Hartglass: Los Angeles and Kauai and you’re here in New York because you’ve got an exhibit going on in Manhattan, right?
Tom Lieber: Yeah an opening at the J. Cacciola Gallery on Thursday evening.
Caryn Hartglass: And it goes most of the month.
Tom Lieber: Yeah it’ll be up for a month.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah great I’m going to check it out later.
Tom Lieber: Great.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so you’re an artist. What inspires your art?
Tom Lieber: My work is inspired by my interior life, I guess I would say mostly, and my environment. I’ve lived on Kauai for the past 14 years and just recently moved to Los Angeles. So my time on Kauai has been very rich for my mark making, the environment of that, and then the simplicity of the life is good for just for slowing things down and sensing things.
Caryn Hartglass: I think the first time I went to Kauai was around 1985-ish. I was in my 20s and it was one of the first places I got to vacation. I had just gotten my diving license, my certification for open water 2 or something. I could go down 30 meters. I went to Kauai and it was just stunning and I’ve been back a few times since and every time I go back, just like the rest of the world, it’s more developed, more populated, some more uglier spots.
Tom Lieber: Some big ugly spots.
Caryn Hartglass: Big uglier spots. “They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.”
Tom Lieber: The actual growth isn’t as bad as the chemical companies. Syngenta, Bayer, and Monsanto are developing GMO crops especially on Kauai because it can have year round production of their crops and experiment with the pesticides and making new seeds. It’s kind of become ground zero for the development of GMO products.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, if anyone was wondering why I had an artist on the show today it’s because of his realization of what’s going on in such a beautiful place, this paradise of Kauai. These chemical companies that have come in and you started to discover what they’re doing or what they’re trying to do.
Tom Lieber: Well, they’re doing it. They’ve been operating unregulated for at least 10 years.
Caryn Hartglass: Now unregulated, does that mean there are no regulations? They’re doing it legally, there are just no regulations?
Tom Lieber: There are no regulations. They spray roundup and experiment with pesticides because the super weeds are developing year after year so they have to make their product stronger and stronger.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay just for review: I’m sure a lot of our listeners know this but there are these products, soy beans and corn, that are grown to resist this one particular herbicide called Roundup Ready (glyphosate). It’s really toxic. Originally, in the early days, they were saying the great thing about these Roundup Ready crops is that they wouldn’t require so many toxic herbicides and pesticides to put on the soil, just this one magic thing that you could buy from the same company you were buying your seeds from. Now we discovered, like nature always does, nature is smart and the weeds are learning how to resist this toxic chemical. So farmers have to buy more, which is great for these companies, but it’s not so good for the soil and it’s not so good for the people who have to put this chemical down.
Tom Lieber: It’s not good for the people who live on the west side and the south side of Kauai. The lack of regulations, as we were talking before, would mean that they might have an overspray. They have crops right next to schools and there was a few incidents of clouds of pesticides getting into the school. They had to close the school, kids had skin rashes and asthma attacks, and now the doctors and nurses on the west side are testifying about birth defects, and more major problems on Kauai. A bill just passed to regulate the use of pesticides on Kauai, and it passed. That just happened this summer. Syngenta and the rest of the gang are doing a countersuit.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, to fight this regulation? Oh God.
Tom Lieber: Yes. And so we are kind of going the other way – like a first step to get them off the island. So, we’ll see where it goes. It’s a big giant that I think we’ll eventually win.
Caryn Hartglass: You need to hire some pirates and get them off the island, right? Okay, I want to hear more about how people got together and created this bill and got it passed because that’s what we need to be doing more of, more activism and more fighting.
Tom Lieber: Well, Gary Hooser was on the board of supervisors. He got a lawyer and a group of people together that developed a bill. It took a year for it to be written correctly so that it was legally correct and could hold up. I wasn’t there for that because I was living in Los Angeles. They got a petition, they got it on the ballot, got it voted on, and there where big marches and hearings. I was there for that, that was pretty interesting because the people of Kauai that were pro-organic and they had red t-shirts and Syngenta group wore blue t-shirts. So all these people, Syngenta flew in all its employees from all the islands so they had a big group of people, and then we had the organic people. Then, we go in and testify and it was interesting because it lasted all day and as the day went on some of the Syngenta people were going “You know…” As we talked it became more humanized, it wasn’t so polarized and the employees were thinking ‘”Geez, I wonder if I’m safe.”
Caryn Hartglass: They were questioning themselves.
Tom Lieber: They were beginning to wonder if they were doing the right thing. Which is how it’s going to go. It’s going to go more from the inside out, from what I see, because these companies are so big.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I know when you work a 9-5 job in a little cubicle and you have your particular assignments it’s very easy not to see the big picture. You want your paycheck, you want to do a good job, you want your boss to like what your doing, so you do the job and everybody in that company does it together and nobody really connects the dots and realizes they’re doing some really destructive things.
Tom Lieber: Right. And also people working, like the working classes, they would rather buy genetically modified foods because it’s simpler. Most of the products in stores are GMO. So it’s a little bit more effort to go organically, to farmers market, or to cook quinoa, or whatever. It’s a little bit more effort but in the long run, and in terms of staying healthy and avoiding doctors, it’s definitely worth it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we’ve been learning since 1750, since the industrial revolution, more and more how to go for more industrialized products, more industrialized food. We are advised that these provide a lot of wonderful convenience. But some of these products are not really healthy for us.
Tom Lieber: Well basically, it caters to a mentality of laziness and uninvolvement. I love to cook and it’s like painting. You’re mixing all the stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: Every meal is a blank palette.
Tom Lieber: And it’s a creative process and it always comes a little different. People say, “Oh, you’re an amazing cook!” and I do it because I enjoy it and it’s a creative act that feeds me. The food feeds me, but the actual act of cooking feeds me. We joke about Shake-n-Bake and instant mash potatoes. I mean it’s a funny thing – how lazy do you want to get? How uninvolved do you want to be with your life? So, not only is cooking food and shopping for the right food enriching for the food but it enriches your soul.
Caryn Hartglass: Can I steal that from you? “How uninvolved do you want to be with your life?” I love that. I’m going to be repeating that a lot, look out. “How uninvolved do you want to be with your life?” That is so profound and perfect. Yeah, please, lives are short. Our lives are short.
Tom Lieber: Hey guess what? I am going to be 65 this year. I feel like I am 25 but I’m going to be 65 and I had a list of things that I wanted to say.
Caryn Hartglass: You don’t have it with you.
Tom Lieber: Oh no, here it is, but I don’t need to, I’ll remember. I was listening to the Deli Lama the other day in Los Angeles. I wake up between 2 and 4 o’clock every morning naturally, I don’t set an alarm but I just wake up. I’ve learned rather than lie in bed and worry about things to just pop up and my energy is up so I get up. I meditate, paint, do my emails, write personal letters, and cook if I want and that’s a very rich time for me. I would encourage everyone listening to sleep an hour less. Try it, wake up early and have some time for yourself because a lot of great things happen in that zone.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree. The early morning hours are very magical, possibly because they are so quiet and there isn’t a lot going on around you. But sleep is important. The problem is, I think, most people have these jobs that they have to go to, to make a living. They have their families and there’s all these “have-tos” there’s all these things they have to do and what gets lost is living their life.
Tom Lieber: If you would go to bed at 9:00 and wake up at 4:00 that’s 7 hours, that’s pretty good.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s pretty good. I need 8.
Tom Lieber: You can come home and take a nap.
Caryn Hartglass: Naps are good. We’re supposed to naturally take a nap.
Tom Lieber: I love the Dalai Lama. He was in LA and the Academy Awards were last week and this person that was interviewing him was a Hollywood person. She spoke about the academy awards and she said, “When was the last time you watched a movie? Do you watch movies?” And he said, “I haven’t watched a movie in 20 years I think it’s a total waste of time,” and that was so great to be in Hollywood in that environment and say it just “it’s a waste of time.”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah we do waste a lot of time. Television is a great time waster. The internet, I mean I love the internet, but Facebook? Major time suck. Anyway let’s get back to Kauai and activism and the amazing things that happened to get this particular regulation passed.
Tom Lieber: So the bill got passed after some marches that involved a guy named Dustin Barca, who is an amazing activist on the island, a local guy. Before he got involved the GMO thing was mostly kind of hippie farmers.
Caryn Hartglass: The people against the GMO thing.
Tom Lieber: Yeah. So the locals would see the hippies and they would just say, “Well fuck it. If they hate GMOs, then I like GMOs.” Then Dustin – who is a cage fighter, a pro surfer, amazing heartful human – got involved and educated himself. He gets up early reads (those early hours you can read you can educate yourself) and he started uniting the island. The local people and organic farmers together created marches and then made a platform for testifying with doctors and nurses on Kauai, and it got passed.
Caryn Hartglass: You were telling me earlier there were some people from the Pentagon that came to some of these hearings?
Tom Lieber: Last summer, to support this bill and to help make money for five organizations that I was trying to help out, I put together an art show at Galerie 103 on Kauai. The proceeds from that went to these five organizations: Vandana Shiva, Ron Finley Projects, Kauai seed bank, Kauai Rising (which was the organization that got the bill), and then Dustin Barca’s organization. And so we had an art show and then I put together a rock concert because there’s celebrities on Kauai. Graham Nash agreed to play. Jackson Browne came over from California. Tom Petty’s lead guitar player, amazing guy Michael Campbell, asked if he could play when he found out. And Donavon Frankenreiter, who is a close friend of mine, is always there too. I mean, he is always up for helping out. We had a great concert. Bette Midler, who owns property there, and Julia Roberts came.
Caryn Hartglass: Now she was awesome on the Academy Awards, by the way. Speaking of not watching movies, she was great.
Tom Lieber: Yeah. So a lot of people came and then through the grapevine the 3 lawyers from the Pentagon called and asked if they could come!
Caryn Hartglass: Which side were they on?
Tom Lieber: They were on the green side. They were hired by the military to make the military more green, and to provide reports on how to make it more green. But they were interested in the food thing and so they asked if they could come and I said, “As long as you’re not spying.” There are issues about that too, but they weren’t and they were fantastic. They had some great insights on how to address these huge companies that are making seeds and using pesticides. Their advice was that to try to bring down Monsanto or Syngenta is not that easy of a thing to do, to prove that those foods are bad. But the pesticides are the big issue. The GMO seeds can’t really exist without the pesticides. Here, you guys need to all get up an hour early and everyone needs to watch Ron Finley’s TED talk. It’s a nine minute TED talk by Ron Finley. He’s an amazing guy who lives in south central Los Angeles and grows gardens on the streets of Los Angeles. Just an amazing, inspirational man. And recently, I just met another amazing guy: Tyrone Hayes. He is a professor at the university of California Berkeley who was hired by Syngenta to do research (he’s a frog specialist). Syngenta hired him to see what the effects on frogs would be. He did that for two years and it was really getting some shitty results. I mean, the male frogs were developing ovaries and mating and male frogs were having babies.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I know some men who would love to be able to do that! So maybe all they only have to do is genetically modified foods!
Tom Lieber: Anyway, you should look up Tyrone Hayes.
Caryn Hartglass: So did he complete that research?
Tom Lieber: He is still in it and he is amazing. I’m going to be speaking with him and another guy you can look up: Dr. Ron Huber. He’ll be at the Sun Valley Wellness Festival on May 22nd through the 25th in Sun Valley, Idaho. You get up that hour early and watch a nine minute TED TALK by Ron Finley or watch a talk by Tyrone. Amazing people.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well my problem is I work so long and hard that I go to bed really early in the morning, so getting up an hour early is really hard for me.
Tom Lieber: So you can do it at night, you are a late person.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yeah, definitely. But whatever works. If there is a way you can reduce the wasted stuff and then add some quality stuff, that’s the secret. Yeah, well the unfortunate thing with most universities is they need to get grants in order to do research and publish so they have some notoriety and credibility and funding. And most of the funding is to find out about things that I don’t think we really need to find about. It’s about things that are ultimately going to make some kind of profit: pharmaceuticals or genetically modified foods. Like you were saying before, we don’t know whether genetically modified food is healthy or not healthy but unfortunately because of the costs the evidence is not that compelling. There has not been enough research and maybe this frog research will really tell us a lot. I hope so.
Tom Lieber: Well the biggest problem is that Monsanto and Syngenta finance most of the major agriculture universities. For example, Tyrone, to get his paper published was almost impossible. Then I think it got retracted after a couple of months.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s all about money. But what’s obvious, what is absolutely clear is what you mentioned before. It’s these toxic chemicals, these herbicides and pesticides, that we absolutely need to put in the ground to grow these genetically modified foods. Genetically modified foods encourage all of the bad habits of industrial farming, which unfortunately we now call conventional farming. There’s nothing conventional about it, it’s horrible, it’s killing our soils and that’s the angle we need to take. Get these toxins out of the ground.
Tom Lieber: And guess what too? It’s all based on laziness. Again, this whole industrial reality it’s based on “how can I do it faster? I don’t want to cook tonight,” but I’m encouraging everyone to…..
Caryn Hartglass: Get off your butt.
Tom Lieber: Oh, another person that you have to look up when you get up early is Vandana Shiva.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh she’s fabulous!
Tom Lieber: She’s amazing. When I did this concert on Kauai I had Ron Finley come and speak and Vandana Shiva couldn’t come so I had a film crew film her in India speaking to us on Kauai. She had been there once before and I asked her to just simply give us four things that everybody could do to make a difference.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay what are those four?
Tom Lieber: Well, it was pretty simple, it’s: Eat organic whenever you can. Be political to the degree that isn’t going to be a bummer (because that can be a drag, being political). Educate yourself. Avoid GMO products, which would be about educating yourself, but just try to avoid that. And that was three…
Caryn Hartglass: Well I think educate yourself and avoid GMO products could be separate and then you’d have four.
Tom Lieber: And then have friends over.
Caryn Hartglass: Was that one of the ones she said?
Tom Lieber: I just put that in there.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh I like that.
Tom Lieber: I like having parties. We have parties in L.A. – 30 people will come and maybe 4 or 5 know about organic food and the rest don’t even know what a GMO is. Some people think it’s a car company. So it’s important to educate yourself and then share with your friends because your friends trust you and then as you educate yourself you trust yourself and they trust you. It’s all good.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay let’s talk about Kauai for a moment because there have been a number of states in the United States (California, Oregon) that have tried to pass anti-GMO legislation and have failed and Monsanto has come in and dumped millions of dollars to fight. Now Kauai is small and this particular regulation is for the island?
Tom Lieber: Yeah, it’s just for Kauai.
Caryn Hartglass: Just for Kauai. Is it because it’s such a beautiful natural place and that most of the people live there really are connected with nature that they got interested?
Tom Lieber: No.
Caryn Hartglass: What was it?
Tom Lieber: They came there because sugar cane became obsolete, there were all these empty fields, and I think in the past 10 or 15 years they realized that they could grow four corn crops a year. So their experiments, they could do it quicker, four crops a year instead of one. So they run four crops. Dustin Barca knows all this stuff. You can look him up on YouTube and get information. They’re using four times the amount of pesticides plus they’re upping the chemicals to fight the super weed. It’s an experiment. It’s a laboratory.
Caryn Hartglass: Did sugar canes become obsolete because we’re using high fructose corn syrup now? Is that what’s going on?
Tom Lieber: I think it got too expensive. Labor costs were too much for the island. It’s not an island product.
Caryn Hartglass: Why don’t we just grow tropical fruits, organic tropical fruits?
Tom Lieber: Well that’s what we’re trying to get done. It’s going to be an interesting thing to watch because there are already people on Kauai like the Kauai seed bank. They’re experimenting with the soils, like how do you bring the soils back after it’s been being dumped on with all the pesticides? So a lot of teams of people are working to kind of see what’s going to happen as they leave.
Caryn Hartglass: Now Hawaii has genetically modified papaya.
Tom Lieber: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: And there was a terrible blight some years ago that was threatening to wipe them all out, or so they said, the genetically modified papaya saved the day. Where does that fit in to this scenario? I think that was grandfathered in to regulations.
Tom Lieber: I don’t know. My organic friends tell me that you can’t get an organic papaya anymore. So, I don’t know. When you open a papaya and it doesn’t have any seeds, that’s kind of a weird thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Is that what they look like In Hawaii?
Tom Lieber: Yeah and the studies that I’ve seen about GMOs they’re kind of impotent. They don’t replenish themselves. So I think I read that they influence your digestion which can cause bloating and poor nutrition, but I haven’t really briefed myself on that.
Caryn Hartglass: I was just in Costa Rica last week, I love it there, and I ate papaya every day. I rarely eat it here because I don’t like buying fruits that aren’t from this country because I know what we do to them to get them here. So I had a real party with papaya, and a lot of them were big and loaded with those seeds, I mean just abundant with seeds. That’s the way it should be. Find a watermelon in this country that doesn’t have seeds. What’s our problem with seeds because we’re lazy right? We don’t want to spit them out.
Tom Lieber: And now they’re trying to make an apple that you can cut and it stays white after you cut it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I read about that too. Crazy. Just eat the apple.
Tom Lieber: Because people are afraid of … oh that’s a whole other story.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh it’s a whole other story. Well you know what, Tom, we’ve come to the end of the half hour. So where can people see your work? You have a website?
Tom Lieber: Yeah: TomLieberArtist.com
Caryn Hartglass: TomLieberArtist.com. Now Lieber what does that mean?
Tom Lieber: That means love.
Caryn Hartglass: I knew it. I Knew that. Es ist Deutsch. Yeah, it means love.
Tom Lieber: But the main thing, I love art. I’d love people to see my work. I really would encourage everyone to wake up a little bit earlier. Check out Ron Finley, Vandana Shiva, Ron Huber, and Tyrone Hayes.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ll do it. But I’m going to do it after Saturday because I’ve got this big project coming up. I mentioned to my listeners a few weeks ago but I’m going to mention it again because it’s really fun. I’ve been invited to speak at a livestock company in Nevada. It’s a small feedlot and they’re having a bull sale this Saturday and Sunday. They like to have these educational events and they’re having a panel on climate change and I’ve been invited to speak. I’ve been researching for weeks now. My head is exploding and I’m going to be the lone vegan amongst 200 cattle producers.
Tom Lieber: You should record it. You should have your partner video it.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not going to say online that I’m going to record it but stay tuned. Thanks for coming, Tom, we’re going to take a quick break and be back in a moment with Lee Hall.
Transcribed by Alma Yesina, 5/11/2014; Edited by Destiny Fargher, 6/6/2104
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everyone we are back. You know I love listening to that music. My brother wrote it and I always get into it every time. I have been listening to it now for 4 years plus never get tired of it, isn’t that good? That means it is good. It’s good music. Just gets me into the groove. All right, it is March 4, 2014. Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, IHOP National Pancake Day, and it’s time for the second part of It’s All About Food. And were going to dig in now with my next guest Lee Hall an author who has taken on subjects from anti- terrorism law to vegan cooking, wrote the vegetarianism entry in the encyclopedia of activism and social justice. Lee has taught animal law and immigrant and refugee law. And today is working on a second law degree, a legal Masters in environmental law with a focus on climate change from Vermont Law School. Lee’s work is a bridge between environmentalism and our personal relationship with agriculture confronting the way animal farming use up habitat. For years animal advocates have operated under the belief that at least pasture based or organic ranching represents a step in humane direction but, only looking at how domesticated animals seem to be affected. Lee champions animal community displayed by farm sprawl and explains how our chosen cook books can offer a genuine humane respond for all animals, reduce greenhouse emissions and even stop extinctions. Lee Hall, Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Lee Hall: Thank you, Caryn. It seems to be perfect timing given that you’re the Lone Vegan ready to speak with two hundred cattle ranchers.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, I was hoping that you would give me some really good tips for Saturday.
Lee Hall: I am imagining that we are going to have quite a good conversation given that we are both studying the same thing right now.
Caryn Hartglass: I know. And the first thing I wanted to ask you, I’ve been following you and your work for a long time and it’s incredible and the thing that I know about you is your intensity, your passion, how principled you are.
Lee Hall: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: And I wondered were you born that way, or was there something that happened in your life that made that happen, or was it a slow process, or none of the above.
Lee Hall: Well. I wasn’t born that way. I actually saw a bullfight when I was a child and it didn’t changed me, I look back on it and maybe it did, ultimately. I look back on it and I think why didn’t that change me, witnessing a bull fight, I mean the bull was killed. This was in Mexico. My parents worked there. They got free tickets from a business associate. So we went and saw the novicios, who are the people that are learning to do bull fights. Which I understand is more difficult to watch. I wouldn’t know, I only seen this particular instance. And I was, …I hid myself in the bathroom for over a day, I wouldn’t come out after it. And what I guess I thought was weirdest as terrible as this was, as traumatic as it was to see and hear people standing up and cheering for the slow death of an animal not to mention what the horses were going through in the ring. Of all of the horrific feelings of this the very worse was that I was surrounded by hundreds of people that were cheering.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Lee Hall: And so here I am locking myself in the bathroom and I remember trying to make a soap carving for hours and I heard my mother trying to get me out of the bathroom saying “It’s all right, the meat/flesh of the bull will go to the poor children of Mexico.” My mother knew I was very concerned about poverty, I did have a feeling of social justice as a little kid as I think most little kids do. But, I think back and the tie right there, my mother telling me, of course that didn’t help me feel better, that they were going to eat the bull. But, why didn’t I connect as a child? What didn’t I connect? And I know people who do they see an animal killed and immediately they put it all together.
Caryn Hartglass: Most don’t.
Lee Hall: Most don’t. It takes I don’t know what happens. I don’t know how. If I knew how to make this all work, I would tell you. But, I was 21 and I met Robin Lane who was now the co-facilitator and the founder of the London Vegan Festival, the longest running vegan festival anywhere in the world. It is the one that inspired all the vegan festivals to come. This was long before that had been started. Robin Lane in London had been vegan for 1 year and met me. As far we know I am Robin’s longest running protégé. It was a leaflet. It was all the ways we use animals and I considered myself a feminist it was one of the areas I was reading about myself and something just clicked then and there. It was how can I think about oppression and want to get over oppression and want to transcend that in my life and get over that in my life and be working so hard mentally to transcend differences and hierarchies and how have not noticed this before then of course the bull fight came back to me. But, I just said that will be it. So one of the weird people that did decided to go vegan all at once.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, for the weird people. Let’s hear it for socially peculiar. Yeah! Making the world a better place.
Lee Hall: So that was 31 years about.
Caryn Hartglass: Good for you. I just wonder, because I want to think that we all have the potential to not exploit, to not cause pain and suffering, I want to believe that. And I want to believe that we are not born with one kind of DNA that makes us more compassionate than others, I want to think that we are all flexible and once the veil is lifted we can move on and do better.
Lee Hall: Well, I think that is true Caryn. I was that person until I was 21 and I knew and I didn’t change. So look at other people as people who could change any day. You have had Harold Brown on the show?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Lee Hall: That is a wonderful example. Harold came from a dairy and beef farming family and would have been a successful dairy and beef farmer today and had been doing that for many many years and a light bulb went off, this is also somebody that had been hunting regularly.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. You are in environmental law now. I want to talk about, more about animals and the environment. And one of the things we are hearing about is people that care about the environment and seem to have more compassion for animals. They want to go for the “more humane” ways of raising animals for food, pasture grazing and I am doing my studying for this climate change talk. There is this guy on the panel that believes in animal agriculture intensification because unfortunately we have learned that animal agriculture intensification is “more efficient” and produces less green house gasses when you are cramming these animals in a small space and feeding them the wrong foods. But, nobody talks about the things that are wrong with it. But it’s encouraging this horror instead of the other way around, And let’s just talk about how all these other things affect the environment.
Lee Hall: Let’s talk about that. It’s a very interesting sort of squeeze that you bring up. You mentioned that the intensification of farming can be controlled in a way that it is less of an emitter of greenhouse gases, that it takes up less space environmentally, these kinds of things. That is a very significant point to bring up. I think a lot of advocates want to think that everything about factory farms is wrong and that’s the answer and we just say that just say factory farms, we are saying something that of course everyone understands. Of course it is all kinds of animal farms. The problem we are dealing with is animal farming, it’s not factory farming, certainly not factory farming per se. It’s animal farming, any kind of animal farming has its problems. We as animal advocates or environmental advocates we understand sprawl, we understand sprawl and yet we don’t see it when it is happening with farms that are being spread out. We’ll say. “well that is a step in the right direction.” Well, how can that be, if we in the United States are outnumbered by farmland animals, 5 to 1? So, how could it be that the problem is intensive farming? That it is a step in the right direction to have the pasture-based farms when walking around three hundred million of us in this country and we are outnumbered 5 to 1. And that is just the land farm animals. So the problem isn’t the factory. The problem is both. If you have concentrated farms you have dense runoff, you have emissions. You do have emissions, and they may be controlling them to some extent but they are still there, you still have ruminant animals and they are emitting methane, there is fine particulate matter that goes up to the air and all the things that lead to acid rain.
Caryn Hartglass: And they still make manure, piles of it.
Lee Hall: No matter how they are raised. If you’ve got farm expansion…
Caryn Hartglass: The shit continues.
Lee Hall: It’s in either one. When you’ve got the expanded farms, the pasture-based, the grass fed you’ve got other situations. The destruction, and of course, with the intensive farm you have all the humane questions. The whole idea of humanity would treat animals as things to put into tiny boxes that is there, but when you have expansion, at the end we kill them. There is a myth that it can be humane because they are being slaughtered at the end. But there is more. When you expand the farm you are fragmenting habitat, you are setting the stage for systematic predator control, followed by a cascade of consequences.
Caryn Hartglass: Wait a minute, What is systematic predator control?
Lee Hall: Well, for example, coyotes and foxes are the animals who are normally targeted. With coyotes the belong in pastures and they are irritating to farmers. Obliviously and Coyote, bobcat fox, a grizzly bear is going to be tempted understandably to eat an animal so the more range the farm is the more vulnerable they are and have do what they do. Shooting coyotes is legal in most places, coyotes can be shot from aircraft there are forms of poison. The very first coyote synthetic attractant was made to kill them. A lure to attract and kill them debuted in 1973 and was made from the fatty acids of rhesus monkey vaginal secretions. Since then we have come up with all kinds of traps and lures to attract coyotes and fox. One infamous one is called compound M80 go into predatorize collars and those are strapped to free range goats and lambs. So here is this poison. It will not save the goat or the lamb. The point is the coyote goes to the animal and if the coyote bites the neck of that farm animal that coyote is about to enter hell. The poison takes somewhere between 3-15 hours to kill. Then there are the traps, the snares, the M44, another lure that Wildlife Services, our federal government, helps the ranchers. These poisons are often picked up by pets, bald eagles, turkey vultures, wolfs, unintended animals, migratory bird, porcupines, mountain lions. So all these things are happening out there with these free range farms. So to say we’ll stop factory farming totally ignores that.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, and who thinks up these things,? Who thinks up these poisons and these traps.
Lee Hall: Are you there?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I hear you, Do you hear me?
Lee Hall: Hello.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey, can someone help us here? Hello. Okay. I am sorry Lee can’t hear us because she has been talking about some incredible things. The thing I was wondering about is who are these scientists, these educated scientists that invent these incredible killing materials? The minds that come up with these things – so the thing we are talking about is…Okay Lee you are back.
Lee Hall: I am back.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh. Somebody didn’t want you hearing what we were talking about.
Lee Hall: Sounds like it.
Caryn Hartglass: The conspiracy continues… Anyway. So this is incredible with what goes on with pasture grazing and systematic predators and how we just get rid of anything that gets in our way.
Lee Hall: Yes. Did you hear what I said about poisoning? Not sure when we lost each other.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. So there are all these “compassionate” people, who want to get humanely-raised animals and go for pastures. But there are all these issues with that. Of course, there are the intensified farms and there are all animal farms and when we look at it from an environmental point of view the winner is the one no one is looking at, which is feeding plants to people directly.
Lee Hall: Exactly. People are looking at it, just maybe not in a way that connects it directly to their plate. I am in school now studying with scientists and lawyers. I am seeing that the people in environment law course are aware. For example there is a study by Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews at Carnegie Mellon. They have done calculations of greenhouse gas emissions and they have said a protein shift and, that is their word for it, when you get protein and nutrients directly from plants instead of feeding to animals and getting all the nutrients through them, when you do this protein shift one day a week it would be like driving 1,160 miles less every year. What they are talking about is sort of like a vegan Monday. They are saying replace meat and dairy and this is what would happen; 1,160 less miles a year. So that suggests that animal agriculture business per say is non-local. If that is the kind of distance that you can create then you can’t really say this is local so it is sustainable because if you cut it out even one day it would be more than a thousand miles saved driving. Right there they are getting somewhere. So this is what I bring up when we are having these conversations. Wait a minute – that means a 7 day a week shift is more than eight thousand miles, as through you were not driving every year, more than eight thousand miles. If you have that kind of power that a vegan diet can have and anyone can have that kind of power and they can have it at dinnertime they could decide right now, why not? Being vegan in North American is not a real big difficulty and it would decrease all of this harm, all of this climate chaos caused by the taking away of habitat of other animals. It’s ranching taking away the other animal habitat that is what it does. We have in the last five hundred years, more animals have gone extinct in the US than any other place. We are wrecking this land and water for ranching.
Caryn Hartglass: You know this show is called It’s All About Food but it’s really all about money. And the animal food industry is a 160 billion dollar a year industry in the US. I think I am going to be talking to these cattle producers and telling them we need to reduce or eliminate animal livestock and I am getting right to the heart of their livelihood. What do we tell people like that?
Lee Hall: Right. There has always been, forms of livelihood that the economy has depended on that we had to say there is a problem with this. We need to transcend this and start acting differently. You can think of three or four examples right now. The chocolate flavoring, it’s not okay. It comes from massive chocolate companies and they are selling loads and loads of chocolate at the expense of people on the Ivory Coast that are selling their children into slavery. It’s not okay
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not okay. But you know most people don’t know about it. It has taken a long time to get Hershey’s Chocolate to budge.
Lee Hall: Yes. And when you are out there talking to two hundred cattle ranchers of people that are talking to many many more. Not that you are going to videotape yourself but people know what you are doing, they are asking questions, they are looking at your radio show. Maybe you will videotape yourself. A lot of people including environmentalists, need to know this it is not just the cattle ranchers that you are informing, that you are having these conversations with, you are talking about getting to a tipping point and because climate change is upon us. We may be right about at the tipping point.
Caryn Hartglass: There are plenty of people, and there is one guy on the panel that I will be talking to is a climate change denier. And doesn’t believe it is happening.
Lee Hall: Yes, who is now connected to the Food and Agriculture representing the UN.
Caryn Hartglass: And it is really hard to know. We live in a very complex world. There is a lot of information on the Internet but it takes a lot to figure out what is credible and what is not, I can’t go into every lab and see what they are doing. When I read things in a study that I think are interesting I will go to the original source and read all I can – when the study was done, and see if I think it was good or not, if it is something that I want to repeat. Most people don’t do that but still I can’t see everything. But somethings we have to take on faith. When it comes to climate change no one really knows what is going on. But we do see a lot of things going on in the environment that shouldn’t be going on: polluted air; polluted water; running out of water; and things that we are doing are not sustainable; that we have to change and because they are not sustainable.
Lee Hall: We do know that the carbon dioxide level in our atmosphere is at the highest point in more than 600 thousand years. We do know that global average temperatures, even though they fluctuate madly, are higher than they have been over ten thousand years.
Caryn Hartglass: There are people that do not believe that. I have seen that data and I believe it. But some people see it and still say they do not believe it.
Lee Hall: Well, it is becoming a part of policy.
Caryn Hartglass: There are 95% of climate change scientists that think the climate is changing.
Lee Hall: It becomes how much it is from animal farming and the consensus seems to be about 1/5. But as you know specialist from the world bank including Robert Goodland, who unfortunately passed away recently had said it is more like 51% is attributable to animal agriculture business. So Mark Bittman invited Robert Goodland to do a blog on Mark Bittman’s column for the New York Times and Robert Goodwin wrote one might expect the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to work objectively to determine whether the true figure is 1/5 or 51%. Instead Mittloehner known for the claiming that the 1/5th is too big of a figure to use in the US, was announced as chair of a new partnership between the meat industry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. So Mark Bittman titled that guest blog FAO Yields to Meat Industry Pressure on Climate Change, it is very frightening .
Caryn Hartglass: It is frightening. We are going to have to talk about this more another time because we are out of time, Can you believe it?
Lee Hall: No.
Caryn Hartglass: I know. I am going to have to have you back and dig more into this, especially after I am on this panel with Frank Mittloehner and see what he has to say. Lee thank you so much for joining us for this have hour as for all the work you are doing some time soon and we can have some delicious food vegan food the best.
Lee Hall: Wonderful Idea. Meanwhile, I am rooting for the Lone Vegan.
Caryn Hartglass. We have come to the end of It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me. I am Caryn and remember please have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Donielle Zufelt, 4/8/2014