Damien has lived an extraordinary life for a 37 year old. At 19, as a garbage collector in Melbourne he joined the Australian Defence Force, graduating through one of the most arduous courses as a RAN clearance diver. With the ADF’s counterterrorism restructure following 9-11, Damien joined the elite TAG-East force, training as a sniper. Later as a private contractor he deployed to Iraq where he project managed the Iraq Special Police Training Academy overseeing training and deployment of local troops. After three years in Iraq, he left the front lines with no direction in life. A trip to Africa in 2009 awakened him to the horrors the natural world is facing from poaching. Recognizing the unique skills he possessed by virtue of his training and experience in military roles, Damien liquidated his savings, and founded the International Anti- Poaching Foundation (IAPF). Now a multinational not-for-profit, the IAPF runs operations on the front lines of the world wildlife wars, protecting iconic endangered species from slaughter by poachers. Using battle- proven tactics, training and technology in what is effectively a counterinsurgency operation the IAPF has recently demonstrated striking success in Mozambique. Operating in the most critical area on earth for rhino protection, losses have been reduced by over 80%.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Happy day. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me today.
I am very excited! Why am I excited? Because I have a guest coming in who is a phenomenal human being and has a wonderful story to share, and we’ll be hearing from him soon. I have invited him into the studio, Damien Mander, the founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and he’ll be coming into the studio. We’re very lucky to have him live here in New York. He’s been doing a number of events here and he lives in South Africa so he’s come a long way to share a very important message. More about that very soon.
So while we’re here together, you know from time to time I like to focus on breathing, and sometimes I like to think about something I’m grateful for. And I wanted to tell you right now what I’m grateful for in this moment. It’s the little things in life sometimes that matter. So I was heading in today to the Progressive Radio Network studio in Manhattan and I was coming out of the subway and I grabbed the handrail, the bar, along the stairway, and my hand slipped into some fresh bird poop. [laughter] Very unpleasant! And I’m sure it was pigeon poop because we have a large pigeon population here. Pigeons are really smart! But I’m not sure they know where their poop may be falling, but maybe indeed they do, who knows. But what am I grateful for? Not to get a handful of pigeon poop, obviously, but you know from time to time in restaurants they give away these moist hand towels and I’m never really in the mood to use them, but I don’t like to waste anything and I’ve been conveniently storing some in my wallet. And I was very grateful to pull one out and clean myself and the handrail, for any other unfortunate people who may have been sliding their hand up the handrail as I did. So, thankful for moist towelettes when we need them. Otherwise I think they’re a rather silly invention, but they do come in handy in times like these, right?
Okay well this show is called It’s All About Food and I promote a healthy vegan diet. In case you’re new to this program or in case you forgot, I’ve been a vegan for almost 30 years and will be celebrating my 30th anniversary sometime next year in 2018. Gosh, we’re almost near 2020! Doesn’t that seem like so far away in the future? It does to me but it’s only three years away.
I want to talk about food because even though there’s a lot of bad things going on on the planet today and we’ll be covering them and we’ll be covering some of them shortly with my guest, I think it’s important to focus on the good, focus on the joy and there’s two big reasons for that. One is, it feels a lot better, it makes our journey on this planet a lot better, when we look for what’s good rather than focusing on what’s bad. It just feels so much better. And the second thing is, I think we can be much more effective advocates for change if we look for joy in our own lives. It can be very demoralizing when we’re focusing on the horrors that are going on because they’re everywhere, everywhere we look. The horrors that happen to humans, horrors that happen to the environment, and horrors that happen to all living species on this planet. It’s an interesting place, our home planet Earth, isn’t it?
Okay so while I’m focusing on the good things, I like to talk about delicious food. So I hope you’ve had a good meal recently because I may make you hungry. This week I made almond yogurt, and I’ve talked about it sometimes on the program but I really want to encourage you to try making it, it’s really easy and I can’t believe how fantastic it is. And I’ve recently changed my recipe because I used to make my yogurt from a non-dairy milk and probiotics or plain yogurt that I had either purchased or made, and added in a few raw nuts, soaked raw nuts to give it a little more richness and thicken it up. But now I’m making my yogurt with just nuts and water, no intermediary product, just soaked nuts and it’s fantastic. I mean it’s fantastic, I can’t tell you how fantastic it is.
I’ve only had it for a week and I’ve made four jars and it’s just made my life so fantastic. And we’re going to be talking a little later about some groundbreaking study that’s been going on for a few years with a plan or a protocol to reverse Alzheimer’s. Have you heard about this? I’m going to tell you about this in a little while. But one piece of the protocol is to consume probiotics and prebiotics. And I believe from the health practitioners that I respect like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, if we’re eating a healthy diet we don’t really have to concern ourselves with consuming probiotics because our gut should be loaded with good probiotics, but we want to feed our good probiotics with healthy prebiotics, and beans are a great way to feed our probiotics because they are considered prebiotics–food for probiotics–which ultimately keep our gut healthy. But yogurt has always been considered a great way to get probiotics. And whether you know you have a healthy gut or not, this almond yogurt is such a fantastic way to consume probiotics and get the benefit of healthy nuts. Healthy soaked nuts, because soaking your nuts is important and it helps make the nut more digestible and more nutritious. So making the almond yogurt. Now I’m kind of nutty the way I do it, I soak my nuts overnight and then since they’re raw, I individually peel off the skins from each nut. And this is like a Zen practice, it takes time and most people don’t want to deal with this, and you can get blanched almonds and it’ll be fine but I like to start with the raw nut. I like to start with the raw nut and the yogurt is just fantastic. And we’ve been using it not just as a yogurt, which I like very much to have on my cereal. This is currently my new favorite cereal: rolled oats, cacao nibs, raisins, flax seeds, and almond yogurt. Fantastic! But it’s also a wonderful sour cream. So we recently celebrated Cinco de Mayo with our tacos, and with all the other good things that were on it, there was this fantastic almond yogurt. Can you tell I am so excited? So the recipe’s up on https://responsibleeatingandliving.com. And I’m fortunate, I have a dehydrator option in my oven so I can set my oven at 110 degrees. But anyone can make yogurt without fancy tools. You just keep it in a draft-free location, cozy, some people like to put their jars in a warm bath in a ceramic pot that they keep at a very low temperature so that it’s holding at 110 degrees but you can just keep it on the counter as long as it’s cozy and it’ll become yogurt in no time at all.
Another few things I wanted to talk about in terms of celebrating with delicious food, I was excited about the recent French election where Emmanuel Macron was voted president over Marine Le Pen and actually I sighed a bit of relief when that happened. There are no ideal candidates but I am glad of the direction that France is going at the moment and hopefully they will have some good fortune in the next few years and do good things for their country and for the planet. To celebrate, I like to make French food. So that evening of the election when the election results came in, it was Sunday, I whipped up a bunch of my version of French crepes, French vegan gluten-free crepes. Fantastic. Now I have a number of different buckwheat crepe recipes at https://responsibleeatingandliving.com and some are lighter and simpler, and some are heavier, and some are heavier and richer, and some are lighter and richer. This recipe is perfect and it has a richness, and I’m going to tell you why. So this recipe is made with buckwheat flour and garbanzo bean flour. And I find that the garbanzo bean flour makes the buckwheat flour more easy to manage, since we’re not using eggs in this recipe. The garbanzo bean flour adds a little bit of stability, instead of having a crepe that doesn’t hold up and rips. Mixing the two, the buckwheat has a very strong flavor so it easily overwhelms the flavor of the garbanzo bean flour and you have the flavor of a buckwheat crepe.
Now one thing I’ve been wanting to do for I don’t know how long, and I remember someone on this program that I interviewed and unfortunately I can’t remember who it was, was talking about making your own flours from grains or pseudo-grains, and I’ve kept this in the back of my mind, that you could take millet, the raw millet grain and buckwheat, the buckwheat groat, and put it in a high-powered blender and you get flour. Well I’ve done it with millet and it’s fantastic. And I didn’t have buckwheat flour but I had raw groats and I ground up the buckwheat groats and made flour. And what I like about this is, we’re always talking about the importance of eating whole, minimally processed foods, well here you know how whole and minimally processed your flours can be if you’re starting with the whole grain, the whole groat, and grinding it right there. Fantastic. And the fragrance, the aroma is fantastic and fresh. So I was excited that I finally followed through on that food discovery and ultimately made these fantastic French crepes.
I want to tell you one more secret ingredient in this recipe and that is soy lecithin. Now some people are afraid of soy, some people are afraid of processed soy. Organic soy foods like tempeh, tofu, soymilk, edamame, these have all been shown and proven to be part of a healthy diet. I like to use soy lecithin occasionally in baked products and they are fantastic in this particular crepe recipe, giving them a richness. And one of the things you know that I love to do, promoting healthy delicious food, is people can know that they can live a vegan diet and not be deprived of anything. We can have it all and feel really good about who we are and what we’re doing.
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn: Okay everybody, are you ready? Drum roll…We have Damien Mander in the studio with us just came in and I am very grateful form him. And to be able to look him in the eye. We’re going to talk a little bit about looking me in the eye in a moment. He is a former Australian Royal Navy Clearance Diver and Special Operations Military Sniper turned anti-poaching crusader. An environmental and animal welfare activist, Mander is outspoken about the priorities of mankind in an increasingly challenged society. He frequently advocates for the use of military equipment and tactics for the purpose of protecting animals including the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. Mander used his life savings and liquidated his investments and assets to fund the start-up and running costs of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wildlife in some of the world’s most volatile regions. His personal evolution has seen him recognize the need for protection of all animals, not just from an ethical standpoint, but also from a global environmental perspective. A public speaker, Mander is a vegan who actively encourages his audience to hold back the tide of human encroachment and correct the imbalance between dwindling wilderness areas and rapidly increasing human populations. Wow. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Damien: Good day, Caryn how are you doing mate?
Caryn: Good. So how long have you been in New York?
Damien: I have been here, I’m in the jungle at the moment, I fly back to Zimbabwe tomorrow and then I’ll be in my natural habitat there. Where the nearest traffic light to me is 300 miles away. I’ve been here for three weeks doing lectures around New York. Been borrowing and stealing money from diners. Some of them old, some of them new. Took a trip out to DC and yeah, I travel for three reasons: one is to bring awareness to the cause, not just the animals we protect, the second is to ask for help and the third is to tell people about return on investments. So, when I have put money into our operations, what has that money done and what’s been said.
Caryn: Well we’re going to talk about your organization in a minute. You know, I just mentioned looking in your eyes. Here we are in the concrete jungle. I grew up in New York and one of the things I was taught as a youngster was when I was in Manhattan, which was a little more dangerous when I was younger than it appears to be today. I was told not to look at strangers in the eye as I was walking down the street. Not to engage with them. Part of that was because you couldn’t trust them and there was danger whatever, but I think that it’s important to look in people’s eyes. We can learn so much when we engage with people. Following through with that, looking in the eyes of non-human animals and how important that is and what we can learn from them. I know people will say anthropomorphism and I say anthropomorphism, anthro-schmorphism. I see so much intelligence, I see so much life, I see so much integrity when I have the opportunity to look into a non-human animal. I imagine you’ve looked into the eyes of a few in Zimbabwe and around.
Damien: I certainly do. Some of them are quite dangerous though so I try not to hang around for too long. Especially being an Aussie and growing up in a place where kangaroos and possums don’t carry such a great threat then all of the sudden you’re in the African bush and you’ve got lions and buffalo and elephant and rhino and a myriad of other handsome little creatures that are out there trying to rip you apart or step on you. Not because they want to but because they may assume you to be a threat. You know, that’s the very special thing about the rangers we support out there on the front lines, is the biggest threat they face is not the poachers they’re trying to stop, it’s the actual animals they’re trying to protect. Rangers give up everything in their lives to live out in the bush. Often spending up to 11 months of the year away from their families. They take home a very small paycheck. But I think they do one of the most important jobs in the world- protecting the heart and lungs of the planet. We develop systems that protect some of the hardest and most targeted animals, usually being an elephant because of the value of it’s tusk in Asia or the rhino because of the value of it’s horn in Asia. When we develop and implement a strategy to protect those animals everything else in that ecosystem is being looked after. I’m literally talking about millions of other little creatures and the trees and the waterways, but unfortunately to protect those two key species requires rangers who are out there capable of using militarized tactics. That is unfortunate but it’s the world we’ve created for ourselves to manage.
Caryn: I remember seeing a video recently in Yellowstone National Park where they re-introduced foxes I think that hadn’t been there, and how so many things in the environment returned in addition to the waterways and the rivers and the other species that returned to the area. When we’re eliminating species, we’re devastating the area.
Damien: Yeah that was wolf, the re-introduction of wolves. It completely changes the ecosystem and the dynamics within that ecosystem. It just shows you that something or one species that we may perceive to be insignificant to the overall balance, it shows you how interlinked everything is including us humans.
Caryn: OK lets back up. You have an incredible history and then you had a life altering change. So, you’ve been in Iraq- 12 tours?
Damien: Yeah, 12 tours of varying lengths. Some were short some were long but 2005, 2006, 2007 were spent over there rolling around in the sand pit.
Caryn: I know a lot of people who spent time over there seeing war and seeing the unfortunate things that they see, don’t come back in a mentally stable way after seeing so much misfortune.
Damien: Yeah, it’s a tough one and a lot of listeners out there will respect that being Americans and whether or not they know it, 22 U.S veterans commit suicide a day, a day. That’s unacceptable. More needs to be done to help support these people that have put their life on the line for what they were sent over there for. Whether good or whether bad. For a lot of these guys and girls, when you leaves these places, when you leave such tight knit groups of people that are looking after your life more than you care about yourself. I spent nine years in real life that kids can do on a PlayStation. Then it all stops and you’re supposed to try to re-integrate back into society. For a lot of people, the war doesn’t start until the bullets stop and you try to come home and there’s not jobs for a sniper in the local newspaper when you come back. I ended up in South America. Got pretty messed up on drugs and alcohol. Trying to put things back together. I managed to pull myself together after almost a year over there and jump on a one-way ticket to Africa to go and have a look. See what was going on over there. I didn’t join the military to serve my country; I joined it because it was adventure. I didn’t go to Iraq to help the situation, I did it for money. I didn’t go to Africa looking for a cause, I went there looking for a fight. Some things started to happen over there that changed my self-absorbed plan.
Caryn: So you had this epiphany and you made this transition and you found your life’s path.
Damien: It wasn’t necessarily and epiphany- there was a couple of key moments along the way. You’re talking about a lifetime of a bullshit facade that I put up around myself being broken down. I used to be a hunter and not just a hunter, the worst kind. The kind that did it for fun, not for food. I had no respect for animals or the environment. I had zero compassion. Did my time in Iraq and started wearing away at this macho armor plating that I had around myself. My life was about me and how can I impress my friends or do the next most challenging thing or get the next adrenaline rush. Iraq chipped away a lot of that. South America made me look very hard at myself. What was I doing? Then coming to Africa and seeing the hard work these rangers were doing and there was me trying to have an adventure on the back of their hard work. It made me realize that was a pretty low thing to be doing. The second thing I saw, alongside the hard work of those rangers, was what was happening to animals. I don’t know what it was but it started affecting me in a way that nothing I’d seen before. It had affected me in a way that wouldn’t have affected me a decade earlier, but that’s what happens when you go through life- things start to change. Sometimes for the better and I think enough armor fell off me along the way to actually open up and realize there’s a real need for help of these animals that are being targeted. An animal like an elephant gets killed, the size of a truck, for something it can hold in one hand. Animals don’t want cars, a house, a paycheck, they don’t want designer clothes or an iPhone, they don’t have egos- animals want to live. We as a species continually take that away from them. I had two things that are pretty niche but maybe unsavory set of skills and I had money. I got involved with real estate at a young age and had done quite well with my mercenary paycheck from Iraq. I decided to put it to something useful. I started this organization and nine years on we operate throughout Southern Africa. The rangers we help support help protect over 6 million acres of wilderness in which millions of animals live. We have currently got 5 of our own major campaigns running. We’ve had support put into 50 other programs on the ground. We’ve got the likes of Dr. Jane Goodall sitting as out patron on our advisory board. We are registered in 5 countries. So, we are certainly growing into a global organization that is able to provide the niche capabilities required to protect animals. Being the first and last line of defense for them out there in the bush.
Caryn: That was a lot to take in and it’s a pretty amazing story. Certainly glad you’re doing what you’re doing. We live in a capitalist society.
Damien: We certainly do!
Caryn: I’m not a supporter of capitalism but that’s where we are and I hope some day we figure out a new type of economic system that suits us, not only financially but socially. None of this would happen if we weren’t in a capitalistic society. Money is what’s behind all of this.
Damien: Money, greed, consumerism. I used to have 8 houses/apartments, property portfolio. I used to like taking the fancy holidays, the nice cars, and all that and I sold all that. I sold it all. Most of my personal possessions I can fit into a backpack. I said in 2010 when I finished spending all my own money when we did the interview with 60 minutes, I said I haven’t got much left in the bank but I’ve never felt richer. That stands true today. The important things in life are not things, they’re actions.
Caryn: Let’s talk about the poachers. What’s the motivation behind those who will kill a rhino for its horns?
Damien: Well firstly, they’re not poachers they’re criminals. Poaching is the way they make money. These are the same syndicates that are linked to, the same organized crime syndicates linked to child prostitution, drugs, guns, and human trafficking. Rhino horn and ivory is just another currency for them. Just yesterday, we had tracks following out from one of our operations. We followed those tracks to a local garbage dump. There was a vehicle there. The guys, our rangers approached the vehicle. As they approached the vehicle and cornered it off, this was at gunpoint; a 14-year-old girl jumped out of that vehicle and ran to the rangers. She had been abducted two days earlier and had been sexually assaulted for the previous two days. So those guys there are local heroes where they are. But, it just shows you the crossover and the types of people we’re dealing with. Their job is to poach and everything else they get involved in. Our job is to stop them.
Caryn: I’m always trying to dig the deepest that I can get to find the cause. For trying to make an analogy in some ways when we talk about health. So many people have heart disease and diabetes and they do because of what they eat. We’re going to talk in a minute about food. The real cause of disease for the most part is our lifestyle and the food that we’re eating. So, the real cause for these people who have chosen to be criminals and do what they do, there’s something else underlying that. Is that like some kind of poverty or…?
Damien: One of our operations where we work along the South African/Mozambique border. This is a border where up to 40% of the world’s rhinos are in that region. Some of the people we are arresting are getting paid a group up to $20,000 U.S. dollars a night. They’re driving around in brand new 4-wheel drives and some of them are living in two and three story houses. The ideological convenience of a poor African living in a mud hut doesn’t always apply. It’s nice to have that to try and give a level of comfort to some of the soft hearts out there but these are vicious criminals. They’re using military tactics and automatic weapons and heavy caliber rifles. They will come in and hunt a ranger- someone who is signed up to protect animals and protect the environment- they will hunt those people as much and they’ll hunt the animals they’re trying to kill. Do I have a soft heart for these people? Not really. Is it unfortunate that some of the countries we work in are some of the poorest and hardest to operate in on the planet? Yes it is. I go to work everyday knowing that what we do is not the solution. People working in Asia trying to reduce demand is critical. We don’t know how long that’s going to take. It could take one generation it could take twenty. People working in communities, some of these communities, trying to get them to a point where they don’t want to poach on a continent that’s going to have 2 billion people on it by 2040. That’s above my pay grade. I know it’s important, I know it’s critical. It’s not a Mozambique problem. It’s not a Zimbabwe problem or a South African problem. This is a global issue. Our job is to buy the people the whole government department, the university departments that are working on this- whatever these global solutions are- is to buy them time. Our job is to stop the hemorrhaging of wildlife within these protected areas and to hold onto as much of the natural world as possible. We’ve got some big issues. I think everybody knows about climate change, human population growth, deforestation, ocean acidification- these are things we know we need to get on top of but we just don’t know if we do something today how is that going to effect the big picture tomorrow? The most immediate thing we can do is to hold onto what we have left. That’s why the job of a ranger is so important.
Caryn: Now you’re taking advantage of technology in order to do your work.
Damien: When appropriate. People keep looking for a silver bullet in conservation and a silver bullet already exists. It’s a well-managed, well-led game ranger. When we get the first 90% of our formula right- which is making sure they believe their job is the most important job in the world- they will get up at any hour, motivated and go out there and risk their life. Only once you got that first 90% right can you start plugging in the fancy stuff- the analytics, the helicopters, the canine tracking units, the digital radio networks. There’s no point in having a drone that’s going to find something 50 miles away if you haven’t got a ground team that can respond. So many people try to jump to the last 10% because it sounds like something new and something fancy, something shiny. But, it comes down to basic soldiering in the bush. Good tracking, good intelligence and good discipline. Out there, you’re not going to find something sitting in an operation center trying to look through the lens of a drone that’s buzzing around. You actually need guys out there on the ground, looking for footprints because those footprints will lead you to poachers. That will get you to them before they get to the animal.
Caryn: I remember a few years ago reading a blog post where you talked about two rangers in Mozambique who had arrested some poachers and then they were attacked themselves. I don’t know how often this happens but it sounded like the whole village, this whole area that they went through attacked the rangers.
Damien: They were going through a very dangerous area, one of the townships there, which is known as a strong hold for some of the most successful rhino syndicates that are operating out of that region. That part of Africa is home to most of the rhino poachers in the world. That’s where they come from and they go across to South Africa, which has 83% of Africa’s rhinos. They’re going into the strong hold and we are taking money from organized crime. That is what rangers are doing. They’re stopping money from getting into the hands of organized crime that does not come without a consequence. It doesn’t make their job any less important or the protection of those animals any less required. It just means that when we sign on the dotted line and say we’re going to be a part of the solution, we’ve got to be ready for the consequences. These guys are. They have seen what’s happened. They go to the hospital, the go to the E.R and they get fixed and they get back out there. Sometimes they don’t. These rangers were transiting through this area and they had a mob of 60 people trying to kill them. One of our managers had an ax wound in their head; he got stabbed in the back of the neck. With so much experience you use the power rather than clear the mob away and touch down and pull these guys on board, they would not be alive today. 1,000 rangers have been killed over the last decade around the world.
Caryn: One of the things that you do is de-horning rhinos. How do you do that and how effective is that?
Damien: In the scope of what we do I would probably rate that at about half a percent of our overall picture. It’s a tool in the box for very select areas where we know we can de-horn 100% of the rhino and make it very public knowledge. Do-horning a rhino is like clipping a fingernail, it grows back, it doesn’t hurt the animal. They’re put to sleep during the process and it makes the animal less attractive to poachers. If you want to get into some of the bigger populations like the one were protecting down in South Africa, there’s not enough resources or logistics to de-horn all of those animals. Even if you could, that stuff is continuously growing back so the time you got halfway through it, it’d be time to go back to the start and go again. Poachers are going to come in; they’re going to track a rhino for a day or two. Eventually get there and it’s got no horn they’re going to shoot it anyway just so it’s one less animal they have to follow next time. It’s a tool in the box that works in some areas but not in most.
Caryn: Are you getting any support from the local areas and the government? Kruger National Park- I know that they house a lot of wildlife- are they working with you or helpful?
Damien: Yeah so we won’t go into an area unless we have cooperation from the local governments. All of the areas where we have a footprint we have government personnel stationed with us, operating with us. Working in Mozambique, but along the border of Kruger National Park the guys there have an almost seamless operation. Sharing information, intelligence, data, communications with the South African across the border. That has significantly led to a down turn in rhino poaching in that area. The combined efforts on the Mozambique side of the border has allowed Kruger to re-deploy their resources further West and that has stopped a lot of the insurgents coming in. We saw from 2010-2014 in Kruger National Park and increase in rhino poaching of around 55% each year. 2015 there was .1% increase and last year there was a 19.8% decrease. It’s been a very good combined effort all around in what was probably one of the hardest or most hard hit places on the planet for poachers that are using insurgency-like tactics.
Caryn: I was in Kruger National Park in 1995. I had the good fortune to visit. I was actually doing an art competition, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Eisteddfod. But it’s a wonderful cultural legacy that started I think by the Dutch and brought it to South Africa. They have competitions of dance groups and choirs and singers and it’s a beautiful mix of diversity from all over the world where you see these angelic German boy choirs and these Zimbabwe dancers all on the same stage. It’s fantastic! My host took a 5-hour drive to where we were staying to Kruger National Park and it was really something to see. That was a long time ago, 1995. What I also did see was Johannesburg and Soweto and this was right after the apartheid was lifted. Just another unbelievable thing, what humanity can create- these shacks for people to live in, in order to support whatever businesses they wanted. These not quite slaves, but slaves. So we do it to humans and we do it to animals. Now lets talk about food because to me, it’s all about food. That’s the name of this program! You made a connection with the animals you were trying to protect with the animals that were on your plate.
Damien: I did. I spent three years over there walking around in the bush protecting one group of animals then coming home and eating another group. I knew all along that it was a lie that I was living and what I was doing and what I was believing were heading off in different tangents. I felt like a hypocrite to be honest. I was going around and asking people to help up and support us, to protect these animals and not responsible in my own actions for trying to stop what is the greatest cause of animal suffering on this planet. That’s the meat industry. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from- there’s not logical argument for eating meat or the suffering that we put those animals through. We pay people to do things to animals that none of us would be willing to do ourselves. Just because we don’t see it up close does not mean we are not responsible.
Caryn: May I ask what you eat when you are in the bush?
Damien: I have a similar diet to elephant and rhinoceros. Lots of trees and lots of grass. If it grows on something I’ll be nibbling on it.
Damien: No it’s not like in New York where you can type “vegan” into Google Maps and all these little red dots come up on your page. We have all the various local markets and we get bits and pieces, everything is cooked from a basic singular raw ingredient. We have a fantastic cook out there in the camp who has been trained up over the years on vegan cooking. His name is Hope, a bit of a local legend out there. As you can see I’m not going hungry.
Caryn: You don’t look like you’re suffering.
Damien: I’m about 250 pounds at the moment.
Caryn: Does everyone in your organization follow this type of diet? How do they feel about it?
Damien: Some do, some don’t. At the end of the day we are an anti-poaching organization, not a food movement. My personal passion is not anti-poaching. My personal passion is motivating other people to give a shit about animals. Having come from my background with zero respect for animals- I consider myself a pretty tough nut to crack in terms of making that 180-degree turn. I think that when I talk to people, the message I try to get across to them- if I can change then I think it’s possible for anybody to be able to show a greater level of compassion for these innocent creatures.
Caryn: You have a young son.
Damien: I do, Leo is his name after Tolstoy.
Caryn: Yes, I love that. He’s living with you where you are?
Damien: Yeah he’s out there in the bush. I could imagine at the moment he would be running around with no shirt on and no shoes. Probably with the rangers who are about to go out on their evening deployment.
Caryn: What kind of message do you have for young children that are growing up today in this global environment?
Damien: People often ask me- they say they feel so helpless on the other side of the world with what’s going on over there. The animals we’re protecting are not Africa’s animals, they’re a global asset and there’s a global responsibility for us all to protect them. But people don’t need to pick up an AK-47 and come to Africa to be a part of the solution. They can make changes in their own lives here, which can effect animals and affect their own lives. The most important thing anybody can do is control what they put on their dinner plate and live a plant-based diet. It’s the easiest way to protect an animal, don’t put it in your mouth. The second way we need help is growing an extended family of supporters around the world- people that understand that the most direct way, the most immediate way to protect these animals out there in the bush is to have a good person with a gun standing between the animal and the armed insurgent like poaching groups that are coming to kill them. We have people, volunteers, of all shapes and sizes and ages come out and spend time with us and the rangers on the front lines helping patrol. They’re just outside of Victoria Falls it’s called the Green Army Program. You can have a look on our website IAPF.org. It’s just about making choices in our own life and not suppressing the truth. At the end of the day we don’t have to answer to anybody else but ourselves. We don’t. With our own actions you only have to look one person in the mirror at the end of the day and that’s you. I couldn’t do it anymore because I was not doing something. I was responsible for killing animals and trying to get people to support us and stopping the killing of animals.
Caryn: Let’s talk about supporting the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, IAPF.org people can go there and donate.
Damien: Correct, yeah there’s a list of ways on the website that people can help or donate or become involved. Sign up for the newsletter, learn about what’s going on. We’re grateful for everything, all shapes and sizes. The donations we get.
Caryn: Just a couple more questions and I’m going to let you go. You’ve had some events around New York. You were at Jivamukti last night. Sharon Gannon and her group- they’re fantastic I hope it went well.
Damien: Yeah it was great.
Caryn: Then you were at NYU with Steve Wise and Kathy Stevens a few weeks ago- I love them both. They’re wonderful people. Kathy Stevens of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary and Steve Wise the persistent attorney trying to make tiny change in the way we perceive the chimpanzee as a person entitled to some rights. Fantastic stuff. Have we fed you well while you’re here?
Damien: I haven’t gone hungry, I’ll be honest.
Caryn: Have you had some highlights?
Damien: I’ve been trying to walk everywhere to walk it off. I think I’ve eaten at Peace Food about four times. Actually a good place up in Harlem, Seasoned Vegan. I think I put on maybe a kilogram or how you guys say two pounds. That would be directly attributed to the best nuggets I’ve ever tasted.
Caryn: Seasoned Vegan in Harlem.
Damien: Eaten at a few of the Blossoms around town.
Caryn: We love their burger.
Damien: Le Botaniste over on the East Side, very good. Candle 79 I’ve also eaten there. I’m trying to get as much of this vegan food into me as possible because when I get back to Africa I’ve got to cook it ourselves so there’s no fancy restaurants.
Caryn: OK well I’m glad we fed you well while you were here. Damien Mander thank you. Just thank you. I’m going to tear up and I’m holding it back because you’re doing wonderful, wonderful…
Damien: Thanks very much and thanks to all the listeners out there. The vegans and the non-vegans. The vegans keep going, keep chipping away, keep being activists. The non-vegans get on board and get on the right side of history. Thank you
Caryn: Right on. Thank you. Let’s take a quick break and we’ll be right back in a minute or two.
TRANSCRIPTION PART III:
I’m Caryn Hartglass and I’m back with for little while to talk about food. And let’s just breathe a moment because that was amazing, listening to that man’s story. And I’m kind of choked up, how about you? wow! Okay so I really hope that you check out the International Anti-Poaching Foundation and I loved how he called the poachers “criminals.” It’s amazing, humanity, what we can do, isn’t it? We can choose to do good and we can choose to do horrible things. but it’s so inspiring when we discover people who are doing amazing, amazing things, out there in the bush, protecting those beautiful animals, elephants and rhinoceros, and all of the species that are related to whether these particular animals thrive or not.
Okay, I need to breathe here, don’t you. And please, if you have any comments or questions you can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. So I told you before that I was going to talk about some interesting findings regarding Alzheimer’s and dementia, and I will do that now. I’m unwinding from a week of the Food Revolution Network annual summit, the 6th annual summit that just ended on Sunday, and it was fantastic, if you heard any of it or all of it I’m sure you enjoyed it. I know I did. It’s a big commitment to listen 3 hours a day for 9 days, well for 8 days and then an hour and a half the last day. Intense amount of information. And that’s why the Food Revolution offers an empowerment package where you can listen to the entire program at your leisure when you have a chance. And if you haven’t had a chance to listen to the program and you can get the empowerment package, I recommend it because I listened to every interview and they were all fantastic. And for me, I’m plugged into this all the time so most of the information about food and the power of plant foods is not very enlightening for me. And I don’t want to sound smug about it but I’m focused on this all the time, but when I do hear something new that I haven’t heard, wow, I jump onto it.
And I was surprised that I hadn’t heard this because the information actually started to come out in 2014 and it’s only been gaining more support. But Dr. Dale Bredesen has come up with a protocol and he’s had tremendous success with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. And he has shown that he can turn around cognitive decline. And nobody’s been able to do this. We have some drugs out there that are supposed to slow the decline in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and we don’t even know if they work. But to actually turn things around–and I’m not surprised to hear what the protocol actually is, and I’m going to go over them briefly during the rest of this program, because things that help one part of the body help another part of the body. And there’s a lot of analogies between heart disease and the plaque that accumulates in our arteries and ultimately affects the performance of our heart, and getting blood flow and oxygen to the heart. The same kind of scenario affects the brain. Plaque on the brain makes it difficult for the brain to function the way that it does, so many different complex ways that it does, we can’t even imagine, begin to understand.
So yeah the solution according to Dr. Dale Bredesen is–things that we’ve been talking about on this program for years and other alternative health advocates and plant-based diet advocates have been talking about. So I’m going to go through this list and if you’re interested, you know someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia you might want to get out a pen and write some of these down. If you want to you can write me at email@example.com and I’ll send you information about it because I think this is really really important.
Number one Dr. Bredesen sees the disease process as an imbalance rather than toxicity. So the first thing that he recommends is a diet that eliminates processed foods and unhealthy ingredients, and foods that boost the immune system like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fish. Now I’m not an advocate for eating fish. This is something by Dr. Dale Bredesen. But still, if people would eliminate processed foods and unhealthy ingredients and eat more fruits and vegetables and eat some fish, we’d be in a lot better situation than we are today, with people eating fast food and foods from factory farms.
Okay the next piece is stress reduction with meditation, yoga, music, and other methods that help individuals reduce stress. So if you know someone who has issues with dementia and Alzheimer’s and is able to listen to your advice or you’re able to help them try some new things, meditation and yoga–and it can be very simple yoga, it doesn’t have to be pretzel-twisting, contorting your body into some crazy position–just some simple stretches and moving the body and massaging the internal organs with some simple twists and things can really be beneficial.
The next thing is 8 hours of sleep. Sleep is a really luxurious commodity these days because many people are not getting enough sleep and good quality sleep and it is so essential to health and can actually help you turn around cognitive decline. 8 hours of sleep. And there are ways to improve your sleep, making sure you’re in a dark room with blackout curtains and making sure the last few hours that you’re awake you’re doing relaxing things, you’re not consuming caffeine towards the late hours of the evening so you’re allowing your body to naturally relax so you can get into a sleep. And that stress reduction also will help you sleep better because if you’re constantly worried about things then you’re not going to be able to get good sleep so all of these different things help each other.
30 minutes of exercise 4 to 6 times a week. 30 minutes of exercise 4 to 6 times a week is an important piece of this protocol to turn around cognitive decline.
Very good oral hygiene. I love this one. And there’s lots of talk, lots of studies, lots of research about the importance of oral hygiene these days and how the hygiene or the health of our mouth can be indicative of other health issues throughout the body. Good oral hygiene. Something I mentioned on this program years ago: brushing your teeth for 3 minutes. That may seem like a long time. Count to 180, 1 2 3 4, to yourself while you’re brushing your teeth. You’ll be surprised at how spectacularly clean your teeth feel, rather than brushing them for like 20 seconds or 30 seconds, 3 full minutes. Try it, you’ll be surprised. Very good oral hygiene is part of this.
Improvement of gut health with probiotics and prebiotics. And I was talking earlier about making that almond yogurt. This is a great way to keep your gut healthy with good probiotics.
Fasting for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. That means if you eat at 6 o’clock you shouldn’t eat until 6 in the morning. Or, if you go to bed late like I do and you eat at 11 PM, my breakfast isn’t until 11 or 12 o’clock the next day. 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.
3 hours or more between dinner and bedtime to keep insulin levels healthy. Okay? 3 hours or more between dinner and bedtime. So if you’re eating at 8 you go to bed at 11. If you’re eating at 11, uh-oh, you can’t go to bed until 2 in the morning. Something like that. That’s the program! And he has been able to turn around–in the first study he did 9 out of 10 patients and that wasn’t very many but
9 out of 10 patients saw improvement and he’s been doing this over the years and still seeing tremendous improvement. So this is something that is important and should be pursued vigorously in my opinion.
All right, we’re out of time! This was great! I’m really excited about future guests on this program. Next week my friend and colleague Dr. Milton Mills will be on the program, he’s a fantastic medical doctor, he works in the ER and I know we’re going to have a lively and passionate discussion, not only about food but about many things. And my friend Del Sroufe, wonderful cookbook author, will be back in a couple of weeks. So we have a lot to look forward to on It’s All About Food. Thanks for joining me today. Remember, find me at https://responsibleeatingandliving.com/, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and have a very delicious week.
Transcribed by Hayley Hinsberger, 6/6/2017 and Adella Finnan, 5/19/2017