Part I: Del Sroufe, The China Study Family Cookbook
Del Sroufe is the author of The China Study Family Cookbook, The China Study: Quick & Easy Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, and Better than Vegan. Sroufe is also the co-owner and chef at the Wellness Forum, where he delivers great tasting, plant-based meals to clients in Columbus as well as throughout the continental U.S. Sroufe also joined The Wellness Forum as a member where, after a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, he has lost over 200 pounds on a low fat, plant-based diet. He teaches cooking classes at local venues like Whole Foods, Community Recreation Centers, and The Wellness Forum. Learn more at chefdelsroufe.com.
Part II: Allie Feldman Taylor and John Phillips, Empire State Humane Voters
Allie Feldman Taylor is the founder of new political advocacy organization for animal protection, Empire State Humane Voters which launched in 2017. She was named to New York Observer’s “Political Power 80” in 2014 and named to City & State Magazine’s “40 Under 40” political people to watch in 2016. She’s an alumni of Florida State University. Allie lives in Bed Stuy with her husband, Scott, and three rescued cats – Willa, Waffles, and Feline Dion.
John Phillips is a well-known political figure in New York and a nationally-recognized leader in the animal protection movement. Hailed by former Governor David Paterson (D-NY) as one of the “great animal rights activists” in the U.S., his numerous successful efforts to pass laws protecting animals have earned him accolades and awards from the U.S. Congress, the New York State Legislature and the New York City Council. In March 2009, John was named one of the “20 Under 30 Standout Stars” of the animal protection movement by VegNews Magazine, the premier magazine covering vegetarian issues and animal welfare. John’s been active in the animal rights movement since he was a teenager, vegetarian since age 9 and vegan since age 14. He founded and was executive director of the New York League of Humane Voters which was a force in NYC politics for years. John was an early supporter of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and helped to defeat the animals’ greatest enemy in city government, Christine Quinn, in the 2013 mayor’s race. He’s the current political advisor for Empire State Humane Voters, a statewide political organization for animals. He lives in the East Village with his partner Chris and their two rescue guinea pigs, Neptune and Blackberry.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! Hey there everybody, I am so excited today, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food and this is going to be a major love-fest today I’m just warning you, okay? Are you ready? I am. I’ve been looking forward to this since last week actually. I’ve been having a good time on this show and I hope you’ve been having a good time learning and discovering everything about food, my favorite subject. And more and more I’m going to be connecting the dots between food and all life on earth because it is all about food. Terrific, so I want to welcome my first guest Del Sroufe and he is the author of The China Study Family Cookbook, which we will be talking about today, as well as three other cookbooks, The China Study: Quick & Easy Cookbook, Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook, and Better than Vegan. Sroufe is also the co-owner and chef at the Wellness Forum, where he delivers great tasting, plant-based meals to clients in Columbus as well as throughout the continental U.S. Sroufe also joined The Wellness Forum as a member where, after a lifetime of yo-yo dieting, he has lost over 200 pounds on a low fat, plant-based diet. He teaches cooking classes at local venues like Whole Foods, Community Recreation Centers, and The Wellness Forum. Learn more about Del at chefdelsroufe.com. Del, how are you?
Del Sroufe: I’m great Caryn, good to be with you again!
Caryn Hartglass: So I am going to give you the virtual five year, fifth time on It’s All About Food robe.
Del Sroufe: Wow, I’m excited!
Caryn Hartglass: So this is like Saturday Night Live when Alec Baldwin or Steve Martin come out with their plush robes with the five on it, and this is your fifth time on It’s All About Food and I don’t have many people that come back very often, so congratulations.
Del Sroufe: Thank you so much! I just have to keep writing cookbooks to get invited back a sixth time?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, unless you, not necessarily, because the last time you were on the program, I don’t know if you remember, but you were actually on to save the day because I think it was Leeann Campbell who was scheduled to be on and she couldn’t make it for one reason or another. Do you remember that? She was having a Total Health Conference or something and then there was some crazy thing.
Del Sroufe: Oh yeah, yeah! Well I’m happy to be a fill-in guest, its fun for me so whatever you need.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so we’re going to talk about The China Study Family Cookbook today and I want to say Del you have outdone yourself this time.
Del Sroufe: Aw, thank you! Thank you, I’m excited about it.
Caryn Hartglass: And I think my favorite part of the book is breakfast.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, me too. Well you know breakfast, yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: No really, you’ve outdone yourself. So the first thing I wanted to talk about is using whole food ingredients and why that’s important and why some people may not realize it’s important. So we’ve gone through this industrial phase, industrial age, and in some ways it’s been good and in some ways it’s been absolutely horrible, and when it comes to food the industry has been putting in all of these low-quality cheap ingredients, cheap either because they’re cheap or because they’re subsidized, and people are used to this food and then health is degrading as a result. But in all of your recipes, which are fabulous, people can have all of their favorite comfort foods and I will bet that they taste better than the foods that they’re used to because the ingredients you’re using are not only whole foods, but they’re quality foods.
Del Sroufe: Right, they’re real foods.
Caryn Hartglass: They’re real!
Del Sroufe: They’re real food, and if you’ve been eating food out of a box for most of your life as a lot of people have then you’re going to taste real food for the first time, and I think that’s the exciting thing about that. And it’s interesting, this is my fourth cookbook, I feel only more encouraged to write cookbooks this way, not with just real food but with real food that you can get at a regular grocery store. Right? You don’t have to go anywhere special to get these ingredients, these are right there in front of us.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly, I was talking to someone recently, and I’m not going to say who because it doesn’t matter, but he was talking about all of the new products that are available and making them accessible. But I’m like you, I’m really into you can go to any grocery store get the beans, get the dates, get the whole foods, and make spectacular food.
Del Sroufe: Well look, if you’re a person that’s eaten… if you grew up in an Italian American household and eaten spaghetti and meatballs your entire life then what the heck do you want to do with quinoa? I love quinoa but if you’re new to this quinoa looks like some sort of foreign invasion to you, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, especially if you look at it closely it’ll creep you out because it’s got that little spermy thing in it or something, ha-ha!
Del Sroufe: Yeah, and if hamburgers and French fries have been your thing then you’re not going to go for this… you sort of have to approach people where they are to the best you can. And I’m just trying to do it with real foods so they can understand what they’re eating and not be so freaked out by it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so some of the fantastic things, you’re sweetening with dates or date puree or applesauce, and these are all great ways to get the sweet into the food.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, when you sweeten with dates, when you sweeten with whole foods then you not only get the sweetness you get the fiber and you get all the nutrients in those dates, and dates are more than just the sweetness, they are packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Caryn Hartglass: Michael Greger at nutritionfacts.org has a video on sweeteners and what the most nutritious sweetener is, and of course he always saves the best part for last like it’s a thriller or something but dates were the winner because they’re a complete food, it’s nature’s candy, when you get that sweetness you’re getting the fiber and you’re getting everything else.
Del Sroufe: Its nature’s candy is the perfect way to say it.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s say it again, its nature’s candy.
Del Sroufe: Its nature’s candy, eat up!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, fantastic. So I just dog-eared a few recipes…
Del Sroufe: Oh, perfect!
Caryn Hartglass: First one, I am going to be making this this weekend for my partner Gary De Mattei’s birthday, don’t anybody tell him, ha-ha! Chocolate Donuts!
Del Sroufe: Yes! I made these for a week-long cooking emersion last week and we did them in class and everyone was like, “what just happened?”
Caryn Hartglass: I bet they taste better than real donuts.
Del Sroufe: Well they’re real food!
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sorry! That was the wrong thing to say. I can’t stand when people say, “oh you’re eating fake cheese,” like no I’m eating plant-cheese or I’m eating plant-whatever, but these are real donuts, thank you.
Del Sroufe: These are real donuts.
Caryn Hartglass: Real donuts; and they’re made with whole wheat pastry powder, cocoa powder, sweetened applesauce, date puree, plant milk, vanilla, and then they have a little frosting that’s got sweet potato puree in it!
Del Sroufe: Yup! And the best part, you’re going to eat 2 or 3 donuts and it’ll fill you up, one, two you’re not going to have that sugar crash an hour later where you have to go lay down.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup, fantastic. Now I have to admit the last time I had something that I thought tasted like donuts, it was purple potatoes.
Del Sroufe: Ah, okay!
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know, and we did it all wrong because we were in Florida and we got them from my favorite Josh Steinhauser’s Farmers Market in North Hollywood. I don’t know if you know Josh but if you ever meet him he is like high on green juice; he’s always bouncing off the walls full of energy guy and he’s got a fantastic farmers market. But they were selling purple potatoes and we were staying in a little beach place and we only had a microwave, so we microwaved them, anyway they tasted like donuts.
Del Sroufe: Oh wow! I need some of that.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but anyway I’m going to try these chocolate donuts, and then moving on I just wanted to mention the sweet potato hummus.
Del Sroufe: One of my favorite recipes; you know I’ve been making hummus for almost 30 years now in commercial kitchens and I get a little bit bored with just regular hummus, it’s still a part of what I do but the day that I made sweet potato hummus I fell in love with hummus all over again.
Caryn Hartglass: So I just have to make a pedantic obnoxious statement, and I’m just going to say it and then we’ll just pass on…
Del Sroufe: Go for it!
Caryn Hartglass: Now hummus of course in the original Arabic, Hebrew languages means garbanzo bean, and we have kind of taken that word and made it our own, which happens to a lot of words in vocabulary, and hummus now means like a creamy spread. So this sweet potato hummus does not have any garbanzo beans in it but its got tahini and sweet potato puree, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, it’s a fabulous color and I’m sure it’s fantastic.
Del Sroufe: And I tell you what, I make the distinction between hummus and then other bean spreads and here’s where I keep it at hummus; this is a traditional hummus recipe minus the olive oil, but everything else in there you’ll find in a traditional hummus, and then all we’re doing is replacing the chickpeas with sweet potatoes. And so I’m okay with that translation, our artistic license if you will, but I make plenty of white beans, I make a cannellini bean spread with rosemary and lemon juice and garlic, I do not call it hummus.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you call it?
Del Sroufe: Well I call it a white bean spread, ha-ha! I try to respect a little of the cultural heritage of the food that I’m eating because I love that. I love the history, the story, and the origin.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that too, thank you! I think food history is important. You know what I learned about garbanzo beans recently, I don’t want to call them chickpeas anymore.
Del Sroufe: Oh really?
Caryn Hartglass: I think I learned this during the food revolution summit, maybe it was Vandana Shiva, but anyway what she was talking about was how when the British came along and occupied India and they noticed all the beans that the people were eating they thought those beans were animal feed.
Del Sroufe: Oh wow!
Caryn Hartglass: You know chickpeas, for the chicks. Fascinating! Anyway so they’re garbanzo beans now, ha-ha.
Del Sroufe: Well I’ll be with you, I’ll call them garbanzo beans and I’ll give you another quick one, I use millet in a lot of recipes…
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to bring that up! Thank you for bringing that up!
Del Sroufe: It’s one of my favorite ingredients, but you know in America the millet that’s grown is used for bird feed and in fact I’ll get people that I show the recipe to, especially guys, and they’re like, “that’s bird food,” and I’m like, “Oh God.”
Caryn Hartglass: Okay let’s talk a little bit about millet and why we love it.
Del Sroufe: Well you know it’s an ancient grain, it’s been around forever, it’s gluten free, it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals and all of those things that we love, and it’s versatile, and it’s easy it’s quick cooking, it’s twenty minutes to cook and you can do so many things with it. I first encountered it in a Moroccan millet pilaf that…oh what’s her name…one of my favorite cookbook author’s recipes, and loved it. But then the second time I saw it was out of a PETA cookbook where they made meatloaf out of it.
Caryn Hartglass: And you made chorizo out of it!
Del Sroufe: Yeah I make chorizo, I make meatballs, I make everything like that out of it because it holds together on its own it doesn’t need any binder.
Caryn Hartglass: You know what I discovered recently, somebody told me this on this show but I never got around to doing it, that was you can make your own millet flour from millet, just putting it in a Vitamix.
Del Sroufe: Oh yeah, Vitamix, power of the Vitamix, certainly. Oat flour too.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, awesome. Then the last recipe I wanted to talk about was the mushroom bacon and we talk about bacon on this show from time to time, the unfortunate thing is that all of those bacon-lovers who don’t really care about where the bacon comes from and all they really are interested in is that salty, sweet, fatty flavor.
Del Sroufe: Yes, yeah and it’s just as easy to get out of something like mushroom. If you think about bacon, not the crispy bacon but the oven-baked bacon that they do so it never really gets crispy, it has that softness to it but it has the salty and the sweet, you can get that out of mushrooms.
Caryn Hartglass: I know, yes!
Del Sroufe: You can get that out of mushrooms, and oh my gosh.
Caryn Hartglass: The other thing I didn’t mention yet was in this cookbook, which is a little different from some others, is you’ve included some interviews with people and given their personal anecdotes.
Del Sroufe: Yeah, I love this part of the book. It really was a fun thing to do. Interesting side of it, you know I interviewed the Campbell family, Dr. Campbell who wrote The China Study and his daughter Leeann, and their stories about how they became plant-based and how they came to it is not only interesting but you know the most interesting thing about them is that their entire family adopted this diet. Dr. Campbell, all of his children, and all of their children eat plant-based, which is a rarity. And so I included this story for that reason but then you see other stories of people who to some level are not, the family is either on board with them or not, and how they deal with that those stories are important too because we’re not striving here for perfection, we’re striving to move forward in a better direction.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s it in a mouthful! That’s right, and the Campbell family, they’re like the plant-based dynasty.
Del Sroufe: They’re the royalty, yup!
Caryn Hartglass: The royalty, absolutely, and it looks like you’ve been adopted into their family with the China Study Family Cookbook.
Del Sroufe: Well I would be thrilled if that were the case and they definitely seem to like my writing cookbooks and I love them. I consider them really some of my favorite people, they’re the nicest family on the planet that I’ve ever met, they’re as nice as it gets, I certainly have been blessed to have been allowed this opportunity to write a couple of cookbooks for them.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, the last thing I’m going to say before we go is I always like to talk about cauliflower with you Del and I couldn’t not mention it, and in this book you have a few recipes with cauliflower and one is the autumn vegetable pot pie with biscuit crust. You could make that for me sometime!
Del Sroufe: Well we need to work that out because I’d be happy to. But you know the cauliflower is still, although the new book has a cheese sauce recipe that’s made from potatoes, I still have a fondness for the place of cauliflower purees for making sauces and cream-based things and people that I feed it to, even people who don’t like cauliflower, love the mouth-feel and the taste, you know it takes up the flavor of whatever you do to it, the taste that you come up with and then the things that you can do with it, it’s a totally versatile food. So I’m all in on the cauliflower still.
Caryn Hartglass: Fantastic, Del thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food, it’s always a pleasure talking to you!
Del Sroufe: Always fun! Thank you!
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, thanks for writing the China Study Family Cookbook, 100 recipes to bring your family to the plant-based table, thank you!
Del Sroufe: Bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, bye bye. Okay, are you salivating? I’m just very hungry right now. Dangerous! Talking about food when you haven’t eaten since this morning.
Transcribed by Lydia Dearie, 6/15/2017
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn: OK, well I want to move quickly because I have some fantastic people here in the studio and I can’t wait to get started talking to them. We have a couple of representatives from the new Empire State Humane Voters. I’m looking at Allie Feldman Taylor who is the founder of the new political advocacy organization for animal protection, Empire State Humane Voters- which launched in 2017, that’s this year. She was named to New York Observer’s “Political Power 80” in 2014, and named to City and State Magazine’s “40 Under 40 Political People to Watch in 2016.” She’s an alumni of Florida State University and lives in Bed Stuy with her husband Scott and three rescued cats: Willa, Waffles and Feline Dion. Then we have John Phillips. He is a well-known political figure in New York and a nationally recognized leader in the animal protection movement. Hailed by former governor David Patterson as one of the great animal rights activists in the US. His numerous successful efforts to pass laws protecting animals have earned him accolades and awards from the US Congress, the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Council. In March 2009, John was named one of the “20 Under 30 Stand Out Stars” of the animal protection movement by Veg News Magazine, the premium magazine covering vegetarian issues and animal welfare. John’s been active in the animal rights movement since he was a teenager and I can verify that, and talk about that in a minute. Vegetarian since age 9 and vegan since age 14, he founded and was executive director of the NY League of Humane Voters, which was a force in NYC politics for years. John was an early supporter of NYC mayor Bill de Blasio and helped to defeat the animals’ greatest enemy in city government, Christine Quinn in the 2013 Mayor’s race. He is the current political adviser for Empire State Humane Voters, a statewide political organization for animals. He lives in the East Village with his partner Chris who is also here, Hi Chris, and their 2 rescue guinea pigs: Neptune and Blackberry. Hello everybody!
Allie and John: Hey Caryn!
Caryn: So John, before we really get started in the meat of this program, the plant meat of this program. I just wanted to get a little nostalgic here. I’m looking at you and I’m filled with pride and “nachas” and joy. Because I knew you when so long ago and you’ve really grown up.
John: You were one of the first activists that I met in the movement and I always tell people when I’m talking about you that I probably wouldn’t have stayed in the animal rights movement if it weren’t for you. You were so welcoming.
Caryn: You’re making me tear up.
John: No, seriously. I mean as I think everybody in this room knows and probably a lot of the listeners know, I lot of animal people are not always the most people loving people. I’m very fortunate that you were one of the first people that I met because I really did…
Caryn: Well thank you. You were an awesome volunteer back then. I remember not knowing anything about websites and you sent me a page of HTML code that I used for years until I memorized it.
John: Really? I think actually when I met you, I was going to go into computer programming. Then I decided nope- I want to do animal stuff.
Caryn: Well the animals really, I’m sure are grateful for you as I am. OK lets get started! Tell me.
John: Can we talk about dates though?
John: Those dates. I am a big fan of Del, because I follow Dr. Fuhrman and I do no salt, no sugar, no oil. His Forks Over Knives Cookbook, I don’t know if he is listening but I’m a big fan.
Caryn: OK wait a minute. You follow religiously… I see your posts on Facebook all the time!
John: But even when I go to restaurant…
Caryn: You’re careful
John: Yeah, like I don’t eat deep fried food. But at home no salt, no sugar, no oil.
Caryn: Excellent. Yeah, I’m the same way. We meant to have you over for dinner.
John: Definitely, any time.
Caryn: Tell me about this new organization, Allie.
Allie: Thanks for having me. Just one quick correction. My cat, it’s Feline Dion as in rhymes with Celine Dion.
Allied: Important note there. Thank you so much for having us. This is actually Empire State Humane Voters radio debut!
Caryn: Only on It’s All About Food on Progressive Radio Network.
Allied: Of course, John has been a huge inspiration behind why I founded Empire State Humane Voters. He was actually the first person I met who was both political, and an animal person. I credit much of what I’ve learned today to the work that John has been doing over the past decade. He set the foundation for where we are today in the humane voter movement. Thrilled to be working with him today. I think that the two of us are going to really be able to take New York City and New York State by storm, from Buffalo all the way to Long Island. We’re just getting started. We started this organization because there is a dire need for a statewide group that will address a plethora of animal issues across New York State. There really isn’t an organization that is full-time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year- working to get animal people registered to vote, training them on how to get politically active in their community, educating candidates and elected officials about animal rights issues, making endorsements and of course holding our elected officials accountable to the laws that we can get passed for animals. I think in the last certainly 6 months or so, while it’s incredibly unfortunate what we’ve seen happening at the federal level, it has created a huge opportunity for us in New York State to really take advantage of the need for building a political organization here in New York. While there’s going to be a lot of challenges in getting stuff done at the federal level under Trump, there’s so much work that we can get done in New York to make sure that we can protect the animals that are here in our home state.
Caryn: I remember talking to the lawyer, Steve Wise who is advocating for chimpanzees. He was talking about how all he’s committed his life to is kind of moving the law in millimeters to help animals. What he’s doing is working at the localist level he possibly can and that’s how he feels he can make change. Working at the local level is really important and engaging people in their communities! Which is something a lot of people have gotten away from because we’re lazy and we want convenience and we want to know somebody else is taking care of things. But they’re not. We have to do it.
Allie: What we see a need for, which is why we created Empire State Humane Voters, is that the typical tool box for an animal rights activists just like you and me is to eat vegan, it’s to talk to our friends and neighbors and family about going vegan and about plant-based foods, to talk to them about compassion. It’s to go to protests and hold signs. Where we sort of have fallen short, is we as a community need to make sure that political activism is just as big a part as every advocates day to day tool box, for advocating for animals. One of the big focuses that we’re going to be putting our time and resources into is making sure that we can train advocates on how to plug themselves into the political fabrics of their communities. Training them on how to run for office. Helping animal activists get jobs and internships with elected officials. Having different workshops on how they can volunteer on campaigns. How to go knock on doors for candidates. How to phone bank. All of these skill sets that are absolutely needed if we want to make long-term change for animals by getting laws passed. These are things that we see in just about every other issue area. Whether it’s environmental causes, or LGBT rights, those are staples in those issue areas. But, they’re not yet a staple in the animal rights movement and that’s what we seek to do in the long run. We know it’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re planting the seeds right now so that this next generation of animal rights advocates understands that it’s not just about eating cruelty-free, it’s about getting politically active in your community and holding your elected officials accountable.
John: What’s remarkable, I think, is the animal movement- 99% of the organizations that exist, exist as charities. They’re legally prohibited from engaging in political activity. So what ends up happening is that the charities lead the way, but they’re not allowed to get involved in politics. So, elected officials, get away with doing whatever they want. Voting however they want. That’s a really big problem for the movement.
Caryn: I just want to say, I’m not going to say that this is good or bad, but our so-called President may actually change that.
John: Yeah, it might motivate people to get involved.
Caryn: Well, in order to benefit religious organizations, he may change that so that they can get involved in politics. So some of our non-profits may be able to get involved. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.
John: I’ve always wanted to start a church in Veganism.
Caryn: Well it is a church in some ways. Gary and I have talked about that many times.
John: It’s my faith.
Caryn: That’s right. I believe! I talk about proselytizing all the time. OK tell me, what is a humane voter?
John: A humane voter is someone who is willing to go into the voting booth and make their decision based on whether or not that candidate supports animal welfare.
Caryn: So the word humane is implying non-human animal welfare? OK, that’s good to know because I don’t know if that’s obvious to everyone because when you say “humane” you’re thinking about humans.
John: I think it’s aspirational you know? The way that we treat animals speaks to how we are a human being.
Caryn: Now there are other humane voter organizations around the country right? Are you connected to them at all?
John: No, we’re not. But there are other political organizations for animals that work at the local and state level.
Caryn: OK. Cool. So what’s your first big thing? I know you’ve got one.
John: The first big thing that we’re working on is a bill in the city to ban the use of wild animals in the circus. We’ve had tremendous success with that over the past few weeks. We’ve more than doubled the number of sponsors. We’ve gotten the Mayor to come out in support of the bill.
Caryn: I saw that video, that was awesome.
John: Wasn’t that great? The chair of the committee is supportive. It’s a bill that I’ve personally been working on with the sponsor for 11 years, believe it or not. Unfortunately the past administration was very opposed to the bill and Mayor Bloomberg and former speaker Christine Quinn. They were both pretty anti-animal. Fortunately now we have a new administration. We have a new Mayor, we have a new Speaker and the stars have kind of aligned for getting that bill moving. Hopefully…we feel good about it and it might be our first victory. We’re knocking on wood and crossing our paws and hoping.
Caryn: Well the time is right. The time was not right 5 years ago. I couldn’t even imagine it 15 years ago. But, lets talk about Ringling Brothers and how it makes it right.
John: I think that that was a tremendous victory for the movement. One that I didn’t see coming. Certainly not 11 years ago when we went to the sponsor and we first talked about doing the bill. We never would have dreamed in a million years that Ringling Brothers would close on their own. In reality, it was their decision but it was motivated by all of the local legislators all over the country, all of the state legislators all over the country who were introducing ordinances and state laws to put them out of business. I mean, they said in the media they were getting tired of fighting it. They were getting tired of fighting the activists.
Caryn: I’m smiling right now.
John: It’s a wonderful thing and it’s a huge victory for the movement but now we have to codify that into law. We need to make sure other circuses can’t come to New York and another industry like that never takes root. I think, with other issues where we had significant victories like with the fur industry, when people stopped wearing fur for a while. We didn’t get that codified into law.
Caryn: So it came back.
John: Yeah. We didn’t seal the deal. We have to translate public support into law. We have to make sure that we capitalize on that public sentiment and do away with it forever.
Caryn: What I’m remembering about Ringling Brothers, tell me if I’m correct or not. At first they agreed to eliminate elephants from the circus. But what people didn’t’ realize is there’s other animals involved.
Caryn: But now that they’re closing, that’s the end.
John: That’s the end of Ringling. I mean, unfortunately we’ll see what happens with the animals. But it’s the end of the biggest circus in the country. It’s probably one of the biggest victories for the animal movement in a very long time.
Caryn: There’s a photo you’ve probably seen it, of the elephant stepping out of the train. What a crazy picture that is. Yes, it’s shocking and sad. I mean, who would think of cramming this elephant in this human transportation thing. It’s just not humane. But it is because humans do it.
John: One of the reasons why we first did the bill when we did was because 11, 12 years ago the Bronx Zoo decided that they couldn’t accommodate for the social or physical needs for the elephants they were keeping. So we always made the argument that if the Bronx Zoo can’t do it, the Bronx Zoo is like one of the “best zoos” in the world. If they can’t do it, how can Madison Square Garden accommodate for elephants? How can The Barclays Center accommodate for elephants? How can they be transported around the country 50 weeks out of the year? It just doesn’t make sense.
Caryn: Can I tell my Bronx Zoo elephant story?
Caryn: OK so there have been a few stories recently in the news about children accidentally getting involved with zoo animals and some of them to unfortunate ends. This story isn’t that bad. When my sister was really young, she was 3 or 4 and she was wearing a precious little red coat. I guess, I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. But she was holding her coat? Something like that. The elephant came and grabbed her coat. I guess the red was appealing or something. But it was quite a scene when she was very young. That was the elephant at the Bronx Zoo.
John: Elephants are very touchy feely. Actually Chris and I, my boyfriend, we went and volunteered at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand. We got to interact a lot with the elephants and they’re very touchy. I was very surprised. They’ll come up to you.
Caryn: There’s a lot more to elephants than we want to acknowledge. I think they’re very wise, and very loving, and they’re not going to be around much longer which is the sad reality. I was talking to Damien Mander. Was it last week? Anyway, he’s amazing! Working in the bush in South Africa trying to prevent poaching. Which is just an incredible thing. So, what do we need to do to make this happen?
Allie: A couple things. For one, on the circus legislation we are getting very, very close. We’ve gotten the majority of the city council in support of the bill and we’re getting much closer to a point where the council may be actually voting on it, into law. So, if everyone can please, if you go to eshv.org/action you can call or write your city council member right there from the screen. It’s super easy. After you do that, make sure you share it on Facebook and let all of your friends and neighbors know that they too need to call and write their city council member and encourage them to co-sponsor and vote for the bill. This year is a huge year. Not only for Empire State Humane Voters inaugural year, but we have a great opportunity that can make a big difference for animals. There are 7 open seats in the New York City Council. So, that’s 7 opportunities for us to elect people who are going to support our issues, the issues that matter to animal lovers in New York City.
John: Can I just take a minute to mention that every council member in New York represents 160,000 people. So, when we think of City Councils, when a lot of people think of City Councils they think of this group of 5 or 6 people with no power and no influence. But, in reality, the New York City Council is one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world. The budget for the city council is 60 billion dollars.
John: So it’s a very influential institution. It’s a very important institution. New York City- so goes New York City so goes the world, I like to think. So it’s an important body. It’s important that we elect people to the City Council because people don’t really pay attention to it.
Caryn: Can you just give a brief description of what it would take to run for City Council?
Allie: Where do we begin?
John: I think when Allie said that maybe we were talking about in a couple of years or so how people do that.
Caryn: You’re not ready, OK.
John: This year we’re looking, we’ve identified people who are running early who are sympathetic to the cause and we’re going to mobilize people who are passionate about animals to go and vote for them. But, certainly if you’re out there and you’re listening and you want to run for City Council and you love animals, and you can raise $125,000, contact me.
Caryn: OK that’s good to know. Where do they contact you John?
Allie: We would be thrilled if more animal people came out and said, “Hey I want to run for office.” We’d be the first to line up to run the campaigns for you.
John: This year, the process is we survey candidates who are running. We send them a questionnaire and we ask them to elaborate on their position on a variety of animal issues. We sit down with them, we talk to them about animal issues. We go out for a meal at a vegan restaurant. We talk to them about what’s going on at the city level- how they can help. Then we evaluate the race and see if they have a chance of winning. If we think we can have an impact, based on that we would endorse them and campaign for them.
Allie: We’ll notify all of our members about who we’re supporting. We will knock on doors, we’ll make phone calls. We’ll do everything to mobilize the animal protection community in these specific districts and make sure we get out the vote for them on Election Day. Or, in some instances, if necessary, we may mobilize our people opposing a candidate who doesn’t support the issues that are important to the animal rights community.
Caryn: Do you have any other issues that you’re planning to work on other than circus animals?
John: We’re calling it the wild and exotic animal ban. But you can call it the circus bill.
Caryn: I’m following your lead.
Allie: You can also call it Intro 1233, which is the name of the bill in City Council.
Allie: Some other issues that we are going to be taking up are the pets and housing bill. This issue has been around for quite a while. As we know, housing problems are always an issue to every New Yorker. What we see happening is landlords will take advantage of the sort of murky pet laws that we have for tenants, and use that as a way to throw people out. So lets say that you had a cat for 10 years and your landlord never had a problem with it. Then your cat dies and you want to get a new cat. The landlords will sometimes use the lack of clarity in the law to tell you, “Well if you get another cat then you’re going to have to move out.” When they kick you out, then they can jack up the rent. So this legislation would further clarify the pets and housing rules, that way it will make it much easier for people to replace a pet when it dies.
John: That’s not the sexiest issue. But, it actually impacts on a lot of people. I think that we need to make sure there are as many homes as can be for all the animals that are in need of homes.
Caryn: I don’t think any of us realize the number of crazy laws on the books. All over. Federal, State and Regional. I mean there’s some, just crazy stuff. We need to turn them around.
John: Well in this particular instance, the real estate industry really manipulated the interpretation of the law to benefit themselves. Because the original intent of the law, was if you had a pet and the landlord weaved the no pet clause into your lease, that no pet clause would be waived for the duration of your occupancy. But, the real estate people came in and they said, “Nope. Actually the no pet clause is waived for the lifetime of the individual pet.” So what happens is people end up being there for many years and then their pet dies and it’s a great way to force out un-stabilized tenants. But other issue…
Caryn: Sexy issues. Or not.
Allie: So some other issues. This one, I don’t know how sexy this one is. Ending the proliferation of storefront slaughterhouses. We’ve all seen them in the city. They pose, not just a terrible, terrible problem to how the animals are treated, but it’s also a major sanitation health risk to New Yorkers. We will be proposing legislation that would not shut down the existing store front slaughter houses, but put a moratorium on opening any more in the future. Eventually, the ones that are existing will probably ending closing up shop sometime in the future. Then they won’t be able to open anymore going forward. Other issues are making sure that our city’s animal shelters have the funding that they need to operate. And the locations. Right now there are full service shelters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. But the Bronx and Queens do not have full service shelters. So a first rate city like New York needs a first rate shelter system. The shelters currently do a great job with the resources that they have. But we need to make sure that the City Council is consistently providing them with the funding that they need to continue to take good care of the 30,000 animals that are coming through their doors every single year. There’s also going to be legislation coming out that deals with animals who are left outside in inclement weather; hot or cold weather. When it’s snowing, when there is a heat wave. Often times what will happen is people will call the police and say, “Hey, someone’s left their dog outside for 8 hours during a snow storm.” There’s really not that much that can be done unless they change the laws to protect these animals and increase the penalties to the people who are doing this.
Caryn: That’s just incredible isn’t it? That’s just one more thing that I love about humanity. How cruel we can be and thoughtless. Some of these people will say, “I’m a big animal lover.” Right?
Allie: The rule right now is as long as you’re providing some sort of physical structure for the dog when they’re in their backyard, you can leave them out there no matter how cold it is. But this would seek to change that and also increase the penalties.
John: I think it’s amazing when you actually look at the laws that don’t exist. I mean, the fact that you can force feet a duck or goose until their liver swells to like ten times it’s normal size. The fact that that’s legal blows my mind. What does that say about humanity? That we allow things like that to happen.
Caryn: I want to think we’re good John and I’m looking in your eyes and I know you’re good. But, you’re one of the few.
John: It’s unfortunate. But, on the bright side, even if there’s not that many of us, our numbers are growing and small-organized minorities drive politics in this country. We only need a handful of passionate people to effect world change.
Allie: I would disagree. I don’t think there’s not that many of us. I think there’s between 3 to 6 million pet owners, pet guardians across New York State. If we are to organize and mobilize those millions of people, imagine how much leverage we can have in New York State to getting these laws passed. That’s a huge voting block potential.
Caryn: Can I ask about breeding?
John: I’m not going to have kids.
Caryn: Me either John! I remember there was a law in New York recently about…
John: The puppy mill bill, yeah.
Caryn: Do you know what that was about? And where your stand is and where we are with that?
John: Yeah. You’re talking about; there was a bill to ban the sale of animals from puppy mills. It’s a great bill. It was unfortunately; my understanding was it was gutted by the Trump administration decision to remove USDA reports…
Caryn: So this wasn’t a State bill?
John: No there was a city bill to make sure that animals would not be sold from puppy mills and places with violations. But the administration pulled the records, which detail the violations. So unfortunately that information is unavailable right now. But there are activists who are trying to access that information.
Allie: John do you want to tell us a little about humane education and why that’s so important?
John: Sure. So the way that I see it is we need humane education in schools. Not only because there’s a law that’s been on the books since 1948 but also because we need to raise the next generation to be humane voters. We need new members. Also because it’s just the right thing to do. Humane education is a law that’s on the books. It requires that every school that gets public funding have instruction on the care and treatment of animals.
Caryn: But they don’t.
John: In fact, the penalty provision in New York State is one of the most severe in the country. A school that doesn’t comply with the humane education law can have their funds withdrawn. So, that’s never been enforced, that’s never been tested, it’s not something we’re looking to do. But it is something that school’s need to be aware of and we’ve worked with HEART and other humane advocacy organizations to try to increase compliance with the law. Notify schools of the existence of the law. Because we find that that’s a big barrier.
Caryn: They don’t know about it.
John: They just don’t know about it. If they knew about it, they might be more wiling to do it.
Caryn: So when they find out about it, what do they…do they just go, “Oh shit!” Or just go, “We don’t care..” What happens?
John: I’ve never heard, “Oh shit.”
Caryn: OK good.
John: I think that a lot of times they will just say they’re very busy, they’re overwhelmed with the standardized testing requirements and they are sometimes hesitant because of that. HEART does amazing work and when we’ve connected them with schools, sometimes it’s taken off. I think that it needs to come from the parents and the students to say that they want it as well.
Caryn: This is a New York law?
John: It’s a New York State law, since 1948.
Caryn: OK what else do we have?
John: Other issues? That’s a big agenda. Want to give us more? It doesn’t even have to be issue focused. The organization exists because we need to get people into office who are concerned about these issues generally. We don’t have to take one every issue that’s out there. We elect people who are sympathetic to the cause. Then we can get rid of these very difficult issues, then go talk to them again about doing other things as well.
Caryn: So New York City is very different then the rest of New York State. So much so that New York City is pretty blue, and the rest of New York State is kind of red. How does that affect your work and what you’re going to focus on?
Allie: The wonderful thing about animal protection issues is they…
Caryn: They’re non-partisan?
Allie: They’re non-partisan. I believe that the latest polls have shown that 90% of Americans across parties believe that animals should be treated with kindness. We’ve seen at the state and senate level and then the state assembly, we’ve seen Republican Senators and assembly members take leadership roles on animal protection legislation. I think that that’s really refreshing to see especially with what’s going on throughout the country right now. No matter what you’re registered as, whether you’re Green Party, whether you’re Democrat or Republican, or on the Progressive Radio Network. No matter what you are, everyone is welcome to become a part of Empire State Humane Voters.
Caryn: So in New York City we have the horse drawn carriage issue. Are you making a statement or involved in that at all?
John: I’ll just speak from my own experience, not for Empire State Humane Voters, it’s an issue that I’ve been very passionate about for a very long time. I know that a lot of people were very disappointed when the bill did not pass. I think that that is a perfect example of why this organization is necessary. Because the bill failed in the end because there were 7 sponsors. The support wasn’t there in the City Council. I think one thing that advocates need to always keep in the back of their head is that, no one elected official, no matter how sympathetic to the cause, can get everything done.
Caryn: So you’re not blaming the Mayor?
John: I don’t blame the Mayor. I met with the Mayor several times about the bill. The Mayor, I know from personal experience did a lot to try to get the bill done. Unfortunately the support wasn’t there in the City Council. There are 51 council members, we had 7 sponsors. It was a heavy lift. You can’t expect any elected official to spend all of their political capital on any one issue. So it’s our job as activists to make this year very important. To go back and do the work of electing a new City Council that will be sympathetic to that and every other animal issue. Then to hold the people, personally I think we need to hold the City Council members who stabbed us in the back on that issue accountable.
Caryn: We just had that horrific accident recently with a horse and a car.
John: I know. It’s unbelievable to me that that industry exists.
Caryn: Frankly I don’t think we should have horse drawn carriages because there’s no need to. It’s 2017, it’s just ridiculous. This has nothing to do with animals but I don’t think we should have any cars in New York City actually. It should be a car free city.
John: That would be amazing. That’s a heavy lift.
Caryn: That’s a heavy lift, yeah. Oh well.
John: I’m with you.
Allie: Just to add to that, I worked on the horse drawn carriage ban for over five years. What John is saying is absolutely correct. I can understand and appreciate a lot of the frustration there is with the Mayor. Certainly he could have moved faster, I think we lost a lot of momentum while he waited a year to introduce the legislation, and that gave the opposition a year to erode all of the progress and all of the support we had been building up. However, at the end of the day, I think that we can’t look at one person and blame it all on him. The Mayor did introduce legislation not once, but twice to get the carriage horses off the streets. Both times we just could not get the support from the City Council. I understand where the frustration comes from but what I would recommend to activists is remember, a lot of the City Council turned their back on this. We had a lot of City Council members who promised they would help get the horses off the streets, that they would support the ban. As soon as they came under pressure, they completely reversed their position. The Mayor on the other hand has never changed his position, he’s always been solidly behind this even to this day after he was completely given a really hard time in the press.
John: Unprecedented attacks by the media. The Daily News does not run petition campaigns on any other issue.
Allie: The Mayor still stood strong throughout. Just relentless attacks because of his position to protect these horses. When City Council members flipped, it was like completely silent. Nobody help them accountable. If you’re listening today and you’re upset about the carriage horses, what I would recommend you do, go look up your Council member, find out who they are, look at where their position is on horse carriages and make sure you’re holding them accountable for supporting the ban. It really comes down to them. If we don’t have majority of the votes from City Council for the carriage horses the bill doesn’t pass, it’s as simple as that.
John: I’m 100% sure that if a bill got to the Mayor’s desk he would have signed it. There’s not doubt in my mind. I think that’s something activists need to remember and keep in mind.
Caryn: Yeah that’s really good to know. We just have a few minutes left. Can we talk about the great food in New York, the great vegan food?
John: Yes! Amazing!
Caryn: I mean, clearly John I know you know because I see the pictures all the time. You and Chris go everywhere so tell me about some of the fun places you’ve been in the last week.
John: In the last week?
Caryn: You went to Jajaja.
John: It’s amazing! It’s so good. Everybody should go there. It’s on East Broadway in the Lower East Side. It’s terrific. Get the burrito. They have a new burrito on the menu with the spicy meat, chorizo! Very good.
Caryn: We were just talking before (37:15) has a chorizo recipe he uses millet.
John: I used to make millet. I used to get the millet at Angelica Kitchen. Cooked in in carrot juice, not a big fan. I love Angelica Kitchen but I have to give millet another chance.
Caryn: I don’t know, millet and carrot juice?
Allie: John is a healthy vegan; I’m more of a junk food vegan kind of girl.
Caryn: So what do you like?
Allie: Champs, Toad Style, Blossom…
Caryn: Yeah, we like the Blossom burger a lot.
Caryn: That’s Gary’s favorite.
Caryn: He’s a burger boy.
Allie: Do you want to talk about our City Council project?
John: Council member Fernando Cabrera is…Hi council member if you’re listening out there. I don’t think he listens to the Progressive Radio Network but he is exploring becoming vegan and so we’re very excited.
Caryn: Are you trying to feed him?
Caryn: That’s the best way to do it is to put that good food in people’s mouths.
John: But, I’ve turned him on to Dr. Fuhrman. Dr. Fuhrman and I are actually going to meet with councilmen Cabrera.
Caryn: Fantastic. I love Joel. Give him a hug for me.
John: Absolutely. He’s my favorite plant doctor. I like you Dr. Greger!
Caryn: You know the difference is Dr. Greger is awesome but he doesn’t have an office with patients. Dr. Fuhrman is right there. Getting his hands dirty, yeah.
John: New York City’s blessed with food.
Caryn: We have two minutes, more good food.
John: More good food. Candle Cafe West.
Allie: Modern Love, so good.
Caryn: Candle is still my favorite. Candle West, that’s like where we go.
Allie: Oh, Rock and Raw, Quintessence.
John: May Kaidee
Caryn: I wanted to ask you about that I haven’t been there!
John: You still haven’t been there? I know she was on your show.
Caryn: She came in and it was for an interview and it was just so festive. She had on the garb and everything and brought me some wonderful things to taste. Tell me about the restaurant.
John: The restaurant’s amazing. She has a chain of vegan restaurants in Thailand and Cambodia and I met her when I was in Thailand. I loved her food and was so excited when she opened here. The most authentic vegan Thai food you’ll ever have, it’s very delicious. And she’s trying to be organic.
Caryn: I want to repeat her name: May Kaidee. And is that the name of the restaurant?
John: 28th between Park and Lex.
Caryn: Vegan Thai. You don’t have to say, “Is there fish sauce in this?” Because there isn’t any.
John: Well thank you so much for having us. We’re so honored.
Caryn: I love you John.
John: I love you too.
Caryn: And it’s wonderful meeting you Allie. Thank you both for joining me on It’s All About Food. Thank you all for listening now and whenever you’re listening. Thank you for caring. Thank you for being interested in responsible eating and living, that’s where I live. Remember you can always find me at email@example.com and visit responsibleeatingandliving.com and Allie what’s your website?
Allie: Empire State Humane Voters, eshv.org. Sign up for our emails and stay up to date on everything that we’ve got going on as we take off this year.
Caryn: Excellent. Thank you all and remember everybody have a delicious week! Bye bye.
Transcribed by Adella Finnan, 6/9/2017