Carol J. Adams is a feminist-vegetarian theorist and author of numerous books on ecofeminism and the links between species oppression and gender oppression. Her books include: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook, The Pornography of Meat, Help! My child stopped eating meat! The Parents’ A-Z Guide to Surviving a Conflict in Diets.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is It’s All About Food. Thanks for listening today, I wanted to talk a little bit about something I read in the news really quickly. In the Miami Herald, “Beach to Bird, Caca-doodle don’t”. And it sounds like a silly little trivial article but there’s really some interesting contradictions that are brought up. So there’s a rooster called Mr. Clucky and he lives in Miami Beach. And I’ve had the opportunity actually to meet Mr. Clucky. He attended one of our Earth Save Miami turkey- free thanksgivings dinners last year. And his guardian, Mark Buckley, was recently given a fine because people are not allowed to keep farm animals in their homes. Now he had rescues Mr. Clucky at one point, and they now share a place in Miami Beach. And its interesting, because Mark is being fined for keeping this rooster in his home and yet people are allowed to keep dogs and cats and other birds in their home because they are considered domesticated pets. And we’re allowed to “own” them. But if it’s an animal that we eat and farm, then were not allowed to keep them as pets. And I find some… I think the city of Miami Beach has actually opened up a can of worms here, pardon the pun. Because, what makes it right to consider some animals, animals for food and other animals, animals that we can love and cherish and keep as pets and our friends. And, for example, if you go to other countries, cats and dogs are actually eaten and used for food. And, unbeknownst to some people in this country, some of the furs on some of their coats are actually from our friends, the dogs and cats. So I’m really curious to see what happens in this situation. I find Mr. Clucky, in this situation, the rooster in the story, has a lot more, poise, charm, social grace, and character than some of my human friends. So today is a special program, we’ve got Carol Adams, who’s going to join us in a moment. She’s really an incredible, incredible, person, very hard working, brilliant individual. She’s received a master of divinity from Yale University Divinity School. She’s an author of numerous books. The Sexual Politics of Meat is probably the most talked about. And she’s done a lot of great work against racism and sexism and we’re going to talk with her soon. She’s on the line now. Carol, are you with us?
Carol Adams: I am, hi Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi, I’m so glad you were able to join us today.
Carol Adams: Thank you for inviting me its my pleasure.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. I don’t know if you remember, but I think the last time I saw you, you were speaking at an event. I think it was in Berkeley, a few years ago, and you gave a great talk with a lot of those interesting images from your Sexual Politics of Meat slideshow, so I wanted to talk more about that and some of the things you’re working on today.
Carol Adams: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: So, okay, when did you get started?
Carol Adams: (chuckle)
Caryn Hartglass: Well, there are two things here, being a vegetarian and this incredible theory that you came up with, linking the exploitation of animals with women.
Carol Adams: Um, well, its not a simple answer, I’ll try to give you the sound byte version. I grew up as a feminist. There’s a great quote from a feminist philosopher, “Feminists do not see different things than other people, they see the same things differently.” And In a sense, that’s how I grew up. I grew up among sisters and had a very liberal mother, very active in the community. And, in 1973 my pony was killed. And that night when I sat down to eat, I suddenly thought “I’m eating..” Well, I was, sorry, I was eating a hamburger, “I’m eating a dead cow.” And I certainly would not eat my pony who I would bury in the morning, how could I eat this dead cow. Are animals vulnerable to my exploitation simply because I don’t know them? They don’t have a name to me? So, that began my path to vegetarianism and once I began a vegetarian, Id say within a months time, I was walking down, I was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts then, and I was walking down the street and thinking about all the different connections I was finding, vegetarian feminist in the 19th century, and novels about women and how they look at the world and experience oppression and finding how meat eating was embedded in these moments of revelation. And suddenly, I just stopped and thought, oh my God, there’s a connection between feminism and vegetarianism. Between a patriarchal world worldview and meat eating. But then it wasn’t simple to figure out how to stay it all. And from that moment, which was in October 1974, it took me 15 years to write the book.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think it was worth the wait.
Carol Adams: (chuckle) Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Because the book is really, is well, yes and no worth the wait. I mean certainly the book is a phenomenonal piece but I wish that we didn’t have any kind of –isms, the sexism, and the speciesism, and the exploitation. I look forward to the time when we don’t have to talk about these things.
Carol Adams: I know I keep thinking Id like my work to be irrelevant, or superseded. And its funny, because the minute The Sexual Politics of Meat came out, really within weeks, people started sending me images. There are only five images in The Sexual Politics of Meat plus the cover, which is a pretty powerful image. But, the images people started sending me from all over the world just confirmed what I was claiming about the sexual politics of meat, and I sort of have this double- feeling when I look at one of these images. Say the turkey hooker, of a turkey posed as if she is a prostitute. And this is what people are supposed to think about what they’re eating. And I was looking, and I thought “eehhh” and then I thought “Oh!” Because the first is disgust and dismay, and the second is here it is. Here’s another confirmation. So, it’s a difficult place to be, you’re stepping outside of the culture as many people accept it and saying there’s really something very wrong with the way we’re talking about animals, the way we’re talking about women.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. There’s so many things I want to talk about all at once.
Carol Adams: Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: So I’m going to try and remember all of them. First, the thing about the images, I’m a reader, I’m a big fan of Miss magazine and like many other publications in media, they don’t bring up vegetarianism very often and yet, I see it all the time in the pages, how the issues with women are the same issues with animals and I’m waiting for them to get it. Occasionally, it creeps in. But they do have this “No Comment” page, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.
Carol Adams: Yes, oh yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And they do something similar where people can show really offensive advertising, where they show women in a compromised position or something really degrading or insulting and I always think of your book and the points that you bring out.
Carol Adams: Well, in fact, there are a couple images I’ve gotten from the “No Comment” page that I use. One of them, in particular, was an ad for a skateboard. Its very interesting how sexist skateboard ads are. And this image shows a man sitting and reading a newspaper. But instead of having his feet on a table, his feet rest on a woman who’s practically nude and kneeling on all fours.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, I’ve seen it. (Chuckle)
Carol Adams: And she’s on top of a bear rug. So, it is kind of a summation of the way white men who live entitled lives look at the world.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, the hierarchy is right there.
Carol Adams: The world is built on oppressed women and dead animals.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Okay, moving right along (both chuckle). So, I’m sorry to hear you experienced the death of your pony and I’m not exactly sure how that happened but It made me think of, right before you came on I was talking about Mr. Clucky, and I don’t know if you’ve heard about this in the news, recently.
Carol Adams: I’ve been out of the country, I have not.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, okay well Mr. Clucky is a rooster and he shares a home with a guy in Miami Beach. This guy Mark who rescued him from, I don’t remember what the situation was and they’ve been living harmoniously. And Mr. Clucky actually has a woman hen friend. Mr. Clucky came to one of our Earth Save events, I met Mr. Clucky, he’s charming and very sociable. But Mark was fined this week for housing a farmed animal.
Carol Adams: Uh huh.
Caryn Hartglass: And it just brings up, you know, some of us have the veil lifted, as you did with your pony, making the connection with the cow. But here’s another classic situation, which animals are ok to be our loving, cherished, cared for friends, and which ones do we choose to inflict all kinds of pain and suffering and eat?
Carol Adams: Yeah, and it’s such a double standard. Because once we’ve labeled animals that way, for instance how few humane legislations actually protect chickens in our country for instance. That’s what Karen Davis at United Poultry Concerns constantly works on, as well as Earth Save. So, this fear, almost, that if we acknowledge the individuality of any domesticated animal who’s consumed, we might not be able to eat them. And in The Sexual Politics of Meat, I took a term from literary criticism and applied it or politicized it and it’s the absent referent. That for most people, when they consume animals, they’re really benefiting from the structure of the absent referent. Which means the animal is absent conceptually and often very dispersed through name. You know, you’re eating a hamburger instead of a ground up cow. You’re eating leg of lamb instead of a lamb leg. Our language structures itself to avoid acknowledging, in general, who is being eaten. And so to have a friend, animal companion, who would usually be someone who would be targeted to be an absent referent, creates a difficulty for our culture.
Caryn Hartglass: (Sound of agreement) So you wrote a number of books, and in addition to The Sexual Politics of Meat, there’s The Pornography of Meat. And, I guess you go more into this concept where women, as well as animals, I forgot how you just coined it but…
Carol Adams: Well, when The Sexual Politics of Meat came out and I started getting all these images sent to me, well I thought “I’ve got to make sense of them, I’ve got to interpret them.” And one of the things that was clear is that there are racial issues going on in these images. And the first thing I did was I started creating the sideshow. By showing images people can figure out what they’re own relationship to the image is, I don’t have to mediate that.
Caryn Hartglass: A picture says a thousand words.
Carol Adams: Right, and if people want to go online to my website, caroljadams.com, some of the images can be found there when I talk about the slideshow. So I kept developing the theory, I mean what was interesting, after I finished The Sexual Politics of Meat after working on it for 15 years, I thought I was done.
Caryn Hartglass: (Chuckle) No…
Carol Adams: And then I discovered that my readers asked me to interact more with these ideas. So one of the ways to talk about The Pornography of Meat is that it’s the slideshow put back into a book. So it’s the ideas in The Sexual Politics of Meat followed to various points in the way our culture manifests the sexual politics of meat. And to sound byte The Pornography of Meat would be that animals are feminized and sexualized and women are animalized. And that there’s this kind of overlapping oppression that I identify in Sexual Politics of Meat but I make more explicit. And I also spend more time talking about the control of the female reproductive system. Which I talk about slightly in Sexual Politics of Meat and identify and call that “feminized protein.” But in Pornography of Meat I show how it’s the control of the female reproductive system that’s really affecting the status of domesticated animals. That all domesticated animals are lowered because of the extremely oppressive control of the chickens, the cows, the pigs. And this is then lifted up in our culture through all the slang words about women, “chick”, “old bitty”, “old hen”, “cow”, “sow.” These are all terms that arise from domesticated animals who are completely subjected to the control of the farmer about when they’ll be pregnant and when they’ll be killed.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, I just wanted to go over some of those things. So you said when they’ll be pregnant, a lot of these female animals are artificially inseminated; their babies are separated from them, either at birth or within 24 hours. The cows are given growth hormones and antibiotics, utters are abnormally large. I remember it was in some documentary where some dairy representative was being interviewed and he just said “Oh well they’re just well endowed.”
Carol Adams: (Both chuckle) Isn’t that sad?
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh and he was so smug about it. And then all the chickens that lay eggs, how they’re beaks are removed without any painkiller, just snipped off and how they’re crammed into small spaces just so we can get their eggs. Certainly, it’s not only a feminine issue, there are other things that are related to men, and there are small boys who are exploited and all kinds of things. But, primarily, you definitely see it with the feminine.
Carol Adams: But, one of the things that I think happens, and you see this in the ads that show chickens as though they’re wearing bikinis and that show pigs as though they’re wearing bikinis and want to be consumed at barbecues. Whether the animal is male or female, the representation that our culture is giving us is that’s its female animals that are being eaten. Female animals who want to be eaten.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. (Chuckle) Wow, just getting chills when you say that. Oh goodness, so, maybe this is an aside, but is there any pornography that is okay? In your opinion.
Carol Adams: (Chuckle) Well, I mean that’s a huge, huge question. There’s a very interesting book from the University of Minnesota by Suzanne Capler called The Pornography of Representation. And she talks about, how do we become subjects in this culture? How do we know who we are as individuals? And as what would be called our subjectification occurs at the expense of someone else’s objectification. For instance, not talking about pornography here for an instance, a meat eater would become subjectified as a meat eater because another being is objectified as meat. There’s a relationship between those two things. And in pornography, pornography is the consumption of an object, the sexual consumption of an object. Someone becomes something. And I like to believe that we can be in a culture where there’s inter-subjectivity, where there’s equality. And I think that sexual equality would not include pornography.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree with you. Okay, so, how has your theory been relieved in this country and academia around the world?
Carol Adams: Well, probably three ways, at least that I know of. When it first came out. It was released at the Modern Language Association meeting of late 1989,1990. And all of the publishers, in fact I met someone from Harper and Row once right after that, they just could not believe the commotion at the booth, where there was this was this huge poster of The Sexual Politics of Meat. I was told by my publisher, if they had a thousand copies, they would have sold them all. There was a lot of enthusiasm, while there had been some writing about feminism and animal rights, there had not been anything like that out there that sort of argued a critical theory, what I call a feminist-vegetarian-critical theory. So there was enthusiasm. Within weeks of it coming out, I heard from a rock group, Consolidated, who wanted to include a song using words from The Sexual Politics of Meat on their next album. So, from high culture or academia, to popular culture or industrial rock culture, there was a real receptivity to it. On the other hand, the right wing commentators just went wild with it.
Caryn Hartglass: You can imagine.
Carol Adams: I mean everybody took their shots at it. They could not believe it. And there were full-page articles devoted in England to smashing it, or trying to attack the argument. And I thought, “That’s fascinating.” That they had to deal with it to that extent, that they couldn’t just walk away from it; they had to really engage with it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that must have helped sales a little bit. (Both chuckle) Don’t read your press, weigh it.
Carol Adams: The, Rush Limbaugh, really, really hated it for quite a while. He really rode an anti Sexual Politics of Meat shtick for several months, back in the early 90s. It was fascinating.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m holding my tongue right now, calling him a bunch of names that might be insulting to animals actually.
Carol Adams: Well, I mean, I think the most interesting thing is I think somebody said, “This would be good press if we thought Rush Limbaugh’s listeners read books.” (Caryn laughs) Now I’d say there’s a new development with sort of, the new fields of academia, post-modernism, queer studies, and there’s this both excitement by The Sexual Politics of Meat and then there’s this question of is my project consciousness raising or is not part of deconstructing the culture? And I believe that Sexual Politics of Meat helps to deconstruct the culture. But I also believe, while not in the book itself, I believe it asks readers to do something. I think readers walk away, at least from the letters I’ve gotten from the past twenty years, people write in and say the book changed their lives. I think how it changed people’s lives was in two ways. For feminists and progressives who were willing to read it, and I know some feminists and progressives did not read because they were afraid they’d have to become vegan. But for feminists and progressives who were open to the idea, they closed the book and just knew they had to become vegan. For vegans and animal rights activists, they read it and strengthened their understanding that animal activism is part of a progressive agenda. Animal activism isn’t some regressive thing in which you avoid engaging with human problems. Animal activism is a part of that, and I think The Sexual Politics of Meat helped to situate animal activism in the progressive movement.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. So, a lot of times, people who don’t understand what’s behind being a vegan and a vegetarian and all the animal issues, they’ll get very defensive and say, “You care so much about animals, don’t you care about humans?”
Carol Adams: Yeah, I created a term for that, now I’ve forgotten it, regressive… I should look. I came up with a really good term for that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh you’ve heard it too.
Carol Adams: Oh yeah. I think what we need to recognize is that people are very defensive and the way that they handle that defensiveness is by trying to out us on the defensive. And the best way to out someone on the defensive is to imply that you really don’t care about what I care about. And, you don’t care about the most important things in the world. And I know what the most important things are. It’s a very decisive thing, and I think what they’re trying to do there is, make you so defensive that you shut up. That you have nowhere to stand in relationship to them.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s unfortunate because unfortunately, I’m not going to put them all in the same place but, usually, the people that say that act as if they’re doing all kinds of great things for humanity. But they’re not. Usually, the people that I know that are vegetarian or vegan or animal rights activists are also working in soup kitchens, helping to feed hungry and homeless people.
Carol Adams: Right, I call it retrograde humanism.
Caryn Hartglass: (Sound of agreement) I like it.
Carol Adams: The reason I call it retrograde humanism is because they suddenly, I mean, I laugh and say, “I’ve inspired more people to care about the homeless than I ever thought I could.” Simply by saying “I care about animals.” Not that I think that they’re going to do anything but there’s this knee-jerk reaction “Well how do you dare care about animals when you’re not feeding the homeless.” And this happened one time when I was speaking after showing The Sexual Politics of Meat slideshow on a campus in New York, and the first question I was asked, by a young man, was “How can you be doing this rather than doing something important like feeding the homeless?” And the funny thing is that my partner feeds the homeless. But I wasn’t going to say that because that would’ve justified his standard of what is important. It’s a real put down, but I think we need to recognize that it comes from a really defensive place. One of the things I say in Living Among Meat Eaters is that people don’t think of themselves as meat eaters, they just think of themselves of eaters, they’re just eating. Until they meet a vegan or a vegetarian. By us defining ourselves as vegans, we are also defining them as meat eaters. And suddenly they’re conscious that they have a choice. And they become, often, guilty.
Caryn Hartglass: Very uncomfortable.
Carol Adams: Because they’ve had a choice and they haven’t chosen not to eat animals. Out of that defensive posture comes a lot of sort of wrong-headed responses. And in a sense, vegans have to be the adults in the conversation. Because meat eaters will just fly off with so many defenses. And I’ve actually said that my definition of relentless is that I have one more answer than meat eaters have questions to. You know, they want to talk about did the civilization evolve because of eating meat? No. Don’t you need meat? No. Well would you feed wolves tofu? No. You know, we have a choice about tofu. I’m not trying to change wolves. What about Native Americans? Suddenly people who’ve never been concerned about the genocide against Native Americans suddenly want to think that they’re meat from the local store is somehow like meat that was hunted 400 years ago. So there’s this sort of, you just have to imagine these ideas rotating around that have never actually been fully examined by the meat eater themselves. They’re sort of knee-jerk reactions. So is retrograde humanism. It’s an attempt to defend themselves against something that they themselves are struggling with.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, so you wrote another book called Living Among Meat Eaters.
Carol Adams: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: And this kind of leads into what we’re talking about. I haven’t read Living Among Meat Eaters. I’ve read the other two books we talked about already. So, can you give us some tips about living among meat eaters, or what you talk about in that book?
Carol Adams: Well – I do several things. It’s called, A Vegetarian Survival Guide, it’s available from Lantern Books. And I hear from people who say they read it every year, just to remind themselves what to do. That meat eaters will – well, one of the things I say – I have two chapters on conversing with meat eaters. And one thing I say is, more important, there are two kinds of people in the world, people who want answers to their questions and people who don’t. More important than knowing the answers is knowing how to recognize which kind of person you’re talking to. If you’re at a dinner party and someone discovers you’re vegetarian, or you’ve gone to somebody’s house for Thanksgiving, which is often where this happens, and they start plying you with questions, one of the things I say is, you don’t have to answer them. The conversation and the setting is such that you have to be defeated, because there’s meat at the table. And so be aware of the unspoken dynamic. Take things to hand out – take favorite books, take handouts like Why Vegan?. Say, “Here’s answers to your questions. If you want to talk about it more, why don’t you give me a call?” What meat eaters are doing often is, they’re putting in their questions – they’re putting up a picket fence around their consciousness. We think if we just answer their questions, we’ll get through to them.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. They’ll get it.
Carol Adams: Right. But it doesn’t work that way.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh no.
Carol Adams: And I spent 20 years of being a vegetarian and a vegan before I really recognized that.
Caryn Hartglass: Mhm.
Carol Adams: Because I think basically meat eaters are not saying, “Where do you get your protein? Don’t you miss meat?” What they’re saying is, “Are you at peace with being a vegan?”
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, you took the words right out of my mouth because that’s what I usually like to say. I say, “I’m at peace with who I am and what I’m eating and…end of story.”
Carol Adams: Right. And – but see, what they’re also doing is they’re creating the climate for you to be provoked, because they want to believe you cannot be at peace and be a vegan. So they have to create a climate in which you are uncomfortable, discomforted, embarrassed, angry – something that proves that no matter what you say, you aren’t at peace, because if you aren’t at peace, then they can settle for continuing to eat animals. But if you’re at peace, then suddenly they have to kind of deal with that. So, it’s kind of being alert to different dynamics – the dynamic of going home and the parents saying you don’t love us, you’re not eating your favorite foods that I prepared for you as a child, and realizing that the family system doesn’t want to change. But our role is to show that it can change and nobody has to suffer. It’s not about the stuffing in a dead turkey. It’s about being together.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’d like to tell people when they know they’re going to a place for dinner and the people don’t know, that you should tell them in advance.
Carol Adams: Correct. You should call them and let them know. I just went – I was just in England, and I was invited to stay overnight. I’m doing a book on Jane Austen. I was invited to stay overnight in Steventon, which is where Jane Austen was born – a very, very generous and sweet woman. And I wrote and I said, “I’m a vegan. Please don’t feel you have to fix supper for me. I will bring something,” because I did not want to be a burden. But I also did not want to show up and, knowing English hospitality, know that she might have worked to create something that I would then not eat.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, cooking all day to make some sausage.
Carol Adams: But she made me a vegan shepherd’s pie.
Caryn Hartglass: Nice.
Carol Adams: It was so sweet and so touching.
Caryn Hartglass: You know I find that that’s true. When you’re prepared and you let people know in a gentle way in advance, more often than not, they’re going to go out of their way. I lived in France for four years, and the people I socialized with knew about me and always had something for me.
Carol Adams: Some people love the challenge of it. I just was invited here in Dallas to some place, and I said, “Let me bring something.” “No, I’m going to enjoy figuring out what to do.” I said, “Just Google ‘vegan,’ plus whatever food you want to cook, and see what comes up,” because I was suggesting to her things, but it was clear she wanted to do it. Well, we had a lovely night and she so enjoyed learning this. Instead, I brought her a copy of my newest book, How to Eat Like a Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One, which I co-wrote with Patti Breitman, very involved in EarthSave in California. And she loved it, and she had company that weekend, and they all loved it. I think by the end of the weekend, there were five or six copies being asked for, because we tried to really make it something that people could use who want to cook for vegans even if they didn’t want to be, but hopefully they’ll want to be. Or just simplifying how easy it is to live as a vegan, because I think this is another thing people have a fear about – it’s too hard.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea. My mother, who now has three vegan children – all of her children are vegan. And the vegans in the family are growing – in numbers. She’s always trying to modify recipes, but she frequently says that if it were only easier, she would be vegetarian. And so, all of us that are trying to make a difference, are trying to do our part to provide more access – either it’s writing a great book like you did with Patti or restaurants that are providing healthy vegan food. At EarthSave we started this food show where we’re trying to show how easy it is and how delicious it is, and we just need to get more out there.
Carol Adams: Well, one of the things I suggest in Living Among Meat Eaters is, whenever you’re going somewhere, if you can take something, especially if you’re going somewhere for Thanksgiving. Take a couple things, take some desserts, because – I think we used to, back in the 70s, when I lived in Cambridge, I lived with a Radcliffe undergraduate and we had a lot of students from Harvard over at Thanksgiving – a lot of international students who could not go home for Thanksgiving, and we started calling our meals, vegetarian propaganda meals.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh yes.
Carol Adams: But – and I hear a lot on Facebook, I hear of a lot of people who do these kind of vegan-open meals, just for people to experience how delicious the food is. And that’s one thing I would suggest, is that people incubate these ideas on a variety of levels, and one way is non-verbally. Let people simply experience a lovely meal without even talking about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Carol Adams: Let them – I think people are so worried, I’m going to have to be so conscious about what I’m doing, I’ll lose the joy of eating. So, one of the things we show them is, no you don’t. You don’t have to be conscious about this. You chop your nuts and add the quinoa and have some asparagus, and before you know it, you have a lovely quinoa salad. You look at what’s in the refrigerator and mix and match it. It is not as though – as Patty said when we were working on the book – people confuse driving a car with knowing how to fix the engine. As vegans, we’re driving the car. We are not car mechanics. You do not have to be experts. All you have to do is know some basic things, and you’ll be fine.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s really just a shift in perspective in terms of how you prepare meals and how you view the world that you live in.
Carol Adams: And I think I’d summarize my work – twenty years or thirty five years or…I’ve lost count now – that there’s hidden relationships that we need to make obvious. Both hidden relationships having to do with the oppression and hidden relationships having to do with being connected, not just connected to other humans, but connected to four-legged critters and two-legged critters and beings in oceans and lakes. That’s – the connective-ness that gives us a sense of purpose and a sense of being placed within this beautiful planet. That connective-ness is a wonderful thing, a wonderful experience, a wonderful revelation. It does ask something of us. It asks us to do the least harm possible, but in return, we are offered so many new and wonderful relationships. And one of those new and wonderful relationships is to plant food.
Caryn Hartglass: Mm, absolutely.
Carol Adams: Plant food is wonderful. The variety of plant foods we can eat are much greater than the varieties of choices in fast food restaurants.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. The colors are phenomenal. Every dish is beautiful and vibrant.
Carol Adams: It’s a very aesthetic thing, besides everything else, and any comfort food you need is practically guaranteed to – that you can veganize or find some alternative. One of the things Patty and I listed in, How to Eat Like a Vegetarian, are the top ten comfort foods for vegans.
Caryn Hartglass: Mashed potatoes! Are they there?
Carol Adams: Yea, they are. Definetly.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Carol Adams: Well somebody’s observed that most comfort food is white. You know, macaroni and cheese, and we’ve got a great vegan macaroni and cheese recipe in there from Veganomicon. Which I think after twenty years of trying macaroni, vegan macaroni and cheese recipes, and trying a variety of things, cashew nuts and squash, just we – my kids and I have explored so many varieties of macaroni and – vegan macaroni and cheese and I really think that the Veganomicon had come up with a great one.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I liked the Real Food Daily cashew cheese. That’s my favorite, but I haven’t tried the one you’re talking about. I have to do that.
Carol Adams: I haven’t tried the Real Food Daily one. That’s not the cashew one I tried. I just tried – I was just in New York, and I was at Blossom, and they did a fettuccine with cashew milk, a fettuccine Alfredo with shiitake, Portobello, and … what’s the other kind?
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, their food is fabulous.
Carol Adams: It was so wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: Really wonderful.
Carol Adams: I could cook from now and for fifty years and not get to all the vegan cookbooks that I have and all the –
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. There’s so many of them.
Carol Adams: – wonderful ideas. And that’s a gift, I think. I think that’s the other thing. We don’t – you don’t have to be frozen in place. Sometime I feel meat eaters are so frozen, so fearful of change, and that’s another thing I say in Living Among Meat Eaters. Meat eaters think change is hard. Not changing is just as hard. They just haven’t realized it.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Carol Adams: They spend so much time defending where they are, and I guess my goal now is to not make meat eaters defend them. My goal is not to create that dynamic, and when I sense that dynamic exists, to try and relieve it, because I think that that’s a sort of dead end. I want to find a place of empathy and a place that just says, “I’m here. Come to me. Come try my food. Come see that this is not threatening. Come see that you could live an ethical life and it isn’t about suffering.”
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I really believe that that approach is the winning approach, and it’s so easy to be angry because there are so many horrible things going on. But, that’s the tone that EarthSave takes that we get from John Robbins and his books, to be loving and non-judgmental and, when we have that angry energy we really tend to turn people away, but when we’re welcoming and create a safe atmosphere and just, “Try this! It tastes great,” I think we do a lot better…in sharing our message.
Carol Adams: I think what we do is we create this space for people to develop their own relationship. Because when they ask us all these questions, what you’re trying to figure out is our relationship to veganism. But we figured that out. What we need to help people do is figure out their relationship to veganism.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I have a few more questions. One is – somebody asked me recently and I never got back to her – I haven’t got back to her yet, but talking about living with meat eaters. She was at an office party and everyone knew that she was vegan, or trying to be, and not eat dairy, and there was a birthday cake for her boss. And her boss was really being intimidating and insistent about her having a piece of the birthday cake, and how she was really being a party pooper and, “Just have a little piece of cake.”
Carol Adams: Well, in Living Among Meat Eaters, I talk about – a time when you’re being tested at the job. Are you a company person or not? And it sounds like that’s – where there’s, say a vegan who’s taken to Surf and Turf, or lobster, or whatever they’re called – Red Lobster. Where you’re put in this environment where it’s clear you could not get what you would be able to eat. And then it’s examined to see how you’re going to function. Are you going to support the team or not? And so, I would put that under that category of “Are you a team player or not?” Because actually, people who are lactose intolerant, people who are diabetic, it would be accepted that they would not be able to eat that cake.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh sure, and if they said that they were Kosher or they followed Halal, those would be accepted.
Carol Adams: So, we already know that exceptions are allowed. It’s just – Can you have an ethical exception rather than a dietary or religious exception?
Caryn Hartglass: So how does one handle that? I know what I did when I was an engineer and I worked in industry, and a lot of times when you travel to foreign countries, you’re supposed to be familiar with the culture and “when in Rome do as the Romans.” And I never had a problem, because I’m – I really believe in what I’m doing, and I can be a bit confrontational and it’s me first. I can be a team player but it’s me first. So I never had a problem, but I know a lot of people – they’re really uncomfortable, and they don’t want to lose the sale, or they don’t want to jeopardize their job.
Carol Adams: Well, and – back to the cake thing. The thing is to deflect it in a humorous way, because when you deflect it in a humorous way, you’re not seen as rejecting. You’re seen as still being a participant. So, how can you reach that in a humorous way? You could say, “Gosh – I can’t believe you’ve added another year already. This year has really gone by. I think one of the best things you did this year was to streamline x, y, and z, and I really – I want to lift up my glass and toast you.”
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Change the subject.
Carol Adams: So, you just segue. You’ve got to figure out a way to segue and deflect, and one way to do is always to reposition the focus back on the person. Compliment – make it so that people forget what the question was.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, very good.
Carol Adams: And – so that you’re shown as a team player, you’re shown as someone who cares, but you’re not calling attention to the fact that, right for now, you’re not going to eat that cake. And if he came back and said, “Please eat this cake. Will you eat this cake?” you can kind of shrug your shoulders and say, “I thought that salad was great and I really am full.”
Caryn Hartglass: All good.
Carol Adams: “That was a great meal. I have no room for anything.” And you could even wink at the person. Now there are some people in the animal rights movement who would say, “You must always, always make the animal present.” You must always say, “I am not going to eat this cake because animals suffered and I am – this is – I do not agree that you could always do that.”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you can’t.
Carol Adams: And the people who made those arguments to me are people who are employed in the animal rights movement. And the people who kind of respond to my approach are women who are active in the animal rights movement, but do not have jobs in the animal rights movement. So, I think that there are ways to constantly keep the animal present and to have answers. Later on, if somebody says, “Why wouldn’t you eat that cake?” You could say, “I’m a vegan. I know – There’s a great poster right now, ‘Milk comes from a grieving mother.’” Very powerful, just to have a one liner and then go on. “I just can’t do that. Milk comes from a grieving mother and I’ve made my decision.”
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I want to talk about some of the things you’re working on now. So, I’m talking with Carol Adams, and you can go to her website at, caroljadams.com, for more information. And I read that you’re working on writing prayers for animals?
Carol Adams: I have finished that, actually. I did a book called, Prayers for Animals, and if you go to the website, caroljadams.com, and click on books, I think it’s there. It’s a – and then I did a series for kids, God Listens. God listens when you’re sad, prayers for when your animal is sick or dies. God listens to your love, prayers for when you live with an animal. God listens to your care, prayers for all the animals of the world. And God listens when you’re afraid, prayers for animals scare you.
Caryn Hartglass: Beautiful.
Carol Adams: I feel that –
Caryn Hartglass: Yes?
Carol Adams: People are afraid to feel for animals. I think people think, if I open my heart and really respond to what’s happening to animals in the world, it’s going to kill me. And one of the things I wanted to show in the book is that, yes, we feel greed, yes, we feel strong emotions, but it doesn’t kill you. It makes you more fully alive. And you’re not alone. As someone who clearly is a religious person, I pray. And I have found praying about animals to be a very powerful way of not being overwhelmed by the knowledge we gain when we care.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, I like that. I cannot think about the animals suffering frequently because it’s just too devastating. And, I do like to put out positive thoughts and positive energy to all those beings that are suffering. But, there is something really powerful, especially when you look into the eyes of an animal and have some communication, and it really can profound you – touch you very profoundly. But what I don’t understand is how people, meat eaters especially, have wonderful relationships with their pets, if you excuse the word, and don’t see the connection between what’s on their plate and the similarity between the animals that they live with, that they adore.
Carol Adams: Well, our culture doesn’t want them to, I mean, the culture wants that disconnect. That’s back to the absent reference. That – it’s – everything in our culture is structured to be disconnected. And in Sexual Politics, for me, I talk about the fragmentation of culture, it’s not just the fragmentation of the animal – the fragmentation that the slaughterhouse creates, the fragmentation of labor that Henry Ford modeled, his assembly line on the disassembly line of the Chicago slaughterhouses – that our culture is fragmented. And I think a part of our vision is trying to overcome that fragmentation, and that’s through connection, and connection can be painful.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, it’s prevalent in so many different things. We see it in healthcare, this reductionist concept where doctors only want to treat a certain part of us. But everything in our body is connected and integrated, and everything in the world is integrated and connected, and it’s really hard to do that fragmentation or I don’t think it benefits us.
Carol Adams: No, and certainly the fragmentation of preventative health from healthcare, and that preventative health can be so effective as Dean Ornish’s studies have shown of a vegan diet and preventing heart attacks and cholesterol build-up. Yea, I think that the vision of being connected is one I think that vegans model very well, and I think our message is getting out more and more, especially because the environmental crisis is pointing out the cost that the world, and to the earth, of meat eating to begin with.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Now, you have children.
Carol Adams: I do. Two children.
Caryn Hartglass: And you wrote – in this…is it separate or is it part of the survival guide? The “Help My Child Stop Eating Meat.
Carol Adams: Yes, it’s its own book, Help My Child Stop Eating Meat. Well, that rose because, in Living Among Meat Eaters, I did a little afterward – a letter to parents of vegetarians. I meet so many young vegetarians and vegans, and they would tell me of all the struggles they had with their parents and I thought, well…I’ll just create a really easy, usable book. It’s alphabetical. So, for instance, the nutrition section – you can look up protein, you can look up issues, so that the young people could go and just say, “Look. Here’s the answer. God says we could eat animals.” Because kids – it’s so hard for parents to trust kids, and yet, now I meet lots of wonderful parents who, when their kids were eight or ten said, “I want to be a vegan,” and the parents said, “Well, let’s learn what you have to do.” And, that’s what I want to get parents to do in Help my Child Stop Eating Meat, to see that this a path the child is walking and the role of the parent is not to get ahead on the path, but simply to walk beside the child and say, “Let me see how I can support you. Let’s learn how to cook this meal together.”
Caryn Hartglass: I love it when – I mean children obviously learn from their parents, but I love when parents learn from their children.
Carol Adams: Yea, and there is so much for us to learn from kids. It’s just incredible. Kids are so wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: So, you’re writing a book on Jane Austen?
Carol Adams: I’ve written one. It’s called, The Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Jane Austen. And I actually wrote it with one of my sons, and the person who was his girlfriend at the time. He’s now married to her. So that book is out, The Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Jane Austen, and now I’m working on a second one.
Caryn Hartglass: Is this related to any of the other things we’re talking about?
Carol Adams: Only – in reading about Jane Austen, I found that Sexual Politics of Meat has been cited in an article on Mansfield Park in Jane Austen and Animals – but no, it’s not connected at all. In terms of my animal, feminist work, I think the next thing that will come out is a Carol Adams reader that collects the articles I’ve written over the past ten years that I think still speak, or respond to, issues. One is – one article is called “The War On Compassion,” which is looking at the whole language around the Holocaust and what happens when we use it about animals. So, that’s the book that will kind of be next out of the hopper.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it. So the Jane Austen work, is that more feminist theories?
Carol Adams: It’s well – It’s…
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just going to have to read them and find out.
Carol Adams: Well, the first one, The Bedside, Bathtub…, is a general guide to Jane Austen, with a lot of fun things in it. I think you’d have lots of fun with it, if you like Jane Austen.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, well a friend of mine is a composer and he’s got a new musical coming out called Pride and Prejudice.
Carol Adams: Oh, well how wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, it’s really fun.
Carol Adams: Well, Jane Austen can be revisited every year and – I turn to Jane Austen for hope, and laughter, and deep thoughts every once in a while, and just admiration for how she wrote her novels. We all need some down time, and Jane Austen is one writer who gives me a lot back.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. Well Carol, it has been great talking to you. I can’t believe the hour is over. I realize I have some more reading to do now, and…yes?
Carol Adams: Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your program. I really appreciate it. I encourage listeners to check out my website, www.caroljadams.com, and I wish you much, great luck with this show.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Thank you so much. Keep writing!
Carol Adams: Okay. Take care! Bye-bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Bye. This has been It’s All About Food. I’m Caryn Hartglass. Next week, I’ll be talking with nutritionist, Mark Rifkin, and we’re going to be talking about amino acids, essential amino acids, that some say we can’t get unless we eat meat, and you’re going to find out whether that’s true or not. So, I look forward to coming back and talking about that next week. Thank you for listening!
Transcribed by Jameson Knittel on 6/9/2014 & Dorene Zhou 6/1/2014