A Well-Fed World Founding Director / Board Director – Dawn Moncrief has been a social justice advocate (for people and animals) since the mid-90’s. She has two master’s degrees from The George Washington University: one in International Relations, the other in Women’s Studies, both focusing on economic development. Her work highlights the ways in which high levels of meat consumption in the U.S. and globally exacerbate global hunger, especially for women and children. She also draws attention to the negative consequences of increasing livestock production and intensification on climate change and oil scarcity.
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Good afternoon, thank you for joining me today on this very lovely February 1st. Happy February. What we do here on this show of course, is talk about food. And food affects so many things in our lives and every time we put something in our mouth if we just take a mindful moment to think about the impact of food on everything—our health, the environment, the treatment of animals. We are going to be talking today with Dawn Moncrief who is the founding director of A Well-Fed World. She has been a social justice advocate for people and animals since the mid-90s. She has two masters degrees from the George Washington University, one in International Relations and the other in Women’s Studies both focusing on economic development. Her work highlights the ways in which high levels of meat consumption in the U.S. and globally exacerbate global hunger, especially for women and children. She also draws attention to the negative consequences of increasing livestock production and intensification on climate change and oil scarcity. Welcome Dawn.
Dawn Moncrief: Hi Caryn, thank you for having me on.
Caryn Hartglass: Thanks for being there and thanks for everything you do. So we’re going to be covering I think some pretty heavy topics today and I hope people are moved and learn a lot. So you founded A Well-Fed World just a couple of years ago. It looks like it’s doing great. Can you tell us a little about what the organization does?
Dawn Moncrief: We’re off to a great start and we worked on the connection with global hunger and meat consumption especially the over consumption of meat. We do vegan feeding programs in the U.S. and globally and also food production programs. So not just direct feeding but working on community gardens in the U.S. We do a lot of work in India and Africa in particular. We also work on animal issues directly supporting farm animal sanctuaries. A lot of our work is done through our Sustainable Keys-Global Grants Program.
Caryn Hartglass: And what is that?
Dawn Moncrief: That is a grant program where, the range is usually around $1,000-$2,000, but we actually span from $500 to $5,000, depending on the level of participation we have with the group and how well we know them. Anybody can apply, you don’t have to be a 501(c)(3), you don’t have to be part of a group, you just have to have a project that fits within our parameters.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s very exciting and looking at your website it looks like there’s a lot of different groups that you’ve helped and a lot of different things going on.
Dawn Moncrief: We’ve done more than a hundred grant distributions in the first two years.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s phenomenal. That’s really great. I think a lot more organizations would wish that they could do as well as you’ve done so far. Really nice job. I’m particularly inline with your mission. So I’m glad that all the work and resources are going towards things that are important to me. This concept “well-fed world”: How is it in this day and age that so many people go to bed hungry and how do you think we can remedy that to some degree?
Dawn Moncrief: Again that is the basis of our concept is that about a sixth of the population, about a billion people, now more than a billion, are at the very lowest end, the poorest of the poor, not able to have access to food and we’re talking again globally. So Africa, India, but there’s also extreme poverty within the US as well while over a billion are eating in excessive amounts and overweight and dealing with diseases of affluence. So that’s the concept of well-fed. So bringing in foods, not just any kind of food, the right kind of foods, culturally, high-density nutrient food, not foods that are being dumped on these poor countries. And also adjusting our own habits as wealthier countries, as wealthier people and communities to eat better foods, to eat appropriate portions of food so that everyone is well-fed and eating healthier.
Caryn Hartglass: Sounds good. Sounds pretty ambitious but you know somebody’s gotta do it.
Dawn Moncrief: Again bringing the concept not only to our direct action within the communities but also working with other social justice groups, environmental groups, food justice groups, working with think tanks. We’re in Washington D.C. so we actually do have access to World Bank meetings, think tank meetings like the International Food Policy Research Institute. So that’s very special, being able to bring in concepts, get it on the agenda and that’s part of it…ideas…being on the agenda even if we don’t get a full “yeah we’re jumping up and down decision”. At least it’s part of the process.
Caryn Hartglass: I notice on your website on the front page it says “reversing the trend–end factory farming”. We really need to be just putting that out all over the place, end factory farming, it needs to be in the minds everywhere because it’s just awful on so many levels. And yet, we see especially in developing countries, they’re not learning from our mistakes and they’re trying to emulate all of our bad habits, including factory farming. How is your voice heard in Washington with the World Bank and other organizations?
Dawn Moncrief: Well, the World Bank, for instance a few years ago with the help of one of our advisors that’s within that community instituted ideas and policies that would not support the intensified meat production systems. We’ve actually had some success getting Bertin, this company in Brazil, and retracting funding from them. Unfortunately when the World Bank makes a decision like that it’s supposed to affect all their arms. There’s also the International Financial Corp. which is part of their system. And they’re all supposed to abide by these conduct rules but they don’t necessarily, so it’s a very imperfect process. But we are able to make some leeway. Also in the communities, where I think you were going with this, in the earlier part of your sentence, Ethiopia for example, is having massive increases in factory farming units. They had thirteen more than a year ago and they are looking to increase that. The reason is that you have the government working with the multi-national corporations, the agribusinesses, to bring in these companies, under the guise of feeding more people and bringing in funds so that makes it very exciting to the elites and unfortunately it doesn’t feed the people in ways that it promises. A lot of it is exported. While a lot of us know about the factory from the environmental consequences and the people where the factory farms are, really are suffering the environmental consequences.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, it’s just so sad to me that we have these problems in our own country and we’re realizing what they are and yet we’re still encouraging others to do what we really should be working to get rid of. It’s mind boggling to me.
Dawn Moncrief: And part of the reverse the trend is that on a global scale meat production is said to double over fifty years and those statistics were taken in 2000. So the range was from 2000-2050 and we’ve actually been seeing increases of that nature on the global scale. What that is is the middle-income countries following our lead. There is an association with wealth and power and so, as their economic systems and abilities become better they eat higher up on the so-called food chain, they eat more meat, more dairy and as they do so they actually start suffering the same diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, that you see in America. Because they make up such a large portion of the global population, about three billion, about half the population, when you have increases, those types of numbers, you really feel the difference and there’s also high birthrates so that magnifies it even further. There’s a lot of focus on reducing the global meat consumption as far as what we’re gonna do. There’s acknowledgement that we can’t sustain that but the focus comes on population control and the use of technology to meet that demand. There’s a lot of focus on these middle-income countries and they are not even a fraction of per capita, per person of what we’re eating. So it’s very convenient for us to focus on them while our own meat consumption is massively higher.
Caryn Hartglass: I know to some degree what the tone is in the United States when we’re talking about healthy diets, vegetarian and vegan, and it’s changed quite a bit over the decades. It’s a little more welcoming. More people hear the word vegan on a regular basis. We hear it on television programs, radio shows and in the movies that a lot of celebrities are going vegan. So there’s this momentum, it’s not as fast as I’d like but I’m hoping that it’s going to be an exponential change as more people move this way. But what’s it like in India and the groups that you’re helping? Who are they? And what kind of resistance are they getting in their communities?
Dawn Moncrief: Well in India and Africa in particular we are getting to partner with some amazing groups. In India we are partnering with the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations. They actually approached us. They were originally one of our grant recipients and I also met them when I was speaking in Nairobi at an animal welfare conference. They are looking to implement a vegan outreach program within Mumbai so we’re partnering on that, as equal partners working to get materials in Hindi and in English doing tabling. They are going to be training the tablers. That’s supposed to be a pilot project and then reaching out and doing grassroots efforts within that city and the country more broadly is our mission and ambition for that. They work with the government so I don’t want to overstate our ability to work with foreign governments. It’s tough enough working with the U.S. government. We do work with some groups who are working with their governments and I’d actually just given up trying to work with African governments and just deciding to work with the grassroots groups because it is so difficult. I have a limited understanding of African governments and of course Africa is a continent so there’s so many countries, it’s not just a single unit.
Caryn Hartglass: Every country is very different in culture and politics.
Dawn Moncrief: We do speak of it sometimes as if it’s a monolithic culture and community as if Africa is a country not a continent. While I was in that African conference in Nairobi there were leaders from the different countries and we were speaking about the need for a pan-African animal welfare alliance within Africa. We did quite a bit of brainstorming but then afterwards there wasn’t much follow-up and I thought “oh you know, we brainstormed but we’re all running our own organizations and it just didn’t happen”. One of the leaders from Nairobi visited the U.S. and was making tours and we had a day long meeting and they actually had been working on it, the African leaders had been working on it, and actually did develop a constitution, a logo, they’re getting a website up, they are working with the UN on official recognition. So we are one of the founders, thinkers, involved parties in that and we’ll be working with them, more from the sides because it really needs to be African led. But we are part of that and I had just given up on working with African governments so I was really thrilled for us to be part of that.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really good news. I wish them a lot of luck and you with them.
Dawn Moncrief: Let me just say that we work with governments and there’s a lot of skepticism and rightly so but there are examples where they are successful. In Kenya they actually were able to stop bushmeat from being legal, sport hunting (I might be saying that wrong) to protect the elephants in particular. How they were able to do that is by showing that “hey these are African elephants, animals, we don’t need to be letting in foreign people to be shooting and killing our animals which are part of our culture.” Then they showed, we can use that for tourism. They were able to show here’s another way we can make money without destroying our animal populations and they actually were able to get the government to follow that lead, to make it illegal, and look for alternate sources of income. So there actually are models of success around these areas.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good news except there are always those poachers that are illegally running around and doing a lot of damage.
Dawn Moncrief: Yes, we’re able to work with some of the local groups within that and offering …they are using the wires that are used for poaching and some of the young men that were working…they are using it for income not for meat for themselves, it’s for income, so they are teaching them how to do basket weaving and some arts using those wires, making them ….animals and they are giving them tourist dollars as a way to supplement their income so that they don’t have to go after the animals.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s brilliant. There are so many solutions. I think what most people want to do around the world is live a peaceful life where they can be with their families and work and play and eat and not really harm anything but when poverty and starvation come around people do all kinds of things. Greed also is a part of it but I think for the most part people just want to live peacefully and there are certainly so many different ways to do it the right way. So that’s my vision.
Dawn Moncrief: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about some of the topics that you have on your website that are related to food. For example a lot of people are talking about biofuel. What’s your take on biofuel and how is it related to a well-fed world?
Dawn Moncrief: A lot of what we do is based on supply and demand so I’ll try to keep it simple and not get into the details too much but the idea that biofuels cause all this hunger crisis is really misleading. Meat production causes far more use of food resources, of electricity, of fossil fuels in general and land use but we’ll focus on the fossil fuel use. Massive amounts of fossil fuel used for producing meat on one hand because it takes so much more food to create meat, the animals consume so much more food than they create so there’s that part alone much less the slaughterhouses and what it takes to process animals into “food” and electricity. There’s all this use of energy that goes into meat production and the massive over consumption of meat far out-shadows anything that is used for biofuels. So it’s very misleading to focus on biofuels. If we reduced our meat consumption there would be more than enough food and other resources to be used to fill that gap and even do much more than fill that gap to make food resources available to the poorest of the poor. They are the ones getting crunched with the biofuels but again it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to what we could be doing if we reduced meat consumption. It’s also one of the best examples of why that matters because the idea behind biofuels is that it uses more food so that raises the price of it. It actually outbids people who are at the margins. It can be used for biofuel and for feed. We had Ethiopia during the 80’s exporting food. So during their famine they were exporting food used as feed for meat for the wealthy. And that’s the kind of exporting systems you will still see today, the 80’s and that…in particular, it’s very egregious. Ethiopia is still exporting food as a net exporter of feed.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re certainly going to need to see a lot of policy changes around the world and I know that we will over time but one that’s obvious to me is that food should not be exported until everyone is fed in the country and then the extra stuff can go off and go to other places…
Dawn Moncrief: That’s common sense.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not as obvious for people when we’re thinking about running out of resources to do all the great things that we want to do. There’s two things to look at: One is the sustainable ways energy sources that a lot of different people are working on with great technological advances and wind and solar and other things and the other side of it is what you were just talking about that if we just do some really simple shifts—I think going from a meat based diet to a plant based diet is simple–some people may argue with me but it’s a shift in your perspective really. That saves so much energy, just incredible.
Dawn Moncrief: It’s the best thing that can be done on an individual level is to minimize meat consumption and animal products more generally. People aren’t going to go vegetarian or vegan if they don’t like the title then you can take a percentage. We’re doing a lot looking for mass reduction. Not just meat out or meatless Mondays. That’s not enough. If you have to start there, start there. But we’re looking to be an 80% vegetarian. Or if you’re already vegetarian then 80% vegan or 90%, not get caught up in the labels, purity, it’s not about that. It’s really about the good that we can do for animal suffering, for environmental reasons. Meat, animal products, live stock are the number one contributor to global warming. You see some figures that maybe it’s not the top one but I can argue those figures and let you know why it is. So people who are concerned about global warming, reduce your meat consumption and animal products, the eggs and the dairy really are massive contributors to these problems. So let’s not just let the animals…are used for their reproductive capabilities but they’re also up there producing gas, using resources and eventually slaughtered for meat. So it is a slaughter industry just like anything else. It doesn’t compete so we have all the other efforts that we can work on. We can still use less electricity, watch our showers, we can push our governments to do more on renewable energy. So all those things are very important and can still be done and we can on an individual level, reduce our meat consumption.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot, but many people when you start talking about taking away their meat will say “what about grass-fed, pasture-fed animals, humanely, quote “humanely”, raised meat?”
Dawn Moncrief: We are seeing a big movement toward that so the first thing that I would say about that is if people are in favor of continuing meat consumption but want to go for their local and less cruel processes of meat consumption, even say that it’s …humane then when you do so, you only do so with the meat that you produce, or that you buy. So you can’t use that as an argument and then go buy store bought meat. Or just go out to a restaurant and eat meat. Any type of meat and other animal products that are not specifically raised on the farm, that you know from your local CSA, that meat is factory-farmed meat. So if you are going to take that route, really take that route, be serious about it. Don’t just give lip service that there are these systems and that you support them. Really do that.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know if you read Jonathan Safran’s Eating Animals, one of the things I liked that he said about that in his book was that it’s easier to be a vegetarian than to be someone who is eating 100% grass-fed meat. Just for those reasons.
Dawn Moncrief: Grass-fed is not the answer. Grass-fed is cows and they’re animals that are living, feeling, they are concerned parents, they cry when their calves are taken from them during dairy…but even if they are out on the grass, so they’re living a better life than they would be within the factory farming system for sure. A lot of them are cereal-fed which means they are fed for the last portion of their life with grain but they take up more land. During the time they are being grass-fed they are taking up immense amounts of land and they are contributing more to global warming. So if they are in factory farms they are using much more electricity because they’re being fed all this cereal and grains and soy so they are taking up the electricity in that way within the units of the factory farm in those processes. You use more electricity with cows from factory farms and you triple the global warming aspects when they’re grass-fed plus all the land use. Not the answer. And there’s still all kinds of health implications. You don’t just get a pass on health implications.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Heart disease and diabetes do not have to exist, they are preventable and reversible with a healthy plant-based diet. We know that now. And yet we have like over 600,000 deaths to heart disease every year, totally unnecessary. One of the things that I always like to make a point about is that, for those that are really promoting this humanely-raised animals food, if you do the math, we cannot raise animals not in factory farms, in the quantities we are raising today unless they’re confined. There’s not enough land. People don’t realize this.
Dawn Moncrief: That’s one of the ways that they can work together with the reduced meat consumption.
Caryn Hartglass: We absolutely have to reduce consumption. Even if people still want to have their meat and eat it humanely, something that I don’t really believe in, but if we were to end all factory farming and people were still going to eat meat, they would still have to eat less. Bottom line. Has to be.
Dawn Moncrief: Right. It will be more expensive and they have to eat less. Eating less also takes the pressure off the system so that the more people eat, the more fuel factory farming. So think of it in those terms too, that you’re fueling factory farming by, I hesitate to say over consumption because that indicates at certain levels of consumption are ok, but it really does help us to get the general population within the US to think about our over consumption because it is so much more than we need and so much more than the populations of the middle-income countries and even a lot of the wealthy countries were much higher so just to focus on not over consuming will take us very far.
Caryn Hartglass: You know so many people think it is so over simplified these points that you’re making that we could make such a tremendous positive difference on the planet just by shifting what we eat. It may sound simple but I’m absolutely convinced that people would do it. We would see dramatic incredible differences.
Dawn Moncrief: Yes. We also see the food companies, we already see how many more vegan products and vegetarian options there are, so the food companies will meet that demand which makes it easier for other folks. And if you’re changing your light bulb then eat less meat. You know, if you think that changing a light bulb makes a difference and recycling makes a difference, all those are a drop in the bucket compared to the good that can be done by eating less meat. I would say also really focus on dairy products. A lot of times it’s what I recommend for folks if they are going to be eating less meat to not increase their dairy and if possible to decrease their dairy because it has just done so much harm for the animals and for the environment.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s a big topic.
Caryn Hartglass: Maybe you’ve heard this, I’ve been hearing this from time to time Dawn, people who are still trying to prove that it’s okay to eat meat and try from different angles, the health aspect, the environmental aspect, and the cruelty aspect. I have heard some say that more animals are killed to grow plants in agriculture than to grass-feed animals for food. Is that nutty or what?
Dawn Moncrief: That’s pretty nutty. I know that they’ve talked about wildlife being killed but a lot of this comes up for meat production and so many of our plant products are used for feed so I’ve heard about the soy conspiracy—that the soy companies are this or that. Most of the soy is produced for feed.
Caryn Hartglass: We need to underline that. Most soy in this world, especially genetically modified soy, is grown to feed animals to feed people. We’re not eating that soy. And those rainforests that are chopped away to either graze animals or to grow soy, that’s all to support the animal…
Dawn Moncrief: The rainforest is being devastated. There’s a lot of confusion, intentionally so, so that a lot of times people think that the rainforest is being cut down for wood or other reasons and then the animals are then using it, so that they are a secondary product of the rainforest deforestation. It’s just not true. The rainforest is being cleared, a lot of times it’s being burnt so you’re not even getting the wood by-product. That is a major contributor, the top reason, that the rainforest is being cleared, just heartbreaking.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s an important point because there was a time when there was that connection a little more prevalent between the destruction of the rain forest and raising animals for food. I’m certainly seeing a lot less of it especially from organizations that are trying to protect the rainforests. They are talking more about palm oil and other things that the rainforest is being destroyed for and not about for the animal industry.
Dawn Moncrief: It’s very convenient. Look at what’s being offered up as solutions and how convenient it is to focus on population issues because that’s people over there in countries that are not us having more children per capita and look at palm oil, those people don’t really focus on that. It’s something maybe you avoid a couple of foods, it’s more than a couple foods, but it’s not something that’s going to change the way people conduct themselves, what they buy on a daily level.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s meat, folks! … Let’s just talk a little about Heifer International for a moment. They are an organization that—I don’t know what their income is these days—but they do exceptionally well. They’ve got their foot in a lot of schools, helping junior high school and high school students especially work on projects to support Heifer International where the kids feel they are really making a positive difference for the planet and helping feed the world. And we see lots of different glossy pictures in their promotional material with cuddly little animals. What do you think about Heifer International?
Dawn Moncrief: That’s a sore spot for a lot of us in the vegetarian and vegan communities because they are so popular. They are sometimes popular within our own communities because people think “well those animals are treated okay because it’s small, they aren’t factory farmed”. But they suffer immensely. You think about the animals, live transport to countries in extreme weather conditions without sufficient food or water. Many die enroute. If a family in particular gets an animal but they don’t—you can’t just give a family an animal—you’ve got to work with the community. A lot of times they don’t have animals because they are difficult to take care of. It’s not like “oh we can give you two cows”. They’ve got to eat, they’ve got to have water, they need veterinary care. There’s lots of issues. There’s all these smiley happy faces and they use children a lot to sell their products which is what they’re doing. I’ve heard horrific stories of children actually sleeping out with the animals because they were afraid that someone was going to come and steal them. And they have tons of money. They were doing very well before but the Gates Foundation gave them 43 million dollars or something like that a couple of years ago and it’s probably still continued to support them at that kind of level so whatever dollars that an individual is giving them or a school is giving them, A—it doesn’t matter in the big picture for them and if you want to help organizations that are dealing with hunger, there’s just better organizations so we could go on and on about what’s wrong with Heifer International but at a better level just say there’s other organizations that are doing a better job, that don’t have to use animals, that aren’t huge, that aren’t misleading people. One of the photos I have on the website which is awellfedworld.org like you said but it’s also a shorter version of awfw.org that’s easier to remember, the initials for A Well Fed World, and we have information like we were talking about before, the humane loopholes, the things that people don’t consider when dealing with the Old McDonalds-style thinking in the U.S. and that also will apply internationally but we have a section on the dark side of Heifer International and we have this photo that we took off their website with this young girl, maybe ten or so, hugging this cow and there’s these big pink lip marks, like lipstick marks, on the cow’s nose. It’s very cute but A, she’s not wearing pink lipstick, you know, she’s just a little girl and her lips certainly wouldn’t be the size that they put on the cow. It’s an indication of how misleading they are that they are going to do something like that. So the dishonesty, the misleading, they’ve got massive amounts of money and look at the organizations that we’re supporting. We started as a direct answer to Heifer International–it’s called Feed More International because we can feed more people with the food than using that food to feed animals and then make meat so that’s the concept with Feed More. We support groups that are already on the ground and they’re small. So the contributions to those groups make a difference, an immediate difference, a big difference. It doesn’t have to come cycled through some big organization with high overhead. We give those groups the money directly so if you want to support a group, you want to send a hundred dollars or five hundred dollars—it needs to be in the bigger amounts, not twenty dollars, but we accept twenty dollars and we’ll combine it—you can give it to us and we’ll send it right along, the entire amount. So come look at our website, look at the grants, we also have them by animals. You can look at the different types of organizations. We have a big long list and then we also have it factored off between animal issues and hunger issues, then education organizations. We are incredible because we get to partner with and support these incredible organizations. You can see directly what they’re doing. Feed More International is designed as a gift giving campaign again to mimic Heifer International but work on better projects. We have a soy lunch program in Belize helping get soy protein into the school system and believe we have actually helped start Ethiopian feeding program working with the International Fund for Africa and the Ethiopian Vegan Association. So that’s one of the other groups. We’ve got community gardens that we’re supporting and then also this amazing group in Michigan where they work on community gardens that are then used to feed low income populations around their soup kitchen. Amazing stuff. Look at our website, find better groups.
Caryn Hartglass: The concept that bothers me the most with Heifer International—putting aside the exploitation of the animals—is it’s not the best way to make a sustainable living in a sustainable way to make food. Many times people are living in places that are arid or problematic for growing food and what needs to happen is some technology, simple technology, and we’ve got lots of it, that can help them improve their soil, improve irrigation, grow native crops that are suited for that area, plant trees. There’s some really simple things that work the way nature intended so that these people can really get a start. A lot of times there are dire situations for lots of different reasons, for over development of a certain area or because of extreme poverty, people are chopping down lots of wood just to cook their food and again there’s technology, simple things that can solve all of these problems–not sending animals.
Dawn Moncrief: Yes, there’s much better solutions. If you keep an open mind and look at the other resources that are there again, we do have a web page that is designated to the dark side of Heifer International and other animal giving campaigns in general, but really focus on Heifer with links so we have it broken down in some easy points then also some links. Remember it’s a slaughter industry just like anything else. Whether you’re dealing with happy farms in the U.S. or dealing with a slaughter industry, it’s unnecessary. It’s not necessary and it hurts, it hurts animals, it’s bad for the environment and there’s better options. It’s just really sad and unfortunate that there’s so much focus on meat. A lot of folks are rethinking meat, re-centering it and looking at plant-rich options again for communities that have full access to other options especially in the U.S.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s come home and talk about the United States a little bit. There’s so many different crazy things going on here in our own country with subsidies and our economy is in the toilet and we’re putting money towards lots of things that shouldn’t be getting money and other things should be getting money that aren’t getting money. Let me take a breath… Michelle Obama is doing what she can to get healthy foods in schools. The USDA just put out new guidelines for school food that has big improvements over the last 15 years, still not what I would want but improvement. Are you working as well with groups in the United States?
Dawn Moncrief: We are. A lot of what we’re doing is with the grassroots groups. We are working with the other social justice groups and there’s some big policy components. We talked about the farm bill a little during the break. That’s the major piece of legislation that comes out every five years. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of that is supporting the food stamps but huge chunks of it are going for subsidies. That’s only one sector and when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars it’s really hard to understand what that means. So we do have information again on our website at awfw.org since there’s more than I can get into. But if we had to pay the true cost of meat, dairy, egg, most people wouldn’t be able to afford it. It would naturally reduce consumption.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so many ways to look at that. If we just took away the subsidies it would be very expensive. The thing that we’re not doing and we’re not doing it with the meat industry and not doing with a lot of industries is the cost to keep things the way they are or keep things clean so if any kind of pollution or damage is done that industry should clean it up and that cost should be in the price of any product and it’s not. We don’t like to clean up our toys after we’ve played with them.
Dawn Moncrief: The EPA, a lot of their clean up programs, are helping the meat industry. There’s a confirmation of the farm bill. You would think “oh that’s great, that the farm bill is dealing with clean up and helping deal with environmental impacts” but really what they’re doing is going in and cleaning up a lot of the mess that is caused by these huge factory farms…
Caryn Hartglass: Not only have they created huge messes and they’ve done it with overwhelming amounts of manure that aren’t treated or the lagoons break and the get leached into the water supply but all kinds of toxic pesticides and herbicides to grow the foods, to feed the animals, also pollutes our water supply and then of course there’s a lot of air pollution, soil degradation. It’s just terrible on the environment. The unfortunate thing is there are some regulations and there are some fines that have been levied and these industries don’t pay.
Dawn Moncrief: No follow-up reinforcement of it. You mentioned pesticides. I know there’s a lot of interest in organic foods and a lot of concern about pesticides. It’s important to know that most of the pesticides consumed by us as individuals come from animal products because they are consuming massive amounts of food, feed, weed and soy. Those have pesticides in them and it builds up in their body, it concentrates so when we are eating their flesh or their products we are consuming the pesticides. So you’re getting that organic apple but look at the meat and really be concerned and the growth hormones and the milk. You see these girls today hitting puberty much, much earlier than it used to be.
Caryn Hartglass: Talking about dairy is a whole show in entirety. There’s so many things wrong with milk I can’t say enough. People’s eyes pop out and say “what’s wrong with milk?”. Everything. If you want to know more about that you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll direct you to a variety of places. I don’t want to talk about it right now. … I’m not in the mood for milk.
Caryn Hartglass: Local versus less. There’s this idea…well, it’s complicated…one of the things when we’re talking about subsidies and things is we get confused because we see a lot of farmers that are just trying to stay alive and survive. I don’t think they’re the ones we’re talking about. We’re talking about giant agribusiness that grows most of our plant foods and our animal foods. Those are the ones that are really very abusive. Sometimes there are people that say that they own a family farm and it’s misleading. I’ve seen commercials saying “oh yeah, we own this family farm” and it’s got hundreds of thousands of heads of cattle. It’s not a family farm. A family may own it but it’s not that small, nurturing, friendly image where the animals are happy and grazing. It’s not that at all so you have to be careful when you hear family farm. But local versus less, so it’s not intuitive. Where we think that some foods because they’re local might be better than some foods that are shipped a long way.
Dawn Moncrief: They did a study and transportation was only about 11% savings. It’s important. Food miles—James McWilliams does a lot about how food miles is only one part of the equation, you’ve got to look at all these other aspects. I would support local farmers more to support them as a unit than out of the concern for the food miles aspect and savings in that direction but you can support local farmers without consuming the animal products. There’s lots of local farmers who don’t deal with animals or deal with them in a very small way. So look into that and also ask them questions. A lot of time they can’t—again the slaughter industry—a lot of them don’t slaughter them themselves they have to get transported, they die very young, they can’t keep these animals around once their productivity falls off. A lot of times what are being killed are actually their young, their babies. They’ve got to get them to the slaughter before they start eating up too many resources.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so much going on out there, there’s so much that we can do. One thing that I like about your organization and if people go to awellfedworld.org and look at all of the grants that have been offered. You can see the organizations that are out there but it just shows that individuals make the difference and everyone listening and everyone around you can make a difference and it really is up to us to make this world a better place. It’s that simple. Food is definitely the way to do it or the easiest way to do it that would have the biggest impact–every day, every meal. It’s the simplest thing. …. I just got a message here…I don’t even believe this but Phil N from Philadelphia left a message he says that he really likes meat and can’t see getting off it, he likes ethical and unethical meat alike. OK, maybe that’s supposed to be funny… Let’s go to…you’re in DC and I want to talk about, just lighten it up a minute in terms of where you go to eat and what you eat and what your favorite things are when it comes to food.
Dawn Moncrief: Let me say first when you were talking about people eating less meat and vegetarians going vegan because the best thing that I’ve ever done on an individual level, so being able to do this organization work has a much greater impact than what I do as an individual, but as an individual, it’s the best thing I have ever done. I was working on my Master’s degree on international poverty issues and I had been a vegetarian out of concern for animals and like a lot of people thought “oh well it’s one thing if I don’t eat meat but I can’t tell people in poor countries that they can’t eat meat.” And when I started learning about the issues and how meat consumption actually harms the people in the poorest of the poor countries, especially women and children which we don’t have time to get into, that’s when it all came together for me and it became my life’s mission. Why is there not more attention being paid to this, it’s so common sense. It’s so easy relative to trying to find new technologies that also have all kinds of backlash and consequences that we don’t know about and why isn’t this being paid more attention. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. I really hope people will look at that and see what the possibilities are. This is another tool in our toolbox of making the world a better place. I don’t have to constantly think of reasons why it’s ok. I really feel sorry for people who haven’t been able to take the step. I think of it in terms of an addiction of constantly having to think about the animals, you can’t think about the animals. You have to take a lot of time to not think about the animals. They kind of pretend that they are ok somehow. I just wanted to put that out there.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s this attitude, and people had it more so with cigarettes a few decades ago and it’s definitely changed where people felt that they could do whatever they wanted and they had the right to do it and it didn’t matter. And I always thought that, yeah if you want to do something that negatively affects your health go right ahead but when it affects everyone else, that’s when it’s a problem. And so cigarettes started really to take off not only when we found out it caused lung cancer and killed people but this second generation smoke really helped things take off. You know the rest of us didn’t want to get sick too. It’s the same, it’s the same with meat. Let’s not talk about the ethical part of it which is the most important part for me but in terms of the environment, you know we’re all breathing the same air. We need to take care of this planet together and people may like their meat but it really is inconsiderate.
Dawn Moncrief: On so many levels. I also think those are very direct consequences for other people who are not meat eaters or vegan, vegetarian, whatever, you don’t have to have a label, so those are very direct but also the indirect—the hospital costs. Heart disease is the number one killer for men and women…
Caryn Hartglass: …totally preventable and unnecessary.
Dawn Moncrief: It’s diet related for sure and we just accept it like it’s normal. It’s not normal…. We’ve got those increased hospital costs that we deal with as a public not just the individual. The cost to your family, the personal cost and loss is very important, the same thing with seatbelts and motorcycle helmets. A lot of people think of them in terms of personal decisions but you get in an accident, I help pay for those hospital costs and even worse is what it does to your family and friends and people who care about you.
Caryn Hartglass: Dawn I want to thank you, we’ve come to the end of the hour. We could talk about this all day and we do. The one thing I want to end on is people who are not eating a healthy plant based diet don’t know how good they can feel until they do and so I welcome you all to join us. We’re really happy and love our food and you’re going to feel the best that you possibly can and do great things for the planet.
Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 3/5/2013