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Gary De Mattei, The Lone Vegan Documentary
GARY DE MATTEI has over thirty years in the performing arts as an actor, director, producer, writer and filmmaker. He co-founded and operated Theater on San Pedro Square (1999-2008) a 200 seat performance venue and resident theatre company in San Jose, CA. He moved to New York in 2008 after pledging the Theatre On San Pedro Square venue and all of its assets to a local theater company where the venue continues to serve the community as an intersection for the arts. Gary is the writer of Eating Dis Order, Eating Dat Order, a musical spoofing food shows and fad diets that ran for seven months in Northern California. New York credits as an actor include: Marry Me the Musical (Ben) New York Musical Theatre Festival; The Lucy Nightmare (Cliff), The Emerging Artists Theatre. Gary currently serves on the board of Responsible Eating And Living and produces their video programing. More about Gary at his website, garydemattei.com
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. It’s a lovely June 17, 2014 here in New York City. I wanted to tell you a number a things, Responsible Eating and Living, my non-profit organization, has been in the news. So in The American Vegan magazine – are you familiar with the American Vegan Society? Gosh, they’ve been around a really long time, and we are in their summer 2014 edition with some recipes, and a nice picture of the swinging gourmets. I’ll be talking about that in a little bit, and it was just really funny to see that in their magazine. This is an organization run by Ann and Freya Dinshah, and Ann will be back on the show next month. She’s got a book out that was authored by herself and her father, posthumously, actually. Her father passed about fourteen years ago, and it’s called Powerful Vegan Messages, so I’m looking forward to that. And then, we were also in the San Diego Jewish Journal, beautiful magazine, and one of our new recipes, a vegan Gefilte fish Passover, which is really a great recipe for any time of the year – it’s a nice little appetizer. It’s in their beautiful colored magazine, so that was exciting. And we are in another magazine called, Range, and I’m going to talk about that a little bit later, because first, I want to talk about The Lone Vegan documentary, Preaching to the Fire, with my co-producer and director of that program, Gary De Mattei. He has over thirty years in the performing arts as an actor, director, producer, writer, and filmmaker. Gary, how are you doing today?
Gary De Mattei: Hello Caryn Hartglass, how are you?
Caryn Hartglass: Good to be talking to you on It’s All About Food.
Gary De Mattei: It is all about food, isn’t it?
Caryn Hartglass: It is.
Gary De Mattei: I mean everything – it’s all about food.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Gary De Mattei: So when do we eat?
Caryn Hartglass: Haha, I’m starving.
Gary De Mattei: I know. So how are you? How’s everything going today for you in New York City?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m exhausted!
Gary De Mattei: You are?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, we work very hard at Responsible Eating and Living.
Gary De Mattei: Yes, we do.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, people may know that Gary De Mattei is the co-founder of Responsible Eating and Living, so…we do a lot of work here together. Now, I mentioned –
Gary De Mattei: Always fun and joyous work.
Caryn Hartglass: Joyous work…yes.
Gary De Mattei: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Delicious, joyous work.
Gary De Mattei: It is.
Caryn Hartglass: It is delicious. Now, I’ve been mentioning for a week that there’s this Lone Vegan documentary I was invited to speak to 250 cattle producers after a – before a bull sale – at a feedlot in Barrington, Nevada, and Gary joined me. He was – I was the Lone Vegan and Gary was my side dish, Tofu.
Gary De Mattei: Yes, tofu, and I called you “Teriyaki.”
Caryn Hartglass: -laughs-
Gary De Mattei: Which was a play on “Kemosabe.”
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Gary De Mattei: I just wanted to clarify that for people out there who didn’t get it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, a lot of people don’t get a lot of things.
Gary De Mattei: Oh yeah, they don’t.
Caryn Hartglass: Unfortunately…but you know teriyaki, even tofu teriyaki, is not always vegan, because there could be ingredients in the teriyaki that aren’t vegan, so you have to be careful.
Gary De Mattei: Well, I’m completely confident that I am the vegan version of tofu teriyaki.
Caryn Hartglass: So, we went to Nevada, and I spoke to 250 cattle producers, and when we came back, we decided it was too incredible of an event, and we had to do a documentary about it and tell the story. And that’s where you come in, Gary – telling the story.
Gary De Mattei: Well, first of all, as you’ve mentioned, it’s just making any film or piece of theater or writing about anything, you really want to have a good story to tell. And this was an incredible story to tell and it shouldn’t be confused with being a part of the Kickstarter rewards, because we actually funded the research that The Lone Vegan had to do in order to talk to 250 cattle producers in Yerington, Nevada with a Kickstarter program. And what I really want everyone to know is that this was something we did completely on our own, separate from that, as sort of a Valentine to not only those folks that participated in our kick starter, but also to everyone else out there who may be, even familiar with this plant based movement that seems to be taking hold quite vigorously throughout the world, and has been for quite some time. So, it’s also a really great story to tell about the movement and all of the hardworking activists out there that are part of that movement, yourself included of course, and this incredible story about you actually going away from the fold as it were and talking to the folks that are responsible for producing the animal products that are consumed by not only our country, but around the world.
Caryn Hartglass: It feels a whole lot different preaching to the choir and preaching to the friar.
Gary De Mattei: Yeah, and when I saw that as an objective – oh, I wasn’t objective, but you know, as an observer of that, trying to remain objective, it was an incredible story that had to be told. So, we went – when a filmmaker gets a hold of something like this, you have to figure out what your objective is in telling the story, and you should also – and any good writer will notice as well, or anyone who creates art will know that – they always have someone in mind when they’re writing whatever it is they’re writing, or when they’re making a film, that they want to be either reading it or it could be watching it. And those that I had in mind were those that really aren’t familiar with the plant-based movement, what being a vegan is, and how – I think that that sort of was reflected with why – Lucy Snyder, who is one of the lead characters of this documentary –
Caryn Hartglass: The feedlot owner.
Gary De Mattei: Right, who she really wanted to have her people, her choir, kind of meet face to face, which is why I think her intentions were not to throw you to the wolves, but to actually have the wolves actually take a good look at you and to see that you’re just like them, and they’re just like you.
Caryn Hartglass: One of the things that amazed me was she really believed she was doing good things. She thought she was treating her animals well, and she thought if we would go and see the feedlot, we would change our minds about animal agriculture.
Gary De Mattei: Right. Of course, had you seen the film –
Caryn Hartglass: That really surprised me.
Gary De Mattei: Had you seen the film, it didn’t change your mind.
Caryn Hartglass: Haha, it didn’t happen.
Gary De Mattei: No, and I had a theory about that too, that we tried to touch on in the film, without really preaching, because I think it’s a great story without preaching – one of the things that’s interesting is that whenever I talked to folks who aren’t vegan, who don’t have a plant based diet, but they’ve adopted completely, they always say to me, “Don’t show me any of those videos or any of those horrible things from the slaughterhouses because I’m just not going to look. It’s not going to change my mind. I’m not going to stop eating meat. I just – stop showing me that stuff.” And so, who I had in mind when I was making this film was the audience out there that didn’t want to see any horrific images of animals – animal cruelty – but wanted to, were maybe curious about taking the first step, because I know a lot of the time, we could all be – we could all turn off something that we don’t want to see, and not want to listen to the truth. And this is a very – and I swear in the film once – but I think for the most part, if you cover your ears at that one point, it’s pretty much, it’s a rated G kind of experience the whole family can watch. And it’s really a celebration of what good work is being done, not only in the vegan world, but also in, more specifically, in what we’re trying to do at Responsible Eating and Living, and it was like a little Valentine to those folks that have been a part of, not only It’s All About Food, this great program that you are now in your…?
Caryn Hartglass: Fifth year.
Gary De Mattei: Fifth year of presenting all of these wonderful cookbook authors and nutritionists and doctors and people who want a better world, basically, and they’re hardworking, and it’s just really one of the only platforms that they can be heard, and so, that’s wonderful.
Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to talk about, you mentioned how people don’t want to see these films where animals are being slaughtered, because they’re really horrific. So, what we show is the feedlot, the animals, the cows, and the heifers and the bulls, that are in these pens, standing on dirt, crowded together. And this is their day-to-day life. No, they’re not being slaughtered there, but their life is misery. And you see that.
Gary De Mattei: Yea, and the funny thing is, I know that there’s a lot of smart people out there and I don’t need to narrate what – why we did what we did, but we wanted to show was – they’re taken from the pastures and they’re put on dirt. And as you have mentioned in the film and on your show and in several other arenas throughout the country and throughout the world, cattle should be grazing all day. And so what they do purposely is that they put them on this plot of dirt, so that they can’t eat, and they feed them twice a day. And that really got to me, because that was horrific enough, just to connect the dots there and say, “Wow, I get it now. I get why they are on these barren strips of Earth,” – because they don’t want them eating. They want them eating what they want to feed them, and that to me seems horrifically cruel in and of itself. And the other thing is, if you really do want to tell a story, it should be told nonviolently. To tell the story about violence, I feel that it should be told in a nonviolent way. I think there’s enough people out there that are smart enough to connect the dots and to see what comes next, I mean, it’s that little thing that’s buried deeply in your subconscious, that tells you, well these are pretty cows, but they’re going to go off to slaughter and then they’re going to be – they’re going to end up on my dinner table. And I think this is always in someone’s mind, because I think people are intelligent, and they give – and if they say they don’t want to see it, that to me is a sign that they really do want to know more about it. So, hopefully they’ll watch this film and really get an idea of what these animals go through, and without having to see the violence, because activism in and of itself is a wonderful way to get a message out there, but it can also, in and of itself, have a lot of violence attached to it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, I want to talk a little more about that, because we see it all the time within our own community – this violence, this anger. If someone is promoting a campaign, a project – a vegan, let’s say – and another vegan doesn’t like the way they package it, then they start arguing and telling them what to do. Or another example is, I posted this documentary on several Facebook groups, and I mentioned Robert Goodland, because we talk about him in the film, I’ve interviewed him on this show – he unfortunately passed in December. He was called the “voice” or the “Conscience of the World Bank,” he’s an environmentalist assessment specialist, or he was, and put out some wonderful articles. And there are some people who just don’t agree with what he had to say that are part of the vegan movement, and they just get really angry about it, and there’s – it’s great to have a discussion, it’s great to have a conversation, it’s great to have communication, but I’m not into the violence.
Gary De Mattei: I’m glad you brought that up, because that was also part of what you and I had talked about with respect to telling our story. We just wanted to have a conversation about what had happened, so we had brought it into the apartment, and we called it “Tea in 3C”, and we kept it very low-key and very real, because we wanted the audience to come into our own lives and sit at our table and be a part of our group, and feel at home with what we were trying to say. And so, it’s really important, when you’re telling a story, even in the theater when you go to a film, what’s wonderful is to sit around at the table afterwards and discuss what it was that you just saw that had some sort of an impact on you. And, I think a nonviolent story is far more compelling than a story with a lot of graphic images of the horrific things that we all know are happening behind those walls in the slaughterhouses. And yes, it’s important to show that, but that’s not what we’re about at Responsible Eating and Living, and there are other groups that show – that have brave reporters that go out there, undercover, and unmask these horrific conditions, but I personally feel that everyone knows what’s going on in a slaughterhouse. And personally, as a filmmaker, I feel that I’m going to give credit where credit is due. People know that animals are being executed so that they can eat them, but what they don’t probably know is that the amount of food that is grown to feed these animals that then gets slaughtered and put on your table is ridiculous.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s so inefficient.
Gary De Mattei: And there should never, ever be a case of any nation going hungry, because – and what we also try to do at Responsible Eating and Living, as you know, is we try to take these simple ingredients of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and turn them into these wonderfully delicious products that people will realize that if they just got back into their kitchen and started cooking again, or even started to go to some of these restaurants that are now popping up everywhere that produce plant based foods, that they won’t miss meat at all. As a matter of fact, they’ll start to wake up, as I did seven years ago, and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I actually thought this stuff tasted good,” because it’s really all about the marketing. And that’s the thing everyone in this nation, including me and before I switched to a plant based diet, has really got to battle, and that is the marketing – the tremendous amount of marketing money that goes into convincing everyone in the world that these products are tasty and good for you and something that you are supposed to have because you’ve worked hard all day and now it’s time for you to kick back and eat that 42 pound bucket of flesh that has this wonderful barbeque sauce on it. So – and the barbeque sauce is normally made with plants, so of course, what you’re tasting is groovy barbeque sauce that is wonderful and yummy, and the stuff underneath is just salted and sugared and a lot of fat that you think is the real reason why you’re eating it and you need it, but as far as I’m concerned…
Caryn Hartglass: It’s the barbeque sauce, and you came up with a great barbeque sauce that we use all the time.
Gary De Mattei: It’s always the sauce.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s the sauce.
Gary De Mattei: The French knew that, and that’s why they took organs from inside a cow that no one would dare eat, and sauced them with this incredible – wonderful sauces and made them palatable…sort of.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s go back to Barrington for a minute. You were watching the panel and the debate and the questions afterwards. Did anything surprise you?
Gary De Mattei: Yea, everything surprised me. First of all, they didn’t shoot you, and that was surprising. I was happy for that. And the other thing is that they listened to you, and they really got you.
Caryn Hartglass: They did listen.
Gary De Mattei: They listened, and they appreciated you being there, proving that everyone is the same, and some of us are just caught in a trap where we have to do these things to make a living. And what you left them with, which was also really wonderful, was some ideas on what – what industries are coming on the scene – and there was really so much more we wanted to say in the documentary, but we wanted to keep it to around 70 minutes. But, we talked to them about a lot of products, that you have also interviewed, the folks that are responsible for these products on your show, beyond meats and beyond eggs, and things of that nature. But yea, I was really surprised that they really, really listened and really appreciated you, and they all basically wanted to come up to you and talk to you afterwards, and I think there’s a couple of things that we say in the film that are very important. One of them is that one woman asked you, “Where does God fit into all of this?” and I think your answer was – was something that I thought was one of the objective of the show, which was to say, well…why don’t you explain it?
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think if people want to know what I said, they should watch the documentary and find out.
Gary De Mattei: That’s a good idea. That’s a great idea.
Caryn Hartglass: So, if you want to know where it is, I’ll repeat this a few times, but you can go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and scroll down the homepage and you’ll find the link to it. The link is www.responsibleeatingandliving.com/lonevegan.htm, and you can watch it at anytime, it’s 70 minutes. I would plan a movie night and, you can go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and look up our popcorn recipes and make some popcorn and watch the documentary.
But some of the other questions, you know when I started my talk before the panel discussion began – I opened with a number of things, but one thing I said was, “I get plenty of protein, and I get protein where your cows get their protein: from plants.” Because right away, I didn’t want anybody asking me, “Where do you get your protein?” So, I thought I covered that, but then they came up with other questions – you just can’t answer them all at once, and they’re always going to ask them. So they were concerned, “Would we get enough iron on a plant based diet?”
Gary De Mattei: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: And, “Could you grow enough leafy green vegetables if everybody was eating plants and not animals?” And they really – we looked at those mountains of feed. There was corn, there was brown rice holes, there was ground up almond holes that they feed these animals, and if you could replace those things, or at least feed those things to people – maybe not the almond holes – but certainly the corn, and people were eating brown rice instead of white rice, they wouldn’t have those mountains of the outside kernel of the brown rice to feed the animals, and we wouldn’t even be growing things if we weren’t feeding them to animals. We could feed all the wonderful foods that people need to eat, and just be done with it. It will be efficient, and we wouldn’t be growing misery.
Gary De Mattei: And another point we make in the film is that there are 70 billion, that’s billion with a “b,” land animals –
Caryn Hartglass: Land animals –that doesn’t even include fish.
Gary De Mattei: – that are slaughtered per year.
Caryn Hartglass: Right.
Gary De Mattei: Per year, which was staggering, and –
Caryn Hartglass: And 7 billion people on the planet…
Gary De Mattei: 7 billion people on the planet. So they’re growing food to feed 70 billion land animals per year, which then get slaughtered, and there are 7 billion people on the planet. So if they grow – I think what we try and point out is that there’s enough – we could grow enough food to feed the entire world.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, and people will give you all kinds of arguments. They’ll say, “Well, the big chunk of that 70 billion number is chickens,” although I think there are about 10 billion cattle that are grown, something like that, anyway the numbers are outrageous, and a lot of them are chickens, that are smaller and die early. But, we still could grow so much food for people and to have lots of land left over, if we weren’t killing animals. And I just wanted to mention that there was an article in The Guardian that came out today about chicken, and I think of my dad when I read articles like this. If you can’t solve the problem, eliminate the problem. And the problem they say is – it’s about Great Britain – and their food standards agency, and they’re recommending not to wash chicken before cooking it, because when you wash the chicken, many people may know this, if they have that salmonella in it, you spread it all over the place, you get it on your utensils and in your sink and on your cutting board, and it wreaks havoc and spreads, and you get really sick from it. And, it’s the [22:58…] actually that’s contaminating the chicken. So they’re telling people, “Don’t wash your chicken before you cook it.” And I’m thinking, “Don’t eat chicken.” End of problem.
Gary De Mattei: Right. That’s right.
Caryn Hartglass: Crazy.
Gary De Mattei: That’s another objective of the show – oh well, you just have to watch the film, everybody. You need to, because it’s a great film, and now we’re entering it in different …I don’t know if you say “contests,” but…
Caryn Hartglass: Well, they’re documentary…festivals or submissions, yea.
Gary De Mattei: But we want you all to see it, it’s our gift to you. It’s absolutely free like everything else we do, online, and we – we keep our doors open at Responsible Eating and Living with donations from viewers like you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, so of course we want to say that if you do like the film, we would really appreciate your support with a donation, because we could use it and put it to more good use.
Gary De Mattei: Absolutely. And the other thing is, what you were just saying is, I think there’s going to be a lot of arguments about a lot of different things – that’s what people want to do, they want to find one little thing that they can then pinpoint and then blow that up to make that all about the discussion, and we have a tendency to be myopic. We, for some reason, don’t lose that when we grow up, but 70 billion land animals, whether or not they’re chickens or cattle or pigs –
Caryn Hartglass: Pigs. A lot of pigs.
Gary De Mattei: – not even counting the fish, are being slaughtered each year to feed people, and if you want to try and dispute that number between the chickens and the hogs and the cows, I mean that’s fine, you could probably argue about that. But just the idea that we have that kind of violence going on day-to-day here, throughout the world says a lot about why there’s violence reflected in other areas of our lives. I think as soon as we start eliminating the violence to all of our own creatures, not just human beings, but all of living things…
Caryn Hartglass: It will be a nicer planet.
Gary De Mattei: I think it will be a nicer planet. And that’s kind of what we wanted to say with the film.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Gary! Thank you! Thank you for coming on the show with me today and thank you for being the great storyteller that you are – creating and directing The Lone Vegan documentary, The Lone Vegan Preaching to the Fire.
Gary De Mattei: My pleasure. Thank you for what you do as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, you’re awesome. Talk to you later, Gary.
Gary De Mattei: See you later Caryn, bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye.
Transcribed by Dorene Zhou, 6/26/2014