Part II – Harold Brown
Harold Brown, a character in the documentary Peaceable Kingdom, The Journey Home, spent over half of his life in agriculture. Growing up on a beef farm in Michigan and later working in the dairy industry. Harold has been involved in the behind the scenes operations of food production that uses animals. Today Harold is an activist advocating for sustainable food production, social and environmental justice, animal rights and peace through non-violence.
CARYN: Hello everybody I’m back. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. It is April 30th, 2013. I really want to say again if you have any comments and questions to give me a call now would be a great time because my next guest is, not available at the moment and I’m not sure he’ll be joining us this half hour but we will see if he, does manage to connect with us. But in the meanwhile I am here and I’m going to be talking about my favorite subject food. Which, I can do about 24 hours a day. The number is 1 888 874 4888. I was not surprised at all with my last guest to hear what he had to say about food. Now this was clearly a very skilled very skilled cardiologist and he’s saved many many lives. He wrote a very very loving touching book with wonderful stories. He’s experienced joy and heartache and had people literally die in his arms from time to time. Some of them people that were very dear to him. The thing that he clearly does not know enough about is food. The question is how do we have this disconnect with people who truly care about health and truly care about saving lives and yet, don’t know about something that is so essential. Now part of it of course has to do with all the information that doctors need to learn when their in school and as technology becomes more complicated and more specialized, there are far more information that they need to learn. So I don’t want necessarily to put the blame on them but we do have an obligation. We have an obligation as patients whenever we see our doctors to let them know what our expectations are. For example, I, I don’t go to the doctor very often but when I was getting a full check up, my primary care physician wanted me to go to a cardiologist and have a stress test and a variety of other things. I had this conversation with this cardiologist. He was young and I kept saying to him why aren’t you talking more to me about food? He pointed a checklist to me of the items he talked about to all his patients and diet was either one or two on the top along with smoking. He said he does mention it. But I felt that he didn’t mention it enough. You know you can say in a blank moment you need to change your diet if you want be well. Well it’s more than that. It needs to be enforced that it is essential for health, quality of life, longevity. The patient needs to be responsible as well as the doctor. We can’t just leave our life in someone else’s hands. I’m a big proponent of medical treatment for many many things. Our technology is incredible and there are so many different things we can take care of today with medical treatment. But, we are such an essential part of it. This one doctor that I was just talking to, he discusses in his book we didn’t go over it in detail when I interviewed him but, he did have heart disease. He did have a heart attack. He did have diabetes. He needs to change his diet. It’s that simple if wants to have excellent health. Many people today are promoting this Mediterranean diet. Now this Mediterranean diet is better, than the standard American diet of highly processed foods. But, it’s not the ideal. And I think we are at a point in 2013 the twenty first century where, we don’t know what the ideal diet is I like to say that. But were getting close to, what can really give us quality of life for, a very long time. That needs to get more press. Okay so we’re doing it here at the Progressive Radio Network. And I know there are other people on the progressive radio network who don’t agree with, what I believe is the ideal diet. So there is, a bit of confusion. I get that but, I think we agree on many many things. Most of us who are passionate about nutrition, agree about the power of plant foods. Dark leafy green vegetables are great for boosting the immune system. Raw nuts and seeds – there are a lot studies now that talk about how they are very helpful with heart disease. Creating a healthy healthy body. As I mentioned before, I am in Florida right now and after premiering our Swingin’ Gourmet’s show in California last week. I was really looking forward to relaxing here for awhile in between giving talks. And on Wednesday. Last Wedesday, I was in California and I had a floater shower. Have you ever have you ever heard of that? Some people, some people who are very near sighted see these floaters there like little amoebas that flash across the eyes. On occasion you might see a whole, I, I think of it as like a reverse milky way a, black dot. So I had one of these swim across my eyes. It just lasted a few minutes. It was really a concern to me. But I didn’t think about it until I was here in Florida on Friday and I actually went to the eye institute in Miami. An excellent excellent place, because I was concern that I might have a retinal tear or retinal detachedment. Which, if you don’t take care of it can lead to blindness. This is where going for medical treatment for something like this where we have a lot of great technology is so important. Then somebody recently told me that pineapple is excellent for taking care of floaters. I’m not sure if that’s true or not and if you have any other suggestions, I’m open to hearing about them. But, now we’re going to bring on my next guest. I am so glad that he is with us. Harold Brown is the founder of FarmKind and, he is a character in the documentary “Peaceable Kingdom on the journey home.” He’s spent over half of his life in agriculture growing up on a bee farm in Michigan and later working in dairy industry. Harold has been involved in the behind the scenes operation of food production that uses animals. Today Harold is an activist advocating for sustainable food production, social and environmental justice, animal rights and peace through non violence. “Harold Brown thank you for joining me on “It’s all about food.”
Harold Brown: Well thank you for having me Caryn.
Caryn: Hi, You, I know a little about your story. I’ve been to your website and I’ve seen the Peaceable Kingdom. You know we have some stereotypes about farmers. We see them in films from time to time. There usually very calm, very quiet peaceful people that have some kind of innate connection or learned connection with the rhythms of life and the planet and plants and food. I bring this up because then there’s this kind of disconnect. How do some farmers end up raising animals and slaughtering them when they have what appears to be this deep understanding of the flow of life?
Harold Brown: Well it’s just part of the indoctrination you go through as a child. In my case, the indoctrination started of course with my parents. This is what we do for food and for making a living. Everything just kind of cascades on that. The indoctrination was reinforced by my extended family because I grew up basically on my grandparent’s farm and then surrounding farms were my great uncles. With the larger agricultural community that was around us. 4H, Church, FFA and I went to Lane Grant’s college which, many Lane Grant’s people don’t know are set up to teach farmer’s how to farm. But, I think the largest reinforcer I had to my indoctrination, was television. Basically every time a commercial came on, every commercial break seemed to sell some food product. All those food products had animals in them. Those of us who did that work, we figured well we’re meeting a demand, were feeding a hungry world. We know we’re doing good work. So it’s pretty deeply instilled in our culture.
Caryn: But still as a young person you felt there were something not quite right?
Harold Brown: Yeah, and every farm kid that raises farm animals feel that too. You get attached to the animals and you know the first thing you are taught is don’t name them. Your parents and your grandparents sort of understand that if you make too deep of a connection, you won’t be able to kill and eat them.
Harold Brown: So if you if don’t name then. I mean that actually happened to me when I was, oh golly, I must have been eight years or so. My grandfather had bought at auction had bought a dairy cow. We’ve raised beef cows. We had angus. But he got this Holstein steer and he thought well let’s he’s really big. Let’s see how big he gets and somewhat. But being that he was a dairy cow the Holstein, he was very gentle and the people may not know that dairy cattle have been selectively bred to be docile, so they are easily to handle and milk. Where beef cattle are not. They can be very cantankerous and can be dangerous at times. So my brother and I got attached to this cow and named him Max. One day we came home from school and went to do chores and Max wasn’t there. We asked our grandfather “Where did max go?” He said well we slaughtered him. We freaked out. My grandfather what he did is took all the packages of meat and he took the wax pencil and wrote Max on all the packages. And they went in one end of the freezer and the rest of the meat went to the rest of the freezer. They just knew that when we were going to have hamburger or steak or something, they just didn’t grab Max when we were going to be eating. So, that might sound strange to people but this comes back to the question you had about farmers and their degree of compassion and the disconnect. Obviously, my grandfather was very sensitive to our emotional state and our connection to Max But, on the other hand, it it wasn’t a question of should I stop doing this altogether but rather let’s just mediate the situation right now and have Max labeled so that the boys don’t eat him and that’s how we dealt with that. But, I think too that one thing that one thing a lot of people don’t understand is that by and large most farmers don’t especially, even small farms in particular large farms, they aren’t connected with the transporting and the slaughter even the auctioning of the animals. A lot farmers don’t, are not a part of that because they don’t want to see it or they they know it’s an emotional place they don’t want to go. I’ve known many farmers that were like that. They’ve never been to a slaughter house. They’ve never actually I know some farmers have never actually killed and butchered animal themselves on their own farm. They just left that for somebody else. Again, there are degrees to the disconnect even among farmers. It it’s different for everybody and everybody on this journey at a different point. Yeah, farmers do have a connection a connection I wouldn’t say it’s deeper, I would just say that it’s different. They don’t, want to make that connection but sometimes it does happen. I’ve have this happen in my life. I’ll share a real quick story. When they were showing “Peaceful Kingdom, The Journey Home” in Cleveland, it was two years ago now. It was a huge screening and there were 600 people at this screening and it was during this legislative iniaitive in Ohio called “Ohioans For Humane Farms.” Well evidently, the farm bureau had contacted some dairy farmers in the state and told them go see this animal rights film and you know and, challenge them. Okay well, after the film was over, there were tons of people talking to us and the director of the film and videographer Jenny Stein, she brought this older gentleman over to me. And she said this is a farmer and he’s asking me questions that I can’t answer. I said okay and I got to talking to him and I said so what did you think of the film? Okay he looked and he said well I don’t agree with you know a lot of the stuff that’s in that film but. He stopped short and I said” Well did something in the film kind of speak to you?” and he, he just kind of looked off into the distance in thought and then he just kind of looked me square in the eye and said “What the hell did we do to ourselves?”
Harold Brown: You know this guy got a huge dairy farm in central Ohio. And I was like, and what got him was that the footage of the 4H auction. Every kid who has ever raised livestock and taken animals to the fair via 4H, that first year is the worst. Second year can be almost as bad. But you get desensitized along the way. But that first year is terrible because you spend a year raising a cow, a sheep a pig. And you, they become literally a companion animal.
Caryn: You’re best friend.
Harold Brown: Yes they’re a companion animal. I mean they run to see you when you come home from school and they follow you around you know and just there by your side all the time. And you’re grooming them, and you’re feeding them and you’re taking care of them and you’re taking extra special care of them and they appreciate that, I mean they bond to you. At the end of the fair you have to auction them off. They’re going either to a slaughter house or they’re going to a breeder. Those are the only two places they’ll go. It’s heartbreaking. But the thing as we get, the older we get in particular we tend to, kind of disconnect from that and forget about it. Wait wait, not forget it but we push it down you know we keep it bottled up inside, and then you know for this guy that film you know opened that bottle for him. You know it the genie’s out again. That’s really what it’s about is getting these people to connect to their, you know being honest with themselves emotionally.
Caryn: Well that that 4H concept to me have always been so twisted. And one of the uglier sides of humanity and, and what does it teach us? We developed a bond with an animal and the animal has trust in us and then we break that trust, and it probably leads to, it could lead to a long life of relationships without trust with humans because we treat our animals horribly. We also treat each other horribly.
Harold Brown: Well it’s part of the well, what I call the domestication paradise. It’s when we domesticated animals and farm animals in particular but also cats and dogs. We created this artificial relationship that puts our human interests where they always trump animal interests in the long run.
Caryn: I didn’t know that. I knew that animals had been bred over thousands of years. But I didn’t realize that cows characteristic of being docile were something that was bred into them. Well I learn something new every day and it makes a lot of sense.
Harold Brown: Oh yeah, you have to be able to handle them you have to able to milk them. and so on. They they well they’re also taking that even further it’s like one of the things I talk about occasionally is that people who are championing, welfare reforms. You know I’m telling them be careful what you wish for, because if the only metric you have for or the main metric you have in your activism is the suffering of animals, well there engineering animals now through selected breeding but in particular with dairy cows they used at the frontend a quite a bit of cloning technology. to, develop Holstein, Holstein cows which are showing up in the United States. Which as the researchers , in England, who develop these cows. They call them vegetable animals.
Harold Brown: long story short is what they do is use, a cloning technology which they become fairly successful at but, clones over, second third generation developed a lot of problems and they’re not viable and it’s really expensive. So what they do is within a generation they hyper express a particular characteristic and immediately take genetic material and put it into a regular cow. And then considering that cows gives births every nine months I mean or have a nine month pregnancy. Within two to three years they were able to, hyper express that characteristic in a stable conventional animal. And as the researchers put it they were basically they called them “Zombie Cows” because their frontal cortexes are not operational. In other words, these are cows that are born, basically like it’s had a lobotomy done. They are super easy to handle. I mean and it’s a win for everybody that’s involved because they’re are easier to handle. Well like, well people probably heard stories about when you milk cows, playing soothing music or classical music. My grandfather used to do that. He used to play classical music. The idea is the cows tend to relax more and they give more milk. A little bit more milk. But the butter fat content goes up the less stressed the cow is. The higher the butterfat content. So you got this and that plus everything is connected to the handling grazing and using and the milking of these cows. Now you’re taking the stress out of it so, the farmers are getting a new cow that’s easier to handle, they’re getting more milk. The dairy plants are getting milk that got a higher butter fat content which means you know, better quality quote unquote, dairy products and more of certain things like butter and so on. And premium ice creams. Then, at the other end of the spectrum would be the welfare reform people because now if your metric is suffering, then you know you have an animal that can’t suffer. So now you have a whole new ethical dilemma. What you do when or how can you violate the interest of an animal that cannot suffer, that cannot you know, experience the world?
Caryn: Right. I don’t know. It gives me chills and makes me think of the movie “Cloud Atlas” where they were breeding these young women to live for a year to work as a, sales slave of sorts. Anyway, it’s just very Sci Fi and very creepy.
Harold Brown: Agriculture, especially this day in age. I had one dairy professor in Vermont, who basically you know, was high landien about it. He said I said we can’t treat these animals poorly. I said why do you say that? He said because we are the god.
Caryn: Oh gosh. You know even though these are docile, they must feel pain?
Harold Brown: Oh they do! Absolutely!
Caryn: Yeah, we just we just have only a few minutes left and I wanted to just touch on. I was talking to a cardiologist in the first half of this show and I know that you experience some heart disease earlier in your life.
Harold Brown: Hmm hmm.
Caryn: Was that food related?
Harold Brown: Oh yes, it was, my particular problem were high triglycerides which I got from my father. He died from heart disease as did I from my mother. But the thing for me was with high triglycerides is when you put saturated fats and sugar together, and I like ice cream is the bomb when it comes to high triglycerides and at the time I was working in dairy plant was making this stuff. I was eating, I’m not my wife would swear to this, that I was eating on average eating three gallons a week or more.
Harold Brown: I was just putting myself down a hole. When I got injured at work, at work the doctor, our union doctor and he said this is how you deal with it. I said how come the doctors at work or that work with my dad or at university a Michigan they can’t figure this out? He said well because I am a Osteopath and I have more nutrition training than a MD. I go wow, and that was my first step.
Caryn: (Laughs..) Well, Harold thank you for joining me today and sharing your stories they’re really quite moving and I am so glad that you’re on our side now (laughs) and sharing your stories because we need to be talking so much about this and making the world a better place and you certainly are doing your part. Thank you.
Harold Brown: Thank you for doing the work you’re doing too.
Caryn: Okay, and thank you for joining me again. Your website is FarmKind.org and people can find you there.
Harold Brown: Yes.
Caryn: Watch “Peaceful Kingdom The Journey Home” another great documentary that you are a featured character in. Right?
Harold Brown: Yes and thank you.
Caryn: Okay. Thanks again for joining me. I’m Caryn Hartglass. We’ve come to the end of this program today and visit my website responsibleeatingandliving.com. Send me emails at email@example.com and one more thing, have a very delicious week.
Transcribed by Nelson B. 5/10/2013