Part I – Hope Bohanec
Hope Bohanec has been active in animal protection and environmental activism for over 20 years and is a nationally recognized leader and speaker in the animal protection movement. Many years ago while living eighty feet off the ground in a redwood tree so it would not be cut, Hope dedicated herself to animal and environmental causes, and has since organizing countless events, demonstrations, and fundraisers. She has lead campaigns like getting the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to sign a VegDay Resolution encouraging meat-free eating in the city and was the Sonoma County Coordinator for a statewide proposition to help protect farm animals. She co-founded the North Bay’s Compassionate Living Outreach while working as the Campaigns Director at In Defense of Animals. Hope lives with her soul mate and co-author, Cogen Bohanec, in Penngrove, California, just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge where they have been blissfully married for 13 years.
Caryn Hartglass: Hi I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to It’s All About Food, thank you for joining me today. Now, from time to time, I like to talk about animals, because when it comes to being about food, animals are a big part of the conversation. As you probably know if you’ve been listening to me for awhile, my motivation behind talking about food and my motivation for what I choose to eat today started when I thought about animals when I was a teenager, and decided that I didn’t want to kill other sentient beings. I started to realize what it was that was on my plate and it wasn’t an it but it was a who, a he or a she, something that wanted to live its life as passionately as I did and wanted to roam freely, make his or her own choices, and that’s led me on the path hat I’ve been on ever since. We talk about health and the power of plant food, we talk about the environment, but for me, my motivation is the animals. We talk about animals from time to time and we’re going to be talking about them right now. I’m going to bring on my first guest, Hope Bohanec, she’s got a new book out called The Ultimate Betrayal. She has been active in animal protection and environmental activism for over twenty years and is a nationally recognized leader and speaker in the animal protection movement. Many years ago while living eighty feet off the ground in a redwood tree so it would not be cut, Hope dedicated herself to animal and environmental causes, and has since organized countless public education campaigns, demonstrations, and fundraisers, she has lead campaigns like getting the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to sign a VegDay Resolution encouraging meat-free eating in the city and was the Sonoma County Coordinator for a statewide proposition to help protect farm animals. She co-founded the North Bay’s Compassionate Living Outreach while working as the Campaign’s Director for the international animal protection organization, In Defense of Animals. Hope lives with her soul mate and co-author, Cogen Bohanec, in Penngrove, California, just an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge where they have been blissfully married for 13 years. Welcome Hope to It’s All About Food!
Hope Bonahec: Thank you Caryn, glad to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: So you’ve been working at this a long time. Why did you decide to write The Ultimate Betrayal now?
Hope Bonahec: I’ve been in a long time, as you said. I’ve been vegan for 24 years and the conversations that I’ve been having with people about animal agriculture and how animals are being raised. The conversations have been shifting over the last 5 years or so to something different. Something new and having conversations with people, especially in the area that I’m in, in Sonoma County north of San Francisco, there has been a big movement, the slow food movement, the know your farmer and farmer’s markets. A lot of it is really great stuff. We’re really starting to look at our plates and care what’s there and wonder about where it came from, so there are good things. But something that’s happening is people are starting to say, oh well when I’m talking about animal products, meat, dairy eggs, oh but my eggs are free range, my meat is organic. They almost feel like the conversation has ended, the animals are happy, everything’s ok now, and they’re doing the right thing. So I felt it was something to be looked and really needed to be deeply researched and that’s what I did with this book The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat? The thing I want to tell those people is thank you so much for caring, thank you for caring into what you’re eating and actually speaking out labels and products that are doing better for the animals and for the environment, but did you know the truth behind those labels. Do you know the truth? What’s really going on with those labels. That’s what I really go into in the book, those ethically, what the animals’ lives are really like on these supposedly alternative farms. Also the environmental impact. Is it more sustainable and it’s really interesting what I found.
Caryn Hartglass: I think there’s two things going on here and it makes our job doubly difficult and one is the fact that over the last hundred years or so, we’ve been moving towards all sorts of industrialization and our food has become synthetic. It’s not fresh, it’s not real, it’s not whole. Many people today are eating foods that have been so manipulated in so many different ways and we see detrimental effects with our health and with the environment. but the other thing is something that has being going on as long as humanity’s been around at least. Humans have been eating animals, that’s something that’s been going on for a long time and hasn’t changed and now we’re starting to think about it, although there have been cultures all through humanity’s history that have had people that have abstained from eating animals or exploiting animals. So our job is doubly difficult now. The good thing is that, as you said, people are starting to think about their food and where it comes from and I think it’s important, too, to align with those people on the issues that we agree with: getting whole fresh, locally grown when possible, healthy food, plant food, not genetically modified and change our food systems around. Now let’s get to the ultimate betrayal. I read your book and there’s a lot of important information in there, I’ve highlighted a few of it and hopefully we can get to some of it. The first thing that popped up was the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. Can you explaim what that is?
Hope Bonahec: The fascinating thing that happened just recently there was a group of scientists, neurological biologists, brain and emotion and psychological types scientists that got together, had a conference, summit type event, and they wrote the document, the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. What they basically were saying is that animals have the same cognitive abilities, the same emotional capacities as humans and this is groundbreaking and really amazing. It comes from just this body of science. All these scientists have done all these different studies and they all have come together now and said this is the finding, this is the declaration. Animals have the cognitive ability and emotional capacity just like humans. Something that’s happened in the last maybe 10 years is that we’re finally realizing that animals suffer, that they’re not just automatons, they’re not just machines. They are feeling beings that actually can experience pain as we do, they can suffer like we do, but this is a step further. This is saying that they have the emotional capacity to feel misery, to be sad, to be joyous, to be celebratory. All those things that are unique to humans, no, no, now science thinks that we need to open that circle up in our minds to animals as well.
Caryn Hartglass: This information is hard to swallow, figuratively and literally. I think we see it with our companion animals that people like to call pets, the animals that some people choose to live with, many people realize the personalities that their companion friends have and all the emotions that they feel. Many people know this, even people that eat meat, and then you wonder why they aren’t connecting the dots. You quoted Captain Machado I think, killing dogs is a felony and you get jail time, but then killing hundreds, thousands of cows, you get a paycheck.
Hope Bonahec: Many, many people recognize that dogs and cats have these emotional capacities, that they know that when they come home, their dog gets excited and happy, they know that when they’re about to go out on a walk the dog is all excited, anticipating the future happiness they can have on that walk. There’s a lot of emotion, rich emotion going on with the dog and cats, but somehow we have put farm animals in a different category. Of course, what does this do, it makes it easier for us to exploit them, easier for us to eat them. People really believe that somehow, farm animals don’t have the same capacity for these feelings, emotions, and rich emotional lives. It’s just this I don’t know what, this disconnect that we’ve been able to put them in this category. Even to the extent in our laws. We have comprehensive animal cruelty laws for cats and dogs. Like you were saying, Captain Machado of the Marin Humane Society, she’s been there over 20 years and she sees it all the time. What someone could get away with and everyone would be horrified the way they treated dogs, abusing a dog, if they do the same kind of horrible things to farm animals and it’s overlooked, it’s considered an agricultural exemption, that’s often what it’s called, or reasonable care standard, meaning that the procedure in agriculture is necessary, it’s commonplace to making a profit, so because of that, it’s not considered cruel in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of local animal control, but it absolutely is cruel. We have exempted farm animals from those standards, both in the law and in our own perception.
Caryn Hartglass: In your book, you go over lots of different terms and I wanted to touch on some of them and they’re important and you mentioned it in the beginning of the show as well, there are people, conscious consumers, whatever they may call themselves where they feel like where their food is coming from and they want to know if they’re eating animals, they’ve been raised well. We hear terms like grass-fed, free-range, and humane. What do these things really mean?
Hope Bonahec: I go into extensive detail on each of these labels in the book and each label means different things. There’s a wide range of variants from the conventional standard, factory farm, to a more small scale, more, the supposedly humane farm. There’s so many variables an in betweens. Something that all these farms have in common are these inherent cruelties you just can’t get away from. Yes, some of them may give them a little more space, some of them may have them out of cages, but that’s not the only misery that these animals endure and it’s not the only hardship of their lives. A good example would be Clover Dairy. It’s a very popular dairy here in Northern California, Oregon, Washington area. Clover Dairy very much uses terms that helps them sell their products as humane. They actually have the American Certified Humane label and that’s supposed to be the best of the best as far as humane goes. I talked to one of the managers at Clover Dairy and I asked her, so what happens to the calves when the calves are born? She says well they get taken away. I said, right at birth? She says, oh yeah, well right at birth or soon after. I said, well wouldn’t you consider that cruel? This poor calf is going to have to be torn from its mother, the mother who just carried this baby is never going to be able to experience that bonding and love. I mean that’s extreme cruelty and they just don’t see it that way. Not necessarily that they don’t see it that way, but they have to do it to make a do it. They have to sell that milk. There’s no other way to do it, it’s inherent in the industry. So there are these inherent cruelties that they can never get away from. I asked what happens from the baby males? The baby females of course are separated and then go back into the industry, but what happens to the baby males, a waste product, they don’t give milk? So they go to auction, often for veal, sometimes just for meat, and certainly not in another certified humane someplace. The industries are so unfortunately reliant on the cruelty and the way things are. There’s just no way to make a profit and be humane. Cows go to slaughter within 5 or so cycles, years of having babies. Their body begins to be depleted from all the intense strain of pregnancy after pregnancy and then they’re going to go to slaughter as well and maybe that’s the equivalent of their teens. A cow can live to be 20 years but they’re going to slaughter at 4. First of all there’s so little difference in a commercial operation and these supposedly certified human operations but there’s things they cannot get away from. Also, I want to point out labels that we’re talking about. Local, grass-fed, all these. There is so little regulation and so little oversight on these labels. Most of these labels, all the farmer has to fill out a form and they send it to the USDA and the USDA gives it a stamp of approval and sends it right back. No one goes out to the farm, no one goes out to see. There’s so little oversight that it’s very sad.
Caryn: Who did you write this book for?
Hope Bonahec: I wrote this book to people. I had two target audiences. The main target audience is people who are seeking these alternatives, they hear about the factory farming and our concerned for the animals, and they’re kind of Whole Foods and they’re going to Trader Joe’s and they’re looking for these labels and they’re wanting to do something better. I really want them to know the truth and to know the whole picture and not just to hear what that company has to say, because that company is trying to sell a product and they’re not going to give you the whole story of what happens to those animals. So I want to give the story and give the truth behind those labels. My secondary audience, though, is definitely vegans and vegan activists because I want us to be informed of these things because the conversation is shifting. We’ve got the factory farming talk, we know that phrase. This is a new story and a new page that animals are being raised and things are being labelled. I’m hoping that they’ll get good information. In the book I have wonderful scientific studies, great stories, of the animals, some of the animals that have been rescued from these small scale farms. They’ll have stories and science to tell when they’re talking to people about these issues.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree for the second audience, they’re the ones who are already with us, the activists. This is a great read to have information in their pocket to give to people because a lot of other people are going to be talk about slow-food and humane farming. This is really important for them.
Hope Bonahec: I’ve actually had a lot of vegans and vegan activists tell me that they’ve learned so much. They went into the book thinking probably that they would already know a lot of it but they learned a lot because it kind of is a new world with all these labels. There’s a lot to learn.
Caryn Hartglass: There definitely is. I love these stories and it’s so important to include individual stories about individual sentient beings. These aren’t individual people stories, these are individual animals stories and they’re really, really beautiful. We just have a couple minutes left and I wasted to talk about some of the good news. You mentioned that meatless or meat free products grew 21% in the last couple of years from 2009 to 2011, very encouraging.
Hope Bonahec: Actually, if that trend continues, if that exponential growth rate continues, 80% of America will eat vegan by 2050. It’s so exciting and so amazing, and who knows that could happen at that kind of growth rate, but it’s really pushing forward. I also talk about how I’ve seen, personally, such an amazing shift in the 24 years. Back when I first went vegan 24 years ago, all there was was powdered soy milk you had to add to water, and it was chalky and terrible and if you wanted a cookie, you had to bake it. There was nothing. Now it’s everywhere, we’ve got vegan donuts, everyone knows the word now when you go into a restaurant. We’ve come to far in such a short period of time.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s no reason not to do it because the food is delicious and even if you choose to eat a very health promoting, plant based, clean diet, the food is delicious, it’s incredible.
Hope Bonahec: Everywhere, you can buy it everywhere.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s your website so people can find out more about your book?
Hope Bonahec: It’s the title of the book, dashes in-between the words: www.the-ultimate-betrayal.com.
Caryn Hartglass: Just before we go, I just wanted to mention one other item that Democrats and Republicans, this goes beyond party lines, there’s an equal number of vegetarians between them. It’s so encouraging.
Hope Bonahec: Isn’t that awesome? There’s something we can all agree on. Animals can be treated with respect.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you, Hope for joining me on It’s All About Food, I really enjoyed your book and wish you all the best with it.
Transcribed by Mei Chin, 11/17/2013