Mark Hawthorne, A Vegan Ethic


Mark-Hawthorne-small-72dpiMark Hawthorne is an activist and the author of three books on animal rights and social justice: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing A Life Of Compassion Toward All, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering, and Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism, which empowers people around the world to get active for animals. He stopped eating meat after an encounter with one of India’s many cows in 1992 and became an ethical vegan a decade later. He blogs about activism at, and you’ll find him tweeting @markhawthorne.


Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody. We’re back! Yes, we are and it’s the second part of today’s It’s All About Food show. Thank you again for joining me, for being there. It means a lot to me that you’re there and my next guest is Mark Hawthorne. He is an activist and author of three books on animal rights and social justice of A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All; Bleeding Hearts; The Hidden world of animal suffering; and Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism which empowers people around the world to get active for animals. He stopped eating meat after an encounter with one of India’s many cows in 1992 and became an ethical vegan a decade later. He blogs about activism at and you’ll find him tweeting at Mark Hawthorne. Hi, Mark, I’m happy you’re here to join me today.

Mark Hawthorne: Hi, Cathy. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well you know we spoke a few years ago when you wrote your last book Bleeding Hearts.

Mark Hawthorne: Yes, I remember. That was one of the highlights of my year. [Laughter]. Thank you very much.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh, wow! Thank you! [Laughter] and well, I love, I love this program that I’ve been doing for seven and a half years now and I get to speak too many wonderful people including yourself and including your partner Lauren Ornelas and a learning about all of the great activism that’s going on around the world and you know we can choose to focus on whatever we want to focus on and many people have CNN on all day long and choose hear different sensational stories and listening to political opinions or whatever or we can tune into something completely different and make a powerful positive change for ourselves and feel better about it and also make a great impact on the world so I choose to listen and I choose to read books like something you just wrote A Vegan Ethic. Thank you for writing that book.

Mark Hawthorne: Well, thank you! Yeah, it was, I think, helps fill a gap of there for some vegans and for people who want to go vegan and so it was a great pleasure to write after writing a book on animal exploitation and writing how to guides on animal activism. I really wanted to write a book that was not only a guide to going vegan and an introduction to animal rights, but also a book that explored the connections that different oppressions including speciesism share and also to interview and talk about some of the amazing activists in the world who are not only working on the behalf of animals, but on the behalf of oppressed humans.

Caryn Hartglass: You use the word pleasure and I just find that an interesting word because I mean I want you to enjoy everything that you do and in writing, I hope you get pleasure out of writing, but the things that you write about are not easy topics and the things that you bring out to all of us are not easy things to acknowledge within ourselves. How do you do that?

Mark Hawthorne: Well, in Bleeding Hearts, the second book, the one you and I talked about a few years ago was probably most difficult because I was examining issues that are just so difficult to address not only because of the cruelty that the animals suffer but the fact that the humans are the ones inflicting this pain and suffering and it sometimes can make us feel ashamed to be human. So, with that book, one of the ways I made it easier, not only for myself but for the reader, is to talk about solutions and end each chapter with ways that we can make a difference, ways that we can change and it’s the same with this book. Now, this book, A Vegan Ethic, is much lighter, it doesn’t delve into the nitty gritty of animal exploitation that Bleeding Hearts does. It’s more of an overview, but it also talks about solutions. As I mentioned before, I talked to activists from various walks of life and various social justice issues. People like Patrice Jones at VINE Sanctuary and Breeze Harper at Sistah Vegan Project, a my partner, you mentioned, Lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project and I got their insights on into how they make a difference in the world. How they take all the abuse that is inflicted not only upon non-human animals but also human animals and how they are agents of change and I think that’s very hopeful and I think that the message for the reader is much more pleasurable [laughter] and you close the book which is only one hundred or so pages and you can easily read it on a flight across country. You close the book thinking, “Yeah, there’s a lot going out there, a lot of pain and suffering, but I can make a difference and the first step is to go vegan, but beyond that there’s a lot of other things we can do.”

Caryn Hartglass: There are so many things that we can do and this book is really a great overview of all the so many things that are wrong with the world [laughter] and then the things that we can do about it.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to touch on just a few things that you talked about in the book like for example, you mentioned circuses and I was surprised recently because I was surprised recently because I was familiar with the fact that Ringling Brothers had agreed to stop using elephants I think by 2017 or 2018, I don’t even know what year, but I didn’t realize that they’re still going to be using other animals.

Mark Hawthorne: Ringling Brothers is a tricky situation to discuss. They did promise to stop using elephants in their performances by, I think, it was next year. They actually supposedly ended that practice early, I think it was in May of this year. However, my understanding is that those elephants are going to their “retirement center” in Florida and there’s some question as to what extent those animals will still be exploited. I’ve read that they’re going to be used for cancer research, they still may be used for breeding for zoos, so, that’s the first part of the answer to your question. The second part is, yeah, that’s how they use other animals. I think that the focus has been on elephants for a number of years because they are these very charismatic animals and there’s the use of the bull hook that has been in the news a lot lately which is this, metal device that kind of looks like a fireplace poker. Now it’s got a really sharp end on one side and these people that they call themselves trainers or handlers in the zoo use these instruments to prod, the elephants in very sensitive parts of their anatomy to make them behave in ways that they want them to, that the zoo or circus wants them to behave, and so, you know, when the news has come to light and the activists have brought this to the public’s attention, there was a big outcry, and a lot of cities are even banning bull hooks as a way to eliminate circuses in their cities, but, yeah, we still have a lot of work to do. We still need to get them to not use any animals in their performances.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, the real, one of the great misfortunes is that elephants are kind of a throwback to the dinosaur age these great big animals and they’re near extinction. So, that may solve the problem with using elephants in circuses if we don’t have anymore, unfortunately, but I hope that doesn’t happen.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah, you know, conservationists have predicted that we could lose elephants all together within 20 years. A couple of years ago, they reached a tipping point in the world where there now more elephants being killed than are being born. They’re being killed mainly for their tusks for ivory, but yes, you’re absolutely right, Caryn, we could see the last of elephants in our lifetime which is extremely distressing.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, switching subjects. You clearly make a great effort to bring us all together, connect the dots, have us align on issues and look at everything from a compassionate point of view and I wanted to bring up a couple of things. So, one of the things you bring up in your book is about some of the very unfortunate people who work in these abattoirs, these slaughterhouses, and how it had some undercover videos come out by vegan organizations, animal rights organizations that are trying to fight what’s going on in factory farming and in slaughterhouses and they’re filthy and they’re horrific and even though we may have some regulations, they don’t even follow the few regulations that are out there and these undercover videos come along and show some unfortunate human beings who are treating the animals on the way to slaughter just horrifically and we focus our negative energy on those poor human beings and you brought out some really important issues in your book on that subject.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah, thanks for mentioning slaughterhouse workers. Let me start off by saying that I, I’m not in any way saying that I think that these workers are heroes or that I am blind to the fact that they’re killing animals every day, but I also want to point out that these people are for the most part economic refugees. They come into the United States without any hope of a good life and, you know, they don’t grow up thinking, “Gee, I want to be a slaughterhouse worker when I become an adult.” These are people who are mistreated themselves. They suffer a lot of psychological damage, they suffer physical damage and that starts at the top, you know, it’s how these workers are treated and they in turn mistreat the animals. So, when a group comes in and does an undercover investigation, they’re not really capturing the full story. They’re capturing a few moments of suffering that rightly should be brought to light, I completely agree that what happens in slaughterhouses is abhorrent, but by targeting these people they’re really furthering the oppression of these groups. They are mainly people of color and often they’re simply deported, so what happens is that the owners of the slaughterhouses and the managers working there get off scott free, you know, there’s no accountability for them and in some ways I think we’re going after the wrong people here.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Mark Hawthorne: We’re also overlooking the fact that most of us contribute to this cruelty by eating animal products. Most of us being, you know, people outside the vegan society. So, I think that’s an important thing to recognize as well.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s very misguided. I’ve read a number of books on factory farming and how they talk about the people in the community who are frustrated because they don’t have good jobs anymore and there’s all kinds of problems in their town and all these immigrants have come in and are working in the factory farms and they’re blaming the immigrants, but it’s such a bigger, deeper story and the people in the community don’t realize, the ones who’ve been there originally don’t realize how much they’ve contributed to the problem that has been created. It’s really hard to see the big picture.

Mark Hawthorne: Absolutely, you’re, yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to know your opinion. Are you familiar with the Liberation Pledge?

Mark Hawthorne: Um, I’m familiar with a few pledges. I’m not sure if we’re thinking of the same thing.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I just saw this one online and I’m smiling talking about it, but I’m not sure what I think about it. There’s a pledge that’s going around it’s called Liberation Pledge. It’s at I think you can get a little bracelet that says “Liberation Pledge” and it looks like a fork.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah, I’m familiar with this. Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so it’s supposed to be the public refused to eat animals. Okay, I’m cool with that. Publicly refused to sit where people are eating animals and encouraging others to take the pledge and I’m kind of at odds with publicly refuse to sit where people are eating animals and I thought we could have a little conversation about that. You don’t talk directly about that in your book, but I think you take a very compassionate stance about people and where they are on the food continuum and how we should all engage with each other. This is an interesting pledge.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah. [Laughter].

Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter] Does it have value or is it, I don’t know, I’ll give you an example. When I was about, about 20 years ago, I was living in France and then I came back to New York and that meant that I was near my immediate family, my parents, my brothers family and we would have Thanksgiving together and I said, “Look, I’m a vegan and I would love to have Thanksgiving with you, but I can’t have Thanksgiving if there’s going to be a dead bird on the table and I made a kind of ultimatum. Now, I only did that because it was my parents and I had the kind of relationship that I knew I could do that with them and they were wonderful and they said, “Fine.” No dead bird on the table. We made all these vegan dishes. It was beautiful. When my brother got married and more people came into the picture, it became a very different story and I could not “control” those other people and nor did I want to. So, I ended up compromising and joining in many Thanksgivings. They all agreed not to put the bird on the table. They kept it in the kitchen, but there was meat served and I just thought it was more important to be inclusive with my family than, you know, be militant about my choice.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah, I agree with your point of view. I don’t think there’s much traction that we can gain as activists by refusing to associate with people who are animal exploiters. I realize I’m taking this pledge idea beyond the step that the bracelet and website represent, but, you know, we all for the most of us, we all grew up eating animals and

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Mark Hawthorne: To tell somebody, “I’m no longer going to dine with you if you’re going to consume animals or refuse to be in a room or at a table with people who are eating animals, I think we miss a good opportunity for activism. I was at a, I was at a lunch function one time while I was at a table with about 12 people, a big round table and I had informed the hotel the day before or two days before that I was vegan and I wouldn’t be eating the chicken that they were going to be serving and everybody was served this chicken and I got the roasted vegetables which are sort of the defacto version of a vegan lunch. Fortunately, it’s gotten better in the last couple of years, but anyway, everybody asked me why I didn’t eat chicken or why I wasn’t eating animals and it gave me the opportunity to explain how chickens are raised and politely tell them why I was vegan and obviously it made some people uncomfortable, but I think that over a period of time, you can plant seeds that way.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.

Mark Hawthorne: Whether it’s at a family gathering or you’re with your co-workers at lunch, but, you know, denying that opportunity, you’re not going to advance the vegan cause by only eating with other vegans. So, yeah, that’s my opinion of it.

Caryn Hartglass: Good. [Laughter]. I just saw it like a couple days ago, so I though, ah, I’ll talk to somebody about it and I thought you were a good person to bring it up with. [Laughter].

Mark Hawthorne: Yes, now. Caryn, let me just add, too, that I’ve spoken about this pledge with a few, more than a few other vegans and we’re all aligned in our thinking that it’s kind of not the best idea.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good. Back to your book. A, one of the things I really liked was the frequently asked questions and I found being a vegan since, oh for almost 30 years, anyway. Some of the questions remain the same and then there’s many more questions that keep adding to the pool of questions you ask vegans. People keep hitting the boundaries and finding new questions. You know, why do this or why do that and so these answers are really great and it just fascinates me how people will dig and try and find a reason not to change. [Laughter]. As hard as they can.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah, I think people are by and large creatures of habit and we can also be very lazy and so change is difficult for us.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think it was the second question in your frequently asked question list. I’m not sure which one it was, but it was, “What happens to all the animals when people stop eating them?”

Mark Hawthorne: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And, a, what blew my mind was when I spoke to 250 cattle producers the night before a bull sale at an event I was invited to talk about climate change and these people asked me that question and these are the people that are artificially inseminating their animals and know how they’re creating the hundreds and thousands that they’re raising and yet they still ask, “What would happen?”.

Mark Hawthorne: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that’s, yeah, talk about being a, a, talk about being in denial. I mean, I’m just, [Laughter].

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.

Mark Hawthorne: They just, yeah, and then to think that they are the ones responsible for the suffering not only the suffering but bringing these poor animals into the creation so to speak for a few weeks or a couple of months and then slaughtering them and then asking, “Gee, if we didn’t keep doing this what would happen to them?” Well, that’s, that’s a laughable.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m going to sum up a little of what I got from you and your book, a broad strokes here and that is we are not perfect and we cannot reach necessary an ideal, but we can all do the best we can and we can make tremendous improvement. We may kill a few insects along the way, there may be some damage done, but when we’re mindful and conscious and making intelligent choices we can do a lot of good on the planet.

Mark Hawthorne: I think that’s a perfect way to sum it up and I love that you started off by saying we’re not perfect and that’s one of the messages I’m trying to get across with this book and in fact I emphasize there’s a section there called, Practice makes Progress.

Caryn Hartglass: [Laughter].

Mark Hawthorne: In which I, you know, I, I say that practice might be the way to get to perfection if you’re trying to learn a language or if you’re trying to learn musical instrument, but not necessary for being vegan. Being vegan is not about perfection. So, just, you know, trying every day to do your best and just using progress as your guide and a, trying new recipes and just being aware and being aware for me means being aware of my privilege and that’s another message of the book.

You know, I grew up with a lot of privilege and that’s one of the things that I’m trying to acknowledge and there are white males who have the sort of privileges that I had grown up with and maintain in my life. I think you need to be aware of that too and be conscious of our fellow beings, our fellow humans and animals and try to just be compassionate and that sounds so trite, but it’s really, for some people it can take an effort, you really have to consciously think about it.

You have to make an effort every day to acknowledge the other person and to recognize that in many cases they don’t have the same privilege that a lot of other people do even, you know, having the internet is a privilege, being able to read is a privilege, being able to shop for healthy food in your neighborhood is a privilege. So, there’s so many things that we don’t consider that I’m trying to bring to light here. Trying to remind us of.

Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Okay, so we just have a few minutes left. I was going to ask you right in the beginning of the program a couple of things and you jumped right in and answered one of the right away to some degree which is, “Who did you write this book for?” Maybe we could sum that up again.

Mark Hawthorne: Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: And the other question is, “Where, where do you want this book to go?” Who’d ya, um, ohh, anyway. “Who’s is for and where would you like to it go?” Other than the best seller of the New York Times list. [Laughter].

Mark Hawthorne: [Laughter]. Well, that goes without saying. Ah, it’s written for new vegans or people who want to go vegan. It’s written for long time activists who are interested in social justice, um, and it’s written for people who are vegan and have been vegan for a long time, but haven’t been able maybe to explain to their family and friends in a succinct way why they’re vegan.

Caryn Hartglass: Hmmm.

Mark Hawthorne: So, because it’s short and it’s not graphic, you know, it’s an easy book, to have on your shelf and maybe lend to your parents or to your friends or co-workers and say, “Hey, you know, if you spend a couple hours reading this it will really answer a lot of questions as to why I’m vegan” and maybe inspire in those people a desire to learn more and to maybe think about other social justice issues as well and as far as where I’d like the book to go, I’d really like it to be a launching point for discussion, um, I’m getting interest from a lot of readers who want to use it in their school. They want to have it in their school libraries.

Caryn Hartglass: Hmmm. Hmmm.

Mark Hawthorne: And even from professors who might want to include it in their curriculum for the year and so I really want it to be a discussion point, you know, I’m not an expert in some of these social justice issues which is why I spot light a lot of these activists who lived and devoted their lives to it.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you brought that up. We have about 30 seconds and I was going to say before you mentioned these people saying they want to use it in their schools. I think it would make a great textbook, high school and college and because you didn’t go into detail in so many of the discussions that you brought up that would enable people who are interested in one thing or another to dig deeper and do some research and a report. It would just make a great learning tool. But, Mark, thank you! Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. I feel honored to be able to read what you’ve written and talk with you today. Thank you!

Mark Hawthorne: Thank you, Caryn. Thanks for having me back on your show. I really appreciate it.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Thank you. Mark Hawthorne. The author of A Vegan Ethic. All right. We’ve come to the end of another It’s All About Food show. Thank you so much for joining me. You can find me at if you have any questions and comments. I always love to hear from you and visit me at where I have my daily What Vegans Eat blog now in 560 posts and remember, have a delicious week, okay? Bye Bye.

Transcribed by Rachel Settle, 9/26/2016

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