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Philip Wollen, The Kindness Trust
In his early thirties, Philip Wollen was Vice President of Citibank. The Financial Press rated him in the Top 40 “The Brightest and Best” headhunted executives in Australia.
Traveling the world he saw egregious cruelty on such a massive scale that it affected him profoundly. By the age of 40 he was an outspoken advocate for social justice. He describes himself as a “Venture Capitalist for Good Causes”. He decided to take everything he possessed. . . Houses, factories, commercial buildings, apartments, share portfolios, everything . . .. . . . And give it away with warm hands . . .and die broke. He jokes “So far, we are right on budget!” He has supported 500 humanitarian projects for children, animals, the arts, the terminally ill, and the environment in 40+ countries. His words, articles about him and his speeches have been seen by tens of millions of people. The projects are assembled in “silos”. Kindness Kids, Kindness House, Kindness Farms, Kindness Oceans, Kindness Skies, Kindness Streets (ABC – CNVR), Kindness Mobile Restaurants, and Kindness Gold Medal & Cash Prize. One common theme of these projects is to have a strong pro-vegan theme. He supports schools, hospitals, and orphanages; shelters, museums, anti-whaling campaigns, ocean plastic clean-up, turtle hatcheries, ships, marine craft; and bay protection campaigns; bore-wells, social justice films, wildlife protection, lion camps, anti-hunting campaigns, undercover clandestine operations to eradicate trade in exotic animals, bio-gas plants, medical equipment, food, fodder and fuel supplies, oncology, road trauma, ambulances and palliative care projects; Kindness Farms growing fruit, nuts, vegetables and flowers; rehabbing land and feeding fledglings for migratory birds under his Kindness Skies program; Kindness Mobile Restaurants for impoverished street dwellers, and disaster relief. Philip likes to be invisible. The National Australia Day Council wrote: “Essentially a private man, Philip seeks no personal publicity. But he is not afraid to step into the limelight for a just cause”. Rupert Murdoch’s press described him as “reclusive”. He has spoken in the Parliament in The Hague and in the Israeli Knesset – and in Universities around the world. He has shared his views with Presidents, Heads of State, Prime Ministers and Ministers in in many countries.
• In 2005 he received the Queen’s Birthday Honours “The Order of Australia”.
• In 2007 on Australia Day he received the award “Australian of the Year Victoria”.
• In 2012 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
• In 2014 he received The Distinguished Alumni Award from The University of Adelaide.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and thanks for joining me today for another episode of It’s All About Food. I promise you this is a special good one. I’m very happy about this one. I have in the studio today my guest Philip Wollen. In his early 30’s he was Vice-President of Citibank. The Financial Press rated him in the top 40 brightest and best headhunted executives in Australia, travelling the world he saw egregious cruelty on such a massive scale that affected him profoundly. By the age of 40 he was an outspoken advocate for social justice. He describes himself as a venture capitalist for good causes. He decided to take everything he possessed, houses, factories, commercial buildings, apartments, share portfolio, everything and gave it away with warm hands and die broke. He has supported 500 humanitarian projects for children, animals, the arts, the terminally ill, and the environment in 40 plus countries. His words articles about him and speeches have been seen by tens of millions of people. One common thing of these projects is to have a strong pro-vegan theme. He has spoken in the parliament, in the Hague and the Israeli Knesset and in universities around the world. He has shared his view with Presidents, Heads of States, Prime Ministers, and Ministers in many countries. In 2005 he received the Queen’s birthday honors the Order of Australia. In 2007 on Australia Day he received the award Australian of the Year-Victoria. In 2012 he made an honorary fellow of the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics and in 2014 he received the distinguished alumni award from the University of Adelaide. I am sitting here with Philip Wollen and his lovely partner Trix here in the studio in New York. They’re both in from Australia and I just can’t believe I’m looking at these wonderful beautiful, kind humans. Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Philip Wollen: Thank you Caryn, It’s very nice to be here.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes it is! I’d like to say sometimes when I have certain guests on the show that I have you on for selfish reasons. And this is certainly one those days so we`re living in especially crazy times. Humans haven’t really had a really terrific history. I mean we’ve been pretty violent as long as I`ve known us and a lot longer than that. I don`t know some people like to say it`s getting better but here in the United States with our current administration things, every day we learn of something scary so when I heard you were here in New York I selfishly wanted to meet you in person, be able to give you both a hug because I need to hear about good people doing fantastic things for the planet and you are. Thank you.
Philip Wollen: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: I heard about you, I think it was 5 years ago when this video went viral. Here in the United States especially, it was a debate that you did called “Animals Should Be Off the Menu” with the St. James Ethics Wheeler Center. I know for myself and many others we all went crazy when we saw you as a vegan in a suit. Sharing why you thought it was important to keep animals off the plate but you had a particular, I don’t want to call it a Cinderella story but rather than rags to riches, riches to rags but we love these kinds of stories, these Robin Hood kinds of stories where people who had everything give it away for good and for the purpose of good. So let’s back up and talk about that.
Philip Wollen: Sure, I was as you mention earlier, I was Vice-President at Citibank, I was running the mergers and acquisitions business, particularly brutal hard driven kind of segment of corporate banking and in the course of my job I went out to have a look at an organization that had interest in a number of industries one of them turned out to be a slaughter house. And I have to tell you it absolutely terrified me. It affected me so profoundly; at the time my favorite food was filet minion and lobster. A fact for which I am so profoundly ashamed of today, but what I saw that day absolutely terrified me and I came out and I decided thereafter to become a vegetarian. I didn’t know anything about the dairy industry. I always thought it was fairly beau colic, calm beautiful woods worth and shelly environment of cows in the meadow with streams but I happened to be on a business trip in India and in the street I saw a man, a dairyman dragging his injured cow to the slaughterhouse. The cow had been hit by a lorry and broken her spine. She was in absolute agony and he dragged her on a chain, she could barely move and he was throwing chili powder into her eyes… And shoving sharp objects up her anus and besides her was her scrawny starving calf. Now so many people in the west don’t really understand that a cow won’t give milk unless she has a calf and the calf was starving, literally to death. Anyway he dragged her to the slaughterhouse gates but before he handed her over to the slaughter mill the brute milked her. Now if that doesn’t change the heart of a man nothing will.
So when I came back to Australia I decided I would study a little bit more about the dairy industry and I found that this was a veritable gulag of despair. Milk is meat in liquid form. It’s a cruel nasty squalid industry. I decided to get off milk and dairy forms. I didn’t actually become vegan. I just woke up one day and realized that’s what I was. I wasn’t eating any animal products and I looked around and I discovered that my shoes weren’t leather nor was my belt or my watch band. I was a vegan without knowing what one was. So that really was, if you like the metamorphosis of where I went.
Caryn Hartglass: I learned at a young age from Sesame Street that cows give much too much milk for their young calves to drink. That was the line that they said on (the show). I can’t get it out of my head, but it’s a lie that they fed to children.
Philip Wollen: Oh, but the meat and dairy industry is the greatest scam ever perpetrated on this planet period and there is no argument, there is no greater scam ever voiced on a gullible, credulous, ignorant species.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, let’s go a little further back. Why did you get into banking? Did you want to make a lot of money?
Philip Wollen: No, I was actually a migrant to Australia. I went to Australia as a teenage boy on my own. I didn’t have my parents or anyone with me and in those days you had to pay a lot of money to go to university so I did a lot of menial jobs and I went to university part time and the only job I could get was in the finance industry. And while I was going to university, I did slightly better than average I guess. I climbed the corporate tree and very rapidly I moved up into the corporate finance field. It was never my intention. I don’t think I had any particular talent to be a great investment banker at the time but I grew into the role and opportunities came my way which I capitalized upon with some energy and my career as a consequence was almost one would say meteoric.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so I have to interject here and say that you are a humble person and maybe you’re being a little humble here in terms of your rise up to the top.
Philip Wollen: Well my grandmother always said the same thing, she said, “Philip is very humble, very modest.” She said, “Because he has so much to be modest about.”
Caryn Hartglass: Sometimes I like to liken what goes on in the corporate world or very wealthy people. Some of the myths and the stories we see like the lord of the ring and the power of the ring and how when people have wealth they’re kind of corrupted by it and want more of it, it’s just this power that they can’t separate from and yet somehow you rose the ranks, you had a bit of affluence and power. You shared you story but is that enough? A lot of people know this information and yet they can’t separate from that power.
Philip Wollen: Well, you make me sound much more intrepid then I really am. I can tell you once I saw the things I did these were the easiest decisions I ever made. I’ve made harder decisions then this in a past life. My friends and colleagues in the banking and corporate world thought I was insane.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly.
Philip Wollen: But it seemed like such a…we call it the B.G.O’s-blinding glimpses of the obvious.
Caryn Hartglass: But your friends and colleagues didn’t get it?
Philip Wollen: No, I’m perplexed about that. Some of them at the time they all thought that I was going through a very premature mid-life crisis because I was actually in my late-thirties. And they thought I’d outgrow it and then they thought they’d make fun of me and you have to understand people in the corporate world and this is something most of the vegan activists don’t understand. People in the corporate world are actually very intelligent.
They don’t get that they are being stupid and so please don’t treat them that way. Enlighten them in an intelligent calm rational way and you will enlist their support and if you deal with them in a respectful intelligent way you’ll enlist an ally not create an enemy. So many of the people I’ve spoken to in the past who’ve rejected many of the things that I was doing are my staunch supporters. Many of them have become vegetarian or vegan or if they haven’t they’ve become very avid protectors of the environment and other areas, or taken on interest in taking care of children or supporting organizations like Amnesty, organizations that take care of humans. Now one may say they are fairly anthropocentric and I can live with that. Nobody’s going to see the whole picture but in time I think they will see the logic of moving over to the other side and seeing the world through a vegan perspective.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to believe that and I work towards that as well.
Philip Wollen: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Unfortunately it takes slow steps.
Philip Wollen: Yes, yes it does. It takes positive steps some of them are slow and some of them are swift but it needs strategy, needs consistency, a certain amount of firmness and a resolute desire to never to back down and I think that gives me some sense of hope but I also have in a sense a fairly apocalyptic view of the future.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Philip Wollen: Given that I see what I see and as you know we have projects in many countries. In human history only one hundred billion people have ever lived. Seven and a half billion people are alive today and we humans torture and kill two billion sentient living loving animals every week. We stab and suffocate one billion ocean animals every 8 hours. If human beings were exterminated at the same rate we would be wiped out in one weekend. By 2048 all our fisheries will be dead and they are the lungs and arteries of the earth.
Oceans sequester more CO2 then all the forests in the world put together. Now if any of the algorithms that I described, talking about the oceans and dead zones and human health and matters like that. If any of those algorithms are true and they all are, it means that no child under the age of 5 is every going to reach retirement age. It is a mathematical impossibility. Now if that does not chill your blood.
Caryn Hartglass: I became a vegan in 1988 and as a teenager I didn’t understand why people were starving I just didn’t get it when I became a vegetarian and I still don’t get it. That was one of my choices to not have children just because I saw the future and it didn’t look good.
Philip Wollen: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: But still I work towards a better future because why not that’s the only thing we can do. Yes but it does look pretty bleak. Now you have the Kindness Trust, let’s talk about a few of the wonderful things that you do.
Philip Wollen: Yes, well we call it Kindness Trust basically in order to preserves some sort of anonymity I don’t like being…
Caryn Hartglass: The Philip Wollen foundation didn’t do it for you.
Philip Wollen: No, it’s not really even a foundation.
Caryn Hartglass: Or the Philip and Trix foundation.
Philip Wollen: Yes we don’t do any fundraising the only money we spend is our own. We just didn’t want people to know about us and basically I focus on 5 things, the 5 key areas. We call it the 5 fingers, which are, children, animals, the environment, the terminally ill and aspiring youth. I would say about 80% or maybe more of the effort, time, energy, money and attention actually goes into the animal kingdom because that is the most powerful positive influence if you really want to affect all the other aspects like taking care of children, human health the environment all these things you get the animal industrial complex right and out of the woods send them broke and everything gets better that rising tide floats all boats.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree with you.
Philip Wollen: Yes once again it’s a B.G.O.-binding glimpse of the obvious. The paradox is that farming won’t change. Farmers would make money and hand over fist. Farming wouldn’t end it would boom only the product line would change. These farmers would make so much money they wouldn’t even bother counting it and I’d be the first to applaud them. New industries will emerge and flourish. Health insurance premiums would plummet, hospital waiting list would disappear, and we’d be so healthy we’d have to shoot someone just to start a cemetery.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so you have this wonderful 5-fingered missions or foundation to your foundation. Children, animals, the ill, the environment and the aspiring youth, I just wanted to repeat that because it’s worth repeating.
Philip Wollen: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes and you have done just so many projects with that. In coming here I took the subway and then I got out and it’s a rainy day and every day I walk in Manhattan I see just so many terrible things. It’s upsetting and it’s numbing at the same time. I saw many people with signs, homeless or whatever, begging for one thing or another and you’ve said that when you see something don’t wait, just do something about it and here in Manhattan it’s kind of overwhelming, you just can’t, do you have any recommendations about that?
Philip Wollen: I’m always reluctant to give advice but the first thing I think anyone could do is get knowledgeable. Knowledge really is power and the beauty in living today is that information is at your fingertips. You don’t even have to have money to get an education. You walk into a library and get on the web and you walk out a different person. I often say that when you become vegan everything changes. To take an idea developed by Salman Rushdie he’s not a vegan of course by any means but I’ll say that veganism rearranges the furniture of your mind, you see everything differently. You go to the ballet and you see a beautiful woman in a fur coat and in the past I would walk up and talk to her and be friendly and now I see some of my projects shut down a fur factory for example and I see the bloodstain corpse on that beautiful woman who happens to think she’s chic…
And she’s anything but. You walk past a restaurant and you look at the menu on the front door and all I see is a smorgasbord of murderous opportunities. Everything changes. The way in which you see your friends, the way you see your interests, your hobbies, the way you see yourself but once you change and become vegan and it’s such a corny word because people have hijacked it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Philip Wollen: In the old days people would say that vegans have tattoos and dreadlocks and they don’t take a shower. Well I make a point and I give at least 100 speeches in a year and we travel incessantly. I always show up in my investment banker’s suit and no one could ever accuse me of not having a shower. So unfortunately the word has been hijacked by best and interest on the other side of the fence.
Caryn Hartglass: But fortunately people like you are changing that word.
Philip Wollen: Oh yes.
Caryn Hartglass: The way we see that word, the way we perceive that word.
Philip Wollen: Yes, that’s true, we’re just talking about words. I will say that the most beautiful word ever written at any time in any language in any culture in human history came from India. From the Upanishads 3000 years ago, Ahimsa non-violence to any living being. I think about vegans generally and I think people ask me what religious fate do I have and I say actually I’m Ahimsan, I reject violence. It’s a new word I invented.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it.
Philip Wollen: I just cooked it up.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m using it I’m stealing it. Ahimsan.
Philip Wollen: It had become a new kind of noun.
Caryn Hartglass: Good.
Philip Wollen: So when they ask me how I practice it, I just say it’s non-violence to any living being including yourself and not just in what I eat but also in what I see, what I say, what I think, what I do and I do mean what I think I don’t have violent thoughts either. And it’s very depressing, I can speak as a corporate strategist because that was really part of my job and times gone by that vegans are actually their own worst enemy they refuse to spill the blood of any animal but on Facebook they spill real blood when they fight each other, these cyber warriors and I’m just trying to get the message across. The old [Mary Wollstonecraft] Shelly saying that “he convinced against his will he guards own opinion still.” Don’t bludgeon people to death. Give them the information enlighten them be welcoming and you’ll have more followers to your way of thinking then you could possible imagine.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, there are a lot of angry vegans that are filled with some very ugly thoughts.
Philip Wollen: Well in fact to tell you the truth I think it’s a form of bullying because vegans have an advantage. We have ethics on our side. The things that we are doing are protecting the oceans, the forests, human health, children, animal suffering. We’ve got every arrow in our quiver. So therefore when we are confronted by a carnivore, human carnivore or as my dear friend Paul Watson would call them necrovores. If we bludgeon them to death we’re actually bullying them because we’ve got more stuff in our armory then they have. So I think it’s time for us to lighten up a bit and educate and bring them along to the cause in a gentle intelligent way and do so as swiftly as possible.
Caryn Hartglass: I like to say that we tune in love here on this show, that’s what it’s about.
Philip Wollen: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Because love is the only answer. Now you’ve been talking to, you say you give 100 speeches and you mentioned that you were in Israel and you spoke to many people in high places there. What happens when people of authority receive your message?
Philip Wollen: Their first response is to be very polite and if you deliver a message in an intelligent way that they can understand and look deeply into their eyes you can see the mind at work. If the shutters come down you know you’ve made a mistake it’s not their fault it’s yours. As I said people in power, we’re often told that we need to have the courage to speak to power or tell the truth to power. We don’t need to tell the truth to power they know the truth already. What we really need to do is give them the opportunity to manifest the power they have in an intelligent kind of way. So if you’re dealing with a CEO of a large multinational for example you don’t show up there with dreadlock tattoos and dirty clothes but you do, people do business with people they like. People take the advice of people they trust so you need to talk to them in a kind of setting that makes them feel like they are talking to an equal. You don’t talk to them in a condescending kind of way and you don’t talk at them. That’s one of the things we did, one of our…first of all I’ll describe what we do if that’s not going to be too boring.
Caryn Hartglass: No, please do.
Philip Wollen: All the projects we get involved with for management purposes I put them into silos because we are in so many countries, we’re covering so many issues.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s a great term, silo.
Philip Wollen: Yes, I often think of if it is the right term because I think of a nuclear weapon silo which is hardly ahimsan, is it?
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm.
Philip Wollen: But I put it in a silo for example one would be Kindness House, Kindness Sky, Kindness Oceans, Kindness Kids, so it’s easier for me to manage, manage the algorithms that link all the numbers together. One of them is called Kindness House. It’s a building of about 40,000 ft2 and there are shops downstairs and upstairs. We have about 350 very very smart young people from about 45 different NGOs like Sea Shepard, Green Peace, The Wilderness Society, Social Firms, The Brothers of St. Lawrence, Lawyers for Animals, Multicultural Broadcasting, you name it we have them. The crème de la crème if you like of active smart NGOs, what we have been doing is taking small NGOs off our kitchen table and incubating them. What do we do? We give them money, we give them training, and give them offices, fully serviced offices and they are free. We pay all the bills, rates, taxes, insurance, security guards, air conditioning, cleaning, we have movie theatres, boardrooms, training rooms, kitchen, showers, everything, bike rooms, everything you could possibly imagine.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm.
Philip Wollen: And so they start small usually with 2 or 3 people and a couple of them have grown to 100 people and as soon as they are big enough and could afford to pay rents we say goodbye to them and we bring in a new group. Now the advantage of having that kind of facility means that they can contact the CEO for example of a mining company or a timber company and say “we’d like to have a meeting with you” and instead of having to go to a coffee shop you bring them in to Kindness House and have a meeting at a proper boardroom. And you present yourself in a very professional, intelligent, rational way and we’ve got all the technology that any big corporate can have you know high-speed Wi-Fi so that’s what Kindness House does. But that’s in the Kindness House silo and then of course we have Kindness Farms, Kindness Mobile Restaurants, that sort of thing. But that’s probably pretty boring.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not boring, it’s fantastic. I have a small non-profit it’s called Responsible Eating and Living, I love the name the acronym is R-E-A-L, real.
Philip Wollen: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: And I’m just one of many, many, many non-profits that struggles to do what we really want to do because we don’t have those kinds of opportunities from the beginning. You know you start with an idea but it takes funding to do anything.
Philip Wollen: The real advantage I found over the last 25 years is having this building is that you’ve got 45 NGOs. A lot of people, young people in their 20’s and 30’s and 40’s all from different walks of life dealing with different kinds of problems, you might have someone dealing with bears, someone dealing with the timber industries, Sea Shepherds dealing with the oceans, Green Peace dealing with its own challenges and they are all in the same building and they all help each other. Now I believe just like you do, I believe in zero population growth and not to have kids and we have 2 clauses in our lease agreement. If you have a dog and you don’t bring him to the office, we kick you out. And if you eat meat in our building we kick you out. But in recent times, the last 10 years or so we discovered that many of these young people have started dating amongst themselves, getting married and having kids so I had thought seriously about putting a clause in the agreement no fraternizing, no marrying each other, no kids but apparently you can’t do that.
Caryn Hartglass: You can’t do that. That’s good, so I was going to ask and you answered it to some degree but everyone in the building must know what your philosophy is and so do many of them become vegan.
Philip Wollen: Definitely they do, it’s not just the people who work in the building remember someone like Sea Shepherd they have 1000’s and 1000’s of people who work so Sea Shepherd puts on a movie night 300 people show up. And of course they get the vegan message loud and clear. Veganism is growing as a consequence of the Kindness House initiative. I would say it is growing at a very massive rate.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just thinking it wouldn’t be hard to solve all the world’s problems. I mean we have the means, we have the smarts; I’m just thinking that in Manhattan alone, we have had so many stories about foreign investors who buy up, for exorbitant amounts of money, different apartments and they are just like places to store or launder their money. They have these Anonymous LLC’s and we could be using all those spaces, I mean they are not even in them for the most part. We could be housing people and we could be educating people. It’s just that if enough people with the wealth put it in the right place, all the problems would be solved. Why aren’t they all like you?
Philip Wollen: None of these problems that we just described are complex. This Is not rocket science.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s not rocket science!
Philip Wollen: It’s really not a BGO. In some areas people are getting hurt, we are fairly active, we have got about 55 projects for example, in India… Now India is a fascinating country, let’s give you an example okay? Let’s pick one city. Let’s pick something on the Bay of Bengal and Visakhapatnam, for example an Animal Shelter. They send out under patrons, so I can speak with some confidence. They send out their money, their dog catching bands to catch the dogs on the street corners and bring them back to shelters where they are neutered and spayed and given anti-rabies treatment and kept there for two or three days. They are then released back on the same street corner they were caught to maintain the carrying capacity of that precinct. Now Rabies, as a consequence of the last 20 years, has plummeted down to zero, so that is a good start. We go there every year for the last 12 years and we travel around and we noticed that there were a lot of poor people living in the street, sleeping under a tree, or under a shop awning and they would have a dog or two for company or security or warmth at night. They would beg for food in the street and share the food with the dog, so we signed a contract with a restaurant there. A meal is picked up by a vehicle every day and it’s a large mound of rice on a huge banana leaf with a very nice, spicy curry poured over the top with the soup. It is the wrapped up and then wrapped up again using paper to keep it hot. It also consists of whatever fruit is in season: an apple, pear, banana, or peach plus a bottle of water. The food is taken down in our vehicle to the street corner, the poor people come out and they have all got photo ID that we have given them and we hand out the meal. I tell them all, and you got pictures of it all on our Facebook, I tell them all that this is not charity, treat this like a stipend. So, if every you see a dog has given birth to puppies, or somebody is whipping a horse, or lorries hit a cow, go into any shop and they will let you use a telephone and call our shelter. We’ll send our ambulance, the ambulance has hydraulics if needed with the cow, and we’ll take the cow back to the shelter or the animal bank and they say of course, by all means. So, we started I think with the one feeding station and we call them restaurant and we have five at the moment, but my long-term plan is to have a hundred of them and I am going to brand them like Starbucks, so when I kick the bucket, when I die some local guy can…
Caryn Hartglass: Keep it going.
Philip Wollen: …come along and take ten or fifteen to divide amongst themselves. So now we’ve got the shelter plus the mobile restaurants and now we have Kindness Farms, all bought in the name of the local NGO, Visakha SPCA run by a remarkable man named Pradeep Nath. Now… we have planted between fifty and sixty thousand plants on each property and on each property, we have between three and four thousand rescued animals of every species you can imagine: buffalos, cows, dogs, cats, emus, turtles, tortoises, birds, you just name it. It’s like a Garden of Eden. Each property has a biogas plant on it. We take the cow down from the cows and put it in the biogas plant. Now we are, I believe, 100% sufficient in cooking gas and probably 50% self-sufficient, if my memory serves me correctly, on electricity.
Caryn Hartglass: Fantastic.
Philip Wollen: The slurry that come out of the gas plant is used as fertilizer to grow fruits, nuts, vegetables, and flowers. The urine from the cows is used to make Ayurvedic medicines, which is very popular in India. It’s the traditional Indian medicine. So, we have all these kinds of projects that feed off each other and help build the brand, the Visakha SPCA brand, in that particular state. Now, fifteen years ago it was just a tiny little NGO. Now Trix and I are driving in a van, I took two Sea Shepherd captians there to India for a month and we were driving in a van down a street, in this crowded, noisy, and chaotic street when another van came tearing past us and pulled up alongside and wound down the window and stuck their hands out giving us a thumbs up to say we were doing a good job. Of course, we don’t speak Telugu and they don’t speak English, but…
Caryn Hartglass: …but everyone understands a thumbs up.
Philip Wollen: Yes, so that’s the kind of thing that we have been doing in India, and as I said we have got 55 projects in India. I have just described Visakha.
Caryn Hartglass: I am just filled with so much joy when I hear this. So, let’s go back to those people in high places when you are approaching them with respect, intelligence and an ice suit and you are telling them these wonderful projects that you are doing, did they think that they could do similar things? Did they get inspired?
Philip Wollen: I think initially they feel threatened and I don’t blame them. In the early days, I probably did it in a clumsy way and I don’t do that anymore. So, some of them do feel threatened initially.
Caryn Hartglass: There is so much ego.
Philip Wollen: Well you are challenging something that is so important to them, their taste buds. It is one of the most important senses that they possess and they have been doing it for fifty to sixty years so they feel threatened and they feel challenged, but very soon you can tell when they are listening when they start asking questions. By the quality of their questions, you know that you are getting through. Once you have gotten past the barrier that you are not there to criticize, you are just there to give another angle. Now bear in mind that I spend a lot of my time talking to corporates. I talk to CEOs, finance directors, chairmen of companies and I use an example like this. If I could show you a way that you could be sure that your company would never have its name mentioned on the front page of the newspaper for animal cruelty or for destroying a customer base or breaching ethics or really taking care of the health of your employees. If everybody knew about that, if the entire community, the entire financial press knew that those were the qualities that your company possessed, what do you think it would do to your weighted average cost of capital, would it go up or down? Would it increase or decrease your price earnings multiple? Would it attract more high-quality employees or fewer? Do you think your stock or shares would sell for a premium at stock exchange or a discount? Now, you can answer all those questions, but I can tell you if you get even one of them wrong, you ought to be fired, because they are not complex questions. Not one of them ever gets it wrong, they all know the answer. Once they get around that idea, they are very happy to say “Well, what do you expect us to do?” One is that you start off slowly, get your staff involved and coming out to some of the NGOs that we support. All of these guys, I can tell you right now, are asset rich, cash rich, and time poor. They do not have the time to do the diligence that I have, so I make sure they understand me and they trust me. If you look at my website I say I don’t want your money, I don’t accept it, but if you want to help here is a list of terrific NGOs around the world and a link that I have invested in. Go direct to them, develop friendships and relationships with them, give them money and give them advice, do whatever you like with them. All I ask in return is please don’t tell me who you are supporting or how much you have given them because I don’t want to know. Unfortunately that doesn’t work because as soon as they have given them a grant, they pick up the phone and tell me.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course…
Philip Wollen: But some of the grants have been very substantial.
Caryn Hartglass: Beautiful.
Philip Wollen: I am talking about several hundred thousand dollars. In the United States it might be a bit different, but a two hundred thousand dollar grant to some of the projects in say for example India, Korea, or South Africa… two hundred thousand is a lot changing.
Caryn Hartglass: Tremendous, yes life changing.
Philip Wollen: In the United States it won’t even pay for the salary of the CEO. A ten thousand dollar grant in Maharashtra would provide medication for five thousand injured donkeys. In the west it wouldn’t even pay for a Christmas party. So where do you think I am going to be spending my hard earned buck where I get most leverage, the most bang for my buck. As I often say “My mamma didn’t raise no dummy!” So I’m spending a lot of my time managing resources, my thoughts, in places that are developing. I hate using the term “developing countries” because in many ways they are infinitely more developed than we are here in the west.
Caryn Hartglass: I have a problem with that word too. Do you have any better way to describe them? We need to come up with something.
Philip Wollen: We do, we do. We should stop being so condescending. In some ways India, for example, is infinitely superior, in an ethical sense, than some of the countries that dominate geopolitics today.
Caryn Hartglass: So what’s fascinating is that before we started the program you were telling me you were here in New York and you were in Los Angeles and people were running up to you and recognising you. Here you are a celebrity. We all saw, many of us in the vegan community, have seen that video Animals Should Be Off The Menu. You are doing great work all over the world and places that need it and you can get more bang for your buck, and yet here we know all about you.
Philip Wollen: Well it’s very odd for me, as you know, I have always been sort of a shrinking violet once described me as being reclusive and I must say that is true, this newspaper got it right, I am reclusive. So it is quite an odd experience for us.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes… okay. You mentioned earlier about the woman in the fur coat and then you talked about how we need to be kind and respectful to people, so have you had an opportunity to talk to women in fur coats? You said that in the past you would go up and have a friendly conversation, do you still go up and have a friendly conversation?
Philip Wollen: Well, when I first went to Australia, I was only a teenage boy and was living rough I guess and I had a girlfriend and she came from the right side of the tracks and I didn’t. She came from an extraordinarily wealthy family and she had four or five brothers. Once a year when the parents were away, the children had a party at the house and it was called the “Uglies Party” and the challenge was for all the young men of the family to go out and find the ugliest woman they could possibly find and invite her to a party. I didn’t know anything of this and of course I was invited to by my girlfriend. It was like The Great Gatsby, It was an astonishing, beautiful home and the best food and wine you could possibly imagine. Toward the end of the night, and many of these young women had no idea that they were part, just pawns of this rather cruel game, these guys would go out to bars and try to find the ugliest girl and at the end of the night they would congregate in one room and the guy who brought the ugliest girl would win a prize, a very expensive prize. Anyway, because I was considered the serious boyfriend, I was allowed to sit in the room and choose the ugliest girl and my girlfriend’s name was Sally. I sat back on this huge leather, can you believe, lounge in front of the fire, lean back, and I was twenty years old. I was skinny, scrawny in fact. I leaned back and said “Well tonight I think I am going to nominate the winner of the ugly prize to Sally, because only a woman who could wear the fur of a dead animal on her back and think she was chic could really win this prize.” How I got out of there alive that night, heaven only knows, but I didn’t see her again until thirty years later when I was giving a speech in this particular city in Adelaide and I am standing on stage. I looked down and the lights came up and I looked straight into her eyes and I thought to myself, “Sally, dear Sally if the competition were held again tonight, you would win again, you are still as ugly as ever.” So, that’s my first story.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, what a courageous person. I love that story it ended… well it is such a terrible thing, “The Uglies”, and they kept that thing going after that experience.
Philip Wollen: It’s possible, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Did the woman know?
Philip Wollen: Nope.
Caryn Hartglass: In the end when they were taken home they never knew they were part of this “Uglies” thing?
Philip Wollen: I don’t know, I was the first to leave or I was the first to be shown the door.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I am not surprised, anything is possible apparently on this planet… wow. Okay well I have kept you here a long time, I just can’t help myself because you are fantastic and I want to be with you for as long as I can. So, you are here in New York and you are leaving tomorrow?
Philip Wollen: We are leaving tomorrow.
Caryn Hartglass: You are going back?
Philip Wollen: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Have we fed you well?
Philip Wollen: Yes, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Can you tell us where you have been?
Philip Wollen: We are actually staying at the Cornell Club and you won’t believe that they have a little sign saying “If you are vegan, let us know and we will cater for you.”
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, yep.
Philip Wollen: And they have done it.
Caryn Hartglass: Is the Cornell Club related at all to Cornell University?
Philip Wollen: It is, yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Maybe T. Colin Campbell had a little influence there somewhere.
Philip Wollen: Yes, well every year we give awards to somebody who has done something great throughout their lives, it’s a gold metal and it’s… I can’t remember, twenty or twenty-five thousand dollar prize. And over the years we have given it to some wonderful people, like Maneka Ghandi, Paul Watson from Sea Shepherd, Jane Goodall, Pradeep Nath from Visakhapatnam. A couple of years ago I gave it to T. Colin Campbell. Peter Hammarstedt also from Sea Shepherd. A few years ago I had the pleasure of giving it on stage to Sir David Attenborough and this year, in a week’s time, I will be awarding it to… this time it will go to an American.
Caryn Hartglass: But we don’t know who it is yet?
Philip Wollen: I can tell you because it will be secret. It is Chris DeRose from California, Last Chance for Animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, yes of course. I think I might have written about them, have you announced that at all yet?
Philip Wollen: We have told him I think.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, excellent, what a wonderful human being.
Philip Wollen: Yes, Chris is a terrific man.
Caryn Hartglass: Yep.
Philip Wollen: He is the real deal.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, so have you been able to talk to people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the good guys who have money and want to do good things?
Philip Wollen: No I haven’t…
Caryn Hartglass: They need to talk to you.
Philip Wollen: Yes, they are doing great things. I think that if they focus their attention to where I think it really matters, if they really want to make a serious difference, if they want bang for their buck and get a Nobel for it, they should take on the course of getting this planet to veganize itself. It’s fine curing diabetes, I am all in favor for that through surgery and drugs, but there are better ways of alleviating the suffering and torment that happens and people like Gates and Buffett and many others… the real leverage in the future, people often ask me what does the future look like and what is the future for GDP or interest rates or foreign exchange prices, they ask me those kinds of complex questions and I say it doesn’t really matter what the question is, the answers are always the same: India and China, India and China, India and China, and that is fact. So I think if the real heavy lifting of the future is going to happen in India and China, it will happen a lot quicker if people in the west would help that process, because we are good communicators and I think if Warren Buffett for example and Bill Gates threw their weight behind it, you would get some of the serious money in China, Japan, Germany, The United Kingdom to rally to the cause and we would not have to worry about 2040 anymore, we could have this problem licked in ten years. Economies would boom, health standards would improve, animal suffering would diminish asymptotically close to zero. I think ultimately in the end only three things matter: how deeply you were loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things that were not meant for you. Meat was not meant for you and it is really that simple.
Caryn Hartglass: Beautiful… and I don’t think I have ever heard it said better. China and India definitely are the tipping point of whether it goes one way or another. We read so much about how their consumption of animal foods is going up and they are working towards increasing that amount and I mean it is already a disaster in the west with how much we consume, but as their appetite increases and their ability to grow more animals increases, it is just a disaster. The disaster can either speed up really quickly or if they get it right, go in the other direction.
Philip Wollen: Well if you look at we’ve just come back from Africa and you see how much land is being bought by China. I am talking about massive amounts of land. They are doing the same in Australia and doing the same in South America, but there is something that gives me hope. Let me tell you something about the chinese, once they decide to do something, they will do it immediately. If it is good, they will do it even quicker.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, okay. Now their government did come out and say that they wanted the people to reduce the amount of meat consumption.
Philip Wollen: Yes, that is true.
Caryn Hartglass: So we will just see where that goes… Anyway, have you been eating the whole time at the cornell club or have you gone out and about and been to any of our restaurants?
Philip Wollen: No, we have been to many restaurants, many of these beautiful salad places on every corner.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes!
Philip Wollen: You trip over them. If fact you…
Caryn Hartglass: I like to end on a delicious note, I want to hear about where you have been eating.
Philip Wollen: I couldn’t tell you the names of the places but I do know that when we leave, there is bound to be a famine in New York, because Trix has eaten all the food in New York city.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay have you been to any of the Campbell restaurants or the Blossom restaruants?
Philip Wollen: No, I have not.
Caryn Hartglass: You haven’t? Have you been to vegan restaurants or just restaurants that offer vegan options?
Philip Wollen: Ones that offer vegan options.
Caryn Hartglass: You just go anywhere and see what they have?
Philip Wollen: Yes, we travel so much you can’t be to focused on only going to a vegan restaurant and spend all your time, instead if you go to a normal restaurant and say “by the way I’m vegan”, everyone hears you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well I have been doing that for most of my life, traveling around the world and I have never had a problem. I haven’t been to Australia yet and I am looking forward to that, but I did live in Europe for a while and have been around Asia and I am still here, never had a problem eating.
Philip Wollen: Well, I don’t know how you survived or where you get your protein from.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well do you have any plans for the rest of the day, on this rainy day?
Philip Wollen: The only place we haven’t been to is the Statue of Liberty and every time we have tried to go there it has been fogged out, but rain, hail, or shine we are going there now.
Caryn Hartglass: You have to go and I am glad you have brought that up. The Statue of Liberty means a lot to me and it means a lot to many people and right now with our current government administration, the symbol of the Statue of Liberty is really being questioned and compromised and it’s heart breaking. I think that statue represents so much even from a vegan perspective, you know the idea that everyone is entitled to liberty and I don’t think that is just humanity, I think that is all animals. I am always so moved when I go, I have seen her numerous times. It is really a lovely space and the way that they improved upon it where you can listen at so many spots to the history. Everyone should go.
Philip Wollen: Well, we went to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and I promise you that I had a lump in my throat because I saw in every sad story, and there were millions of them, the live animal export industry that sends innocent animals on death ships against their will to far parts of the world. One of our projects is in Egypt and let me tell you, every penny I invested in the Basateen slaughterhouse in Cairo to try and stop the egregious cruelty were they stab the eyes out and slash the tendons. Every penny I spent there was utterly wasted and seeing those sad stories, and in a sense uplifting stories at Ellis Island, It affected me profoundly yesterday. I came away and sat down to have a coffee and gather my thoughts and I think the American story is fascinating. One that I think a lot of people take for granted, the notion of liberty. When you look at the number of great minds that actually came to the United States from other parts of the world, they didn’t come here for money, the really great minds, they came here for kind of intellectual, spiritual if you like…
Caryn Hartglass: Or an ideal.
Philip Wollen: Yes, and I think in some respects the existential risks to the United States is that that source of intellectual energy may find another holder, they may go somewhere else, they may go to Oxford or Cambridge.
Caryn Hartglass: President Macron was just inviting all of the best and the brightest to France.
Philip Wollen: Indeed. I know the Japanese universities are doing the same and that would be, in a sense, a shame for the United States.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I am for whatever makes the world a better place.
Philip Wollen: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: So let’s end on that, thank you Philip Wollen for joining me on It’s All About Food and Trix, very nice to meet you aswell and I still cannot believe that I met you!
Philip Wollen: It has been a pleasure, thank you for having us!
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you very much and I am Caryn Hartglass everybody you have been listening to It’s All About Food, have a very delicious week! Bye bye.
Transcribed by M. Eng 7/18/2017 and Alex Cliver 7/22/2017