Part II – Rory Freedman
Rory Freedman is the co-author of the Number 1 New York Times best-selling Skinny Bitch, a tough-love manifesto that has inspired countless women to start making smart and compassionate food choices. Rory has co-authored other books in the series, Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven, Skinny Bastard and Skinny Bitchin. An outspoken advocate for animal rights, she lives in Los Angeles with her dogs; and will go anywhere and everywhere to spread the word about her new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, we’re back! I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food here on August 6th, 2013. Once again, I want to remind you about the The Swingin’ Gourmets. One more time, let me remind you. So…The Swingin’ Gourmets is a new vegan musical cabaret. We did a show in April in San Fransisco, we got the best pick in The Chronicle, and a nice review in the San Jose Mercury News. Now we’re out and about, we’re going to do a number of performances later in December, in Manhattan. It’s all about musical theatre never looking so healthy. We have a food show I would love you to watch at swinginggourmets.com. swinginggourmets.com, check it out, let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the way you can message me and find me, email@example.com. Okay, moving on… We’ve been talking a lot about animals the last few weeks and we’re going to continue today. My next guest is Rory Freedman, she is the co-author of the Number 1 New York Times best-selling Skinny Bitch, a tough-love manifesto that has inspired countless women to start making smart and compassionate food choices. Rory has co-authored other books in the series, Skinny Bitch, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven, Skinny Bastard and Skinny Bitchin. Now a spoken advocate for animal rights, she lives in Los Angeles with her dogs. She will go anywhere and everywhere to spread the word about her new book Beg: A radical new way regarding animals. Welcome to It’s All About Food Rory!
Rory Freedman: Hi, Thanks for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re very welcome. You have a very lovely, beautiful book here. It’s got one of my favorite colors on the cover, green.
Rory Freedman: Thank You.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome. Well, the saddest thing I find about all of the horrible things we do to animals, and humans do some pretty awful things to each other and to animals, is that animals don’t have a voice.
Rory Freedman: They don’t have a voice, and it’s up to us to speak out for them on their behalf. And to not only do that, but to really just change our own behavior so that our actions are aligned with what is in our hearts and that’s that animals are treated the right way.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, I like what you just said. I really want to believe that we have good in our hearts, and we just need to reach down in there and find it, and not be overwhelmed by all of this clutter that’s all around us.
Rory Freedman: There is so much clutter, and it’s coming at us from every direction. I mean, here I am on hold, waiting for you to come on the line and start the interview, and regular radio stations are just blasting at you all these ads for different shows. I don’t say this to complain, I just say this as a statement of a fact; it’s sort of an intrusion on the mental space. Most of us just get numbed out and get used to living with this much noise all around us all the time. I don’t just mean actual noise, I mean the noise that fills our brains and that fills our lives. That keeps us from being who it is that we’re meant to be, or from doing what it is we’re meant to do. One of the ways that I was just sort of living in clutter and noise was just not realizing, I just didn’t know, what was happening to animals in many ways. Once I got that information, I had to make a lot of changes in my life.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s an amazing thing when the veil is lifted. I’ve been a vegan for a really long time, over twenty-five years. I started as a teenager being a vegetarian, I didn’t want to kill animals, and it’s been a long process and a journey for me. I became vegan when I was thirty. Thinking back on it now, I think it was really easy for me. I was young when I started thinking like this. For people that are older, that are just seeing the light, that are just understanding, that are just realizing their actions it takes a lot of courage to make a change.
Rory Freedman: It does. I think in any capacity, whatever it is that we’re talking about, in order to make positive change in our life we have to dig really deep and then really hang on by our bootstraps because it’s hard. Change is difficult. It can be scary. It can be challenging. It can be exhausting. There’s that little nagging voice, that ego voice in the back of the mind, that says, “It’s not going to make a difference anyway, you’re just one person,” or “This is too hard, what’s the big deal, I been doing it this way my whole life.” Whatever it is, whether it’s cigarette smoking, drinking, or gossiping, or negative thoughts it’s really hard to create change and to make new changes. I wrote Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals, my new book, to just give people that encouragement. First of all to give them the information and the awareness to make changes regarding how they are living in the world with animals around them, and also to give them the inspiration and the motivation to dig deep and find that extra Oomph to help them go that extra mile.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you definitely have a very interesting voice in this book because you’re telling it like it is, and the information is not easy to hear. But it’s also very positive and uplifting and, in some ways, non-judgmental, kind of making it easier. I don’t know how easy it is because I’ve been doing it for a long time, but it’s welcoming.
Rory Freedman: Well, thank you. I mean, certainly I’ve been on my own journey also, and for many years I did not have a gentle voice when I would be talking about animals. I would have this voice of insanity because I was literally just driven mad by what was happening to animals and that people did not know. I believed that if everyone wasn’t doing exactly what it was that I thought they should do about animals, that they were selfish and terrible. I now know that that’s not the case. I just took on my job as writer of this book Beg to just tell people, “Hey, this is what happens when you buy leather, or when you take your children to the circus; or this is what zoos consist of, or this is what running with the bulls really looks like.” It’s just information now for people to do what they will with it. Really and truly, I’m trying to live in a place without judgment now, because I have my own things that I have to work on in myself that are important to me. The most important thing is to be that light of love for everything, and it’s so challenging. I don’t just mean when I’m talking about animals; I just mean for everything. If I’m really awakened to the voices in my head all the time, I constantly see myself judging people or observe myself being critical of others or being closed in my heart when I could be more open and patient and tolerant about a million different things. That’s my work now, and I hope that some of that seeped into the writing of Beg.
Caryn Hartglass: Amen to that. That’s the real work; once we get all our basic needs taken care of, that’s the real work we have to do. It’s probably the hardest thing to do.
Rory Freedman: It’s our lifelong mission to ascend these petty voices of ego that are in our brains and to instead open up to the voice in our heart.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, they’re in our brains. Like you mentioned before, we’re continually bombarded. This is the message that we’re getting more and more from commercials, from television, from radio, and from movies. Maybe back in the fifties things were a little superficial, but I think they were more polite.
Rory Freedman: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Now it’s just… The kids are more obnoxious, and there’s no respect. We really need to tune that out and learn how to open our hearts and learn that love is the only answer, however cliché that sounds.
Rory Freedman: No it really is. You know, I have to take responsibility; I didn’t always know this of course. My book Skinny Bitch has not only a profane title, but it has tons of profanity throughout. I just didn’t know any better. In my mind I thought I had sort of a vague spirituality back then, and I thought, “Oh, God has a sense of humor. God doesn’t care about words!” I feel very differently now, and it’s why my new book, Beg, has a more earnest tone and less profanity, or no profanity. I just thought, you can’t serve too many masters, you can only serve one; and I’m going to serve God, even if it means my books are not going to have as much appeal to a young audience who likes that sort of profanity and who lives in the culture of this day and age with this sort of entertainment. But it is really important to me to remember who I’m serving, and it’s not myself, it’s not my bank account, it’s not even my readers, it’s God.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really a beautiful insight into you and where you are, but I want to say that your first books really did a service. I was talking before about how, in my work, I encourage any book or any person with the message about not exploiting people, animals in anyway. If you’re going to do it through your religion, if you’re going to do it through your demographic, or whatever it is that allows you to be open to the message, I’m all for it. I know that you changed the lives of so many young women and men with that book, with that first book and the subsequent books. There may be some things that are offensive in the book, especially to other people who are at a different place on that path. But you turned the light on for so many people and that’s good!
Rory Freedman: I don’t regret it; I just know that it’s all part of this path that I’m on.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re growing up, it’s okay!
Rory Freedman: Yeah, I’m growing up. That book was I think ten years ago, and I’m just a different person today. I can’t regret it because it’s who I was then and I trust that I’m getting everything I need to get on this journey back home. I’m happy to have gotten what I’ve gotten now, more recently. The reason I titled the book “Beg”… I had a sexier more profane title that was in mind with the Skinny Bitch brand, but I had two different meditations. One was, “Oh my gosh, I can no longer use profanity in my life or in my writing.” So there went that title. In another meditation I know so much about what happens to animals, and I get emails every day about it, there’s postings on Facebook and Twitter everyday about it, I’ve seen countless hours of video footage, I’ve done countless hours of research. I know what’s out there, and I know how bad it is. There are times that it just guts me, but then in this meditation I really didn’t realize, just to the core of my being, how much pain and sadness and grief I had in my physical body for what these animals have endured and continue to endure. From that place, I just felt that I’m begging for mercy and just begging these people for their mercy for these animals because what they’re going through is beyond anything that anyone of us could begin to imagine. That’s where the title “Beg” came from.
Caryn Hartglass: The worst that we do is, at least in numbers, is what we do for the animals that we call food. I talk about that all the time, especially on this program, which is It’s All About Food. But when we allow ourselves to do these things to animals and when we eat animals all of the time, I think it allows us to do all the other things that we do to them, and you touch on many of those. It’s just so unbelievable. So, something like a puppy, something so sweet and lovely and you have so many different images—a romance, one lover gives a puppy to another; Christmas morning and the children get a little puppy with a big red ribbon around them; you know so many wonderful little things around a puppy, yet we don’t see what’s really behind the ones that are bred in mills and you let us know that in this book.
Rory Freedman: Yeah, it’s surprising, but unfortunately people still just aren’t completely aware of what goes on as far as dog breeding goes. That when you buy a dog from a pet store, that dog has been supplied by a puppy mill and that these animals are just being mass produced and pumped out like they are parts from a factory as opposed to living beings. They’re not getting veterinary treatment, or adequate treatment, or adequate food, or water, or any exercise. Their grooming needs are not being met. Lots of them are sick and lots of people will buy these dogs, fall madly in love, and then take them home and the animal will get sick. They’ll have spent thousands of dollars on a vet bill, having already paid a thousand dollars or more for the animal in the pet store, and then the animal will die and then the pet store will say, “We’ll give you another one for free.” It’s like it’s a shirt that got a rip in it as opposed to a living being. The reason that these animals are so sick and dying is because they are inbred in these puppy mill scenarios. Some of the basic, simple things that we can do to be kinder and more merciful to animals is instead of purchasing animals from pet stores, or even buying them from breeders, we can adopt animals from shelters. They are going to be killed if they are not adopted because our shelter system is overcrowded and packed.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, just one thought behind the breeding concept, if we’re not connecting the dots, but it’s rape. The whole concept behind a breed, I hope we wouldn’t tolerate in this day and age with humans… You know, breeding the ultimate human; Although, those stories continue to plague us in sci-fi movies and whatever. It’s really a very ugly thing. People just see they want a certain look, or a cuteness behind it. It’s pretty incredible. It’s one thing that we do what we do to the incredibly adorable animals that are out there. That is just unbelievable because sometimes I want to believe that we treat the ones that are cuddly and cute better; but certainly when it comes to puppy mills and breeding, we’re not treating the animals that are bred to make these adorable little muffins. There are many species that are not cute and cuddly. A fish for example; I keep learning more and more about fish, and I learned a bit in your book.
Rory Freedman: Yeah, one of the things that I was surprised to learn is that fish feel pain. I think it’s easy to discount fish because they’re not furry, they’re not cute, it’s not somebody that you would want to pick up and hug and kiss. Their expressions to us don’t really look like there’s much intelligence there. But it’s like saying… I can’t even think of a good analogy. Beyond what we think just by looking at them, just because we don’t relate to them in the same way that we might relate to a kitten, puppy, chimp, or even a dolphin who looks like he/she is smiling, these fish do have pain. Their facial expressions or other movements of their body do indicate that they’re suffering pain. It’s been convenient for sports fisherman for all these years to say that they don’t. When in fact, catching a fish by it’s mouth, putting a hook through it’s mouth and ripping the hook out of it’s mouth and then throwing the fish back in the water, the fish does experience pain, it also experiences stress. This has been proven time and time again by science. So sport fishing for fun… Certainly we can enjoy the water, or nature, or ourselves in so many other ways that aren’t torturing, harming, and hurting animals.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve done a bit of snorkeling and some scuba diving, and I have just this personal motto: Look but don’t touch. I don’t want to touch anything; I don’t even want to touch the coral it’s so precious.
Rory Freedman: A friend of mine was diving once, and before that she had eaten fish her whole life and then she said she had this moment where this little squid was in front of her and they were just regarding each other and she just spent maybe a minute or so with this squid. Something in her heart opened and she said, “Oh my goodness, what have I been doing,” and “never again,” and she just stopped eating fish after that.
Caryn Hartglass: I think my first epiphany with fish came from an odd place. There’s that Chicken Soup For The Soul series–not that I recommend chicken soup for anyone, there’s lots of wonderful vegan versions of that delicious, brothy soup; that nourishing, healing recipe, we don’t need chicken soup—but there was one about sea animals. There were so many incredible stories about the intelligence of fish, one after another. I was just blown away because you just don’t have the opportunity to think about “there’s a whole world under the water, and we don’t even know of the intelligence that’s going on there.”
Rory Freedman: No, we really and truly have been given dominion over animals, and we have not been very good stewards at all. Obviously we are ruining the planet in so many ways and harming animals in so many ways. I know that people will often say that they need meat to live, and I’ll say, “Fine, if that’s the case, then let’s allow for that.” But the other millions of things or ways that we’re harming animals that we don’t need to do, that we don’t even need to address. Do we actually need for our children to spend two hours in the circus, knowing that contributes to a lifetime of imprisonment and abuse for the elephants, or the lions, or the tigers? These are so many things that we can live without, and that are for “entertainment”, that we don’t need for our survival or wellness.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to believe that when we stop consuming the species that have experienced exploitation and violence, that we will stop creating more violence. As we eat it we continue create it.
Rory Freedman: Yeah, I do think ingesting animals who have been factory farmed and slaughtered and butchered in such haphazard and cruel conditions, and been abused up until their death is certainly something that you would not want to put in your body.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I just have one question in the book that I hope you don’t mind me asking. You look fabulous in the photo, and I’ve seen you a few times in person. Most recently I was at the leadership weekend in Washington with PCRM in December, and you spoke one of the evenings.
Rory Freedman: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: You mention your unfortunate hair all of the time in this book, what’s that about?
Rory Freedman: Oh, that was the story I was telling during my college days when I had unfortunate hair in college. Thank you very much, that’s very funny. Obviously the picture in the book has been styled professionally, professionally lit, hair and makeup retouching, lighting.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but you have to have something good to work with.
Rory Freedman: Oh, thank you very much.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you really think you have unfortunate hair?
Rory Freedman: It’s so silly to even consider that I have hair problems. There is so much terrible stuff going on in the world, I’m going to stop complaining about hair.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good. I’ve had big hair all my life; big, red, curly, frizzy hair. I’ve learned how to use blow dryers and all kinds of products. Coconut oil is my favorite. Still, on a hot, humid day it’s out of control. But as somebody who’s gone through Chemotherapy and lost her hair, as a friend of mine who wrote a book said, “Any day with hair is a good day.” You’ve got to love your hair!
Rory Freedman: I’m learning to put a lot less stock in my appearance and care less. One of the things I’ve been feeling lately is just sort of this shrinking away from the public spotlight in a sense. Just not wanting to have to do the same work in the same vein. To a degree, when you go on a book tour, or you’re going on TV shows, or you’re giving speeches, you have to pay attention to your appearance because it’s just expected that you’re going to be well put together. I’m just not so interested in that right now. I’m not interested in clothes or hair or makeup. I would just prefer to feel that connection in my heart, to the divine. My appearance just feels even beyond secondary. Much, much lower on the list of things that I need to think about.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, you do sound like you’re growing up quite a bit. More than most people will ever do in their lifetime. So you have a lot of followers, what do they think about this book Beg and the new you?
Rory Freedman: Interestingly, when I was on the book tour and talking about my own personal shifts around language and not swearing, the response was the same response that you had. You know, “Hey, let’s not beat down Skinny Bitch because that book was really helpful.” But also that “Hey, yeah I’m finding the same thing. I’m changing my language also, and I’m finding that I want to be kinder and gentler to people who don’t share the same view that I have. The work needs to be done within more than without. Even more important what we’re putting out in the world, and trying to encourage others to do is that we need to do this work in ourselves.” It was really a beautiful experience to work with people on that same level. To see that like “Yeah, it’s happening. It’s not just happening in me, it’s happening in people all over the place.”
Caryn Hartglass: That’s really important. I know that with many of us who are in this movement, if we call it a movement, are trying to make this world a better place for all life on earth, it can be very challenging, it can be very disorienting, it can be frustrating, depressing, competitive. The best solution to all of those feelings…When you have all of this wonderful information and you want to help someone and they’re not open to it and they don’t want it and you know you can make them feel better. It’s just not about that. You cannot control. You need to know that you can only be you and yourself. Going within and clearing all of the clutter is probably the best thing we can do.
Rory Freedman: I’m really just clear today that I have no idea what anyone else’s journey should look like. It’s arrogant for me to think that I know what somebody else needs. It’s truly between them and God, their path is between them and God. I think also that’s part of the reason that I’m shrinking away from the spotlight and that I’m clear now that I just don’t know anymore. I don’t know anything about anything anymore. I know that it’s important for me to cultivate my relationship with God, and to be pleasing to God. The rest of what everybody else does or doesn’t do is between them and God. I’ve got plenty of work to do on myself.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m glad that I managed to catch you before you totally turn away from talking to all of us out there, and I’m glad you wrote this book. It’s definitely a good read, and the animals really need this and so much more. I don’t even want to put words in their mouths because I’m sure that what they have to say is so much more profound than what we say. Just to open people’s eyes, know that we need to be paying attention and being a lot kinder. Well thank you.
Rory Freedman: Yeah, that’s a good summary. Thank you for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. All of the best to you on your journey.
Rory Freedman: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, be well. I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’re listening to It’s All About Food. That was Rory Freedman, the author of the new book Beg. It’s a radical new way of regarding animals and something we all should know about. Thank you again for joining me, and visit responsiblelivingandeating.com. That’s where I live. Email me at realmeals.org. Remember, have a delicious week.
Transcribed by Alex Belser, 11/11/2013