Part I John Schlimm
John Schlimm, a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States, is the international award-winning author of several books, including The Tipsy Vegan and The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook. He holds a master’s degree from Harvard and lives in Pennsylvania.
LISTEN to our first interview with John Schlimm on 12/7/2011 talking about THE TIPSY VEGAN.
Part II Jenny Brown
Jenny Brown is the cofounder and director of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary—a not-for-profit organization and farm animal shelter—a vegan animal rights activist, and previously worked as a television producer until 2002.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, it’s time for It’s All About Food. It’s all about food because it is all about food, everything, I think anyway. Health, environment, animals, everything on Earth is connected to the food we make and the food we eat, and I like talking about food. I’m Caryn Hartglass and I am the founder of a non-profit called Responsible Eating and Living because I think food should be not only delicious and fun and beautiful and good for you, but I think it should be good for all life on Earth. And, I believe we can have our cake and eat it too. We can have great, delicious food, feed the entire world healthfully, and not do very much damage as a result or any at all. Unfortunately, today, there’s a lot of crazy things going on with our food production, and it’s effecting our environment in terrible ways. But, there’s a lot of things that we can do everyday, three meals a day (if we have three meals a day) with every bite. And it can be really, really fun. So today we are going to talk about how fun it can be. Especially with barbecues and summertime. Today it’s August 22, 2012 and there is still plenty of summertime left for those of you on the part of the planet where it is summer in August. I know here in New York it is very much summer, and it’s a beautiful day today. But, there is plenty of time left for enjoying outdoor barbecues and all kinds of fun eating and partying, and you can do it with food that’s kind to you and kind to the planet.
So, we are going to bring on John Schlimm. He’s been on It’s All About Food before. He’s a member of one of the oldest brewing families in the United States. He’s an international award-winning author of several books including The Tipsy Vegan and The Ultimate Beer Lover’s Cookbook. He holds a masters degree from Harvard, and lives in Pennsylvania. And, we are going to be talking about Grilling Vegan Style. Welcome to It’s All About Food, John.
John Schlimm: Hey Caryn. It is so exciting to be with you and your listeners again. How lucky am I to get to do this again with you?
Caryn Hartglass: Well I am all fired up to talk about your 125 fired up recipes.
John Schlimm: Me too. It’s going to be so fun getting to add a little civil to summer here with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’ve looked at your book and played with a few recipes. This is a winner. This is a good one. What I love about it is most of the ingredients are so simple. It’s just a lot of beautiful, fresh, summer-grade food.
John Schlimm: Well, with The Tipsy Vegan and now with Grilling Vegan Style, it was important to me to first create books that I call “parties in a book,” and parties that everyone is invited to. But I was also determined to make these two books what I call “small town friendly.” Because I live back in my small hometown, and I want my friends and neighbor, here, to be able to go to our supermarkets, and our farmer’s markets and find all the ingredients.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it. There are lots of products out there, fortunately, in the market today for vegans. But in this book, you don’t even have to get those special products. You can make your own vegan sour cream, you can make your own vegan mayonnaise, and also Worcester sauce. You have a great recipe for that too.
John Schlimm: Yeah, I think it’s so important for me to blast through these silly myths that vegan eating and the vegan lifestyle is mysterious and how blah eating food is and how these are specialty ingredients you can only get in health food stores on Mars. Maybe that’s the case in some books and in some places. That will never be the case in my books because my books are all about fun and easy eating and cooking because I really believe that the cooking should be just as fun as the eating.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. In your book you start out talking about all the different kinds of grills that you can buy and use in order to grill, and there’s a lot of choices out there.
John Schlimm: It can really be overwhelming, and that’s why I tried to really explain it for the beginners out there as easily as possible. To really say, “You do have a lot of choices. So this is a decision and investment both in money, of course, but also in time and future fun.” So take your time with this decision. Go around. See what’s out there. See what you specifically need. Is this something you are going to do in the back yard? Is this something you are going to want to take with you on the road? Or maybe you live in an apartment with just a little balcony. There are grills that fit that. There are grills that go on boats. So, lots of choices, talk to fellow grillers. Find out what they like or don’t like about certain types of grills, and then, you can make decision based on that. Whether you want a charcoal grill, an electric grill, a gas grill, or there are these big fancy ones out there that are hybrid grills. They combine both charcoal and gas. Those are a little pricey right now, but I think in the years to come we are going to see those come down to a range that the rest of us can afford.
Caryn Hartglass: Can I ask you what kind you use?
John Schlimm: Well I actually like either a charcoal or a gas. And I’ll tell you what. I’m currently looking for a new grill. Mine has gone caput after experimenting with all of these recipes. So, I am going out and looking. But all of my friends, I go to their houses, they have a variety, whether its charcoal or gas, electric. My mom has a little Foreman grill that you can fit maybe two veggie burger patties on. She loves it. She plugs it in, uses it in the kitchen. She makes stuff for herself and my dad all the time. So, again, look for what you need and go out and make your choice.
Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s important to note in this book that it’s a party book, and it’s certainly great to go out and enjoy yourself at a barbecue. And there are all kinds of options in this book for that. But, you can use these recipes indoors, as well, and just for yourself.
John Schlimm: Absolutely. There is this amazing invention, and I would love to know who actually invented it. It’s the grill pan. You probably have one, and a lot of people might already. If not, run out now and get one. It is just a pan. It has all the little ridges. You use it on the stovetop. You might not get that smoky flavor, but guess what? That’s where our imagination comes into play. But especially during the winter months, if you don’t have a grill or it’s not easily accessible during the winter, grill pans are amazing. I use my grill pan all the time.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve got a cast-iron, its rectangular, it goes on my gas oven burner top, and I turn two burners on underneath it. One side’s for pancakes, the other side’s for grilling. It costs nothing, and it’s fabulous.
John Schlimm: Yeah, it’s just absolutely brilliant. Kudos to whomever out there invented that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, good, so now we have our tools all taken care of. Now we’re going to jump in and make some food. As I was telling some people earlier, you should not be looking at this book when you are hungry. Very, very dangerous because everything is so good and tempting looking. So, I just want to talk about a few things that popped out. Oh, it’s just everything. I was recently at a pizza party. We were making all of these different pizzas and one of the things that we had there were these roasted or grilled peppers. And you’ve got this great Shishito Heat-Wave.
John Schlimm: Shishito peppers are really coming into their own. I’m really excited that I’m getting to introduce them to the few people out there that haven’t heard of them yet, but they are in most supermarkets now. They’re really this great marriage of jalapeño and green pepper because they’re not really hot, maybe every eighth or ninth one will be hot, but they are so good. You pop them on a grill and you get that brown, sort of blistery effect on them. Oh, yum.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they are really simple. This recipe that you have just uses a little bit of oil and salt and pepper. There’s really nothing to it. And yet, they’re beautiful and they’re really, really yummy.
John Schlimm: Yeah. They’re really a showstopper at a party.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely a showstopper. And they are just peppers. That’s the amazing thing about vegetables, and I think they are finally getting some of the attention that they deserve. I just wanted to mention before we go further that the pictures in this book by Amy Beadle Roth are really, really lovely.
John Schlimm: She is just a brilliant artist with an impeccable eye. She shot all of the photos for The Tipsy Vegan, which was the very first book she’s worked on. So it was so wonderful. It was my first vegan cookbook, and we could sort of travel down that road together. But, yes, her photos really make the food jump right off the page and make you feel like you can just reach right in and grab them. If only we could.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you want to like the pages here, there’s now question about it. So what I like is you have so many different things. You’ve got popcorn that you can make on the grill. Why not?
John Schlimm: I really wanted to push the limits with this book. I couldn’t believe that there hadn’t been a vegan grilling cookbook done before. There certainly have been a few vegetarian ones done, but those leave out a chunk of us that can’t enjoy all of those dishes. I really wanted to put a book out there that was going to break some new ground and contribute something to this whole wonderful discussion we are having and move it forward. So I put recipes like the popcorn in there. Another one that’s getting a lot of buzz from people on twitter and facebook is the tattooed watermelon salad.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I was going to bring that up.
John Schlimm: People are like, “What? You can put watermelon on a grill?”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, we were just talking about that before the show started. Crazy.
John Schlimm: It’s another really, totally simple recipe. My thought process is you can put everything on a grill at least once and try it. Maybe not everything works, but we found a lot of things that do work like the watermelon, like the popcorn. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for all of those finicky little eaters. And especially now with back-to-school, maybe not everyone’s so excited about back-to-school, but have a back-to-school party for all of your little ones and grill up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t made it, but I was just thinking about having that gooey peanut butter melting in your mouth. It just sounds so good.
John Schlimm: Yeah, another show stopper. And guess what? The adults will like it just as much as the kids. Because isn’t that one of the ultimate comfort foods, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m looking at the romaine holiday. All of these (most of these) are really simple. This is just romaine leaves that you haven’t prepped really very much. It’s just a long…almost like you cut a head of it in half, and then you sprinkle it with some really great flavorings. I like this for a lot of reasons. One is sometimes when I go to a restaurant I order a salad like this because, as a vegan, that way I know, I can see all of the ingredients they have put it in that might be suspect. But I imagine for a picnic or an outdoor party this is terrific because if you don’t cut up the lettuce ahead of time it really holds its own, it stays muscly, the presentations great. People don’t think about this, but this is a good one.
John Schlimm: And I am all about easy entertaining. I love to entertain as much as the next person. I think that you realize this, because I’m sure that you entertain a lot. The host and hostess so often are stuck in the kitchen having to do all the work while everyone else is in the other room or in the backyard having all the fun. So to have dishes that are easy, especially like the romaine holiday, what a great luncheon dish if you are having people over for lunch. You can easily prepare it, and really spend time with you guests and not in the kitchen or at the grill.
Caryn Hartglass: You have a string bean and arugula salad, and you say that you can use yellow or green beans, but the yellow beans really pop in this recipe with the arugula. I was really surprised to see that. It’s gorgeous. Go yellow string beans.
John Schlimm: One of a million different things that I love about working with vegetables, and of course there’s a lot of fruit that we’ll talk about that you can grill as well. They really are works of art. No artist on the face of the planet comes close to Mother Nature when she is creating these beautiful fruits and vegetables for us to work with. The work’s already taken care of for us as far as making these plates look beautiful. We are just the middle person preparing them and putting them on the plate. That dish really is a great example of just how beautiful and, again, simple that a dish can be.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t know why anybody would choose a beef burger, a turkey burger, a crappy frankfurter over some of these gorgeous recipes that you have in here. But, some people will. What is a cedar plank?
John Schlimm: Well it is what it says. It is a piece of cedar that has been prepared. You can certainly get it in a specialty store.
Caryn Hartglass: Like a specialty food store? Or what kind of specialty store?
John Schlimm: Well I’ve seen them in specialty food and kitchen stores. That’s one of those things that you might have to look around a little bit for. But, it’s really worth it because that comes with the cedar smoked mushroom recipe in the book. And certainly after you use it on that recipe, I’m sure you’ll find other things that you can also use that cedar plank for.
Caryn Hartglass: So it’s just a piece of cedar wood?
John Schlimm: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Like the kind that I would use in my closet to keep the moths out.
John Schlimm: Yes, more or less, but for a different purpose.
Caryn Hartglass: Good. I like multipurpose things. And the other really interesting ingredient, which is brilliant, in this recipe is the mushroom crust. Did you come up with that or did you see it? I’ve never seen that before.
John Schlimm: Over the course of, I think this is cookbook number nine or ten for me, I’ve really developed a great team that I work with, and every cookbook author does this, and a really good test kitchen because, naturally, these recipes need to be tested and sampled. People have the luxury of walking into the book store and, “Oh, there’s this great cookbook, I’m gonna buy it.” A lot goes into it so I really worked closely with my team, and we developed this recipe. Again, pushing the limits to give people not only simple, delicious food but a few things in there that they might not have heard of before, and the mushroom crust is certainly one of those. And, it is something you can use with other things once you try it once with this recipe, and that’s some fun.
Caryn Hartglass: Yea, well all it is is dried mushrooms that you pulse and make a coarse-ground of in a food processor. Mushrooms have so much flavor, I’m just so excited to try this.
John Schlimm: Mushrooms are so underrated among vegetables, and they are some of my favorites, and there are so many different kinds, and you can have so much fun experimenting with them. And certainly those people out there that have trained themselves to go out there to pick wild mushrooms, which you do need to be trained to some degree because there are some out there. And that is one of my goals to learn exactly how to do that. Think about using some of those delicious wild mushrooms. Or maybe find someone who does that and ask them if maybe you can have some.
Caryn Hartglass: Let’s just take a moment here and talk about the mighty mushroom. I remember people thinking that there wasn’t anything of nutritional value in a mushroom, and mushrooms are amazing. I like to call them natural chemotherapy sometimes because there are so many immune system boosting things in mushrooms and anti-cancer fighting things that people are now starting to take, concentrated mushroom supplements. Not the ones that we eat, other mushrooms, but all mushrooms are really packed with really good stuff so eat up.
John Schlimm: Absolutely. We as a society feel like we need to load down our foods, specifically vegetables, with all these different sauces and butters and seasonings. Of course some of that can be really good, but I love to just take a raw or lightly cooked vegetable and just have a mindful moment where I plop it in my mouth, I chew it, and I really concentrate on the flavor. I think if you do that with a mushroom. Corn on the cob does not need all this butter and salt and all that fat. I have two grilled corn on the cob recipes in the book that have really great sauces, but I often love just eating it as is. When you really focus on the flavors just as it is without anything on it, you’re going to be surprised. You know this, I know this, I’m sure a lot of your listeners do. You’re going to be so surprised at how flavorful all of these vegetables are.
Caryn Hartglass: Corn can vary depending on where you get it and what farm and what time of the season it’s from. I picked up some corn recently from our brand new farmers market in my neighborhood, and I thought, “Did they add sugar to the soil?” This corn was the sweetest thing I had ever tasted. It was crazy.
John Schlimm: We are at the pinnacle of our farmers market here, of course. We have a very short growing season in [Pennsylvania]. We just had corn from our farmers market on Sunday at a picnic, and I thought the same thing. I’m like, “This is like candy.” And again, all on its own. What was great is that, of course I don’t use butter anyway, but the others around the table, my cousins and aunts and even my parents, who always have to slather up their cobs, they forgot to bring the butter out. And I said, “Just try it without anything on it.” They couldn’t believe it, they couldn’t believe it. They ate it without any butter or anything else. But you’re right, corn is one of those things that you can get corn that is really, really bad. So if you get a bad cob, don’t judge corn based on one cob.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but definitely eat it when it’s fresh and in season. Speaking of fresh and in season, let’s just talk a moment about tomatoes, which should only be eaten fresh and in season. Unfortunately, I talk a bit, probably too much, about tomatoes from time to time, but they grow tomatoes all year round in Florida, and they don’t have any flavor and they’re grown really horrifically. The thing is, catch them when they’re in season and ear as many as you can and then move onto something else.
John Schlimm: Absolutely, which of course this brings me, and I’m sure you, to my grilled tomato suns recipe on page 78 of the book. Super, super easy. Cut the tomato into halves crosswise, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp. And then, with just a little salt, a little pepper, a little olive oil put it cut-side down on the grill for a few minutes and you have an amazing, amazing, simple dish. A side dish, a luncheon dish, whatever you want. Yes, the tomatoes right now are really in season, and we are just enjoying them by the mouthful from the farmers market and from all different relatives, whose gardens are overflowing with them. And if people don’t understand the difference in taste, I challenge them to have one in season and then, in January, find one, and you’re going to notice the difference big time.
Caryn Hartglass: I used to live in the south of France, and this was a dish that you found in many restaurants, and I would make it at home a lot, but it’s just so simple and amazing. Grilled tomatoes.
John Schlimm: And talk about health benefits of tomatoes. Oh my goodness, we just keep learning about those, don’t we? Amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we just have a few minutes left so let’s go to the sweeter side. I think most people don’t realize that they can grill fruit and how spectacular it is.
John Schlimm: It really is. We talked about the watermelon, which is fantastic. But strawberries and peaches, there’s a party on south peach salsa. It’s just so yummy. Just peaches grilled on their own and combined with a great sauce. Even different berries, other than strawberries, you can grill. Coconut, the grilled coconut recipe. Pineapple rings. It just goes on and on. Again, if you find some fruit that is strange and mysterious to you, pick it up and toss it on the grill. Put a little oil and just throw it on the grill and go with it. I think a lot of this is about experimenting and having fun. Especially with grilling, every grill is different so you have to stick close by, but you can have so much fun transforming dishes. I like to think with Grilling Vegan Style and the vegetable and fruit dishes in there, it’s just a starting point.
Caryn Hartglass: Have you heard of this? I heard that the first bite of anything you eat is the one that’s most flavorful, and then, as you continue to eat it, you don’t get all of the flavor of that first impression. I’ve read it many times, and I don’t believe it because when I’m eating delicious fruits and vegetables, every mouthful is spectacular. I’m wondering is it just because I have a clean palate, and maybe this is only true of the people that are eating all the wrong things, that the first bite is only interesting. But, every bite of a good, grilled vegetable or any of these things is spectacular.
John Schlimm: I have to say and admit that I am a great observer of the way people eat, which I can say because not everyone at a dinner party with me is going to be very self-conscious. Now, if you’ve ever noticed most people, it’s no wonder the first bite is the only bite they taste because five minutes later they’re done. I don’t think they even chew anymore, they just gulp it and swallow it whole. I’m always the last one done. I always chew, chew, chew my food, which really is the healthy way to do it because our stomachs don’t have teeth. So I think you and I are, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners are very mindful eaters and really appreciative of what their eating and the flavor and where it came from. Eating, to me, is almost an exercise in meditation sometimes. I think people need to slow down and make every bite count and really be grateful for that bite of the delicious food that they’re having. The flavor will then follow.
Caryn Hartglass: John, thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food. I really love what you’ve done with fruits and vegetables. Spectacular. Grilling Vegan Style, these recipes really are fired up and worth celebrating.
John Schlimm: Thank you so much. I can’t wait to do it again with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, thank you. I’m going to take a break now, and we’ll be right back with Jenny Brown from the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. She’s got a really beautiful story to tell in her book, The Lucky Ones. We’ll be right back.
Transcribed by Steven Lee-Kramer, 2/13/2013
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to It’s All About Food. I talk all the time about food, about how plant foods can be delicious and literally save your health, save your life. I talk about the environment and about how factory farming of animals is so devastating. But there’s one real reason why I talk about eating plant foods and I don’t talk about this real reason all the time. The real fundamental reason is because of the horrific cruelty that goes on every day to innocent animals. That’s really what drives me. More and more people are doing more to help these innocent precious beings and I want to bring somebody on the show today who is doing more than most. She’s come out with a great new book. Jenny Brown is the co-founder and director of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a not for profit organization and farm animal shelter. She’s a vegan animal rights activist and previously worked as a television producer until 2002. She’s the author of a new book The Lucky Ones.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Welcome to It’s All About Food.
JENNY BROWN: Thank you so much for having me on, Caryn.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Thank you. I just finished reading the book. Everyone needs to read this book.
JENNY BROWN: Well, thank you.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Everyone needs to read it. There’s a number of key books that have come out over the last twenty-five years I think that talk about animals and factory farms and why we need to eat plant foods. Some of them have been groundbreaking and others have not been so good but the people have been motivated to write them and this is one of my favorites.
JENNY BROWN: Well, thank you so much. It was an incredible opportunity first and foremost to be a voice for farm animals.
CARYN HARTGLASS: You have a real special story. There are a number of elements that make your book unique and powerful. So one is obviously where you share this intimate story about your health as a child: The bone cancer that caused you to lose a leg. Very profound, that grabs everyone’s attention right away. And then you tell this beautiful story and then you really get to the hard issues. It’s a string that works really beautifully. There’s something that I have been thinking about reading the book and that is we are so much more than our bodies. It’s not just humans. But we’re always judged by our physical vehicle.
JENNY BROWN: Right.
CARYN HARTGLASS: And it’s the same with animals. They are more than their bodies. They’re more than what we see.
JENNY BROWN: Right. In this case it’s about making the invisible, visible. Because I think people very easily look at their dogs and their cats and see them as individuals with personalities. If you believe in souls you assign that to your companion animals as well. It’s all about trying to raise awareness and taking a look at farm animals and questioning how we’re able to justify the divide that we create in our culture and in our consciousnesses. We look at Korea and we just are disgusted by their consumption of dog meat. We need to take a look at ourselves and realize, really, when you ask yourself “can you in an articulate and informed way tell me the fundamental differences between farm animals and companion animals?” If people are faced with that, you get those who consider themselves religious and that might adhere to doctrines in their written book, those who use that as an excuse and really believe that those books are the word of God. That’s a valid excuse, culturally that’s a valid excuse but the sad thing is, you know I grew up Southern Baptist… These scriptures that talk about the consumption of animals has been interpreted and re-written by man for centuries and centuries. There’s translation that’s lost in there.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Absolutely.
JENNY BROWN: There are a lot of scholars who can debate the scriptures and talk about how you can take other meanings from those scriptures. To evolve morally and consciously and sustainably as a planet this is the next evolution. We have got to look at how we treat the animals we eat. The importance of it is because farm animals are the largest group of beings—consider us all beings—they’re the largest group of beings that are exploited and slaughtered and confined and who live miserable lives. The most number of animals that are affected are farm animals and that’s why my passion is to try to raise awareness and lift the veil off of animal agriculture that many of us refuse to consciously even peak under.
CARYN HARTGLASS: It definitely is a veil. I’m not a religious person so…
JENNY BROWN: I’m not any longer either. I consider myself spiritual. I do like to … Because honestly I can’t believe in a God that would allow us to mistreat the other living beings on this planet.
CARYN HARTGLASS: When you look at it that way it doesn’t make sense.
JENNY BROWN: To me our dominion is a self-appointed dominion. Our self-appointed dominion has led to oppression and moral bankruptcy when it comes to sharing the earth with other animals.
CARYN HARTGLASS: We know that the Bible was used to make excuses for human slavery for a long time and now most of us know that’s not a good thing even though there are many people that are still enslaved in one way or another. Unfortunately humans can do very cruel things. If we’re going to go with religion, go to the ten commandments: “Thou shalt not kill”. I always ask “What does that really mean?”. Does that mean we shouldn’t kill people we don’t like or we shouldn’t kill white people or black people or men or women or how about anything?
JENNY BROWN: For those who believe in a god, whether it be Allah or Jesus Christ or Buddha or whoever, wouldn’t you want your God, and the reason you are following that god, to be a compassionate god. Now take a look at factory farms and animal agriculture in general, are your beliefs really in line with your values? That’s just one part of this. We started out on a really serious note here. The book really goes into the various issues in agriculture and I don’t just talk about factory farms. There’s inherent cruelty and suffering … the small local or organic—which by the way has nothing to do with animal welfare—or whatever, one of these happy meat farms. Not only is humane slaughter an oxymoron, we’re taking their lives to satisfy our taste buds. And there’s really no other way to say it. There’s a wonderful animal sanctuary in Australia. The woman who started that organization puts on her t-shirts which I think is so well said: “If we can live happy and healthy lives without causing harm to others, why wouldn’t we?” And do it with gratitude. Wouldn’t we rather be a peaceful people and extend that peace and that circle of compassion to all living beings? Violence begins on our plate. It trickles out. If we can acknowledge the violence that we are a part of every day in terms of our food choices perhaps that could be a starting point for looking at violence in other aspects of our lives and in the world in general.
CARYN HARTGLASS: You’ve had that epiphany, I’ve had that epiphany and we know many others who have and yet there are still many more who haven’t and it’s that challenge to find that one key to lift the veil on each person which can be really mind boggling to me.
JENNY BROWN: It’s not easy because we are so disconnected as a society from how these animals live and die. We never see them. Here at the Sanctuary they are no longer abstractions for me. I’m with them every day. I am with the victims I am fighting for. They are not abstractions. But in the public mind they are abstractions. Unless you live in Iowa or live down the street from some big old farms, usually feedlots, factory farms. Oftentimes people that live in these states where there is an abundance of animal agriculture you would pass by massive factory farms that are housing tens of thousands of animals and never even know there are animals inside because it is completely hidden from public view. It’s time for us to demand that we see inside of these places. And that we strip the power from big agriculture that just bombards us with images of dancing happy chickens that are going to be eaten and people having a good time and high five-in while they’re chomping down on a burger and the chicken McNuggets and the bacon and why isn’t bacon called dead pig fat?
CARYN HARTGLASS: I don’t know if it would even matter to some people.
JENNY BROWN: Maybe not but what does matter is how disconnected we are. I often talk about this because I grew up watching “Little House on the Prairie”. I loved that show. Oh my God, when Pa would cry, my Mom would immediately break out into tears. Pa was such a sensitive man. I remember an episode where Pa—they loved their animals—this can be of course debated, but they raised their animals with care and compassion. They gave them the closest thing to a normal life that they could have but then sometimes the dairy cow would have to be slaughtered so that they could feed themselves through the winter. Gone are those days. We pay somebody else to do the dirty work in terms of looking an animal in the eye and slashing their throat or putting a gun to their head. This is why I also often talk about how science fiction it is. It’s all done in these massive industrialized factories. We are so disconnected.
CARYN HARTGLASS: You have probably seen the illustrations in the book by Sue Coe in her book Cruel. It looks so sci fi. You’re absolutely right about that.
JENNY BROWN: Yeah, Sue Coe is amazing. Of course I’ve got Dead Meat and Cruel, the recent ones and it’s heartbreaking. For those who refuse to see with their eyes what these animals are enduring perhaps even just looking at illustrations, where you’re not looking at graphic, photographic, images, at least look at the drawings that somebody who was allowed inside and was able to take sketches of what she was witnessing.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Now speaking of allowed inside, you did some undercover work before you created your sanctuary and you went inside and saw some of the horrific things that happened at a number of different slaughtering facilities in Texas.
JENNY BROWN: No, it actually wasn’t slaughtering facilities. These are stockyards. Stockyards and auctions are almost synonymous. Basically they are out in rural areas. I spent a week. I was sent out there back in 2002 to get into stockyards and document downed animals which are those animals that are too weak or sick to stand. They are non-ambulatory. At the end of the day when the slaughterhouse trucks come, some of those animals end up leaving and going to other farms. For instance the veal calves. My very first day that I was there, one of the very first things I witnessed was a whole truckload of veal calves being unloaded from a local large-scale dairy operation. Some of them were still slick from their mother’s birth, umbilical cords hanging, limbs that had been pulled from the joint from being yanked out of their mother’s womb, or being rough-handled to get them onto the truck. Many of these little guys could hardly walk into the pen so they’re dragged by their ears, they’re dragged by a leg, they’re kicked, electric prodded, and they’re babies. It was at that moment that I said to myself “I have just witnessed the exact reason why I can no longer say oh but I love cheese and what’s wrong with cheese.
CARYN HARTGLASS: Few people make that connection between the veal calf and dairy products.
JENNY BROWN: I’ve been vegetarian for a long time but I was just exposing myself to the atrocities of the dairy and egg industry which now here at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary when we do tours we talk about how there’s actually more suffering in the dairy and egg industry than there is in just eating a chicken or a steak. And I know that’s bizarre but in this country… Another thing people don’t realize, is that there are different breeds that are used for dairy than for the breeds that are used for meat, same thing with the chickens. There are commercial egg layers and then there are commercial broilers, which are the ones that are so genetically manipulated. They grow to a profitable slaughter weight at 45 days of age and therefore have all sorts of debilitating problems if they live beyond that slaughter age and weight. Even my husband…. So many people come up from New York City and visit here and they didn’t even realize that cows have to become pregnant and produce a calf in order to produce milk yet we’re mammals and our bodies act the same way. It kind of makes sense but it needs to be laid out for you. These are not things we talk about in school at all.
CARYN HARTGLASS: We need home economics back in the schools, maybe updated a bit. People don’t know where their food comes from, they don’t know how to make food. They know so little.
JENNY BROWN: What classroom is saying in order for us to drink the breast milk of a cow, there’s a calf that’s not allowed to drink her breast milk, which was by nature intended for the calf? And each calf, year after year, is torn from her, from her heartbreaking bellows. And that little calf either goes and lives in a fiberglass hut if it’s a female and she will later replace her mother on the dairy line. And all the boys… and you think veal is terrible and you haven’t eaten veal in twenty years because it comes from a baby… but do you not realize that every time you choose to have milk in your coffee, a yogurt that’s supposed to do the body good, a piece of cheese…do you not realize that’s exactly what you’re supporting? It’s heartbreaking.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’m kind of curious about that veal campaign that happened maybe 20, 30 years ago that moved people so much to not want to eat veal and yet they don’t realize what goes on with any other animal to the same degree.
JENNY BROWN: I don’t know whether or not there was mentioned in those campaigns that tried to get people to look where veal even comes from. And that veal is a by-product of the dairy industry. Of course these animals, these precious calves, shouldn’t be considered a by-product no more than animals should be called commodities or livestock. But using these terms to apply to these animals makes people aware that we use these terms even in the animal rights movement. These are the unwanted male calves that were born to the dairy cows only in order for us to drink her milk. And no it’s not true that a dairy cow produces, has one calf and then produces milk forever. She’s impregnated year after year. I don’t think those were issues that were even raised in the veal campaign because I think the strategy was trying to get people to focus mostly on crated veal and I don’t know the percentage off the top of my head. There are some veal operations that serve more of the finer restaurants of New York City who love to tout their humane, sustainable, grass-fed… yes, these animals that are coming from those places but by and large veal comes from male baby calf who lived his entire six months of miserable life in a crate and fed a diet that kept him border line anemic to constitute the very pale, tender flesh that typifies veal.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I’ve been hammering lately on this concept, which I think is really important and that’s the big picture. People need to understand the big picture so I appreciate people who go out and protest specific issues, circuses and fur and not eating this and that and making cages bigger, etc. but for me it’s the big picture. Humans need to evolve and get to a higher consciousness.
JENNY BROWN: Absolutely, in so many ways but especially in this way. Where we refuse to even look at it. For myself, I couldn’t respect myself. I couldn’t live with myself knowing what I know now and continuing to support the violence, the misery, the cruelty of animal agriculture. And I’m not trying to call people bad. It’s really the USDA and the FDA and Big Ag and our politicians who allow money to be funneled into their pockets by Big Ag…that are promised lucrative jobs once their term is over. It is a broken and corrupt system. That’s where it needs to begin. And demanding that we have education in the classrooms about these issues and that we pull the subsidies from the meat and dairy industry and give them to the vegetable and fruit farmers and the seed and the nut and the grain farmers and focus on optimal health for humans, not the quickest fastest buck, not the good old boys clubs but what is optimal nutrition for animals. As I’ve said a number of times and you’ve heard it said as well, something is wrong when it costs more to buy a head of broccoli than to get a full on soda, French fries and Big Mac at McDonalds. Something is wrong.
CARYN HARTGLASS: We are living in a truly B-grade, sci-fi movie. It doesn’t make any sense at all.
JENNY BROWN: A horror film, a science fiction horror film.
CARYN HARTGLASS: I do blame our government and the subsidies and the policies that we have but the only way it’s going to change is with individuals making informed choices. People say “oh I would do it if it were easier.” No, it doesn’t get easier, you make it a priority then when you shift your perspective, it becomes easy. When I walk into a supermarket, most of the things I see I don’t consider food.
JENNY BROWN: Right. It’s so heavily processed. We dump corn syrup into everything. We produce all this crappy corn that’s really intended to feed the animals we call livestock. When people are starving, sixty million people every year, and when we’re turning a third of the world’s grain supply—in the United States it’s higher, sixty-five to eighty depending on if you’re talking from soybeans primarily—but world wide a third of the world’s grains supply goes to feed animals that our society calls livestock. What is happening? People often attack animal rights activists and say why don’t you take that energy and focus it on human causes. Well guess what? We are. And we’re trying to tell you that you can help those human causes as well just by making more compassionate, healthier, sustainable choices three times a day when you sit down to a meal.
CARYN HARTGLASS: It’s very obvious to me that people moving towards a plant-based diet is really the only solution we have on this planet.
JENNY BROWN: Right.
CARYN HARTGLASS: It’s just very obvious to me that any time there’s opportunity for profit, there’s opportunity for exploitation. I just wanted to touch on one more bad news story and then I want to get to some good news.
JENNY BROWN: Yaah good news!
CARYN HARTGLASS: (laughs) Those sheep that are grown for wool. I remember reading about them a really long time ago when I made my choice to go vegan and reading in your book reminded me and actually added some more horrific details that go on with sheep that are sheared. The most horrific part I guess was the image I had of what they do to their backsides.
JENNY BROWN: Right, it’s mulesing, it’s not done in every country but Australia where I think it’s 40 percent of the world’s wool comes from there, a lot of it is merino which is so popular and it’s specifically the merino sheep that…think of a Shar pei dog…so there’s all these layers, folds of skin…when you stretch that out, that’s more product, that’s more coverage. So they came up… sheep eat grass, they are ruminants. The cheapest way for a farmer to feed his sheep, is to have large swaths of land. In this country we do a lot of wildlife killing so that we can deforest, open the fields to feed the cattle or the sheep or whatever. So they’re allowed to graze. They eat mostly grass. What we do here because we can’t offer them grass year ‘round, we supplement hay every day. That’s not economically feasible for a farmer to do that. It just doesn’t make economic sense. So what they do, they rotate them. They’ll eat down a pasture down to the ground and then they move them to another pasture. When you do that oftentimes sheep will get a little diarrhea because there’s moisture content in the fresh grass and instead of pooing the pellets, they’ll have some runny poo. Sorry I could use fancier words… And then what happens then they get what’s known as fly strike. Flies will come, they are attracted to that runny poo. Flies will lay their eggs in the runny poo and then they’ll get what’s known as fly strike where basically, maggots will start eating their back ends away. It ruins the wool, it can make the sheep of course very sick. They just see them as a production unit. It’s not about the welfare of the animals. They want the wool. Eventually they are going to sell the lambs and the older sheep for meat regardless. So what they created was this very cruel technique called mulesing where they flip each…once a lamb I think is about six to eight months old to prevent this problem of fly strike, they flip them over, tie their legs together, takes like what looks like the equivalent of crude garden shears and basically cut the skin off of their rear end. If it were us…it’s basically like their cutting off all the skin that covers our butt cheeks, our buttocks. They do that so that it’s going to scar tissue over, create a smooth surface, so that when it rains or if they’re sprayed off, they can easily get that poo off instead of it getting embedded in their wool.
CARYN HARTGLASS: That’s pretty horrible. But you know what, we have two more minutes left so I want to talk about the wonderful Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.