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Part I: Ashley Melillo, Blissful Basil
Ashley Melillo is a school psychologist and the writer, photographer, and recipe-creator behind Blissful Basil, a blog dedicated to unearthing the happiest side of life through wholesome, plant-based foods. With roots in both psychology and plant-based nutrition, Ashley is fascinated with the way that diet and lifestyle choices affect physical, cognitive, and emotional wellness. She incorporates a wide array of natural, health-enhancing ingredients into her recipes with the hope of guiding others on their path towards improved well-being all while enjoying delicious food (read: you can have your health and eat cake too!). She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, and her recipes have been featured in Women’s Health, Redbook, The Huffington Post, and Shape, among others. She lives in Chicago with her husband, Dan, and orange tabby cat, Jack.
Part II: Steven M. Wise, Nonhuman Rights Project, Expanding Mission and Work Beyond the Courtroom
Steven M. Wise is President of the Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the United States and is admitted to the Massachusetts Bar. Steve teaches “Animal Rights Jurisprudence” at the Vermont, Lewis and Clark, University of Miami, and St. Thomas Law Schools, and has taught “Animal Rights Law” at the Harvard Law School and John Marshall Law School. He is the author of four books:
* Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals (2000),
* Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights (2003),
* Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery (2005), and
* An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River (2009).
He is also working on a fifth, which will be a memoir about the Nonhuman Rights Project. He has authored numerous law review, encyclopedia, and popular articles. His work for the legal rights of nonhuman animals was highlighted on Dateline NBC and was the subject of the documentary, A Legal Person. He regularly travels the world lecturing on animal rights jurisprudence and the Nonhuman Rights Project, and is a frequent guest on television and radio discussing animal rights law and the Nonhuman Rights Project.
Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody! I’m Caryn Hartglass. It’s time for It’s All About Food and thank you once again for joining me. If you’re new to this program, thank you. What we talk about on this show, It’s All About Food, try and guess! We’re talking about food. And for me, food is related to just about everything in life. And food can help us feel good, food can make us feel bad. Food is connected to a lot of political issues: poverty and cruelty for humans and non-humans. Food is a powerful thing. We can’t live without food, at least not for very long and I love food and what I love about the food that I choose to eat is that it’s the gentlest on the planet and is so delicious and I feel so good eating it. Every bite. All the time I get very excited about food.
We post a lot of healthy recipes on our nonprofit website responsibleeatingandliving.com. And we’re coming to the end of the year and this is a time when a lot of non-profits have fundraisers and we’ve put up an end-of-the-year report. You’re welcome to go to responsibleeatingandliving.com and learn more about us and our accomplishments this year. You can read about that. Something I don’t talk about much on this program is one of the things that we do other than archiving and transcribing this weekly show, which we’ve been doing for almost eight years and creating lots of wonderful recipes that we offer for you for no charge:
You know I’m a cancer survivor of advanced ovarian cancer and one of the things that I do is offer a free consultation for people that are going through cancer. We do coaching at Responsible Eating And Living and most of the time, helping people transition to a healthy diet. We do that for a fee, but for someone who’s in an emergency crisis. I am happy to speak with them and share with them my experience and provide resources that I believe can be very helpful. So I just want you to know that and if you know someone who is in a crisis like that you can have them email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And while we’re in the holiday spirit and gift giving, I just want you to know if you do donate to responsibleeatingandliving.com for thirty five dollars or more, you can receive a book that I was a part of this year: Twenty Five Women Who Survived Cancer: Inspiring Stories of Hope. And people like Fran Dresher contributed to this book and Patti Lu Pone, Robin Roberts, Ruth Heidrich. There are some wonderful stories here. They’re very inspiring. If you know someone in a crisis and you want to give them a great go book, or you just want to share inspiring stories from many women who have survived cancer, this is a great book and we’re giving it to you for free with a thirty five dollars or more donation. Go to responsibleeatingandliving.com to find out more at our website.
Now let’s move to my first guest. Ashley Melillo is a school psychologist and the writer, photographer, and recipe creator behind Blissful Basil, a blog dedicated to unearthing the happiest side of life through wholesome plant based foods. With roots in both psychology and plant based nutrition Ashley is fascinated with the way that diet and lifestyle choices affect the physical, cognitive, and emotional wellness. She incorporates a wide array of natural health enhancing ingredients into her recipes with the hope of guiding others on their path towards improved wellbeing. All while enjoying delicious food. you can have your health and eat cake too. She holds a certificate of plant based nutrition from the Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and her recipes have been featured in Women’s Health, Redbook The Huffington Post and Shape Among Others. She lives in Chicago with her husband Dan and orange tabby cat, Jack and we’re going to be talking about her book, Blissful Basil: Over One Hundred Plant Power Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health, and Happiness. Hi Ashley.
Ashley Melillo: Hi Caryn thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: And I am happy whenever I hear about people who are out there doing what I think is so important and that is sharing healthy delicious food that is so good for us and great for the planet and it is the best tasting stuff around.
Ashley Melillo: Yes me too.
Caryn Hartglass: I get a little too excited about it and I read your book and really enjoyed it and some of the recipes, we’ll dig into that later because they’re really creative. There are there are some interesting mixes in here that I have I haven’t seen which is exciting.
Ashley Melillo: Well thank you. That is very exciting.
Caryn Hartglass: It is because we do a lot of cooking here and it’s just nice when something grabs my attention. Now I want to dig into anxiety a little bit. You talk about it quite a bit in your book and your personal experience with anxiety and now you’re a school psychologist. This is an interesting time with the political atmosphere. A lot of people are feeling anxiety. Some of us are born with it. Some of us had trauma and some of us are just feeling it because these are crazy times. Yeah. So let’s talk about anxiety and how food can help.
Ashley Melillo: Yes. So without going into all the details of the story. My personal experience is really bad, and that food has been able to provide this sort of peace and contentment within my life by eating healthier whole foods plant based meals. And I think just in general with anxiety. You know it’s, I think it’s tempting to think that maybe there’s this quick fix. Whether you’re feeling anxiety for a specific time, you know regarded the election or related to that or whatever it might be or the events going on in the world or if you have been fighting it throughout your life. I think it’s tempting to think that there might be this sort of quick fix and what I’ve really found for myself, and I think that’s holds true for a lot of people just based on my experiences as a psychologist too, is that there are fixes but it’s sort of building up these habits and making these small choices day in and day out that really vote in favor of your entire wellbeing and your health all around, your cognitive mental and emotional health and your physical health as well. So I think when you have all those components in place and when they’re all kind of aligning and jiving with one another then it helps alleviate that anxiety and provide a sense of peace.
Caryn Hartglass: I can’t talk enough about planning and being organized. But. When your mind is foggy or your mind is full of fear and there are voices and so many things clouding your rational side. It’s especially hard to take even the littlest steps.
Ashley Melillo: Yes I can. Yeah I totally know that feeling when I think especially when you’re feeling that sort of heightened anxiety and it’s at the peak it can feel almost paralyzing to try and move forward and I think that’s always the hardest step is when you are feeling that or whether it’s depression or anxiety you know I think any sort of like mental health difficulty or even just very overwhelming level of stress. No matter what it is when it’s at that heightened state, it can be so difficult to take that first step forward but I think just making those tiny steps so for me, that would be eating a healthy plant based meal or getting myself into a yoga class something like that. The hardest things to do in those moments are often the things that are going to propel us forward and ultimately are the best things for us and they are the ones that are going to sort of alleviate some of that and start to chip away at those intense sort of stressful anxiety ridden feelings and allow us to start to take the other steps that we need to do in order to alleviate some of those feelings.
Caryn Hartglass: Now to add on to all of that we have seasonal affective disorder and here we are, it’s December. In New York, where I am, so seasonal affective disorder kind of affect people differently based on where they live and how much sunshine they have. You kept mentioning November as being your trigger month. Let’s just talk a little bit about seasonal affective disorder, of what we can do about it.
Ashley Mellilo: Yes, so seasonal affective disorder and it can swing both ways for some people it can actually affect them in the summer and cause sort of more manic symptoms and things like that for me, it always has, it always strikes in the winter time and I think that sort of time shift that happens in November, when the clocks rolled back and we have even less daylight or the daylight hours, you know just end much earlier. So the sun goes down around four, four-thirty this time of year. It really can intensify those feelings and that’s often when people start feeling either depressed or anxious. In the past there wasn’t as much known about the sort of anxiety that goes along with seasonal affective, but it is becoming a more common understanding of that. So it can be these overlapping sort of depressed or flat after feelings along with anxiety. And in order to help that there are many things you can do from the light boxes which you can just sit in front of a light box for thirty minutes a day. That’s often something people do, but my approach has really been sort of a collection of habits that are simple but implemented on a daily basis which have a very very powerful effect. And so for me that’s really been it and it’s sort of exercise finding peace and calm through meditation or yoga and then the thing that’s really provided the most consistent law of all relief from the seasonal affective, eating a whole foods plant based diet and adhering to that as closely as I can and with a little bit of flexibility too. I think it’s important to have an element of self-compassion and understanding. If you know you’re craving something that’s maybe not the thing that makes you feel greatest, but it just is what you’re feeling that you want to eat in that moment so like a vegan cookie or more processed vegan pizza something like that.
Caryn Hartglass: Well this is a repetitive thing. On this program we hear it a lot and that is that exercise of a wholefood plant based diet, Meditation and a subtitle of exercise is yoga which kind of links to meditation and self-love. This is a recipe for feeling, good all of these things. And I was happy to hear in your personal story that your husband came along and you had that great support and love behind you. I think love is probably the most important of all of these ingredients and when we are not feeling love it’s especially hard to accomplish any of these things. I like to say tune in love on this program and I like to send out love to everyone that’s listening and kind of feel it come back to me. But can you talk a little bit about love?
Ashley Melillo: I completely agree. I think it’s so important when you’re kind of emanating those vibrations of love and putting out that energy into the world. It just really does circle back and I think just having that support from family, friends, and acquaintances, it’s just absolutely imperative to feelings supported and healthy and implementing things in your life that allow you to thrive. it’s so much easier when you have a support network and people that believe in you and even if they don’t understand the exact steps that you’re taking or the habits or choices or lifestyle that you’re following, just to know that support is there from them, and that they’re willing is all that matters and can make or break your efforts
Caryn Hartglass: And there are people who are alone and don’t feel love and if you’re listening and if I’m talking to you right now, I want you to know I’m sending you love right now I’m sending the world and I’m doing it so selfishly because it feels good. Like you say it comes back to us but what the world needs now is love, sweet love, more than ever. I have to keep reminding myself and that’s why I like tune in love, during this hour. Now let’s talk about how we do that with your food in particular. So let’s say we’re having a difficult day and that afternoon slump has come around. What do you recommend?
Ashley Melillo: Oh gosh it really depends on the type of sort of snack craving that you have. But for me I love an afternoon juice. there’s actually a juice in the book. There’s only one juice recipe in the entire book, but it’s one that I recommend in the afternoon because that kind of perks my spirit and just offers a big boost of energy and has a bit of a kick to it because there’s a little bit of jalapeño you know in the juice. So that one’s great. I also love smoothies I think it’s really difficult to go wrong with a good smoothie. And I think especially bananas and things that like things like that that have a lot of mood boosting tryptophan and other minerals and vitamins that just tend to energize us those are great and then if you like a hardier pick me up, there’s really great trail mix bars or cookies in the book you know. And a whole variety of things.
Cary Hartglass: Yes it does take energy and I’m just wondering how the best way to motivate and inspire people to plan and organize and prepare. As you said, prepare to conquer instead of prepared to fail, in your book. That first. Food. It’s like you know we all know we should exercise once for the gym but once we finish we are like we’re so glad we did it, but that momentum to get there, that momentum to get into the kitchen. Do you have any plan or tricks that have helped you along the way?
Ashley Melillo: Yes. So a couple and a couple for different different points, in terms of where you’re at in making something. So for example for grocery shopping, I used to find that to be an incredibly daunting task at the end of a long day. And I think a lot of us do especially if the grocery store is really busy. so I finally, a few years ago, started making a habit that on my way home from work on a Thursday or Friday ,usually Friday, I would stop at the same grocery store right around the same time and I would grocery shop and I think because it was at the end of the week that sort of end of the week momentum really inspired me and carried me through the aisles and just made it less of a daunting task and just more of I don’t know, it became enjoyable and seeing the same people working at the store and other shoppers, it’s just the routine and habit around that I think is so important. Of course it always is hard in the beginning but if you can put in that effort to get going at first it does start to reinforce and sustain itself in terms of building that habit up. and then another thing I love to do is to set aside a time period of time on Sunday and just prepare some of the meals for my week in advance so preparing bigger batches so like with the Trail Mix cookies that’s not something that you’re going to whip up in the afternoon when you’re taking a break from work or something like that you’d really want to prepare it ahead of time and have a whole supply. You have of things ready for you to grab on a moment’s notice. And that that to me is a huge help during the week because it’s really tempting to reach for something that maybe isn’t going to make us feel the best if we’re not not prepared or haven’t you know haven’t taken the time to make better healthier choices readily available for ourselves.
Caryn Hartglass: My favorite way of looking at planning and preparing things for myself in the future is to think of it as a gift to myself in the future. So when I am drinking that green juice, that I had made what I like to do is I make green just for the week, I have a green juice every day and I freeze it. And when I take that out and I’m drinking it once it’s defrosted it’s like this great gift that I did for myself. Any time they’re something ready to go in their refrigerator. It’s like thank you. And it’s this great self-love. So when we’re talking about tuning in love. You can think about the things you don’t like to do and if you can turn it around and think it’s a way to love yourself, a way to show gratitude for you and then you get to reap the benefits later.
Ashley Mellilo: Oh absolutely. I completely agree Caryn and I actually I heard this quote, it was about a year ago and it was around the time I was finishing up a book and just getting really overwhelmed with cooking for myself and making sure that I was preparing things ahead of time, because I think it happens to the best of us even if even if you’re used to making things and making all these meals, it still can just be overwhelming if you’re having a busy week or depending on the time of year. Whatever’s going on? And this quote I heard it was basically you shifting this sort of mental dialogue that goes on in all of our heads that often says I should do this or I need to do this too. I want to do that and I think that aligns with that sort of self-love mentality like I want to take care of myself so I want to make these foods or I want to go to the gym and work out or I want to go to yoga class. So just that little shift really helped me in that moment and it sounds so small and kind of silly but it really does make a big difference when we think about what we want to do for ourselves rather than what we feel like we have to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely and it’s the little things because we could feel so overwhelmed if we can just make subtle little changes that will make a big difference. That’s powerful. OK so what I do, I have a nonprofit responsible eating and living and I’ve been a bit of a broken record for decades because I became a vegetarian as a teenager and a vegan at thirty. I’m fifty eight now so I’ve been vegan for twenty years and I’ve like read every book and I have got a ton of cookbooks and I’ve been it’s all about plant food for me forever. And I can preach. What I’ve learned to do is only offer information when people ask. And because I don’t want to give it to people who don’t want it. It’s but I could often be in a conversation with someone who has asked and has expressed concern about pains they’re feeling more or some way they’re not feeling well and I offer information that might be helpful. And I always tell these people that it’s their choice they can choose to do whatever they want to do. I’m not going to tell them what to do but I offer information but sometimes I get back the excuses why they can’t do what I’m suggesting. What is that and what do you recommend? People that are just continually knocking themselves down at the why they can’t do something that’ll make them feel better.
Ashley Melillo: This is a tough one for me. I think from a psychologist perspective, to working with adolescents you know there’s a lot of excuses we all have for why we’re not doing something. I have learned to come from the perspective of someone really has to be ready, like there, I think their curiosity and asking the questions is sort of the first step in moving towards finding that solution for themselves him or herself. But until they’re ready to adopt new habits and to do the hard work because new habits are hard to implement, you know I think that’s a thing we want something easy but often times the best things for us are more difficult to implement it’s not sort of a quick fix thing and we really have to. I think that’s where that self-love comes in. like you really have to love yourself to implement these habits or these changes because it does take some work and it does take a commitment. So I am I do come from a perspective that I think you people have to be ready to make that change but just in asking the questions to me, that’s that’s saying OK well I’m curious about this and the more curious you become the more connected and aware you become to how maybe those habits are helping other people or you know in both of our cases how a plant based lifestyle is allowing us to live life more fully and allowing us to thrive
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. Now you work with children. What age groups?
Ashley Melillo: I work with high schoolers. So yes so fourteen to eighteen predominately the school I am at is divided into two schools, in the portion I’m with sophomores through seniors in high school.
Caryn Hartglass: Those are very difficult ages.
Ashley Mellilo: Yes they can be. I love them though. They are very inspiring and full of life for sure.
Caryn Hartglass: but it’s a time when the hormones are raging and things can be very challenging and confusing very often. We’re so concerned with everyone’s opinion around us and we haven’t develop a strong foundation ourselves its very emotional type and I know food plays a big picture. Do you have any consistent recommendation with regard to food and teenagers?
Ashley Melillo: For the teenagers that I work with I often won’t go there unless the parents are asking or unless they’re curious. Just because it’s technically outside of my my realm when I’m in within the school boundaries so students are curious often times if I mention that I’m vegan. They start asking questions why. so I really try and just talk about what food has done for me and how it’s benefited me in my life but I think in general I will try and steer students away. like if they’re feeling very energetically down and just are having difficulties with getting up in the morning things like that I’ll often enquire about diet and just so you know try and nudge them back because some of these kids are I mean they’re eating predominantly candy and very processed foods throughout the day and it’s almost impossible to feel our best when the food is so highly processed and so packed with sugar so I will ask questions if
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. I’m thumbing through your book. The pictures are gorgeous I’m looking at some recipes that are absolutely irresistible, super seeded pesto pizza with the rainbow veggies mozzarella and sweet potato crust.
Ashley Mellilo: Yes that’s a favorite that’s actually on the cover too
Caryn Hartglass: it’s just looks so good and there’s like there’s nothing bad in here. It’s all good food. There’s just a few right next to each other that just look amazing, mushroom lentil sliders with herb aioli
Ashley Mellilo: Those are a favorite and all of these recipes too were tested and all of the recipe testers that I worked with were meat eaters. So no, none of them are vegetarians or vegan and I really wanted people I know everyone to love the recipes in this book
Caryn Hartglass: So that’s important. You know I know. We put up a lot of recipes on our website and even when we test them like my partner Gary will make it and then I’ll make it. It’s never the same, everybody’s got a unique style so you learn a lot when different people coming from different backgrounds that have been not had the same appliances or anything try a recipe out.
Ashley Mellilo: Oh absolutely. It is interesting what some of the feedback will say and it translates very differently to different kitchens, even just a different over can make the world of difference of how something bakes So it’s important to kind of take all of that into consideration when you’re writing recipe/
Caryn Hartglass: I just want to mention one more rest because this picture is just crazy. And that’s the shaved carrot Reuben with special sauce and Swiss cheese and those little folded pieces of carrot. You know what they look like about is
Ashley Melillo: one of the recipes I’m probably most proud of. Just because I haven’t seen it done before and I just know they did it just kind of came to me out of nowhere and I was like you know I’m curious about this but I honestly wasn’t sure it would work out and it really did
Caryn Hartglass: its genius, it looks like cold cuts. You see. For Tyson and for a cold cut sandwich and they roll the cold cuts up with the carrots, you know just like that and it really looks sound. I can’t wait to try that.
Ashley Melillo: Thank you. Yes you have to try it.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and you’re doing amazing work with your blog, Blissful Basil, well and with your new book of the same name, Blissful Basil so thank you for joining me.
Ashely Melillo: Thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah Happy holidays.
All right. Check out her new cookbook Blissful Basal It’s really stunning, beautiful. I love the recipes. Okay now I just wanted to say before we take a quick break and bring out my next guest you can always e-mail me at email@example.com. All right, let’s take a little break and when we come back we will be speaking with Steven Wise with the non-human rights project.
Transcribed by Swetha Ramesh, 1/24/2017
Caryn Hartglass: Hi Everybody! We’re back, I’m Caryn Hartglass, thanks for joining me for the second part of today’s program and I want to get right to it with my guest Steven M. Wise. He is the President of the Nonhuman Rights Project. He holds a JD from Boston University Law School and a BSc in Chemistry from The College of William and Mary. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the United States and is admitted to the Massachusetts bar. Steve teaches animal rights jurisprudence at the Vermont Lewis and Clark University of Miami in the St Thomas Law Schools and he has taught animal rights law at the Harvard Law School and John Marshalls Law School. He’s the author of four books; Rattling the Cage, Drawing the Lines, Through the Heavens May Fall,” and my favorite An American Trilogy: Death, Slavery, and Dominion along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. He’s also working on a fifth, which would be a memoir about the non-human rights project. Welcome to It’s All About Food Steven, how are you today?
Steven Wise: I’m doing fine, thank you for having me on.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome and I hope you had a very Happy Birthday yesterday!
Steven Wise: I did, yes! Thank you, Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: It was an odd day for us with this strange bit of hope that the Electoral College would turn a different way but it didn’t, but aside from that we have much work to do so I had the opportunity to meet you a few weeks ago you were speaking in Brooklyn.
Steven Wise: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: It was great to hear you in person, I want to; what impressed me the most; I don’t know why I just realized it at that point of time when you were speaking but how you are working to move the law in such a tiny increment and I was just fascinated by that and your approach and your patience. Can you talk a little about that work?
Steven Wise: Yea, sure indeed I do have a lot of patience I’m very persistent; I had begun working as an animal protection lawyer in 1980 and 1981 and I began working with what became the Animal Legal Defense Fund and I became president for 10 years and by 1985, 1986 I’d been persuaded that it was a real problem with respect to how the law dealt with non-human animals but the law saw them all as legal things which means that they lack the capacity to have any kind of legal rights as opposed to legal person which is the capacity to have at least some legal rights and until non-human animals were seen as persons they could be expected to be treated just like human beings treat all their other property they don’t act in the interest of their property they act in their own interest and essentially a person is the master of things; things are slaves to us persons and so I began to plan how we would begin to move at least some non-human animals from the legal category of things again who lack the capacity for any kind of legal rights to legal persons who have the capacity for at least some and the ones we are looking for are those that protect the most fundamental interests and at that time I thought that it would take 1985,86; I thought it would take about 30 years of preparation before we were able to file that first lawsuits that had some kind of reasonable chance of success and there was so much to do because if you go back to 1985 there was very little talk of animal rights in any kind of technical or legal way. There weren’t very many lawyers, there were no casebooks, there were no law schools who taught it there were no law review articles about it there were no organizations except the animal legal defense fund and also the world was in a very different place with respect to non-human animals and so all together I figured it would take probably 30 years before the world had turned and we had prepared for those kinds of cases and it did indeed take 28 years.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Steven Wise: 1985 was when I began and then the non-human rights project began filing its first series of lawsuits on behalf of chimpanzees in the state of New York habeas corpus lawsuits in December of 2013
Caryn Hartglass: Hmmm; that’s a lot of patience and a lot of wonderful foresight so thank you for getting started that so long ago
Steven Wise: Well, there is a film out about us it’s called “Unlocking the Cage” by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker which actually is going to be on HBO on February 20th so Presidents Day.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh.
Steven Wise: I remember going in and speaking with them about whether (and they are trying to figure out where they are going to shoot the film) they wanted to see me and I thought they probably want to see whether I’m a lunatic or whether I am serious about this because if you say someone had an idea and it’s going to take them 28 years before they can move on it you can either be a lunatic or you can be somebody who’s deadly serious. I think they realized soon that I was deadly serious and they agreed to make the film and indeed it took four years to make and it premiered at the Sundance Film festival in January and now it’s been playing around the world and it’s going on HBO on February 20th.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, congratulations and I look forward to seeing it! I remember when it came here to New York and unfortunately I was in California for a good amount of that time and so I missed it when it was here and I look forward to seeing it in February. I’m going to have to find somebody who has HBO.
Steven Wise: Indeed.
Caryn Hartglass: But I think I can do that, all right so you’ve expanded the mission of the non-human rights project. Can you talk about that?
Steven Wise: Yes! Well we originally were planning on just filing lawsuits and specifically we began by filing habeas corpus lawsuits on behalf of captive chimpanzees we begun moving that to filing other sorts of lawsuits in states other than the state of New York on behalf of other animals so our next lawsuit will be on behalf of elephants in a circus, we have a lawsuit after that we’ll probably go after chimpanzees being used in entertainment we always have an idea we’re looking at Sea World in San Diego and we are trying to figure out how we may be will file lawsuits against Sea World but we’re also moving into the legislative department not at the state level or the federal level but we have been working on how to try to get ordinances passed that would make certain non-human animals legal persons who have the capacity to for rights at the municipal level at the county level or at the city level or at the town level so we are beginning to do that we’re beginning to get more deeper into public education program basically so that we can continue to make people understand why we’re doing what we are doing and also we think that will make it easier for us to win at the legislative level as well as in front of judges because they will have a much better idea as to from a legal point of view why we’re doing what we’re doing but also we never do anything on behalf of the non-human animal that we haven’t already lined up the world’s great experts in that cognition of that non-human animal and so they will then; judges, legislatures and others will be able to really get an idea as to what kind of extraordinary minds so many of these non-human animals have we’re beginning to focus; we focus first on the great apes, chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, and also Indian I’m sorry Asian and African elephants as well as some dolphins and whales those are the non-human animals who we’re starting with. One of the reasons we’re starting with them it’s because there is so much known about their minds that it’s clear that they have these extraordinary complex minds and we want other people to understand what we understand by getting all sorts of facts together lining up experts and letting people know what kind of beings we’re living with on this planet.
Caryn Hartglass: Something that fascinated me when I heard you speak in Brooklyn as well is talking about the law and how you can make changes in the law kind of how it builds on itself and right now a lot of us are feeling a lot of despair because of the future of the federal government with the man who will be President very soon and who he is choosing to be a part of his cabinet and staff and it’s somewhat scary and some of us are thinking that our civil rights are going to be taken away to some degree but you’re focusing on working on the state level and now you are talking about the municipal level and tell me why that’s important?
Steven Wise: Well, I think it’s important because first of all they’re independent we work on state common law actually and the common law is the law that judges make while they are in the process of deciding cases and it doesn’t have anything to do with federal law at all so a lot of things going on in the federal level that would not affect us because we’re working at the common law level and common law has being around for 8 or 900 years and it slowly changes but it’s made to be flexible, to change according to how the public experience changes public morays change how scientific facts continue to improve and so the arguments we have been making and continue to make at the common law level we will continue to make no matter who’s sitting on the US supreme court or who’s sitting on the federal benches at the municipal level we’re actually looking at those states that have so called constitutional home rule which means that within their state constitutions there are provisions that allow them to legislate in a way that they cannot be overridden at the state level and so they are almost like little states themselves cities and towns within that state have the power of the state and so we want to go into make our arguments at a smaller level like a county level or a city level as well as making common law arguments at the state level we think it’s the way to really get our foot in the door and so that’s why we have chosen that once you go to the federal level your dealing with either federal statutes which there are very very few federal statutes that protect non-human animals or you are dealing with federal courts who rarely have jurisdiction over non-human animal issues so we think starting at the state level and the municipal level is the way we want to begin.
Caryn Hartglass: Can you tell us what’s going on around the world on this subject?
Steven Wise: Yes!
Caryn Hartglass: I think there are some positive things that have been happening
Steven Wise: I can tell you, yes one of, the non-human rights project might be working at the municipal level and the state level and we skip our federal level but we go we skip right up to the international level so we have been working slowly with lawyers in I think probably 10 countries now in France, England, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil, India, Australia, New Zealand, trying to impart whatever help we can give to them to try to get legal rights for non-human animals and working with them so we can share whatever experience we have and we may be able to learn from them as well and I think the country we are having the most success is Argentina and there was a case about 2 months ago in Mendoza, Argentina where a chimpanzee named Cecilia was also a subject of a rid of habeas corpus that was really modeled on our work and the arguments made about the cognition of Cecilia the chimpanzee was also modeled on our work we were really happy to see that and also I had spent a week down in Buenos Aires and Bahia Blanca in Argentina in May speaking of lawyers so I knew how eager people were to be able to push this sort of thing forward so a judge then did indeed grant a writ of habeas corpus and ordered a chimpanzee named Cecilia to be taken from the Mendoza Zoo and sent to a sanctuary in Brazil so I think that where for the first time that a writ of habeas corpus has been used successfully all the way we have been successful; we’ve had a judge in Manhattan issue a writ of habeas corpus or in New York they would call it an order to show cause that was the first time that it has happened in the world that required Stony Brook who was imprisoning two chimpanzees named Hercules and Leos to actually come into court and defend for the first time in history their imprisonment of a non-human animal. When we had the habeas corpus hearing the judge ruled in our favor all the way down the line except for one thing she felt bound by a previous ruling in another part of New York that had gone against us. So she said I’m going to have to deny your writ of habeas corpus “for now.” We are actually going into appellate court in New York city in January on behalf of Tommy the chimpanzee and the same appellate court in February on behalf of Keiko the chimpanzee trying to persuade that court to tell the judge who ruled against us that she doesn’t have to pay attention to that other case; that case was decided long ago.
Caryn Hartglass: So you keep chipping away.
Steven Wise: Oh yes!
Caryn Hartglass: These judges look for kind of an excuse; they don’t have the courage to rule in favor of your case.
Steven Wise: Well judges they are not all cut from the same cloth, some judges are very conservative, some judges are much more liberal, some are willing to have their picture on the front page of newspapers some are not willing to have their picture on the front page of newspapers and they’re broad and diverse kind of judges so we really can’t pick the ones we are going in front of so we kind of make our arguments in front of judges we get and even in the first 3 years we’ve gotten a wide variety of judges some judges we’ve done much better in front of then others in fact when you watch the film by the way it’s called “Unlocking the Cage” you can watch one or two judges kind of ring me out about what I’m trying to do and then you can find other judges who are very, very sympathetic to it. It’s just kind of how their made what their value systems are and also what kind of a case they think we are filing for example do they think we are filing a property case because of chimpanzees property or do they think we are filing a civil rights case because we’re asking for a legal right for a non-human animal so we think a judge who kind of intuitively believes that she has a property case in front of her is going to rule against us while a judge who kind of intuitively thinks that she has a civil rights case in front of her may tend to rule in our favor we have an immense amount of patience and we just apply as much pressure as we can we also speak to our brothers and sisters in the legal profession by continuing to write and publish series of law review articles in which we explain at much greater length the legal arguments that we’re using in our cases so that judges and lawyers and law clerks can read them and understand what we’re doing and it’s also something that we can cite to in our briefs again the judges or their clerks can go to these articles and get a better understanding then they might me be able to get even by reading our briefs because there’s always a page limit on our briefs and not really a page limit on our books or law review articles and or an oral argument in front of a judge may take up to 15 minutes there is not a whole lot that you can talk about in 15 minutes so we give them our books and articles.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just curious about Stony Brook and what their argument was to keep these animals imprisoned.
Steven Wise: Well I’m afraid I’m not really clear of what is sometimes you can watch the lawyer for Stony Brook and assistant attorney general make the arguments. I think the most important arguments were number one judged this has never been done before you shouldn’t do it now and that’s the argument that anybody makes who wants to keep the status quo and someone else comes in and says hey it’s time because of new scientific evidence or changes in the law it’s time to move something in a different direction the person doesn’t want to move will say hey you don’t know what is going to happen we shouldn’t be doing this that kind of argument can make all the time and then they make another kind of argument which in law is known as the slippery slope which is judge if you grant a habeas corpus to a chimpanzee and get her out of her cell and put her in a sanctuary well that means then chimpanzees are going to want to come in and they’re going to want to vote and want to go to college and want to get married and so you shouldn’t start down this dangerous trail of the slippery slope and the judge actually in her opinion in the Stony Brook case specifically address the slippery slope argument and said I don’t buy it if the party in front of me is entitled to justice they will get it and then we will let the next judge decide the next case which I think is the appropriate answer to the slippery slope argument.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok Steve, this is difficult this work this is challenging work this is time consuming work it cost’s money how can we help what can people do?
Steven Wise: Well, if you would like to donate to us you certainly can. You can go to our website which is www.nonhumanrights.org and you’ll find a donate button, also, you will find that everything that we file or everything an opponent files or everything that a judge does everything whether we like it or not goes up on our website. We’re also; also the website that you see in December is not going to be the website that’s going to go up in January because we are spending money to really change our whole website to make it much easier for people to follow and also if you’re interested in just working anywhere in the United States or anywhere in the world for the same sorts of things that the non-human rights project is interested in. We are expanding we’re beginning to actually put people into district captains in each state and so we’ll be able to talk with you not right now but by March or April we will be able to talk to you about what you might be able to do to help our work in the state of which you are living.
Caryn Hartglass: Ok, very good thank you, thank you Steven M. Wise of the non-human rights project.
Steven Wise: Hey, thanks so much for having me on.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, thank you for keeping it up for so many decades doing what you’re doing.
Steven Wise: You’re very welcome thanks for having me on.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Happy Holidays! All right that was Steven M. Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project you can find more at the non-human rights.org website at www.nonhumanrights.org. How awesome is that for someone to be working for the voiceless and improving the legal rights for those who are sentient and are smart and cannot represent themselves in our legal system, which is so abusive to them. Ok, we just have a couple minutes left and I wanted to bring you back to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com where we work to make life lovely and delicious while making it better for the planet and better for those non-human animals that many choose to look at it as food which we at responsibleeatingandliving.com do not and we give you all the good reasons not to consume animals for food because the food is so yummy and delicious. You know we were talking about anxiety before and energy and we’ve made these super-duper green power smoothies at home and when we do I just can’t believe how satiated I am and how much energy I have all day long so if you’re looking to be really energized well you try one of these, they are green, they are super green and they are fully loaded with all good things you can find it at www.responsibleeatingandlivng.com. Again I want to mention as I mentioned at the beginning of the program that www.responsibleeatingandliving.com is a non-profit and I am offering for those who donate $35 or more this book 25 Women who Survived Cancer: Notable Women Sharing Inspiring Stories of Hope, I’ve contributed a chapter and at Responsible Living and Eating we do offer free consultations for people in a health crisis with cancer and you can help support our work doing that with a donation and you can also get a book it makes a great stocking stuffer. All right thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and you can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have some comments and questions we are here to serve deliciously. Okay, have a really good delicious week!
Transcribed by M. Eng, 2/3/2017