pattrice jones, Cherylyn Harley LeBon
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Part I: pattrice jones, The Oxen at the Intersection
pattrice jones is an ecofeminist writer, scholar, and activist who, along with Miriam Jones, cofounded VINE Sanctuary, an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary that operates within an understanding of the intersection of oppressions. She is the author of Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and Their Allies (Lantern, 2007), and has contributed chapters to Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth (Bloomsbury, 2014); Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism (McFarland, 2013); Sister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2011); Sistah Vegan: Food, Identity, Health, and Society (Lantern, 2010); Contemporary Anarchist Studies (Routledge, 2009); Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (AK Press, 2006); and Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (Lantern, 2004). Her portion of the proceeds of the sale of The Oxen at the Intersection will go to VINE. pattrice is pictured here with Luna.
Part II: Cherylyn Harley LeBon, FDA guidelines on Salt
Cherylyn Harley LeBon is Co-Chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. Cherylyn averages over 300 radio/television interviews and news article citations per year on behalf of Project 21.
Cherylyn is currently President and CEO of KLAR Strategies, LLC, a public affairs firm. She previously served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush Administration; as a spokesman at the Republican National Committee; and as Senior Counsel for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. She is a frequent guest on the FOX News Channel and national broadcast radio shows, and is a contributor to Townhall and Politicalistas. Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, it’s time for It’s All About Food and I’m Caryn Hartglass. It’s August 12, 2014. It’s a very nice day here in New York City with a cool breeze. I know I said this every week this summer but it has been the most incredible summer here where I live in New York. It has never gotten brutally hot and I’m really liking it. I wanted to let you know Responsible Eating and Living, my non-profit, is hosting a free one-hour educational seminar on water, water safety, facts about water, purification and the science behind the most effective ways of purifying water. You know I am passionate about clean, healthy water. If you have any questions or concerns, now is the time you can sign up and participate in this free online event. I’m really excited about this, it’s the first time I’m going to be doing something like this. I’m partnering with Aquanui, the people that make my favorite distiller which is made in the United States. It’s August 20, 2014 and if you are interested, go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com, go over to the right side and scroll down to where it says “Water Made Wonderful” and you can reserve your spot. And just above that is the link to our brand new apps. Have you downloaded your app yet, your REAL app? I’m so excited about those. Alright, that’s all I have to tell you that’s new. So let’s get started with today’s program and I’m going to bring on my first guest, Pattrice Jones. She’s an eco-feminist, writer, scholar and activist who, along with Miriam Jones, co-founded VINE Sanctuary, an LGBTQ run farmed-animal sanctuary that operates with an understanding of the intersection of oppressions. She’s the author of Aftershock: Confronting Trauma in a Violent World: A Guide for Activists and Their Allies, a wonderful book by a real favorite publisher, Lantern Books. We are going to be talking about a new book that she has authored, The Oxen at the Intersection, another Lantern Book. Pattrice, how are you?
Pattrice Jones: I’m doing very well Caryn. It’s so great to hear your voice again.
Caryn Hartglass: It is good to hear your voice and I miss you very much. It’s been way too long and I don’t know why I haven’t seen you in like what?
Pattrice Jones: Ten years.
Caryn Hartglass: Ten years! That’s incredible. Well you made a tremendous impression on me the few times I’ve seen you in person so it stays with me.
Pattrice Jones: Ditto.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright so let’s get to work here and talk about this book. Now I remember just vaguely back in 2012, I didn’t know much about the story that you talk about in this book, and I grabbed some information and read some stuff online. But this story is fascinating, frustrating, stupid and smart. It hit all my emotional buttons and I am continuingly questioning the human species and our motives. You hit on all of them. Do you want to talk just briefly? A little introduction to get people interested in The Oxen at the Intersection.
Pattrice Jones: Well the oxen in question were two cows called Bill and Lou who had been living at a college called Green Mountain College here in Vermont. They had been used as farm equipment, yolked together by a wooden yolk and used to plow and sometimes to generate electricity. They were unofficial mascots of the school and the town of Poultney, Vermont until one day, one of them, Lou, stepped in a gopher hole and sustained the equivalent of a sprained ankle. Not a life threatening injury but turned out to be one that meant he could no longer pull a plow. Since oxen work in teams, that meant that he and Bill could no longer work for the school so the school decided to kill and eat their mascots as a symbol of sustainability. This, not surprisingly, engendered a good bit of local controversy among town’s people who had come to care for these animals. Alumni of the school who remembered them fondly, at the request of a local organization, VINE Sanctuary stepped in to offer refuge to the oxen who the school said they were killing because they couldn’t afford to feed them if they weren’t working. We said that was great, we’re happy to offer you a retirement home for the oxen, free of charge to the college in the same way that we offer refuge to other animals when they are in circumstances where people are no longer able to feed them. Our offer was rudely refused. The question very quickly went viral due to social media and there became a sort of a worldwide quest in the words of many people “Save Bill and Lou.” Tens of thousands of people worldwide weighed in on the question. The college dug in its heels, sending out a contradictory, confusing and a stream of other reasons why they had to kill these two oxen. In the end, the local slaughter house refused to kill them, which left them wanting to kill but not able to do it. They ended up splitting the difference; killing one of them and calling it euthanasia and not allowing either of them to go to a sanctuary. And my book is – should I go on?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, please go on!
Pattrice Jones: My book, The Oxen at the Intersection – the whole thing was a calamity. Social change and activism precedes by means of trial and error. If we want to make real change, we have to be willing to risk calamity but we also have to have the discipline to look back and analyze our strategies and our tactics to see what went right and what went wrong. This new book of mine, The Oxen at the Intersection, is kind of a case study in calamity that tries to ask the question: how is that tens of thousands of people were unable to save the lives of two oxen who everybody agreed had never done anyone any harm? The first half of the book tells the story for those who were not in on it as it was happening. It tells the storey from our perspective here at the sanctuary as we tried to coordinate a campaign that soon slipped the boundaries of our ability to anyway control what was happening. Then the second half of the book, which to me is the real heart of the book, analyzes what happened from several different perspectives with the aim of learning something that might help us in future campaigns. Not just animal protection campaigns but future campaigns and activism, regardless of the type of activism.
Caryn Hartglass: So the first half, which is the story, to me, was almost like a thriller. It reminded me of some whistle-blower movies. I could see it as a movie but the problem is, unlike most of the whistle-blower movies that we’ve seen that have a happy ending, this did not have a happy ending.
Pattrice Jones: Right, it did not.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s just every page, the people at Green Mountain College – isn’t that a lovely sounding name? Doesn’t that make you bring up, well maybe not for you anymore, but the images that you get are fresh air, natural environment and all good things. They had so many opportunities and they just kept making the wrong decisions.
Pattrice Jones: Right, hard decisions, decisions that didn’t serve anyone really and decisions that I’m not sure everybody – I wonder at the degree to which now there may be some regret about decisions that were made in the heat in the moment.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess the one thing that surprised me above all the opportunities that these people had to let these animals live because you listed so many. One person or company was going to provide vegan food for the university and somebody was going to make a donation. The fact that they turned down economic related opportunities just blew my mind because I thought everybody answers to money.
Pattrice Jones: Right, but it shouldn’t have blown your mind. And already, in just you talking about your own reactions to two of the aspects of this case, the images that come to your mind when you think of Green Mountain College and the failure of the college administrators to act in what would be called an economically rational way are actually big parts of my analysis in the second half. The three seconds in the second half concern the power of place, what I call dangerous intersections, meaning linkages among different forms of oppression and animal psychology, by which I mean the psychology of human animals.
Caryn Hartglass: I think the second section is so important. There have been a number of books that have come out on how to be an animal advocate. This is the best thing I’ve read so far because you’re really working with hindsight, 20/20. It makes us understand the importance of all the things you are discussing from the story.
Pattrice Jones: Good.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. I just wanted to point out just a few. Can you just give a better, more detailed description of these dangerous intersections that you talk about?
Pattrice Jones: Absolutely and I also want to talk about the power and place in animal psychology. One thing I am hoping that people will read the book obviously or I wouldn’t have written it. But I’m hoping that in addition to whatever we learn from looking at this particular case, I’m hoping that the book itself will serve into kind of model about how to look at the problems we are trying to solve in activism. I think we need to think of the problems we are trying to solve as situations, complex intersections of material, social and psychological circumstances that need to be analyzed. This book, I hope, provides a kind of a model about how you can look at a situation from lots of different angles to see where there might be opportunities for intervention. That’s a very different way of doing activism than just seeing a problem and reaching for your one-size-fits-all tactic, whether it be petitioning, pamphleting or protests, whatever the case may be. We need to get away from the knee-jerk reaching for particular favorite tactics and instead get good at analyzing situations in order to discover avenues for intervention where we can actually use, rather than work against, the energies that are inherent in the situation. Certainly we have to pay attention to the places that things happen. Everything that is done to animals is done by people, we’ll get to people in a second, in particular places. Places that are marked by their history, places that are shaped by material circumstances and the physiology of the ecosystem. But also by economic circumstances in a way that this particular place is hooked into national and global systems such as governments and economies. All of these things may come into play in a particular situation. In our particular situation, the mythical image of Vermont as this green paradise which turns out to be deeply rooted in Vermont history, an implicitly white idea, helps to explain why these college administrators in particular, but also many students, seem to feel as a matter of existential necessity that they be allowed to kill these animals. In fact, their very sense of identity was deeply rooted in some mythological ideas about old-school farming and the like. By not recognizing the degree to which their identities are all bound up with this old-school way of using oxen which they portrayed as the natural true Vermont way of doing things when in fact actually that’s the way the European immigrants to Vermont did things, destroying the environment in the process. All of that turned out to be relevant and by not taking that into account adequately, that’s one of the many ways we didn’t do all that we could have done to save those two oxen.
Caryn Hartglass: You called that innocent at one point where if people had their understanding of the way things were, which were wrong. When you don’t know something, you don’t understand something and you start to learn that everything you believed was wrong. Many of us have a natural knee-jerk reaction to not want to believe that information because it just blows away our foundation.
Pattrice Jones: Innocence is a really important factor in the psychology of people in the United States, particularly white people in the United States. It’s essential to believe oneself to be innocent in some sort of existential way. People are thought of as either good people or bad people, rather than thinking about good or bad acts and thinking of people as capable of both good and bad acts. Innocence depends on keeping yourself innocent of and unaware of the violence upon which your privilege rests. Yes, that was one of the many psychological factors rooted in a particular place that very strongly came into play there. I mentioned just now that innocence is particularly a part of white privilege and it turns out that racism was one of many intersecting oppressions that factored into what seemed to be just a conversation among mostly white people about two animals. In fact, whenever white people are talking among themselves, and especially when some of them are pretending to be the true carriers of the tradition of the land, race is always in there as an unspoken and particularly virulent variable. That was certainly true in this instance.
Caryn Hartglass: I suppose those are the people who used to live there and what they were eating and what their lifestyles were all about before we came and blew them all away.
Pattrice Jones: And also ways of thinking about non-human animals and growing food etc. Ableism was a big issue here. Ableism is the term that we use of course for discrimination against prejudice and against people with disabilities. Ableism assumes that if you have a particular capability, the having of particular capabilities, it makes you morally worthwhile. Not having particular capabilities makes you liable to be locked up, used and sterilized etc. Ableism came into play in several different places here from the very first idea that these were campus workers, that’s what they had been called these two oxen. But when they became unable to work, then they were no longer worthy of care. That was a very disturbing element from many of the people who spoke up for Bill and Lou were not necessarily supporters of animal rights but they were appalled by that particular idea. But there’s also this implicit ableism built into speciesism where the presumption is that people are inherently more morally worthwhile because we have particular capabilities that non-human animals don’t have. Of course we’ve learned over the years that most of the things we claim we can do and claim that non-human animals can’t do, in fact many other non-human animals can do quite well. But the real problem is the form of the argument. The form of the argument is that if you have certain capabilities, this is what gives you rights. This is what gives you moral worth and moral standing. This is what means that we have to care about you. We have to care you if you have rationality and we don’t have to care about you if you don’t. That’s a very troubling way to think. It’s the way that many people think about non-human animals and it’s deeply linked to speciesism. Of course we also saw a good part of sexism on both sides of the controversy during this one. All of that is rooted in a way of thinking about the world that some eco-feminist scholars call the logic of domination, the idea of mind over matter, reason over emotion, male over female, human over animal and culture over nature.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you discuss this by using the word adult husbandry.
Pattrice Jones: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: That just sums it all up. It was chilling when I read it, just wow.
Pattrice Jones: Yes. At Green Mountain College they actually did use that old-school term, animal husbandry. This is something that I think a lot of animal activists who really have not begun to really think about anywhere near as carefully and clearly as we need to think about all uses of non-human animals by humans involved, hands-on control of reproduction. It is deeply linked to sexism and to ignore this is to ignore an essential component of the problem that you are trying to solve. Trying to solve that problem, while not looking at the ways that sex and gender play into our own ways of interacting with each other, just compounds the problem. But when I was talking about the logic of domination, I was also sort of leading into what you said earlier when you said you were really surprised that the administrators at Green Mountain College had not behaved in an economically rational way. That sort of brings me to the third set of things that I talk about in my book The Oxen at the Intersection which is that this whole campaign to save Bill and Lou preceded for the most part as though Bill and Lou were the only animals in question. In fact, we’re animals too. Like every other kind of animal, we have our own ethology and our own psychology. Human psychology is a lot more complicated. We are not in fact economically rational thinking robots.
Caryn Hartglass: No we’re not.
Pattrice Jones: We like to think we are but the only reason we like to think we are is that whole logic of domination that speciesism is built into. So we had this really interesting situation and we see it a lot in animal activism where animal activists who absolutely oppose speciesism are still without really being aware of that they’re doing so, operating within this logic of domination where it’s assumed that humans are rational, where it’s assumed that rationality is superior to emotion and separate from emotion. All of these are actually really odd ideas that are not in any way born out by what we know about how people actually do act. What we know about how people actually do act is the tiny – what you think of as you. Your mind, your conscious and awareness is just a really tiny sliver of the work that your brain is doing all the time. The vast majority of what your brain is doing, in terms of thinking, is not available to you consciously. A lot of times your brain is making decisions and then you’re coming up with some story after the fact to explain.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay so we have some technical difficulties here and Pattrice, whenever you are back, let me know. I just want to say I really enjoyed reading this book, it’s just packed with so many things that will challenge your mind and even if you thought you had it all figured out, I’m sure there are things in here that are going to, like I said, challenge you. Pattrice, are you back yet? Oh gosh, how disappointed am I. I’m going to have to call her back on another show I think to talk more about this. I wanted to say that I think this might just be my real favorite for 2014, that’s how good a book it is. This microcosm, this simple storey touches on so many important points. What is discussed in the book is in ways you would not naturally see: racism, homophobism, sexism, speciesism and how they’re all connected and how they all play into this storey in not-obvious ways.
Oh I am just so disappointed that she’s not with us, aren’t you? That was just fascinating. Now one of the things that I wanted to talk about to Pattrice was something called polarization. She sighted some studies that have been done where people who believe in a certain philosophy, let’s say conservatives and liberals. So the conservatives will listen to their conservative podcasts and the liberals will listen to their liberal podcasts. They will associate with people that believe and support their particular philosophy to the point where they become more so in that philosophy. That was kind of scary to me but apparently it’s very true. She also talks about something called groupthink which is that sheep syndrome where we all start to follow one another. We don’t even realize some of the things we are agreeing to or accepting or we’re acting in certain ways without really thinking about what it is that we’re doing. Often times it can be very dangerous. One of the things with regard to polarization where one group is thinking one thing and another group is thinking another, and they are becoming more so in their thoughts, is that we lose the ability to seek common ground. This is where I’m going these days. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but the last two shows ended will be on this show. I have a segment that I am calling to myself Preaching To The Fire, where I have someone on the program who does not agree with my view of a certain issue and we talk about it. I think this is so important. We did this with the documentary, The Lone Vegan: Preaching To The Fire. Have you seen it yet? If you haven’t, please go to www.responsibleeatingandliving.com and watch it. It’s only seventy minutes and it’s another example of talking to another polarized group, a group that strongly believes in certain issues and becomes more so in their believe because they are surrounded by people and listening to people that support their believe. But if we are going to move forward, we all need to be communicating, we all need to be talking to each other and we need to find some common ground. We need to find the areas that we agree on and focus on those and move forward, and then perhaps in that way we can learn from each other. This story, The Oxen at the Intersection, you must read it. It’s just such a classic example of humanity, ego and what we’ll do and the decisions we will make that may not be for the best. Alright well I guess we’re not going to get Pattrice. I’m very sad about that but we’ll have to have her back on to talk more about this book, okay? In the meanwhile, you get the book and read it, and let me know what you think about it. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Right, now let’s take a break and I will be back with Cherylyn Harley LeBon and we’re going to be talking about salt.
Transcribed by Stefan Pavlovic, 11/12/14
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food here on August 12, 2014. Alright let’s talk about salt shall we? My next guest is Cherylyn Harley Lebon and she is the co-chairman of the Project 21 National Advisory Board. She averages over three-hundred radio television interviews and news article citations per year on behalf of Project 21. She’s currently president and CEO of KLAR Strategies, a public affairs firm. She previously served as a political appointee in the George W. Bush administration, as a spokesman at the Republican National Committee, and a senior council for the US Senate Judiciary Committee. She is a frequent guest on the FOX news channel and national broadcast radio shows, and is a contributor to Townhall and Politicalistas. All right, welcome to It’s All About Food Cherylyn.
Cherylyn Lebon: It’s great to be with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you very much. I’m having a good day, how about you?
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m having a great day!
Caryn Hartglass: Good. Alright, you want to talk about the proposed federal guidelines on salt?
Cherylyn Lebon: Right. So I get where they’re coming from. I think it’s a laudable goal to try and get people to reduce the amount of sodium in their food because as we know, there’s a lot of sodium in processed foods. As most Americans probably would admit, we probably eat too much processed food here, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Cherylyn Lebon: However, what troubles me Caryn is that this sort of across-the-board guideline that people are told and are given, what troubles me is that not everyone is alike. We have different bodies, we have different medical issues and while it is a great idea to get people to reduce sodium in their food, and I might add it’s a great idea to get people to do lots of things.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree, so far we are totally in line.
Cherylyn Hartglass: I think people should reduce their smoking. I think people should reduce drinking. There’s a whole lot of things that I think people should do. I think people should reduce the amount of coffee they’re drinking. I think people probably eat too much fast food. The whole thing. But the problem is, when we do this sort of, everybody needs to reduce their sodium by so many milligrams a day, that’s not true for everyone Caryn. And the example I put in my article is for pregnant women. I have two children. I’ve given birth to two kids and salt is the main way to get iodine to the thyroid glands. And when you’re pregnant, all of the organs in your body are in overdrive. So for pregnant women, they are at an additional risk for iodine deficiency because of the increased thyroid hormone production which growing babies need for brain development. As someone who breast fed their children until they were two years old, breast feeding moms need higher iodine intake as a necessary nutrient for enfant growth. So if I were pregnant or breast feeding right now, this would not be the best advice for me Caryn because I would need that. I would need that.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree that iodine is very important. We all need it. We’ve learned a lot through history how it’s important for the thyroid and how it’s important for pregnant women as you say. But half a teaspoon of iodine salt gives us about 1150 mg of sodium and that gives us all the iodine we need. We don’t need to get additional sodium from salt in our fast foods and our restaurant foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: But think about it though Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: I’ve thought about it a lot!
Cherylyn Lebon: If you’re a breast feeding woman and the FDA says okay you need to reduce your intake further by so many milligrams a day, I can tell you again that someone who breast feed their kids since they were two years old and as someone who needed those calories, my doctor was watching and doing my salt intake and thyroid test. I needed that additional and that advice would’ve been not very good at all for me.
Caryn Hartglass: I think you got to be very careful here because salt and iodine are not the same.
Cherylyn Lebon: They are not.
Caryn Hartglass: What we’re really talking about and what the FDA is really talking about is the added salt in fast foods, processed foods and restaurant foods. Most of those foods do not use salt with iodine. Most food manufacturing companies do not use salt with iodine.
Cherylyn Lebon: Right. But you know Caryn I don’t eat that kind of food. That’s not how I’m getting my calories. I don’t need that.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, where do you get your calories then? Where are you getting your food from?
Cherylyn Lebon: Well I eat a lot of vegetables.
Caryn Hartglass: Great.
Cherylyn Lebon: I don’t eat a lot of meat. And so I really need to watch in particularly when your breastfeeding because you need a high amount of calories every day, so I really needed to watch that.
Caryn Hartglass: So you can have easily taken a supplement and know exactly what you’re getting.
Cherylyn Lebon: I had all of those.
Caryn Hartglass: You can eat sea vegetables or you can have a little bit of salt but you don’t need additional sodium without iodine from fast food, restaurant food or anything like that. That’s what the FDA is talking about. And they’re really talking about the fact that the average American gets 3400 mg or more of sodium a day which we know is a major cause of…
Cherylyn Lebon: But you know what, I don’t agree with that. I still think the FDA has to be really careful because I’ll tell you, I think their guidelines are great for people that have hypertension and that have issues where they really need to reduce their sodium. Okay, I get that and that’s great. But those people probably are under a doctor’s care and are getting that advice.
Caryn Hartglass: I guess it’s not making any sense to me because people who are paying attention to this and want to get the right amount of iodine for whatever their needs are and they are working under a doctor’s care, they’re going to be fine. But it’s the people that don’t know anything about nutrition, are not reading labels and are not paying attention. They’re eating at restaurants, they’re getting processed foods and they’re getting salt without iodine, way too much sodium. Heart disease is the major cause of death. Stroke is the major cause of all the heart diseases.
Cherylyn Lebon: It is but Caryn, I get that. I think we agree, I get that. Those people should reduce their salt intake.
Caryn Hartglass: But they can’t if they’re eating fast food, processed food, and restaurant food…
Cherylyn Lebon: Well you know what Caryn, those people are going to have problems anyhow. Yes it’s sodium but they shouldn’t be eating that food in the first place anyhow!
Caryn Hartglass: But that’s what these voluntary guidelines are all about and they are voluntary. They are directed towards the manufacturers of food.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, it’s not just the voluntary guidelines with respect to sodium. It is trans-fat and all of these things that the government is trying to encourage to people to eat that food.
Caryn Hartglass: Well we shouldn’t be eating trans-fat, you know that.
Cherylyn Lebon: But you know what? You can’t control what people eat. People have choice and they’re going to make that.
Caryn Hartglass: No you can’t but you know when I go to a restaurant and I don’t go out very often because the food is too salted. Now I went out this weekend because it was a special event and I met with people, family and friends, and ate in a restaurant. I came home and I had such dark circles under my eyes and my muscles got stiff because I don’t eat a lot of salt. When I got out and consume food that people are eating everyday that has way too much salt in it, it affects me negatively and many other people. What’s wrong with having a low amount of salt added into food, salt that doesn’t have iodine in it and people that want to add salt to their food, it’s that easy. You can’t take it out but you can put it in.
Cherylyn Lebon: They’re welcome to do that but here’s the thing Caryn. It’s not just the fact that sodium is added to the food. When I go to restaurants, I ask people how they prepare their food and if it’s not prepared the way that I think it should be prepared, we leave. People really need to be a little bit more curious about the food their eating. If they think that it’s not working for them and they’ve got health restrictions, then they need to ask questions. Again, people need to be taking responsibility for what they eat instead of blaming everyone else. I’m just not buying it Caryn. I’m not buying it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m not blaming anybody. I’ve been a vegan for over 25 years. I know all about asking questions in restaurants, believe me, I’ve been doing it most of my life. But when we’re talking about food that’s out there, it doesn’t make sense that it’s loaded with salt. You can’t take it out.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, it’s not just salt. There are a lot of other additives. I’m not convinced either that salt is the problem here with food that’s being prepared, processed food and in restaurants. There are a whole lot of other additives and I don’t think that salt is necessarily the so-bad guy. There is MSG. I mean you’re a vegan for 25 years. You go into the grocery store and you read the ingredients in food don’t you? You see that there’s 25, right? I stopped reading after two or three. You know what, this isn’t what I am going to feed my kids. The other day I went in and I tried to buy popsicles for the kids. My mother and I left out of the grocery store we said we just can’t buy them. It’s a hot day, we’re at the beach and I’m sorry I can’t get my children these things.
Caryn Hartglass: Artificial colors, tons of sugar and “real fruit”.
Cherylyn Lebon: Well it’s beyond that. It is carageenan, and it’s all sorts of things, which just aren’t going to work for our family. But the bottom line here is, to make salt the boogey man, I think we are unfairly picking at one industry when there’s a number of other industries that produce additives. And if we are going to play the blame game, then we need to blame everybody.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay I’m blaming everybody! Part of the problem is that the FDA is so insufficiently funded that they can barely do the job that they say they are going to do. I agree and I would like to have a lot more regulations on our food and I would like to see organic plant food encouraged as the basis of our diet. We shouldn’t have toxic pesticides and herbicides in our food.
Cherylyn Lebon: Well I wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t agree with that Caryn because I think that, once again, you can’t regulate what people eat because people are going to decide…
Caryn Hartglass: But you should give them the simplest form and if they want to sicken it and fill it up with toxins and whatever else they want, people are free to do that. But I want to start with clean food. When the foods, that are supported by our tax dollars, subsidies and benefits, contain toxic chemicals and pesticides, who needs that?
Cherylyn Lebon: People have the choice. They can read the labels and they can educate themselves. People have heard of Google and that’s just a wonderful thing about technology. If you are curious about what you are eating, you have the ability. If you don’t have internet at home or a computer, you can go to one of our fabulous public libraries in our country, get on the computer and read about all the wealth of information that’s available. You have the power to make the choice about what you eat, right?
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right but the problem is that most people are not that savvy and they’re not focused in nutrition.
Cherylyn Lebon: If you can read, you can find this information. If they are illiterate, then we’ve got other problems.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I know but they can go to your blog for example and some of the things that you’ve said are very vague. I think it can lead people down the wrong path. I just want to mention one more thing about…
Cherylyn Lebon: Well then they can fact check my information Caryn, they can fact check it. If they don’t like it, they can fact check it. But I’ll tell you, I don’t like the FDA giving this type of broad advice to people who may not have hypertension, who may not have diabetes and who may need a certain level of sodium intake because of their particular health needs. I’m not comfortable and I come from a family with several doctors. If they’re not doctors then I also have people in my family who work in affiliated health fields. They’re either physical therapists or occupational therapists or work in labs. So I’ve grown up around people who are concerned about what they feed their children, what they feed their families and again, processed food might not be great for a lot of people but that’s the choice they make.
Caryn Hartglass: What do you think about the plumping of chickens, injecting salt solutions into meat in order to increase its weight, increasing the amount of sodium unnaturally, then being labeled natural?
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m not prepared to blame sodium because they’re injecting the chickens.
Caryn Hartglass: So you think that’s okay for manufacturers? Because a lot of them do.
Cherylyn Lebon: No I don’t, I didn’t say that. Not at all.
Caryn Hartglass: But they do it because they are allowed to.
Cherylyn Lebon: But they also inject the chickens with lots of other things. Why are we picking on salt?
Caryn Hartglass: Well hey, I’m not eating it and I tell people not to eat it. Salt is one of the things that manufacturers do…
Cherylyn Lebon: And it’s also in antibiotics and all sorts of other things. Again Caryn, you’re picking on salt but my dear, there’s a whole lot of other things! If you’re going to have a problem with salt, you’re going to have a problem with a litany of other things.
Caryn Hartglass: What we talk about here on It’s All About Food is eating a diet that is based on organic plant foods, minimally processed whole foods with very low salts, sugars and added oils.
Cherylyn Lebon: That’s something for everyone to strive for, isn’t that great?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely and we can agree on that.
Cherylyn Lebon: And that’s something for everyone to strive for. But again Caryn, I can’t tell people to do that. What works for my family and what works for you may not work for everybody. We shouldn’t be in the business of being the food police and telling people…
Caryn Hartglass: No but what the government needs to do is make the healthiest foods affordable and they’re not doing that. They need to have guidelines to direct people towards the healthiest foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: So you think it’s the government’s job to make food healthy and affordable?
Caryn Hartglass: They should make the healthiest foods the most affordable, yes, because right now they’re not. Right now they are making cereals to be grown to feed animals to feed people the most affordable. They’re making corn syrup…
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, I think there are a whole lot of other problems with what you’ve said because let me tell you something. I don’t know the last time you’ve been to a impoverish neighborhood but I go to plenty. Those places are food deserts.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes I know all about them.
Cherylyn Lebon: But those bodegas in New York City, do you know what they’re selling there? And why is that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s don’t go into the hood?
Caryn Hartglass: They know their demographics, absolutely.
Cherylyn Lebon: Because they get no incentives to go in there. They get no tax breaks to go in there. How about if the government focuses on some incentives so that these impoverish neighborhoods aren’t food deserts. So that farmers’ markets…
Caryn Hartglass: I absolutely agree with that but you know what’s there, fast foods are loaded with salt.
Cherylyn Lebon: But Caryn, again you’re picking on salt and I’m telling you there’s a whole lot of other problems besides salt, my dear. And if that is all these people have to eat, then my goodness where do you think they’re going to eat? Where do you think they’re going to go to feed their families? That’s all they’ve got and then the bodega only has canned food, canned peas and canned string beans. Are the farmers’ markets in their neighborhood? No.
Caryn Hartglass: But those cans should be very low in sodium. I mean I buy a lot of canned beans and they have no sodium in them.
Cherylyn Lebon: Wait a minute Caryn, how about a decent grocery store that has frozen vegetables? How about that?
Caryn Hartglass: I’m not arguing with you but that frozen chicken shouldn’t be plumped up with extra sodium.
Cherylyn Lebon: Again, we’re back to the sodium…
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s what we’re talking about today. I mean we can start talking about sugar or corn syrup…
Cherylyn Lebon: I’m just saying. But let’s go back to square one and start offering these families options. But these families don’t have options. You live in a world where you have the ability to be a vegan if you can afford it. What about these families? All they have is a bodega.
Caryn Hartglass: Well my diet is based on beans and rice which is like the cheapest food you can possibly eat and I encourage everybody to live on primarily these foods.
Cherylyn Lebon: With all due respect, these bodegas aren’t necessarily selling…
Caryn Hartglass: Yes but that’s not related to salt. That’s just another problem and we should be addressing those problems too, I agree. Everyone should have access to whole minimally-processed plant foods with no salt in it!
Cherylyn Lebon: Yes but Caryn, that’s great. Again, these are laudable goals to work towards. But my point is, if it’s not available to people who are living in the hood and have a bodega. We can talk about it ad nauseam but until the government comes up with solutions for people to live in neighborhoods and have incentives so that real grocery stores will go into neighborhoods and offer people alternatives, then you know we’re going to keep having hypertension and an obesity problem because this is what is being offered to Americans. That is my problem with this. That’s what the government should focus on.
Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you Cherylyn for your information today and for joining me today on It’s All About Food.
Cherylyn Lebon: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, take care.
Cherylyn Lebon: Thank you. Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: All right, that was Cherylyn Harley Lebon and you know about her thoughts regarding salt and food access. So we have just a few minutes left and again I wanted to remind you about the upcoming webinar on August 20th, all about water, clean water and water purification. It’s free and you can sign up at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com.
Just before we go, I wanted to share my restaurant experience this weekend. You know I was talking about going to eat out which I rarely do. Aside from the salt, and there was salt in some of the food I ate, I was down on the lower east side of New York and this neighborhood is really full of energy and so exciting. So my partner Gary is in a play in the Fringe Festival here in New York City and it’s called No One Asked Me. It’s all about the illegal immigration, it’s a fascinating story. So I went to a number of performances with friends and families, and got to try some of the restaurants in the area. Here’s what I was amazed at. We went to a pizza place called Paula Pizza. It was a beautiful open-area restaurant, the weather was great and the front of the restaurant was all open of outdoor seating. Their menu had regular pizzas, vegan pizzas with Daiya cheese and gluten-free pizzas. So I could get a vegan gluten-free pizza and they were beautiful. It was a lot of fun. Then I went to another place called the Falafel Shop and usually at the Falafel Shop there’s plenty of vegetarian food. But this one, they also offered vegan gluten-free pita bread and they had green juice. I was pretty much in heaven. Now those restaurants weren’t too bad for salt, it was another restaurant that I went to chosen by some other people. It was family dining and they were very nice. They did order some vegan salads and foods for the few vegan and vegetarian people. But there were two beautiful fresh salads; one of them was an endive salad and one was an arugula salad but it was just like they threw a handful of salt on top of both of these plates of salad. It was terrible, it was really terrible. As I was saying earlier, I woke up the next day with dark circles under my eyes. I went to do my yoga practice and I was so stiff I could barely touch my toes. I could not do a lot of the flexible exercises that I normally do and it was so profound to me. I can read study after study about how many people have been evaluated from the amount of salt that they’ve been eating and on how it impacts their own diet. But when you see it yourself, when you see what it does to you, it’s more powerful to me than anything else. The point I was trying to make and I want to bring it up again, that the salt we were talking about that we really want to reduce is the salt in processed, manufactured and prepared foods that a lot of people buy today. A lot of people don’t cook. Most of this salt does not have iodine in it so the whole iodine argument goes out the window. It’s just unnecessary salt.
Well I enjoyed that and I hope you did too. Before we go, I want to remind you of our REAL app. Another thing I wanted to tell you about is that I have a bunch of muffin recipes on the Responsible Eating and Living website. I love making muffins and I kind of have a loose principle that I don’t eat bread products unless I make them. Now unfortunately I think I gained quite a bit because I love too and I always love coming up with new muffin recipes. I have a new one, butter pecan muffins, and of course they’re vegan and gluten-free. Wow, they are so good. You can find a link to that recipe at the bottom of the Responsible Eating and Living website. Butter pecan muffins, don’t they sound good? They are good. There are lots of wonderful recipes that we have. You can always go to the real favorites. I have a category called real favorites in our recipe selection and these are the recipes that I’m making all the time. Well there you have it. I hope to bring back pattrice jones sometime soon, I wasn’t quite finished with that interview but in the meanwhile please pick up a copy of her book The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collision and read it, it’s so important. Other than that, have a very delicious week.
Transcribed by Stefan Pavlović, 9/6/2014
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