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Moby on Why He Went Vegan and What He Thinks of 'Conscientious Carnivores'

The author of 'Gristle' discusses his biggest food influences, why we should stop subsidizing support factory farms and agribusiness, and why he's optimistic about the future.

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KT: The op-ed goes on to claim that your book "attempts to eviscerate livestock farming and traditional models of food safety" and dismisses Gristle as part of a spate of "glitzy celebrity propaganda campaigns." How do you respond to the accusation that Gristle is "glitzy"?

M: Well, we did hire a graphic designer... so we have a good-looking book, but at least we're honest. Which cannot be said about any aspect of agribusiness and factory farming, which maintain a PR ethos of egregious obfuscation. The reason they keep the feedlots and slaughterhouses so far from towns and cities is to make sure no one knows what's actually involved in raising and slaughtering animals en masse.

Part of my criteria for deciding what to eat is asking myself, "Could I take part in the process that led to this food being on my plate?" I could pick a carrot. I could not shoot a bolt into the head of a baby cow, watch it spasm and die, and then eviscerate it. Also there is no correlation between educating people about the consequences and ramifications of animal production and food safety. These paid agribusiness lackeys are just looking after their heavily subsidized paychecks and trying to confuse a painfully simple issue by spouting blatant untruths.

KT: The optimism that so many people felt in November 2008 has given way, for some, to disappointment and discouragement at the apparent lack of genuine change. How do you remain hopeful in these troubled times?

M: By reminding myself that the world is a complicated place and that real, meaningful and lasting change is the result of long-term, and effective, advocacy and effort. My optimism hasn't diminished at all. Perhaps people need to remember that politicians aren't magicians or saints, they're civil servants who sometimes apply their intelligence and experience to a whole host of problems. And sometimes they pass meaningful legislation, and sometimes they don't. That's the political process, and I have yet to see any politician or party get around it in a constitutional way.

KT: Is the term "conscientious carnivore" an oxymoron?

M: I think that "conscientious carnivore" is a valid term. I don't think that I occupy any ethical or conscious high ground by being a vegan, it's just my choice. A carnivore who eats local chickens and is loving and nice to everyone around him is probably a bit higher up the ethical scale than a vegan who is a sociopath.

KT: Fans of Teany, the NYC tea shop and vegetarian café you co-founded, have been eagerly anticipating its reopening in the wake of a fire last June. And Teany cafés may soon be coming to Vermont, Chicago and Los Angeles. But until there's a Teany in every town, how do you manage to find ethical eateries when you're on the road?

M: Luckily almost every town in the Western world has a health food store and a vegetarian restaurant. That's why I’m fat. Oh, and I haven't owned Teany for about four years. I'm just a patron these days.

KT: In a conversation you had with Mark Bittman he noted that it's better to have "tens of millions of people significantly reduce their consumption of animal products than see tens of thousands eliminate them." This pragmatic approach typifies the Meatless Monday campaign.You attended the launch of Sir Paul McCartney's Meat Free Monday campaign in London last June and wholeheartedly endorsed it. Would you be willing to shine your star wattage on our own stateside Meatless Mondays?

M: I show up wherever/whenever people ask me to show up. The only reason I don't go somewhere is because I haven't been invited. I need to learn how to stay home, I think.

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