Moby on Why He Went Vegan and What He Thinks of 'Conscientious Carnivores'
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Moby's new book Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety (Thinking Twice About the Meat We Eat) is a medley of anti-industrial meat memes written by an eclectic mix of advocates, experts and others who offer 10 compelling reasons for eliminating factory-farmed animal products from our diet.
A passionate advocate for animals, Moby has been quietly donating profits from his film music to the Humane Society for years. In Gristle, which he edited with food policy activist Miyun Park, Moby is stepping up his campaign to end cruelty to animals. He took the time to answer my questions via email recently, as he geared up for the release of Gristle, due out at the end of March:
Kerry Trueman: When it comes to going vegan, you're the quintessential early adopter; you switched to a plant-based diet more than two decades ago. Now, veganism's practically a badge of honor with grassroots activists and the green glitterati. Are you surprised that this once-ridiculed way of life is finally gaining acceptance?:
Moby: I guess I'm more surprised that so many environmentalists and lefties still eat meat. I don't judge, I really don't, but it seems so odd that people who are progressive and conscious in so many other areas of their life still support factory farming.
KT: There's been a spate of books recently extolling the virtues of a vegan or vegetarian diet, from the Skinny Bitches' snarky schtick to more nuanced nudging from Alicia Silverstone, Mark Bittman, Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Pollan. Where does Gristle fit into this spectrum?
M: Gristle is the nerdy cousin to these much cooler books. Gristle looks pretty, but it's more factual and informative than most other animal-oriented books.
KT: Are there any particular thinkers, or writers, or cultural forces that have informed your veganism?
M: John Robbins with the original Diet for a New America. Jane Goodall and Peter Singer, of course.
KT: Your stated agenda in your intro to Gristle is to simply end animal suffering. One way to achieve this worthy goal is to convince folks to stop consuming meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products from factory farms. Alternatively, as a recent New York Times op-edby a doctoral student in the philosophy-neuroscience-psychology program at Washington University proposed, we could "genetically engineer livestock so that they suffer much less," i.e. block their perception of pain. American ingenuity at its finest, or definitive proof that we are a truly depraved culture?
M: It's hard to say what is/isn't depraved about our culture while we're in the middle of things. In a few hundred years I think that historians will have a much better perspective from which to judge our depravity. But please keep in mind that in the 14th century it was "sport" to kill cats by nailing them to walls and head-butting them. So what seems normal to us in the short-term might seem less so as time passes.
KT: The Center For Consumer Freedom, an agribiz-funded astroturf operation, recently published an op-ed stating that "It's easy for celebrities to passionately condemn farming by large agricultural firms. They don't have to worry about a grocery bill." Your reaction?
M: It's almost comical, actually, as factory farming and meat production are so heavily subsidized. If you removed all subsidies from animal production the cost of a pound of beef would be around $25. A vegan diet is inherently less expensive than a diet based on animal protein. Let's remove the subsidies that go to factory farms and big agribusiness and let their products be sold at true market cost. How many people would be rushing to McDonald’s if a hamburger cost $18? And that's roughly what a McDonald’s hamburger would cost if all federal and state subsidies were removed from animal production.