Episode 30 – Peace, Love and Veganism with James Aspey
Listen to this episode here!
In this episode Rachel is joined by James Aspey; vegan, animal rights activist and public speaker.
James replaced drugs, cancer and bulimia with veganism, surfing and meditation and his story is an incredible inspiration to people across the globe. After being diagnosed with Leukemia which led him into drug addiction he changed his life drastically and started a journey in search of health and happiness. Through becoming vegan and experiencing first-hand the amazing ways it improved his life (and what it does for the planet!) he has since dedicated his life’s work to spreading the message of loving kindness, peace and veganism.
In this episode Rachel shares her struggle with having transitioned away from being vegan and how it’s affected her life and together they dive into the topic of veganism, health, animals and what it means to live a life that aligns with loving kindness.
[001:28] Rachel: Welcome to another episode of From The Heart: Conversations with Yoga Girl. Today I have a badass guest on the show who has dedicated his entire life’s work to making a difference in the world, James Aspey. James is a hardcore promoter of peace. An animal rights activist, vegan, and public speaker. To quote his website with what I think is just maybe the coolest sentence I have ever read in my life: “He replaced drugs, cancer, and bulimia with veganism and meditation.” What?! Welcome to the show, James!
James: (laugh) Thanks so much, Rachel, I appreciate it, thank you.
Rachel: How do you like your intro, do you approve?
James: You killed it, you nailed it. I knew you’d do a good job. Very well done.
James: But you forgot a word. I think I wrote I replaced drugs, cancer and bulimia with surfing, veganism, and meditation. But don’t worry, I’m not going to hold it against you, you were real close.
Rachel: Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. Okay, we have to talk about surfing then, because I totally, totally missed that part.
James: It’s all good.
Rachel: So, I mean, where are you right now? I know it’s early where you’re at. I’m making you wake up really early in the morning, I’m sorry about that.
James: That’s alright. I am in Australia. I just got here yesterday. I came from Bali, before that I was in Norway, before that I was in Ireland, and tonight I go back to the U.K., I’m going to London. I’ve got a festival there I’m speaking at for a few days. And then that’s it, I come back again and I go to Adelaide and then New Zealand, and yeah, the journey continues. It’s pretty full on.
Rachel: Life on the road, wow.
James: Oh yeah.
Rachel: It’s so amazing. So, I follow you on Facebook and I have been for a while. I think I’m kind of one of those silent followers. I don’t usually comment on anything on social media. But I’ve been following you for a while and I’ve been watching your speeches and your talks and your YouTube videos, and I’m so inspired by your dedication and by the life that you lead. But I have to start this podcast episode off by saying that I am not vegan.
James: Okay, good disclaimer to hear.
[004:00] Rachel: Very good disclaimer to hear. So, I actually, yeah, I feel like I’m kind of a hypocrite, or not kind of a hypocrite, when it comes to my own dietary choices I am totally a hypocrite. I used to be vegan, I was vegan for a bunch of years, and somehow I faded out of that. Actually, I don’t really know how to pinpoint when exactly that happened, but little by little I just lost my way, and I went astray. I think of my diet choices whenever I eat, because right now I eat cheese and I don’t drink milk or eat egg or meat or any of that, but I do eat cheese.
James: Okay, so you’re close, real close.
Rachel: I kind of make excuses for that … yeah, but I kind of say, like, “Oh, but it’s kind of like how I drink wine and I eat dessert and I eat sugar stuff. I know it’s bad, but I do it anyway, you know.
James: I understand, I understand.
Rachel: But I’ve realized the difference is when I drink wine and when I’m eating chocolate or whatever, I’m not really inflicting harm onto the world, and I know with my non-vegan diet I am. So this podcast with you is super selfish, actually. I want you to kickstart-
James: You could have just called me! We didn’t have to do a podcast.
Rachel: But we can inspire the world, maybe, hopefully, a little bit.
James: (laugh) Well I think that’s awesome, first of all, that you’re reaching out and want to have a chat about it. I really appreciate it that you follow all of my stuff, I think that’s awesome as well. And, you know, sometimes, I mean, It’s hard to be perfect sometimes in a world that is setup for non-vegans, you know? It’s setup that meat is here and cheese is on everything and you know that the industry is hidden from you, so you kind of forget maybe some of the reasons that inspired you to go vegan in the first place, and that’s really the job of the vegan activist is to try to encourage and educate and inspire people to make the choices that are better for themselves, and better for the planet, and obviously better for the animals.
[006:00] So, you know, I can understand why some people might lose their way every now and then, but getting back on track is an easy thing to do. And like you said if you’re feeling a bit like a hypocrite and things like that, then in your heart you know as well that it’s the right thing to do. So, going vegan doesn’t have to be hard, and you’re already so close and, so, you know, it’s going to be a positive thing. But we’ll get to that anyway.
Rachel: (laugh) We’ll get to that. Let’s rewind a little bit, because I know, so the people that listen to the show, it’s all kinds of people. I’m sure there’s many people out there that haven’t heard of you, and I know for sure we have listeners who follow any kind of diet, and there’s going to be people that are totally against anything that’s labeled vegan, and there’s going to be a debate in the social media comments section, like I know, I can anticipate already.
James: (laugh) Yes, of course.
Rachel: Why don’t we just kind of go back a little bit and talk about you and how you got started on this journey?
James: Sure. Well, really, I mean, I’m thirty years old now, but when I was 17 I would say that a significant thing happened in my life that kind of got this journey started. I was diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma and I was given six weeks to live if I didn’t start treatment straight away. So, I went through the chemotherapy, I went through three years of treatment, actually. I put on about 60 pounds, or 25 kilos in that time and got very sick, and I just really suffered, actually. There were times when I was in my hospital room screaming out loud from the pain, or other times when I was so struggling to get oxygen in that I thought I was close to my last breath, and many many different things happened. But the point is that I really suffered.
[008:00] This experience made me realize how bad it is to suffer, and also how if you can come out of your suffering, that is one of the best things that could ever happen to you. And I was lucky because somebody, he helped me out of my suffering, he helped me get fit and strong and healthy. It was a personal trainer. So that inspired me to become a personal trainer as well. I wanted to do what he’d done. I wanted to give someone else the gift that he had given me and help someone come out of that pain and out of that feeling bad and not recognizing yourself in your body and all that kind of stuff.
So I became a personal trainer for eight years, very passionate, worked on cruise ships. Then I met a man on a cruise ship who just said one thing to me, and it was one of the most life changing things I have ever heard, looking back on it now, but all he said was that eating animals is bad karma. And he was like a really wise, old Indian man. We had been talking a lot. “Eating animals is bad karma,” he said. I said, “There’s no such thing as a healthy vegetarian,” which is what I’d believed for a long time. He said that he had been vegetarian for 20 years, and I was thinking, well, wow, like, he’s not dead, so maybe it’s possible? I tried it for seven days. I thought, “Alright, I’ll try it.” I tried it for seven days, I thought I would feel horrible, I actually felt amazing. Because I was eating meat, like so much meat, Rachel. Like every single meal for my whole life I was piling on the meat. I was a personal trainer. It was that whole, “Get meat proteins…”
Rachel: Was that how you were raised also, in your family? Was that the diet you followed?
James: Yeah, absolutely. Ah man, we’re all big meat eaters, you know? We’re from Australia, we’ve got the barbeque. Every country thinks they’re country eats the most meat. They’re like, “Oh yeah, not our country, we could never do that here.” I’m like this is a worldwide problem. Don’t think that your country is special.
[010:00] Anyway, so I felt so good and it shocked me, so I looked into if there were any health benefits, because I didn’t have a clue, I just thought I knew. And when I realized that you can be so much healthier from not eating animal products, live a longer life, reduce the chances of heart disease, which is the number one killer, and a diet free from animal products is the only diet ever been proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of its patients, and reduce your likelihood of many cancers and diabetes and obesity and osteoporosis. All of these problems that I was seeing in people every week that I was working on this cruise ship, people coming in telling me they’re on ten medications, fifteen medications, lowering their cholesterol, lowering their blood pressure, I thought, man, wow! I got so excited that I had discovered something through food that could heal people. Then I learned about the ethical stuff. I watched a documentary called Earthlings.
Rachel: What did you read? Were you just kind of devouring anything you came across? Or did you have guidance? Did you have any…
James: The first book I read was like an encyclopedia styled book, it’s called, “Healing With Whole Foods,” and it was an incredible book. Basically it was just coincidental. I read this book and it just happened to be that every single ailment in there was always pointing back to a plant-based diet. It wasn’t even about a plant-based diet, but that was the answer to all of the ailments kind of thing. I just went, you’re like, “This is making way too much sense.” It was kind of freaking me out a little bit.
Then I watched Earthlings. I watched what happens to the animals in this documentary, what happens to them before they become that neatly wrapped package on a supermarket shelf, before they get turned into a jacket, before they get put into a product or products are tested on them. I just saw, I saw with new eyes, because I’d seen animals be slaughtered before in footage or whatever, but I didn’t care because I felt we needed to for health. But then when I realized, oh my god, all of this screaming, all of this violence, this torture, these poor innocent things, this is happening and we don’t even need to do it for our health? What are we doing this for?!
[012:00] And when I looked for an answer, I found the best answer basically is because they taste good, or it’s traditional habit or convenience. I just went, “Nah, I’m not okay with that. That’s not the kind of person I am. I’m a peaceful person, respectful. I would never hurt an animal in this way just for a fleeting taste sensation. I’ll eat something else. And if I can live and thrive without it, then all the better.” And then I learned, you know, I started vegetarian for a while, then I learned that there’s at least as much cruelty in dairy, in eggs. That’s when I felt like the hypocrite because I felt like, man, I’m doing this thing for animals, but I’m still eating animals or animal products that hurt them just as badly, that still cause their death or their harm. And I just realized, you know, it doesn’t make sense to say you’re against cruelty to some animals and participate in cruelty to others. So, that’s when I realized, holy shit man, I need to go vegan.
This was the biggest shock to me, and all my friends and family, because I wasn’t even an animal lover! I wasn’t at all an animal lover. I don’t even really like my dog that much, you know? I wasn’t like … So when I’m telling everyone I’m going vegan they were like, “Fuck, he’s back on the drugs, or something is going on. He’s not right in the head. This guy can’t go vegan. There must be something going on.” But, you know, I started showing people what I’d been seeing and teaching the health info that I had learned. I wanted not to go vegan, but the more I looked into it the more I was like, “Well this is right. It’s better in every way. Better for the environment, better for our health, better for the animals.”
[014:00] I just couldn’t fight the logic, and then I just couldn’t … once I’d seen what I’d seen, I really actually felt for the animals, and the more I learned about who animals actually are and how their emotional lives are so rich, and that they have a heart and brain just like us, I just didn’t want to discriminate against them anymore just based on how they look on the outside. Veganism is all just about treating others the way that you’d want to be treated. It’s the Golden Rule in action. I just wanted to increase the peace and do my part and reduce the suffering, so that’s pretty much it.
Rachel: It’s such a huge piece and such a huge component. For personal health, one thing, for compassion of other beings, one thing, for the environment also a huge thing.
Rachel: I kind of have this discussion a lot. So we, especially in the yoga community, the first yama of the first limb of yoga is ahimsa, which is non-harm. So it really is, it’s a huge part of this lifestyle that me and so many, you know, millions of other people that practice yoga and are committed to the practice lead, and somehow I find that, you know, at least a lot of people in my community, they opt out from the eat, maybe the red meat, or “I just eat some chicken, you know, but I’m not like vegan. Vegan is really extreme.” I always go silent now because I no longer identify under the vegan label and I’ve lost my way.
James: We need you, Rachel!
Rachel: I don’t have these discussions anymore and it’s just … And it bugs me. Kind of all the time! And actually I had this right before we booked you to come on the show, I had this big discussion with a woman. So, we have an animal rescue organization here in Aruba where we live, and a huge portion of my time and energy and money goes to rescuing stray dogs and cats, because it’s a really bit problem on the island here.
James: Great, great stuff.
[016:00] Rachel: And we raise a ton of money, and we’re opening an animal shelter in January, and so many things are happening. And I look at the people in this community, because people are so dedicated to the well-being of animals, but all of them eat meat, really.
James: Yeah. That’s not right.
Rachel: And I find myself caught in this very dangerous, very very controversial discussion of, you know, but which animals do you love then? If it’s okay to eat a baby pig but a puppy, we go crazy if there’s a puppy in the street … “Oh my god, stop life! Let’s … holy shit, figure this out!” But then we’re mindlessly kind of inflicting the same kind of suffering or much, much worse every day of our lives without thinking about it.
James: Much worse.
Rachel: So I guess my question is, I mean, I have a lot of questions, but one, when you have this conversation, because I know you do probably every day of your life, and it’s so emotionally charged … because that was something that I got really tired of arguing with people after a while.
James: I do too. I try not to argue anymore. You know, I don’t want to argue with people anymore. I mean, it is fascinating, isn’t that the most fascinating thing that this really awesome picture that summarizes it well, and there’s this man with a knife, it’s a cartoon picture. He’s holding his knife and there’s all of these animals lined up in front of him, a cow, a pig, a chicken, a horse, a lamb, and he’s holding his knife towards him, but he’s looking down and with his other hand not holding the knife he’s patting his cats.
Rachel: I’ve seen that, yeah, yeah.
[018:00] James: Yes. That’s speciesism in a nutshell. We value certain animals over others. In some countries, like in India, they do not eat cows, and in this country we do not eat dogs, and in other countries they do not eat pigs. You know? It’s just cultural. There’s no difference, morally, between any of these animals.
So, I think though, just going back a little bit, people think that veganism is extreme. I used to think the exact same thing. Now, I mean, the reason why I went vegan is because I realized … what’s extreme about being vegan? Being vegan is the most chill thing I can think of! It’s so chill, it’s so respectful, it’s so peaceful. It’s not extreme to be at a supermarket and like a few feet to the right to buy the soy, almond, rice or coconut milk instead of the cow’s milk. It’s not extreme to be at the Mexican restaurant and ask for extra guac instead of sour cream. These are not extreme actions at all. But the extreme actions are when you pay somebody to mutilate and torture and murder an animal for a food or product that not only don’t need, that you’re better off without, while claiming to be either an animal lover, or if not that far, then at least claiming to be against animal cruelty. I mean, that’s extreme. And that also happens to be the normal in this society. And that is why it’s so common to see people who so care, they care so much about human animals, because we’re animals as well, you know? We’re just another species of animal. So, they care so much and do so much for human animals, they do so much for dogs or cats or dolphins or whales, and then they kill and eat pigs and cows and chickens and fish.
And there’s a lot of reasons why. Some people really believe they need meat for protein, they need dairy for calcium. This isn’t people’s fault. This is the lies that is fed to us by the industries, often, who are profiting from all of this killing. From feeding us these foods that kill us. And, you know, we don’t know any better. We just believe what we believe.
[020:00] A lot of the time if you ask somebody, “Why do you eat meat?” They’ll say for protein. Or why do you drink cow’s milk? They’ll say, “For calcium.” This is all over the world. I’ve been talking about this all over the world for years now. It’s the same lies everywhere. It’s the same excuses everywhere. All the same ones that I had people in India have, people in Norway have, people in New Zealand have. It’s just so interesting.
So how do I talk about it? Well, I talk about it kind of how I just did then. I say, “Look, I hear where you’re coming from. I used to think the same thing. But actually, the truth is, we don’t need meat for protein. In fact there’s protein abundantly in plant foods. The benefit of getting it from the plant foods is we don’t include the saturated fat, the cholesterol, the hormones, the high-concentrated doses of pesticides, the animal cruelty, the environment of destruction. They can still get protein, and the world record holding strongman is a vegan, and Mr. Universe of a few years ago is a vegan. Basically what I do is just try to … like I said at the start, I educate and encourage and inspire, because the truth is on the vegan’s side. The truth is on our side. It always points, the best path always points to being vegan. It’s just about realizing the objections that people have, you know? They need protein, they think it’s going to be hard, they think it’s extreme, they think it’s expensive. And just crossing that off their list, just saying, “Actually, here’s the truth.” And for them, you know, they’ll be like, “Whoa, okay, this is actually delicious.” Or, “Wow, I didn’t know it could be so cheap to be vegan.” Or, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was so healthy.” Just teach them truth, and encouraging people. Not slamming people for not being vegan, you know? That doesn’t work. Blaming and shaming is not the way.
[022:00] Rachel: No, for sure. I mean, teaching and leading with love, I mean, to change anyone’s opinion on anything, I think it’s definitely the only way.
Rachel: But one of the things, I think, that I struggled with so much, and I know this is … I just realized, as you were talking, you know, why this is coming about for me right now. So, I have a seven month old baby girl, and she just a month ago started eating solid food for the first time.
James: Oh cool! That’s exciting.
[024:00] Rachel: And one of the first things that I told my husband, I said, “Okay, this is a whole new thing now. Instead of breastfeeding we’re going to be making food for her everyday. Of course it’s going to be homemade. I wouldn’t buy whatever junk is in the store.” And, I said, “And of course, it’s going to be all vegan.” Like, I would never, ever, in a million years feed her dairy. Meat, hell no, of course not, like fish no, eggs no, but dairy that I eat, I would never. Ever ever ever ever ever. And I’ve had to instruct our whole family, my mom and my husband’s parents and everything. This child does not eat dairy at all.
James: Great. Lucky child.
Rachel: And then it hit me. Okay, so I’m … why should she be on a vegan diet, but I am allowing myself to eat this food that I know is horrible for the planet and for animals and for me? I’m showing her more love than I’m showing myself, really. And this has to change! I know it’s not a sustainable thing. I’m not going to feed her vegan food for the rest of her life while I continue to eat something else. That’s not going to work.
So, it’s just, I had to make a choice now. Either I go back to being vegan, the way, you know, the way things are supposed to be. Or we’re going to starve! (laugh) That’s kind of what it is, the option to give my baby not vegan food, it’s just not an option for me.
James: Good, good! I mean, you’re in a good predicament because, you know, you’re close. Like some people would think, “Oh my god I’m miles away from being vegan, how am I ever going to do this?” You’ve already done this for a few years, you know you can do it. I’m sure you know some good recipes. You’ve got one food left to drop. So you’re already there, pretty much.
Rachel: Okay, hopefully.
James: Yeah, I guess I’d just say that for me it really helped to make a commitment. I went back and forth for a while. Like I said, like we said at the start, I had bulimia. I had a really bad eating disorder which came about from my time in the hospital and the drugs they put me on. I ate so much food, it was all I could do, it was all I could do with my time, it was all I wanted to do because of the drugs. That led to a bad, bad relationship with food, which eventually led to bulimia. It was really hard for me to go vegan, even though I had it in my heart because I had this bad probably with food. So I’d go good for a couple of weeks, and then I’d just binge on ice cream or something like that.
[026:00] And I guess, you know, it helped a lot to learn that there’s delicious vegan ice creams out there, but still every now and then I’d still have the dairy. I had to make a decision. I said that that’s it. “From this day on I will not knowingly consume the products of violence anymore. I will not knowingly put this product of violence into my own body anymore from this day forward.” I just made a vow to myself. I made a commitment. And it actually, that was a really good way for me. It really did help. I got educated before that, I watched some documentaries, I got the motivation to do it as well. I saw what happened to the cows on the dairy farms, how the babies are taken from the mothers, and I also witnessed that in real life a few weeks ago in Israel. It broke my heart, you know? I saw the baby boys in the dairy industry, because they’re waste products, they get their throats slit and they get killed because they’ll never produce dairy, they’ll never produce milk. So I just reminded myself of all of these things, and it helped a lot.
You know, it is about love. You love your daughter so much, that’s so beautiful. It’s just, going vegan, obviously there’s countless benefits for the environment and for the animals, and even for your health. But on another level, on a more yoga, ahimsa kind of vibe, it’s non-violence to yourself. So what most people are doing right now, if they saw an animal, someone torturing or about to kill an animal, they’d get over there and they’d stop that victim. They’d help that victim of violence and they’d stop that bully. That’s in most humans’ heart. 99% of people are against unnecessary animal cruelty. And they go against that very important, fundamental core value every single time they consume an animal product.
[028:00] So when you decide, when you make that vow to become vegan, and it’s so easy to do, it’s literally just changing a few things of what you’re buying in the supermarket, you still eat all of your favorite foods, just the vegan version, it’s the best! You don’t sacrifice anything. So when you make that commitment, what you’re actually doing, it’s so much more than just making a diet choice. You are actually aligning your core values with your actions. And it changes you. It changes how you reel inside. There’s none of this conflict, there’s none of this feeling like a hypocrite. There’s none of this mental gymnastics you have to play to make yourself, like you’re saying, oh I have a bit of wine so why can’t I have a bit of cheese? There’s none of that anymore, it all disappears. You live in alignment with your core values. By doing that you are increasing the peace inside of you. There’s less turmoil, there’s more peace, there’s more compassion, there’s more respect. You’ve taken a step that has increased the … the ahimsa inside you. You know that the value of ahimsa. And all of these things, benefit not just us but the world, because when you become more of a non-violent, when you start living more with the value of ahimsa and you start increasing the peace and the joy and respect and compassion inside yourself, of course, only then can you share those qualities with the world. So it also just raises the collective consciousness of this world to a higher frequency, to a more positive, love-based frequency.
The benefits are just actually so endless, I just see there’s such a way out of so many of the messes we’ve created for ourselves.
[030:00] Rachel: I mean, it is … on an energetic level, I mean, everything you’re saying now, it’s just clicking so intensely. But for someone who is listening now, because I know there is going to be thousands of people listening that kind of had that same attitude as I do about dairy, for instance. Like, dairy is not as bad … Can you explain a little bit about the truth behind what goes into the production of dairy, and it’s not as peaceful as people think? Because I think people have this idea that there’s a farm, and there’s a cow being milked, and, you know, cheese is created somehow. It’s all fine and dandy, although I know that’s not the case. But could you share a little bit?
James: Sure. Well, obviously, I mean, you’ve got to remember that these industries do not have our best interests or the best interests of the animals or the planet at heart. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of the most destructive things happening to the planet right now, so they also don’t care about that. They also don’t care about the animals because they exploit and kill 56 billion land animals every year and over three trillion sea animals every single year. So just remember the kind of industry that are telling us that we need dairy, that we need protein, and that they do it ethically and humanely and free range. Let’s remember who we’re dealing with here.
So, on dairy farms … and just, even before dairy, just to think of it this way as well, before I go into the specifics of dairy, just coming from a place and understand that animals are not here for us. They are not here to serve us, they are not here to become our property, they are not here to be our slaves or to serve us in any way. Animals are here for their own reasons, just like we are. Some people say, “Well what would animals do if we didn’t eat them?” They would live … I’m looking at a bird right now just chilling. Just chilling, enjoying the sunlight, in the grass, relaxing, doing whatever it wants. The other day I was in Bali and I saw this family, this big chicken with all of these tiny little baby chicks, just showing them around, showing them how to climb up things, showing them how to eat. You know, these other animals, these other species, they just want to do what we want to do. They want to live in joy, be left in peace. They want to not suffer. So just remember that animals are not here for us to use.
[032:00] That’s why all exploitation is a form of abuse, because all abuse is wrong, and all the ways we use animals is a form of exploitation. We shouldn’t be using them. They’re not here for us. So just starting from that foundation. Because a lot of people will say, “Well buy ahimsa milk,” or, “I buy eggs from a chicken that is on a free range facility.” I would say that first of all the vast, vast majority of animal products, I’m talking 97, 98% come from horrifically treated animals in disgusting, filthy places. Hell holes. You would not wish on your worst nightmare what the animals go through. We treat the animals worse than we treat the worst child abuser on the planet, the worst sex offender on the planet. That’s what we do to these innocent things. 98% of animal products come from those places. So there is no ahimsa milk, because you’re taking, you’re stealing from a baby. The cow’s milk is for the babies and any extra milk that you might get is stealing from the mother. The mother never asked for that.
[034:00] In the dairy industry, just specifically on that industry, because a lot of people don’t realize that it’s at least as cruel as the meat industry, standard practice is this. Standard legal practice is this: For a cow to give milk she has to be pregnant or recently have given birth. So they’ll forcibly impregnate her which means a human will shove their arm into the cow’s anus, right in, and then grab her cervix to maneuver that so that they then inject her vagina with bull semen. They do this on an apparatus commonly known as a rape rack. That’s what we do. We force the pregnancy on them, we force them to become pregnant whether they like it or not, and I’m sure they don’t like that. Then they give birth after none months, just like a human. The babies will be taken from the mother almost immediately because the humans don’t want the babies drinking their milk, obviously, because the humans want it. So the babies are separated. Now, I saw this happen in real life the other day, a few months ago. It was horrible, this tiny little baby, the cutest little baby just being born, the mother was licking the cow, the little baby is still wet, and then this man came in with a wheelbarrow, with like a cage around the wheelbarrow, and he grabbed this baby, through the baby, and then they start wheeling him or her (I’m not sure), wheeling her out, and then the mother started chasing after the man. He closed the gate on her, and then she just looks at me, and I was looking back and I’m like, “Holy fuck, I can’t believe this is happening.” And she just sort of stamped off all agitated, obviously. Anyway, so that’s standard legal practice. They separate the babies from the mothers.
The mothers often will cry and bellow for days pointing in the same direction they last saw their babies. The baby boys, like I already mentioned, they’re sent to the slaughterhouse because they’re a waste product in the industry. So we’re talking about the cutest, most gentle little animals, sent to slaughter because they won’t produce milk, that’s it. Just because they don’t have anything that we can take from them. They, at a slaughterhouse, in your country and in my country, standard legal practice is to shoot them in the head with a bolt gut that flies through their skull into their brain to stun them, and then they get their throat slit. So they get their throat opened right up with a knife. They kick, they thrash, they scream, their eyes are wide open in shock and terror, and then that’s that. That’s the baby boys.
[036:00] The baby girls have the same fate as their mother, forcibly impregnated, hooked up to milking machines after the babies have been taken. They repeat this process every year usually. Five to seven years this goes for. It’s so severely exhausting for their bodies that after 5-7 years that’s pretty much all they can handle, and then they drop. They become profitless, they get sent to the same slaughterhouse as their babies did, and they get shot in the head and have their throat cut as well. In nature, a cow, very gentle animal, a very maternal being, they can live 25 … some cows have even lived over 30 years old. So we’re doing this when they’re still young. Like, you know, it would be like a 20 year old or something like that, if we were talking about human comparison.
The worst part is why do we do all of that? Like you were talking about, you eat cheese, or people, they like cow’s milk in their coffee. We have vegan cheese, we have so many different plant-based milks, so all of that can be so easily avoided. I just want to go on again because I know there are a lot of people that are into yoga and things like that. They think they’re getting milk from a good place. I would just remind them that there’s no good animal products. All animal use is a form of exploitation, or exploitation is a form of abuse. They did not consent to having their milk taken, they did not consent to any of the numerous things that happen in their life that causes them to suffer or causes stress or harm. It’s not up to us to decide how those animals live their life, or what we do to them and what we deem as acceptable and not acceptable. What we should be doing is not describing them as our property, not owning animals. They’re not ours. And letting them live in peace just like we would want to live. But that’s basically the dairy industry in a nutshell.
[038:00] Egg industry is very similar. The baby boy chicks are shredded alive, because they won’t produce eggs. Cow is different, cruelty is involved, and at the end of the day here’s the main point, they all end up at the same slaughterhouse, and there’s no human way to kill someone who doesn’t want to die. You can’t humanely murder somebody, you can’t humanely child abuse, you cannot humanely slaughter an animal, and that’s the bottom line.
Rachel: I’m crying now. (laugh) This is …
Rachel: Yeah. All the-
James: It’s sad. It’s really sad.
Rachel: All the slaughterhouse documentaries, I mean, like Earthlings, and all the like, even when I was vegan, I was never able to watch them. Like, I tried multiple times just to really engrain it because I know I want to be conscious about this practice so that I can’t return to it. It’s just too … It was just too hard for me to connect with it. I know it is for a lot of people. I’m sure there’s people listening to this that will be crying right now.
[040:18] Rachel: Actually, when you speak about the dairy industry and the cows and the mother, I found myself crossing my arm over my chest. I’m breastfeeding right now. I have never felt this connected to the idea of where dairy comes from. I am going through this process of feeding my child in this moment. It’s extremely intimate, it’s extremely sacred. Her entire life force comes from me. It’s this absolute beautiful thing. And then somehow I’m justifying that it’s okay to exploit another mother in this way just because I really like cheese on my bread in the morning. [Deep breath] Oh god. I was kind of hoping that you wouldn’t set me straight! (laugh) I don’t know what I was thinking going into this.
James: Oh, I came here to set you straight, my friend. (laugh)
Rachel: Oh dear god.
James: You did touch on something really interesting then. You said that you couldn’t even watch the slaughterhouse footage. And you know, that is most people. Most people do not … they can’t even look at it! They don’t even want to see. They see … and immediately they turn away. Oh my god I hate seeing that! That’s disgusting! It makes me sick. That’s your food! That’s how your food is made! You want to put that in your body and you can’t even look at it for a second? If you can’t look at it, how can you put it into your mouth and chew it? How can you pay for it to happen when you can’t even witness it? That’s nature, that’s your inner nature telling you that …
[042:00] If you got hungry when you watched slaughterhouse footage I would say, “Okay, maybe you’re supposed to eat meat.” A lion would get hungry. But when you look at it and you’re truly disgusted by it, that is not food for you. That is not what you should be eating. That is, the majority of people, they can’t even see how their food is made. The don’t want to know, they don’t want to look at it. That’s nature telling you you don’t have to eat that. And you look at a piece of fruit and it’s colorful and it’s beautiful and it’s got this interesting scent. And you open it up and you eat it in its raw, natural form, and it’s delicious. That’s nature telling you you should eat that, you know? It’s just obvious when you start thinking about it. We’re not built to be eating meat. We have to get someone else to kill the poor animal because we love animals, we’re against animal cruelty, we have to package it in a way that we don’t even think it’s an animal anymore, it’s just a neatly-wrapped package on the supermarket shelf. We put happy pictures of cows. We call it “humane slaughter” and then we have to cook it, and then we season it with plant to make it taste like plants! And then we put it on a bread roll full of all of these other plants and we disguise it and we eat it like that, like, “Oh yum, I love meat.” It’s like, you love the plants!
The beauty is even if you love meat, because I do. I loved eating meat. I ate all the meat! You don’t need to sacrifice meat. We’ve got vegan meat. We’ve got vegan sausage. We’ve got vegan chicken, we’ve got vegan fish. You name it, we’ve got so many vegan options. Even if there wasn’t vegan options, even if we didn’t have vegan cheese that you, next time you go to the supermarket, you could easily choose at the same supermarket you already shop in, even if you didn’t have that where you live, you don’t need it! There are literally millions of vegan recipes out there that are delicious, and they’re just made from plants, not made in a way that is supposed to resemble meat or cheese or anything. There are millions of vegan recipes waiting for you. There’s a whole new world of food that you’re going to love that doesn’t require anything like an animal product. And that’s the beauty of going vegan.
[044:00] People thing, “Oh, you sacrifice so much! You sacrifice your favorite foods.” And that’s what it seems like, and that’s what I thought I was doing when I went vegan. Like, “Fuck, what am I going to eat? I’m just going to eat lettuce and tofu? Is that my life now?”
James: You know what I did, actually, when I started going vegan I was the worst, this is the worst example, no one take a page from this book … I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know any vegans. I was like, “Fuck, I have to be vegan, I don’t even know what I’m doing.” So I made a smoothie and I just chopped up a block of raw tempeh and I dropped it in my smoothie, just eat it-
James: I didn’t know what the fuck tempeh was! I’m like, “What is this shit?! It’s disgusting! I don’t know what it is, but it’s got protein in it.” And I was freaking out about protein, so I’m like, “Fuck, I have to eat it.” I did that for about three weeks and I’m just thinking there’s got to be a better way to vegan, this can’t be it, this isn’t it. And then, you know, I started looking up recipes. I was the worst man. But then you realize you can have burritos, you can have pastas, you can have pizzas, you can have ice cream. One ingredient ice cream, if you blend frozen bananas, a little bit of soy milk, you’ve got delicious ice cream. You can have, what else do I have? I have rice paper rolls with tofu, I have scrambled tofu which is like scrambled eggs. I have, you name it, like there’s literally millions of recipes, and it’s what you do.
Rachel: Yes, I mean, I know I know, and I’m sure there’s definitely in this niche of people we’re talking to right now, which is people that are dedicated to their well-being. A lot of what this podcast is about is love, it’s self-love and being vulnerable and then committing to living a happy life.
[047:32] Rachel: And all of this, and this is why I’ve been really silent, right? I haven’t been against or for anything or said anything, and sometimes from people that know I used to be vegan will send me comments or emails, like, “Why don’t you promote veganism anymore? Why don’t you talk about this? It’s such a huge thing.” And I was always rubbed the wrong way, like, let me fucking live! I don’t want to be the world’s crusader and projecting my voice for every cause. Let me just be and live my life. But I’m realizing it’s really because I haven’t wanted to look at this. It’s been a total thing out of laziness and, I mean, part of it, when I slipped out of everything was I moved to Aruba, to where I live now, seven years ago, almost eight years ago and there were not a single farmer’s market here. Nothing grows on this island. So there was no fresh fruits and veggies anymore. I found myself having to eat all of this processed food. It was always pasta with nothing on it, or something from a jar. I would eat just kind of unhealthy food overall. And then little by little, like, “Oh, some dairy slipped in,” and I didn’t care, and then the next week it got worse, and then little by little after a couple of months everything went away.
But with that, you know, this big influence that I have, that I had, I know, before social media and all of this, I had a huge influence then, like, over my whole … I went vegan and my dad went vegan with me to make fun of me. For three months he was like, “This is the stupidest thing you’ve ever done. I’m going to become vegan to taunt you and to show how I’m going to get sick, and this is dumb, and blah blah blah. He basically went vegan to spite me, and this was, you know, ten, twelve years ago, and he still hasn’t had meat since then.
James: Wow! That’s cool.
Rachel: It’s so cool! I had this amazing influence. And now I have a restaurant at my yoga studio and we serve all vegetarian food, it’s all vegan, we have no animal products in the kitchen aside from cheese, because I eat cheese! So I have this, you know, I’m influencing people that come here with what they eat and the choices that they make. I’ve kind of been trying to hide under a little non-vegan cave, knowing that I need to get back. (laugh)
James: Yeah, I hear ya.
Rachel: And I guess having a baby was really my final queue. I can’t … I’m out of excuses now, I think. Yeah.
[050:00] James: Yeah. I think that’s great, and I think, like I said, you know, you can get it all, you can understand it, you can do it, you can go vegan. But just remember, you’re living in a non-vegan, for the most part, in a not yet … let’s call it a not yet vegan world. And we’re talking about billion/trillion dollar industries who know exactly how to market their product. This is brainwashing! You watch their advertisements, you walk down the street you see their advertisements. You hear the lies that are being told to children in schools. It’s brainwashing! They know exactly how to brainwash us to get us to eat what they want us to eat. So, you know, I can understand why people slip in and out of it.
But you’re right, your podcast is about love, and nothing loving happens in a slaughterhouse. Ever. Nothing loving ever has happened in a slaughterhouse. The only loving thing I can think of in a slaughterhouse is the stories I hear about when the baby cows will suck on the thumbs of a slaughterhouse worker before the slaughterhouse worker slits their throat. Like, that baby is looking for the love from the mother. That’s the only thing that I can think of that would resemble some sort of loving action in a slaughterhouse, and yeah, I mean, I just think that’s so awesome that you had me on and that you’re back on thinking about it, because like you said, you’ve got a massive influence. And even helping, like, animals aside, environment aside, you helped your dad go vegan. You helped one person go vegan. You might have added two decades, three decades to their life. You know? That’s what we can do for our friends and family by going vegan. So it’s, you know, for so many reasons it’s such a …
[052:00] It’s like there’s two paths. One is so destructive, so violent, so cruel, so much suffering for everyone involved, this whole planet. And then there’s this other path next to it, and it’s so beautiful and so loving and so connected and so right with your heart. And they’re right next to each other, and neither one is harder than the other, you know? It’s like let’s just start walking this other path. Let’s all just start walking. Yeah.
Rachel: Thank you James.
James: And lead the way, you know? Some people have to lead the way. No worries! No worries.
Rachel: For anyone that’s listening now that maybe is close to where I am, where it’s not that far off, I’m not sitting at McDonald’s eating hamburgers every day. Taking that final step to becoming vegan may be just letting go of dairy or eggs or a bit of fish or whatever you’re eating that isn’t fully plant-based, or that has animal product. How can you … can you give some tips just, you know, to really … after literally this podcast is over, that this is the moment where we transition to becoming vegan. What are some tips that you can leave us with?
James: Yeah, great question. Well, my biggest tip, actually, for anyone that has the internet would be to go to Challenge-
Rachel: (laugh) For anyone that has the internet! (laugh)
James: (laugh) Challenge22.com. It’s a 22-day vegan challenge, and it’s totally free. You go to this website and you sign up and then you get added into this group, and you can get, if you want, you can be assigned a mentor for free, you have discussions with registered dieticians if you want, they give you recipes, they give you advice. Basically any question you could have during the 22-day vegan challenge, they’re there for you. They’re there to support you, they’re there to answer every question, to make it as easy as possible. You know, “What am I going to have for breakfast tomorrow? What do I get from my supermarket? What do I do if I’m eating in an Italian restaurant?” They’re there for you. So, any question you could possibly have, challenge22.com is the best place. And it’s 100% free. That would be my first step, to just sign up and start doing it.
[054:00] I’d also recommend watching documentaries. Get motivated, you know? Learn the reasons why you should do it. It’s so much easier to do it if you are inspired to. So I would say watch Earthlings. Earthlings is all about ethics and what happens to animals. Cowspiracy is what happens to the environment, and Forks Over Knives is about the health. It’s based on the largest study ever conducted on the relationship between nutrition and disease, and just to spoil the ending for you, it says that the optimal amount of animal products in a human diet is zero, but you can understand how you came to those many conclusions through watching Forks Over Knives. I’d say they’re the three main ones to watch. I’d recommend watching my speech, it’s called, “This Speech is your Wakeup Call” but you pretty much heard most of it just then, so maybe just skip that one. And you can just re-listen to this podcast or something.
Rachel: (laugh) No, I’ll include all of this in a blog post for people to refer to immediately after this. So yeah, getting conscious.
James: Let me say one more thing. If you’re looking for vegan recipes, lookup vegan recipes. Lunch do the same, dinner do the same. Some people, that’s how they do it. They go, “Okay, I’m going to go vegan for breakfast. I’ll have oats with blueberries and maple syrup and crushed walnuts. That’s one go to meal. And then I’ll have another go to meal of just something simple like avocado and tomato on sourdough toast. Then just another simple one, I’ll have cereal with soy milk, you know? There’s three easy ones you can rotate. Then when that’s sorted you go do the same for lunch and dinner. Boom, you’re pretty much vegan. Next time you buy toothpaste, buy vegan toothpaste. Same supermarket. It’s that easy, it’s totally that easy. But the best thing to do is to really figure it all out, like I gave you a few tips now, but the best thing to do is go to challenge22.com or just lookup “How to do I go vegan?” There’s countless websites dedicated to it. VeganKit.com is another good one. And yeah, it’s much easier than any of you expect. That’s why so many people are doing it. If it was really hard I guarantee people wouldn’t be doing it, but it’s not.
[056:00] Rachel: That’s so true. And for anyone that wants more of you, they can find you on JamesAspey.com.au, correct?
James: Correct. I’m on Facebook, YouTube, and the Gram, yo.
Rachel: And Facebook, and Instagram yo, James Aspey, find him there. Challenge22.com. I’m on there right now signing up. Here I am, making a commitment, live, for the world.
James: Good for you!
Rachel: So I recently did this a couple of months ago with sugar and failed, so people are going to really, really scrutinize me right now, I’m really, oh my god, I’m in for a treat.
James: That’s hard!
Rachel: That’s true.
James: This is going to be easy, man. Don’t have sugar, that’s a challenge. But going vegan, that’s an easy one, trust me, comparatively.
Rachel: Thank you for coming on the show and schooling us on love and peace and really living the yogic life, because this is truly what that is.
James: Thanks. Well it’s been an honor to be on here. We’ve all got something to learn. I definitely don’t know anything, so, you know, it’s just about sharing what we know and encouraging each other to, when we know better to do better. So I’m glad you had me on. Thanks very much, I hope people listening enjoyed.
Rachel: Thank you! I’ll see you all next week.
[End of Episode]
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