December 14, 2016
Waxing poetic about kindess
Media mogul Russell Simmons talks about the importance of showing compassion for all animals
Russell Simmons has never really worried about following in others’ footsteps. He doesn’t choose the path most traveled, he forges his own.
It’s hard to overstate Simmons’ influence in the music world. In the 1980s, when rap hadn’t yet fully trickled into the mainstream of American culture, Simmons was already figuring out how to define hip-hop culture, brand it, market it and distribute it to the masses.
As the founder of the Def Jam music label, Def Poetry spoken-word series, Phat Farm fashion label and Global Grind website, Simmons has been among those at the forefront of pop culture’s biggest trends. As with his other ventures, Simmons— or Uncle Rush, as he’s affectionately called by industry insiders—hopes his choice to follow a plant-based diet will influence others, and maybe even save lives. In his latest book, The Happy Vegan, the 59-year-old father writes about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how avoiding animal products can help save the planet.
“My book talks a lot about health because that’s what people’s first instinct is—they’re concerned about health and the planet,” he says. But he also tucks in a message of compassion for animals—the main reason he’s against factory farming.
In this edited interview with All Animals contributor Tracy L. Scott, Simmons shares how he maintains his diet and explains why, he’s such a happy vegan.
When and why did you decide to adopt a plant-based diet?
I’ve been a vegan pretty close to 20 years. I started because of compassionate reasons. Once I became a vegan and especially when I began practicing yoga, all of the people who are vegan and yogis pointed to all the reasons we shouldn’t consume animals. Fifteen or 20 years ago, I started talking more about it. We want to have a planet to live on, which is second to the compassionate reason. The food we’re eating is poisoning the people. The government is taking $40 billion in subsidies and underwriting the poisoning of the planet and people, causing obesity, heart disease and other illnesses. There’s not one good argument to eat animals … not one. So it became broader than just compassion. My book talks a lot about health because that’s what people’s first instinct is. They talk about health and the planet.
What’s your response to those who consume meat and reject the idea of being “complicit in the torture and murder of billions of animals,” as it states in your book?
There’s no such thing as humane slaughter. The excuses I’ve heard don’t sit well with me. Unconscious behavior is typical of human beings. We’ve done horrible things. The abuse of billions of animals worldwide, birthed into the worst lifetime of suffering just to poison the population is against any scripture and religion. There is always messaging in religious texts about how we treat other living species and how that’s a reflection of who we are today and how our culture is today.
In your book, you share that you don’t cook much. How do you maintain your vegan diet?
I have to say that I’m very fortunate in that I have resources and I live near a Veggie Grill. Even the most high-brow restaurants will deliver vegan chicken parmesan and desserts. Even at neighborhood carryouts I can order a curry tofu with eggplant and broccoli and put a little brown rice in it and I’m good, and that’s cheap. There are a lot of ways to stick to the diet. At home, I can get food cooked. I hate to talk about what I do. I want to make it accessible. That’s in the book.
How else can we help farm animals?
We need to spend more time figuring out how to use the plants on the planet. There are thousands of plants and creating products from them is a really interesting thing, versus giving $40 billion to underwrite the poisoning of the planet. Let’s figure out how to do things differently and save the environment. Then there won’t be an excuse to slaughter billions of animals.