A recent extremely influential and popular book is Diet for a New America (1987), by John Robbins. While the book is well written and documented, perhaps its impact is largely due to the fact that Robbins, the only son of Irving Robbins, a founder and chief executive of the Baskin and Robbins ice cream empire, rejected a life of wealth and comfort in order to follow "his higher dream". Rather than perhaps discovering one more ice cream flavor, Robbins gave up an extremely affluent lifestyle, which included a swimming pool in the shape of an ice cream cone in his backyard, to devote his life to educating people about a diet that would result in healthier individuals and a healthier planet. He established a group, EarthSave, to help educate people on the benefits of vegetarianism. He has appeared on a number of popular television shows, including Donahue and Geraldo . His later book, May all Be Fed: Diet for a New World (1992), addresses world hunger and the spiritual side of food, and promises to be another trendsetter. His most recent book addresses the American health-care industry, and why it focuses on cure of disease rather than prevention.
- Richard Schwartz
A Little Insight into John Robbins
by Ted Altar
It seems that when a good idea comes along, especially one that challenges some of our formerly taken-for-granted preconceptions and unexamined life practices, we naturally resist. That's understandable, but the degree of extreme defensiveness that occurs regarding vegetarianism is maybe indexed by refusal to address the arguments head-on, and where instead some would kick up distractions and fabricate irrelevancies about the motives of the people who might be arguing for the advantages of vegetarianism. We've seen smears on the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Nathan Pritikin, and even John Robbins.
Indeed, a certain chronic non-vegetarian heckler on the Usenet newsgroup rec.food.veg went so far as to post the fatuous assertion that John Robbins, the author of Diet for a New America, was motivated by greed! Pretty unbelievable when we have here the exceptional case of a sincere person who gave up a multi-million dollar fortune for principle. I doubt that our heckler would or could even be so principled by even a fraction. I guess Nietzsche was right about the "resentment" by the mediocre and petty-minded.
To help get a better picture of John Robbins, permit me to relate a recent and true story about him.
Every season that garish TV program, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, tries to do something different for one of its shows. Last year they wanted to do a program about the rich and famous who have done charitable things with their great wealth. A welcome change indeed from the usual "show and tell" of amassed material possessions.
For some reason, they phoned John Robbins and asked if he would be interviewed for their show. Well, Robbins was aghast. He asked why they would want to do a show on him. After all, he has no great fortune; that was forsaken a long time ago. He presently lives in a small bungalow which he doesn't even own but rents! Ok, that didn't matter, since he was "famous" and at least potentially once had wealth. Robbins then openly informed the caller that he didn't even like the show and that he disagreed with everything it stood for. Still, they wanted to do a show on him.
Interestingly, Robbins did air on that particular show about the "Rich OR Famous" ("famous" in this case because Robbins is not "rich", notwithstanding innuendo from the uninformed). Actually, the show gave more time to Robbins than to any of the others interviewed during that episode.
Maybe it had something to do with Robbins buying them off! How did he do that, you might ask? Well, after the film crew arrived and managed to their disbelief to film an interview in such crowded and small quarters (after all, they are used to filming in the palatial mansions of the filthy rich), Robbins' wife then invited them to stay for dinner. After enjoying a fine vegetarian meal, the film crew remarked that this was the very first time that any of their hosts had invited them to a meal! The very first time. Yeah, you think the filthy rich could at least offer their interviewers some food, yet it was Robbins and his wife, who are not rich, but maybe famous and certainly generous, who first made this offer.
As you might know, the Cattlemens Association and others have targeted Robbins as the "enemy". There is apparently a campaign where cattle farmers have been sending packages to Robbins' home. The packages contain cow shit! Well, a lesser person might get mad and stop this mail from arriving. Robbins' interesting approach is that of course they are going to feel this way. The parade of progress always has its stragglers, but in time good changes will be made and even the most stubborn will begin to relent. Now, it turns out that Robbins has a garden in the front and back of his bungalow. Hence, the arrival of cow shit has turned out to be a bonus. Turn disadvantage to advantage, and turn shit into manure. Good policy.