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  • RACHEL O'MARA: Thanks everyone for joining today.

  • Thanks for coming during lunch in San Francisco, and welcome

  • to Authors at Google.

  • My name is Rachel O'Mara, and I'm really excited today to

  • host our author, John Robbins.

  • So John Robbins is the author of nine best-sellers that have

  • collectively sold more than 3 million copies, and been

  • translated into 26 languages.

  • His books include "The Food Revolution," "The Classic Diet

  • for a New America," and most recently, "No Happy Cows,

  • Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Food Revolution."

  • Currently, he is also one of the most bloggers on the

  • "Huffington Post."

  • As an advocate for a compassionate and healthy way

  • of life, John is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award,

  • the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace

  • Abbey Courage of Conscious Award, Green America's

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other accolades.

  • Well done, John.

  • That's great.

  • The only son of the founder of the Baskin Robbins ice cream

  • empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his

  • father's footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin

  • Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to pursue the

  • deeper American dream, the dream of a society at peace

  • with its conscience, because it respects the lives in

  • harmony with all life forms.

  • John is the founder and board chair emeritus of EarthSave

  • International, and has served on the boards of many

  • nonprofit organizations.

  • His work has been the subject of feature articles in the

  • "San Francisco Chronicle," the "LA Times," "Chicago Life,"

  • the "Washington Post," "The New York Times," the

  • "Philadelphia Inquirer," "Time," "US News and World

  • Report," "Newsweek," and many of the nation's other major

  • newspapers and magazines.

  • His life and work have also been featured in an

  • award-winning hour-long PBS special titled "Diet for a New

  • America," and that's the book we'll be talking about today.

  • John lives with his wife of 45 years, Deo, and their son,

  • Ocean, and his wife, Michelle, and their grandsons River and

  • Bodhi, outside Santa Cruz, California.

  • Their home is powered entirely by solar electricity.

  • John also has a website,

  • www.johnrobbins.info, for more details.

  • So please welcome with me John Robbins.

  • [APPLAUSE]

  • Thank you for being here.

  • Thank you.

  • As was mentioned in your-- thank you for the

  • introduction.

  • I was born into an ice cream company family, Baskin Robbins

  • 31 Flavors.

  • My father and uncle founded the company, owned the

  • company, ran the company.

  • I'm an only son.

  • I have sisters, but no brothers.

  • And my father groomed me to succeed him.

  • That was his plan for my life, that I would one day run

  • Baskin Robbins, which was becoming and became during my

  • childhood the world's largest ice cream company.

  • It's a billion dollar company.

  • And it was assumed that's what I would do.

  • And I loved it.

  • I grew up eating more ice cream--

  • I don't eat ice cream anymore.

  • And when people find that out, they sometimes look at me as

  • if they're feeling sorry for me, I think.

  • And I say, please don't, please.

  • Really, I ate enough ice cream in my

  • childhood for 20 lifetimes.

  • We had an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool in

  • our backyard.

  • We had freezers with all of the month's 31 flavors, plus

  • experimental flavors, plus--

  • it was every kid's dream, in a way, in a way, in that there

  • was unlimited ice cream.

  • I did eat ice cream for breakfast.

  • It's true.

  • It was really gross, actually.

  • There's a shadow side to all that.

  • Ice cream is really not a health food.

  • It's not kale.

  • And you can put some fruit in some of the

  • sherbets, and so forth.

  • It's still basically very high in sugar, and most of the

  • flavors are very high in fat, and the fat is highly

  • saturated fat.

  • It's not healthy.

  • And so people who eat a lot of it have health problems.

  • My uncle, Burt Baskin, my dad's partner and

  • brother-in-law, died of a heart attack at the age of 54.

  • He was a very big man.

  • He ate a lot of ice cream.

  • And when he died, I asked my father, do you think there

  • could be any connection between my uncle's fatal heart

  • attack and the amount of ice cream he would eat?

  • And my father looked at me and very piercingly

  • said no, no, no.

  • His ticker just got tired and stopped working.

  • And the expression on his face and the tone of voice said

  • something else.

  • It said, don't you ever ask that question again.

  • Do you understand what I'm saying?

  • John Bradshaw, the psychologist used to talk

  • about there being "no talk" rules in families, taboo

  • subjects that you just don't talk about in a given family,

  • elephants in the living room that take up a lot of space,

  • but no one mentions it.

  • Because there's some kind of family dynamic at play in

  • which there's not an ability to talk about that topic.

  • In my family, one of the big elephants in the living room

  • was that there could be a connection between ice cream

  • and heart disease, or ice cream and health, or even food

  • and health, that there might be a connection there.

  • Because if you start down that slippery slope--

  • food and health--

  • you pretty soon get to ice cream and heart disease.

  • And my father did not want to even consider the possibility

  • that there might be a link.

  • And I couldn't understand why he would not want to.

  • By that time, by the time of my uncle's death, which was in

  • 1968, my father had manufactured and sold more ice

  • cream than any human being that had ever

  • lived on planet Earth.

  • He didn't want to think the family product was hurting

  • anybody, much less than it could have contributed to his

  • partner, his brother-in-law, my uncle's death.

  • But I felt I should.

  • I felt I needed to consider, might there be that link?

  • And the more I looked into it, the more I felt there was.

  • And not just between ice cream and heart disease, but ice

  • cream and diabetes.

  • My father developed diabetes--

  • serious diabetes--

  • later on.

  • Everybody in the family had these various issues, problems

  • with weight, everywhere.

  • And want to make it clear, it's not just Baskin Robbins

  • as a company.

  • It's ice cream.

  • You know Ben and Jerry's.

  • Ben Cohen--

  • marvelous man, peace activist, very engaged person--

  • big guy, ate a lot of ice cream, co-owned Ben and

  • Jerry's, co-founded it, had a quintuple

  • bypass in his late 40s.

  • These kinds of things tend to happen when you eat

  • a lot of ice cream.

  • And if you're in the ice cream business--

  • if you're running Baskin Robbins in particular, that's

  • what I would know about--

  • you want people to buy as much as possible.

  • That's the business model.

  • That's how it works.

  • So you want them to consume as much ice cream as possible.

  • And the reality is, when people eat it in excess, they

  • get these health problems.

  • So I was faced with an existential quandary--

  • on the one hand, a lot of financial security; on the

  • other hand, my integrity.

  • And I made a choice for integrity.

  • And I told my dad that under the circumstances, I was not

  • going to follow in his footsteps.

  • I was not going to work any longer in the company.

  • And what I specifically said to him was this.

  • I said, dad, we live in a different time now than when

  • you grew up.

  • We live under a nuclear shadow where at any moment the

  • unspeakable could happen.

  • We live in a time when the environment is deteriorating

  • rapidly under the impact of human activities.

  • We live in a time when the gap between the haves and the have

  • nots is increasing.

  • And that does not, to my eyes, create social stability or

  • security for anybody, even the wealthy and privileged.

  • It's undermining the social fabric.

  • We live in a time when 60,000 people on earth, many of them

  • children, die of hunger, die of starvation every day, while

  • elsewhere there's abundant resources going to waste.

  • And then I said to him, dad, do you understand that for me,

  • feeling these issues and concerns as intensely as I do,

  • inventing a 32nd flavor would just not be an adequate

  • response for my life.

  • And he understood to the extent that he could.

  • But I needed to be true to myself, and so I made a choice

  • for integrity and I walked away.

  • And I also walked away from the money.

  • To be in alignment with my integrity and my choices, I

  • needed to have no access to it.

  • And I told him that I didn't want a trust fund.

  • I didn't want to depend in any way, not one dollar, on his

  • fortune, his achievements.

  • And with Deo, my wife--

  • we've been together 46 years now-- we moved away, and lived

  • very simply, back to the land, built a log cabin,

  • grow our own food.

  • 95% of what we ate for 10 years we grew.

  • And it was a real pendulum swing.

  • In the family I'd grown up in, I jokingly would say, perhaps

  • flippantly would say that roughing it meant that room

  • service was late.

  • Now we were really roughing it, because we were living

  • very simply on land and trying to grow our food and dependent

  • on what we could grow.

  • Eventually I wrote "Diet for a New America," and it became a

  • best-seller.

  • It sold over a million copies, and became something of a

  • phenomenon.

  • I received 60,000 letters--

  • these are actual letters.

  • This is before email--

  • from people who read the book and wanted to

  • communicate with me.

  • And almost all of them said, this touched me deeply.

  • How can I get involved?

  • What can I do?

  • And I want to give you a little bit of what I was--

  • tell you a little bit about what the book says, that so

  • many people felt that they wanted to respond to that way.

  • We just recently came out with a 25th anniversary edition of

  • "Diet for a New America," and that's what we have here

  • today, with a new--

  • not a preface, but a new epilogue by me, a lengthy

  • epilogue describing what's happened in the interim years.

  • And I will talk a little bit about that too.

  • Basically, something has happened in modern meat

  • production, and dairy production, and egg

  • production, and animal factory industries that most people

  • don't know about, and the industries do not want people

  • to know about.

  • In fact, this year, they are initiating in many state

  • legislatures what are called ag gag bills.

  • This is legislation that makes it a felony to videotape or

  • photograph what takes place in slaughterhouses or feed lots

  • or factory forms.

  • Because there's been a series of exposes where people went

  • undercover working for Humane Society United States, or

  • Mercy for Animals, or Compassion Over Killing, or

  • some other animal protection group--

  • have gone undercover as workers in these places with

  • hidden cameras, and gotten footage of what takes place.

  • And it comes out, and people who see it are abhorred.

  • They just find it deplorable--

  • the cruelty, the lack of sanitation.

  • Sometimes there's fines, sometimes

  • there's jail sentences.

  • People get upset.

  • There was a recent one in a California feedlot where one

  • of the largest suppliers of beef for the school lunch

  • programs, and they were breaking all of the rules.

  • We don't have very many rules, but they were breaking all of

  • them that we have.

  • And so the industry doesn't want this kind of footage of

  • getting out.

  • They don't want you to know what's happening.