Edible Monterey Bay

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John Robbins

A vegan writing a book about how to eat meat?

This may seem far-fetched, but a little more than 20 years after writing Diet for a New America, his 1989 manifesto for a plant-based diet, Santa Cruz author John Robbins has done just that.

“I have always advocated for people to make informed choices that are consistent with their hearts,” he says. This sentiment is what led Robbins to pen No Happy Cows, an informative guide to eating meat and dairy in the most responsible ways possible. It will hit local bookstores this Saturday, April 1.

“A lot of the book is about realities, and the pros and cons, and how a consumer can make informed choices,” Robbins explains. The book delves into the myriad alternatives to factory farming that have cropped up since his Diet for a New America exposed the ills of the practice two decades ago.

However, those looking for easy answers won’t find them in this volume.

“Our food supply is more complicated than that,” he says. “I want people to enter into the complexity.” The book explores trends like grass-fed beef (“If you’re going to eat beef, that’s the way to do it,” he says), and cage-free eggs (which Robbins says is a “step in the right direction,” but is like “cutting down smoking from three packs a day to two and half. I don’t want anybody to be fooled by that.”)

It also cuts through some misconceptions and misleading information, exploring, for instance, the truth behind the well-known “Happy Cows Come from California” marketing campaign by the California Milk Producers’ Association, in which healthy, talking cows stand on spacious, green pastures and declare that “great cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows come from California.”

Au contraire, writes Robbins, most California dairy cows never see a blade of grass. (He also notes that these commercials were actually filmed in New Zealand, not California.)

“There are no happy cows in the industrialized food system,” he says, explaining the inspiration behind the book’s title. “There’s something about that contrast between what they’re portraying and the reality that exists in California dairy production that strikes me as a perfect example of why we have to wake up.”

Like the many Robbins works before it, No Happy Cows aspires to rouse its readers. Judging by Robbins’ track record, it is likely to succeed.

“This is a book that is designed to stir people into action,” he says. “I’m not telling people where to draw the line—I’m not saying you should be a vegan or vegetarian—but I am saying ‘Here’s the reality, go forth and make waves.’”

John Robbins will host a Virtual Food Revolution Summit from April 29-May 6 with 21 prominent guests and fellow food revolutionaries, including Morgan Spurlock, Dean Ornish, Jeffrey Smith, T. Colin Campbell, Marianne Williamson and many more. Visit www.foodrevolution.org for details on the summit or to register for free. Visit www.johnrobbins.info to learn more about No Happy Cows.

For more on grassfed beef, factory farming, and the local ranchers who are pursuing a more humane, healthy and sustainable approach to raising beef, see Susan Ditz’s piece in the current issue of Edible Monterey Bay.

About the author

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Elizabeth Limbach is an award-winning journalist living in Santa Cruz, California. In this fruitful region and beyond, she finds the intersections of food, ag, health and the environment to be the most intriguing realms to write about. A bookworm and vegan foodie, the San Diego native has lived in Santa Cruz for a decade, relishing its redwood forests, fresh produce, delicious wines, and sparkling sea.