Howard Lyman is a walkin', talkin' Marlboro Man. Minus a cigarette. And a horse. Oh, and he no longer has 7,000 head of cattle. He traded them for (his love of) people. And, since he and TV Talk Show Mogul Oprah Winfrey won the "Veggie Libel" suit, Lyman's "ropin' in" environmentalists and safe-food advocates by the millions--through Talk Shows and appearances all over the country.
The Texas cattlemen's lawsuit was precipitated by Lyman's remarks to Oprah's 20 million viewers that "Mad Cow Disease" could make AIDS look like child's play if the American meat industry continued turning cows into cannibals.
The subsequent trial and judge's "gag rule" tied up more than a year-and-a-half of Lyman's life. It also prohibited speaking out, limited his travel, and severely crippled his duties as president and spokesperson for the International Vegetarian Union. Oh, and it put him in debt for over a million dollars!
"If they had won," notes Lyman, "it would have jeopardized every American's Constitutional Right to Free Speech and had world-wide repercussions." Since vindication, Lyman's been making up for lost time in places as far flung as Alabama, California, Illinois, Minnesota and Canada. At last check, he had just caught a 2:45 a.m. "Red-Eye" flight in order to give the keynote address at the Toronto Vegetarian Festival.
But hop-scotching across the country, sleeping in a different bed almost every night for the past ten years, and accepting food wherever it's offered ("As long as it contains no animal or dairy.".), is taking its toll on the weather-worn 60 year old.
Doctors tell Lyman the foot that was stomped on by a panicky steer some 20 years ago needs attention if he wants to save it. The dreaded surgery is scheduled over the Christmas holidays. Assuming all goes well, Lyman will be bed-bound for about 6 weeks (prohibiting his key-note address at the 33rd World Vegetarian Congress in Thailand, January 4-10, 1999). In the meantime, there are about 5 more lawsuits being brought against him. "Texas cattlemen have long memories and DEEP pockets," he notes with a shrug.
For those unable to see Lyman in the flesh, his recently released book "Mad Cowboy" is the next best thing to being there. It captures his unique rapid-fire and laconic delivery, laced with wit, eye-opening facts and optimism. Lyman has his own example of The Golden Rule: "Them that's got the 'gold' make all the rules! But it doesn't have to be that way," Lyman advises grassroots supporters. "You people really do have the power if you'll unite and learn how to use it."
With the aid of playwright Glen Merzer ("Glen earned every penny!" Lyman praises. "He followed me night and day for 6 months!") "Mad Cowboy" traces Lyman from a no-nonsense childhood that introduced him to the milking barn at age 4, to his rise to cattle baron and large feedlot operator.
Lyman's rude awakening came when his brother died of dioxin poisoning at age 29, and he faced a bout with life-threatening cancer. A death-bed promise between himself and his God caused him to re-prioritize his life's values.
"I thought I was the Donald Trump of Agri-business when I wrote my first check for a million dollars and it didn't bounce," mocks Lyman about his former life. It's a far-cry from the one he leads today urging the masses to take action on the desperate need to nurture human, animal and environmental life rather than destroy it.
Lyman's business and organizational acumen speaks for itself: Representative for Small Farmers; Congressional Lobbyist (During which time he helped pass the still controversial National Organic Standards Act); Spokesperson for the U.S. Humane Society; Founder/Director: Voice For A Viable Future. But "Mad Cowboy" reveals the early experiences that forged the thinking and convictions that make him the powerful force he is today. It also documents the sorry state of our food supply and environment, along with a blueprint for change.
John Robbins, Pulitzer Prize Nominated author of "Diet For A New America", gave up his claim as heir to the Baskin Robbins Ice Cream fortune and founded EarthSave so the world's children might have a future. His words about "Mad Cowboy" will carry a lot of weight with environmentalists.
"I can honestly say that there is not a man on this planet I respect more than Howard Lyman. I cannot speak highly enough of the man, his work, or his book. Mad Cowboy is his story, and it is truly one of the most important ones of this century. Buy ten copies; give them to people you love. This is the real thing."
Note: Lyman makes about 50 cents off each copy sold. Not an easy way to pay off a million dollar debt, but he's happy to do it "one book at a time."