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
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
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.