And why don’t I mention those words very often in my work?
As for the first question, when people in the mainstream (the 99% who are not vegan) hear those words, many of them think: weirdo, left-wing radical, hippie, tree-hugger and extremist—to name a few. So, if I want to reach that mainstream, I need to be careful how I package my product and my J. Morris Hicks brand.
While I sometimes refer to myself as an activist that promotes health, hope & harmony—I rarely call myself a vegan or an animal rights advocate—even though I am pretty close to being both. So why not use those terms? It’s because they are labels that prompt the mainstream folks to think of those other labels mentioned earlier. And it’s primarily those mainstream people that I’m trying to reach.
My mission. I’m trying to do my part to help preserve the longterm sustainability of the human race. For us to achieve that, I believe that most of us need to learn how to enjoy eating mostly plants. And I would prefer to have a few billion people doing that—than to have a few million people promise to never let another calorie of animal-based food pass their lips—for as long as they live.
Inspiration for this blog: A letter from Nanette—Sonoma, CA
Hello Mr. Hicks, I’ve been receiving your regularly posted blog for some time now and really appreciate your writing and recipes. However, I’ve noticed that you are very reluctant to come out for animal rights, though you come so close and actually say it in a different way.
I, on the other hand, make no apologies, nor do I hesitate to come to the defense of animals. My reverence, respect and love for animals are the reasons that I don’t eat, wear or otherwise exploit animals in any way. I happen to love vegetarian/vegan food and am very healthy because of it.
For your mission to succeed, I would suggest employing the balanced (like a three-legged chair) approach so many others are now doing: Not eating meat and eating veggies is good for the animals, one’s health and the environment. Period. Simple. Effective. Thanks for what you do. Best regards, Nanette
My Response. Dear Nanette, Many thanks for your message; you bring up a very good point. Have you read our book? Chapter 7 is entitled “Hell on Earth” and covers this topic very well. As for my blog, the “Suffering of Animals” category contains 28 blogs that I have posted during the past two years. You can find the drop-down list of over 60 categories in the upper right column of my website.
But, you’re right, I don’t talk about it all the time because that single piece of the “insanity” of our western diet is simply not my “brand.” What do I mean by that? My “brand” is the “big picture guy” who is trying to clarify the blinding flash of the obvious solution to so many of our personal, national and global problems. Ultimately, it comes down to the longterm sustainability of the human race.
Unfortunately, the terms “animal rights” and “vegan” both carry somewhat of a negative stigma in our country. Hence, in an effort to reach the greatest number of people, I chose not to use those terms.
I chose “Hell on Earth” for my Chapter 7 and I chose 4Leaf for my optimal way of eating, not necessarily vegan—but probably healthier than 95% of the vegans in this country. As you know, vegan (by definition) is not necessarily a healthy diet; whereas 4Leaf (over 80% from whole plants) is very healthy. I like to call it “near-optimal.”
You see, I am trying to reach the mainstream. I am trying to make a HUGE difference—and I must connect with the mainstream in order to do that. Have you seen the movie, Lincoln? Essentially, it’s all about politics—sometimes it’s nasty, but oftentimes it is necessary in order achieve your goals.
Yes, I care greatly about the animals, but I care more about helping the masses understand the “big picture” insanity about the way we eat. Here are 8 of my recent blogs on your favorite topic. Be well, J. Morris Hicks.
- Animal suffering. An oft-forgotten consequence of our food choices.
- Killin’ chikins for Jesus…a la Chick-fil-A
- Dyed Easter chicks—a sad state of affairs
- Sunny Acres Farms—Home of Happy Farm Animals (You’ll love the video in this one.)
- Chipotle Pig Video — They’re missing the whole point!
- Pork tales continue; when does the madness end?
- Sir Paul and Nancy serve organic vegetarian at their wedding.
- COMPLICITY — Billions of animals suffering in factory farms
I hope all of this makes sense to you. Thanks again for your note. Why don’t you invite me to speak at a venue out there in the bay area? I promise that I will include your favorite topic. Be well, J. Morris Hicks
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now
For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.
Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation
Great post, Jim, and like others who have commented, I get the fact that you’re trying to reach the masses, the mainstream, through your brand… and from all I’ve read and seen on your site, it makes perfect sense. Through the education of the mainstream, the alleviation of much suffering of animals will naturally occur. Like many here, I’ve found that after we make the move to a whole foods, plant-based diet, an additional and beautiful benefit is the compassion that naturally develops from this, and an awareness of the interconnected nature of life on this planet. Keep up the great work, and please let me know when you’re speaking in the LA area.
Great post! I love how clear you are on your mission. I just started reading your book yesterday! While I consider myself vegan and an animal activist, I totally get and appreciate what you are doing. Many people will only consider changing their diet for health reasons and then as some of your readers have said, their eyes open to the horrors of our animal based food system. Your big picture approach will help the billions shift their habits and then they will be able to handle the “V” words. Thats were people like me come in!
I just moved to Sonoma County and am only 2 miles from the True North Health Center. I hope you will post your speaking schedule if you come to California. Also, if Nanette is reading this, I would love to connect with another Vegan/Hicks fan who lives in Sonoma. Please contact me.
Thanks again for what you do Jim.
I started using the word vegan after reading Kathy Freston’s book The Veganist. Then I read a blog post by Lindsay Nixon, the Happy Herbivore author, and realized that maybe vegan is not the right word to describe myself. Oh, I refuse to eat any animal product, but I still wear a leather belt and leather shoes and silk ties (all purchased before I changed my diet at the beginning of 2012). I tell people that by eating a plant-based diet they improve their own health, the health of the planet and the health of the animal. The Standard American Diet greatly exploits animals, and it’s time we did something about it by eating a plant-based diet.
I think you did it right. But like Dr. Barnhard as you become more entrenched in your work you can become less concerned with the brand. Look at what Mr. Bob Costas did recently when he spoke out on gun control. Everyone recognizes Mr. Costas as a leader (if not the leader) in his field of sports coverage and he finally spoke out on a subject that clearly is a divider after the Kansas City football player incident I believe. I hope he didn’t hurt his career too much by doing so but in the end what a substance filled, courageous thing he did!! Not that you aren’t speaking out on animal rights, because clearly you’ve shown that you are concerned with animal rights. Like you I switched to a plant based (no animal of any kind) diet for health reasons but after a time I read ‘Eating Animals’ and it brought the animal rights argument right up with the health argument. Dr. Barnhard seems to have animal rights as a more prevalent part of his brand but his health argument is not to be out done by anyone! Is his brand chipped away at because of this? To your point, I believe it is a little bit. But My respect for Dr. Barnhard’s overall work is not diminished because I’m in his corner. When allowances are made to cater to America’s wishy washy penchant for not digging into substance we end up with a garbled message eventually. So, for now I agree with the way you’ve come onto the scene. Moving into the future it becomes more tricky. Children are a more true litmus test on this than the overall American population. I tried to have my daughter’s watch some of the movies you have on your website, and the animal cruelty made them uncomfortable and even cry and not want to watch it anymore. They were already vegan, but if there ever is a doubt about the diet in their future, they’ll think of the cruelty they saw and understand that it is morally wrong to eat animals.
Like you, I never say I am vegan-it tends to close people’s ears to my message and they label me extreme. If I say I am plant based, and they see me navagate parties, buffets and many social situations, never calling out the “meat eaters” or “junk food eaters”. just staying on message that food is fuel and the right food can prevent and even reverse most chronic diseases, they become open to my message. Three and a half years later, most of my friends like plant based meals, many have given up dairy or meat and some are 80% or more plant based. None of this would happen if I demanded that they catered to my plant based, nutritionally dense choices. It is through quietly living my life and answering questions that they have come to thier own choices.
Embracing the plant based lifestyle back in ’06 was, initially, for health reasons, and continues to this day. However, I understand and embrace the big picture to include protection of defenseless animals. I concur with Jim regarding the need and means to spread the ‘big picture’ message across this nation, and that includes accepting the negative perceptions the populace seems to have regarding the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘animal rights’. When I began doing plant based cooking classes in ’07 people would comment, “But you don’t look like a vegan.” Well, how is a vegan supposed to look? The existence of that stigma is sad, but true! It takes a while for perceptual shifts to meld into the consciousness of society. Once folks become educated, experience the difference in their health from eating the foods they were meant to eat, then their consciousness will expand to include animal rights. That’s my belief. One step at a time.
I started eating this way for health, chest pains and high cholesterol levels. After a year or so a low fat, plant-based diet, my health returned. But unexpectedly, my view of animal foods slowly shifted. I began to notice how our food system treats the most defenseless, on such a mass and mechanized scale. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat from time to time…the ancients always had feast days. It’s funny how so many religions originate with man and woman as stewards of the garden and the animals. People see it as an ancient myth, a story of how we’re fallen and can’t go back to paradise. I’ve come to see it as a call to take care of gardens we still have (our top soil, the rain forest, our mountains), and a call to look out for the gentle beasts who can’t protect themselves (by not eating them).
Thanks for your daily blog — it’s a great support to our family in the south, where the vegan brand still has a ways to go.