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The Impactful Vegan: A Conversation with Robert Cheeke



In a recent episode of The Glen Merzer Show, we welcomed Robert Cheeke, renowned author and vegan bodybuilder, to discuss his latest book, The Impactful Vegan. This enlightening conversation delved into the nuances of making meaningful change in the world of veganism.


Robert Cheeke, often referred to as the "godfather of vegan bodybuilding," grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, and embraced veganism at the young age of 15. His latest book, The Impactful Vegan, which will be released on June 25th, explores the critical distinction between passion and effectiveness. Cheeke emphasizes that while passion is a driving force, it is not enough to create lasting impact. Instead, he argues that focusing on one’s skills and talents can lead to more significant, sustainable change.



Cheeke highlights that many people are passionate about sports, music, and art—fields that constitute only a small percentage of available jobs. He suggests that by concentrating on what we excel at rather than solely what we love, we can better serve the world and advance causes like veganism. This approach is grounded in effective altruism, which prioritizes actions that yield the highest positive impact.



One compelling point Cheeke makes is the potential ripple effect of individual influence. He shares his own journey of becoming vegan, inspired by his sister's steadfast commitment to animal rights. This personal transformation has allowed him to inspire countless others through his writing and public speaking. Cheeke's story underscores the profound impact that one dedicated person can have on their community and beyond.


Cheeke’s philosophical approach to veganism also includes a thought-provoking discussion on whether to save animals directly or convert people to veganism. He argues that while saving animals is essential, converting individuals to a lifelong vegan lifestyle can have a far-reaching impact, potentially sparing thousands of animal lives over time.


For those looking to deepen their understanding of effective vegan advocacy and personal development, The Impactful Vegan offers valuable insights. As Cheeke aptly puts it, "Stop following your passion and follow your effectiveness." This mantra encourages us to leverage our unique skills to create a more compassionate, sustainable world.


By focusing on effectiveness and utilizing our inherent talents, we can collectively drive the shift from animal agriculture to plant-based alternatives, promoting sustainability and profitability. Join us in exploring these transformative ideas and more on The Glen Merzer Show.



LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HERE: The Impactful Vegan, Robert Cheeke


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DISCLAIMER: Please understand that the transcript below was provided by a transcription service. It is undoubtedly full of the errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions. To understand the interview more completely and accurately, please watch it here: The Impactful Vegan, Robert Cheeke



Glen Merzer: Hello and welcome to the Glen Merzer show. You could find us across all your favorite podcast platforms. You could find us on YouTube and please remember to subscribe. And you could find us at RealMenEatPlants .com. Let me tell you about my special guest today. Robert Cheeke grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, where he adopted the vegan lifestyle at the age of 15. When he weighed just 120 pounds, I could have pushed him around. Today, he's the author of the books Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, Shredded, I have a copy of Shredded right here, Plant -Based Muscle, the New York Times bestseller, The Plant -Based Athlete, and his latest book that we're going to be discussing today is The Impactful Vegan, which will be released on June 25th. He's often referred to as the godfather of vegan bodybuilding, growing the industry from infancy in the year 2002 to where it is today. He's a regular contributor to Forks Over Knives, the Center for Nutrition Studies, Vegan Strong, the Vegan Gym, and No Meat Athlete. He's a former multi -sport athlete and has followed a plant -based diet for more than 28 years. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two rescued chihuahuas. Robert, welcome to the show.


Robert Cheeke: Glen, thank you for having me. It is great to be here. 


Glen Merzer: Well, it is great to talk with you. And we want to talk about your new book, The Impactful Vegan, which I have read. I've read an advanced copy, an electronic copy. So I don't have a copy to hold up. But do you? 


Robert Cheeke: I've got it right here, Glen. 


Glen Merzer: And you were able to get one of those. Yeah, that looks very good. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, this comes out next month. Super exciting.


Glen Merzer: I'm excited for you and I'm predicting it will be a bestseller because I think people want to read about this subject, how to be an Impactful Vegan. But I have to ask you first this question. Did you send an advance copy to Jerry Seinfeld? 



Robert Cheeke: I did not. I do not have any kind of relationship with Mr. Seinfeld. Never met him.


Glen Merzer: I asked that because he just in the last couple of days. spoke at the commencement at Duke University where he famously now said, the hell with passion. Fascination is better than passion. And you have a section of your book which is called Make Real Change Happen by Not Following Your Passion. So I'm thinking maybe he got an advance copy of your book. Can you tell us? why you say make real change happen by not following your passion. 



Robert Cheeke: Yeah, absolutely Glen. In fact, of all the podcast interviews I've done thus far, which is in the dozens, I believe, in the last couple of months, I don't think anyone has asked me to elaborate on this topic yet. So I thank you for rolling out the red carpet. I wore my red shirt for it so that I can actually talk about this because for the last 25 years I've been talking about following your passion and making it happen. 



Glen Merzer: Well, I wanted to bring up the subject because I'm very passionate about not following your passion. So yeah, yeah. Well, then explain that to us. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, you and I will get along well with this. Well, first of all, I think we need to lay the foundation. For starters, many of us don't have passion at all. It's just not there. It's a moot point. You know, people just aren't there's like 16 to 20 % of people in surveys that just aren't passionate about anything. So that's already wipes out a bunch of people. And then when we survey people, what we find is that people are most passionate about sports, music, and art. I mean like 90 % or something, right? That's what we love, myself included. I mean, that's what we love. But in the world of work, there's about 3 % of jobs in sports, music, and art. So basically 90 something percent of 90 % are gonna fail. Everyone's essentially going to fail. What else Glen? Are you passionate about all the same things you were five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago? 


Glen Merzer: Passions change.


Robert Cheeke:  Passions change all the time. 


Glen Merzer: Same woman though, same woman. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, yeah. But the reality is when it comes to work or our effectiveness or our impact on others, we change. including people who are vegan. They go in and out of it. They become vegan for a while and then maybe they're not or they're into this particular sports activity and then they're not. They're into this particular form of advocacy for anything. I mean, look at all the political advocacy we've been doing just in the last half decade. Black Lives Matter and different wars going on all throughout the world and passionately taking a stand on one or whatever. We change all the time as humans, it's human nature. And so if you follow your passion, what it means is that you're trying to do whatever is gonna serve you the best, regardless of what your skills and talents are. I can think of so many examples of my friends, acquaintances, people that I know who are very passionate about something, but they're just terrible at it. We could use a sport for an example. They just… And inherently there's nothing wrong with that, with being just really bad at something and loving it. Unless you're trying to make a difference in the world or trying to make a career out of it or trying to make a job or trying to build a brand or build a business or get something off the ground or get something, a message for people to take seriously. If you're just awful at it, but you're having a great old time, you're just not gonna be impactful. And my book is about being impactful, not about having fun, following your passion and being below average at some point. And so that's why it's important. And there's some incredible quotes in the book as well, especially from Nick Cooney. I really resonate with some of those. I don't have it in front of me exactly, but it's something along the lines of that when you focus on your passion, you're saying that basically I should do whatever it is that serves me, regardless of what other struggles are going on in the world. I need to serve my own ego and my own interests first and then whatever else I could contribute to in the world is just secondary of importance after that. And that, there's some beautiful quote about passion where it's like, following your passion is wrapped in the cloak of altruism, but really it's following our own interests. And so, There are times Glen, I mean, you know, I can't even count how many books that you've written or co -authored or ghostwritten or overseen or managed. Your name just pops up everywhere. Whether it's, I just saw Tracy Childs or whether it's Chef AJ or way back in the day, Howard Lyman. Your name is everywhere. You know that it's not always a passion -filled process. It's difficult, there's deadlines, you're working behind the scenes, you don't always get as much credit as the other people, you're... You know, it doesn't always pay as well as we would like. There's all these things that are not just wrapped up in this, you know, passion pursuit. There's difficult days, there's hard days, but you know that ultimately this kind of work makes a difference. We know that based on survey data that books are authoritative, they're influential, they guide people's decision -making, not just changing their thoughts and their intentions, but changing their actions, which is very important to differentiate between intentions, which celebrities and documentaries and others really plant those seeds of like, yeah, that's a nice idea. And then we never act on it. We're books because there's so much deeper than a film that's shown in a couple hours or less, or a brief talk or whatever the case is. A book which often took years to produce and is hundreds of pages long in most cases is so much more actionable and filled with the why, the motivation, the how -to, the action -oriented focus, the follow -through, the blueprint, all of that. And so what I really encourage people to do is to not look at what you're passionate about, but look at what you're great at. And that's where you find your most effectiveness. I mean, I could tell you, Glen, like, man, I'm so passionate about like,just filming myself doing YouTube videos or flexing on camera or traveling to exotic places or whatever. And that could be great, but does that serve the world as well as me embracing my true talents and skills, which are writing and storytelling in this long form written content? No, watching basketball is a passion of mine. I've got a chair in front of a television right now. It's actually a lawn chair sitting indoors in the basement, faced about six feet from the television so I can watch basketball. But if I were just to do that, and that's my interest, and that's what I love to do, and I'm serving whatever is best for me and my interests, I'm not impactful for those around me. Therefore, I limit that activity instead of just going all in on that passion and saying, well, I love it, and maybe I'll make a YouTube channel about it and do broadcasts and I'll break down the game and give commentary and give my opinion and all that. That could be, that would be super fun for me. I would love that, to be able to talk sports and make a little radio show or whatever, but would that help reduce animal suffering, which is what I truly care about at my core as effectively as writing books, giving presentations, hopping on multiple podcasts per day, which I'm doing now. The answer is no. And so I think that's going to, surprise some people, especially coming from me as someone who's been so much about following passion for decades that I've taken a completely different perspective. And that's based on all kinds of influence from Peter Singer to William McCaskill to Nick Cooney to effective altruism and the consequences of our actions to my own reflection. And so I appreciate you bringing that topic up so I could dive right in to tell on everybody to stop following your passion and follow your effectiveness. 


Glen Merzer: All right. So everybody out there, stop following your passions. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, stop doing what you love. 


Glen Merzer: Robert, you've made quite a transformation from being a bodybuilder. That's how everybody used to think of you as an athlete, a fitness champion, to being an author, something you do equally well. And, you know, one, you know. We think of one group being the jocks and the other group being the intellectuals or the nerds. You've moved seamlessly from one to the other. How does that feel? 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, it's much more desirable to be the intellectual nerd that I'm embracing it. I mean, I even have the new dark, you know, the glass, not that that's associated with nerdism or anything, but I got the new black frames of my glasses. I'm fully embracing. I got the collared shirt instead of the tank top that I would normally wear and do all my flexing on camera.


Glen Merzer: Can I interest you in a pen holder? 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, I should have one like on my collar right now. That's my mistake for starting this interview. You know, you're right that they've both been interests of mine. They've both been something that I've been pretty good at. But when I look at my impact and my effectiveness, I really feel and I believe and I think the evidence is there that I'm more impactful as a writer. and speaker and storyteller. And that's because I was just kind of a decent plant -based athlete. I was a decent athlete. I mean, yeah, I ran cross country in college and I was the champion, a bodybuilder on an amateur level. And I promoted it a lot and got a lot of attention and landed on magazine covers and wrote books on the subject and toured around the world talking about it and all of that. But there's so many better plant -based athletes than me and bodybuilders included, like tons of them and men and women alike that are way better than me. And so I'm much more effective doing something different where I can kind of pass the torch to all these other vegan athletes and say, hey, you guys run with it. And it has nothing to do with me being in my mid forties now and I'm older and all that. I mean, actually I'm in some of the best shape of my life at this age. And that's well -documented through the fitness programs that I've been doing recently. But how many people are writing books about plant -based fitness and..You can count on one hand and they're all friends or colleagues of mine. That is not getting out there as much as it could be, yet I know it's effective. You very generously, graciously introduced one of my books as a New York Times bestseller. That has significant impact, not just because of the reputation, but it means it reached a lot of people. It's also translated into nine languages worldwide. Everything from Polish to Chinese to Hungarian, Thai, Korean, German, Spanish, I mean, it's Italian. It's reaching an absolute diverse audience throughout the globe in ways that my athletic career perhaps didn't. Or at least it didn't do it in that intellectual way, giving people this unbelievable framework to how to be impactful at reducing animal suffering and amplifying veganism. And so I really reflected, Glen.I was at a crossroads. I'd been doing the athlete thing and the writing simultaneously. And there was, as you said, this kind of seamless transition to that. I'm just molding into one more than the other. I'm kind of leaving one behind in favor of the other and a little bit gradually, a little bit slowly. But that's enabled me to bring my audience along with me, bring some support along with me, blend them together a little bit. And now, You're right that I think I'm probably going to be known as the author moving forward as kind of maybe the former athlete. he did that 20 years ago. Like we might think of, I don't know a good example, but you know, Howard Lyman was, you know, a cattle or a rancher years ago and then he became the author and the politician, the motivational speaker or my friend, Brendan Brazier was like, you know, he was the Ironman triathlete. That was a long time ago. Then he became the Vega guy And now he's like the investor into plant -based brands. And we evolved. That's the thing. That goes back to our passion topic at the beginning. You know, like I was with Milo Runkel over the weekend in LA. He's the founder of Mercy for Animals, but now he's a partner in a venture capital company. He's doing something totally different. Passions change, his skills change, right? His talents changed. He had this ability to do something that he founded this organization, put it in good hands. Other people can run it as well or better than he could. And now he partnered with this other endeavor where maybe he excels more than others could in that space. And he recognized that. That's simply all I did. Then I recognized that. I know what I'm good at. I know what I'm great at. And so I embrace it.


Glen Merzer:  All right. Well, then let's get into the impactful vegan currently available for preorder. Hold it up again, Robert. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, absolutely.


Glen Merzer: The Impactful Vegan available for pre -order right now. Let's get into it because it's a book that's sort of philosophical about how you can do the most good, particularly in this particular cause of being a vegan and caring about the animals. And one way that you, one metric you use is how many animals you can save. So I'm going to start, since the book is philosophical, I'm going to start with a philosophical question here for you, Robert. And we may have some disagreements on this. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, I look forward to it. 


Glen Merzer: But let's see. We're on the same team, even if we have disagreements. Here's my question to you. You got two buttons in front of you. They both work. They never fail. You press the button on the left.And you can only press one. That's the rule. You press the button on the left, you can save 10 ,000 chickens from one of those awful warehouses that they house chickens in before they're sent to slaughter. Those 10 ,000 chickens will safely go to an animal sanctuary. Or press the button on the right, no help for the chickens, but you turn a hundred people average age, 27 years and three months, you turn 100 people who are meat eaters into committed vegans for the rest of their lives. Which button do you press? Do you save the chickens or do you turn 100 people into vegans? 


That is a great philosophical question. And first of all, I would have to start by saying I don't know that option B is realistic given recidivism rates of upwards of 84 percent of people who become vegan no longer being vegan years down the road. 


Glen Merzer: Yeah, but this is a magic button.


Robert Cheeke: But yeah, right. And I know you said committed for the rest of their life. That just doesn't map onto the real world. Whereas we can spare 10 ,000 chicken animal. Sorry. Ten thousand chickens. We can spare those lives in very practical ways and we can and we can see that and we can measure it. That's a little bit more. But you have to buy my premise.


Glen Merzer: That's the premise. They're going to turn into vegans the rest of their lives or you save a hundred ten thousand chickens. 



Robert Cheeke: Well, I mean, surely you would you would do option B and you'd get people because individuals have the ability to inspire other individuals to change their lives. They have the ability to spare. I talk about in the book where you can spare up to ten thousand animal lives per year. And so you're talking ten thousand chickens once or each individual. could spare as many as 10 ,000 animal lives per year, then obviously I would pick that one. I think that's that's what the metrics. All right. 


Glen Merzer: So we don't have a disagreement there. 


Robert Cheeke: Right. Except for the fact that I question whether those people will be vegan for the rest of their lives. People like me and you and Chef AJ and Dr. Clapper are few and far between, unfortunately, which is something that I do address in the book, that we've got to we've got to fix that. We've got to find a solution to more long term veganism. instead of, I mean, I don't know about you, but I hear almost every day that on social media or the noise that fills the internet waves that, so -and -so is no longer vegan now, or so -and -so is no longer vegan. And that's discouraging. And so in your hypothetical philosophical scenario, that's all I would question. 


Glen Merzer: Yeah. We do agree that, that, Turning people vegan, especially if they are committed lifelong vegans, is a great place to put energy. 



Robert Cheeke: Yeah. In fact, it may be one of the most important places to put energy because of the influence we can have on others. And I can just pause for a moment to add, look at my look at my older sister. No one's ever heard of her. She's been vegan for over 30 years. She lives a quiet vegan life, has a quiet vegan family. She's a university professor. Mostly keeps her veganism to herself these days, but she influenced someone like me, right? Who's traveled around the world for 20 years, inspiring maybe even millions and written all these books and done all these things. That's the power of what someone who's vegan can do for others, right? Even if they don't have the big name recognition or all this stuff, the influence they have on other people is profound. And I hear that, I'm sure you get it. We've seen each other on tour. We get that all the time. People tell us, you know, that just happened in LA. Like I was there a couple of days ago, people like, Robert, I became vegan because of you. I came across your material 10 years ago and you're the one that helped me become vegan. It does feel good and it's good for my ego. It's good for my soul. It's good for my heart, all that kind of stuff. But it also tells me that it's impactful.And so I give credit to someone like my sister who, because of her commitment to veganism influenced me when I was a young person at 15 years old, that changed my life forever, which then in turn, you know, changed so many other lives and helped so many of the people become vegan, including vegan for the long haul. I even influenced my younger brother who's been plant -based. He didn't always identify with the word vegan, but he's been plant -based since age 11. And that was 29 years ago, right? And so there are these long term like you just


Glen Merzer:  How did your sister influence you? I take it she's the reason you went vegan at the age of 15. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, yeah, of course. We grew up on a farm and she she really resisted this idea of selling the farm animals that we had at the auction, which we were doing, which I personally participated in. And so she took a stand on that and wasn't willing to sell chickens or cows or other animals, rabbits, other ones that we had on our farm. And instead, I became vegan and campaigned for that cause to the point that she even created an animal rights week at our high school that I attended on Wednesday, December 8th, 1995, just to support her. And I've been vegan ever since that day. I had no intentions of doing so. I loved eating chickens. I loved eating bacon. I loved… I went to McDonald's back then for lunch as a high school student. I really liked eating chickens in particular. I thought they were very good tasting. And that influence of watching videos of large scale factory farming, animal testing, having conversations with people, listening to speakers, that worked for me. It may not work for everybody, but it worked for me and it changed my life forever. And so when you give a philosophical scenario about, the opportunity to influence people to be vegan for life, that is incredibly powerful because of the ripple effect that it has. In fact, if you ask people maybe why they become vegan, there's a lot of reasons. They heard a news story, a documentary, a book, whatever, but many times it's also because my friend or my spouse or my partner, it's someone close to them like my sister did for me and I did for my brother. And, you know, Campbell did for his entire family, Esselstyn did for their entire family. And we do for our partners and our spouses and our roommates. Oftentimes we say I became vegan because of them. 


Glen Merzer: Do you remember anything your sister said to you? Was it just her leading by example?


Robert Cheeke:  It was, yeah, yeah. I do. And it's, you know, it's, you know, sometimes I get a little bit emotional thinking about it. You know, we were supposed to be selling our chickens at the county fair before age for them. We sell for like 40 bucks. And she refused to do it. She wouldn't do it like she just. She just was insistent on bringing them home and said, I'm not going to do this. 


Glen Merzer: And did any of your parents have something to say about that?


Robert Cheeke:  Of course, you don't even know or maybe you do know the story. I mean, my father. He was an animal science professor for 30 years. He was one of the best rabbit researchers on the planet. He won an Oscar, I think in 1988, a rabbit Oscar for like the rabbit researcher of the year. He's written 15 textbooks on how to raise animals for food. He met my mother in the animal science department at Oregon State University. They both worked in the field of animal science. They both grew up on farms, one in British Columbia, one in Harrisburg, Oregon. They raised us on a farm. They were both in the 4 -H program and encouraged all of us to do the same. They wanted us to raise and sell animals at the auction. And my sister said, I'm not going to do that. And that had a profound impact on me. 


Glen Merzer: Was there a little bit of conflict there between your parents and your sister? 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, a little bit. This was also in the late 1900s. And so we didn't have the internet or it was just coming about in 1995 or so. My sister went vegan before that. Vegetarian, late 80s, early 90s, vegan. And so there was a lot of concern about our health and well being. You know, my parents were very concerned about our health outcomes, that we weren't gonna get enough nutrition, we'll be malnourished, we simply can't get enough protein, and my father's an expert on this kind of stuff, on animal nutrition, but he obviously, I'm sure, knew and does know quite a bit about human nutrition, because today he's very much intellectually on board with. In fact, I use some of his quotes in my book. He's not 100 % plant -based by practice, but he's intellectually on board with it for sure. And he's even said so and even written powerfully about that in recent writings. But there was unbelievable conflict back then, Glen. I mean, it was imagined. And then I didn't tell you, my other brother was a cattle farmer. Even - Even in high school, he had the big pickup truck with the gun rack and the cowboy hat and the belt buckle. He used to actually try to attack me with a cattle prod, electric cattle prod. 


Glen Merzer: That's not nice. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. Well, you know, when brothers fight, you know, and you throw things at each other, he had these weapons, you know, like an electric cattle prod. And so it was, you know, time for tough. And my sister had this -


Glen Merzer:  I mean, you can roughhouse with your brother, but you shouldn't brand them. That's wrong. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. 


Glen Merzer: That's crossing the line. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. So can you imagine this juxtaposition? Holidays, farming, family, relatives, they're all farmers as well. And you have these, my sister vegan, me vegan, my brother vegetarian, mostly vegan. And you have these vehicles parked next to each other. Imagine this 19, what it must have been 1970 something Volkswagen bus with. My sister had the Beatles painted on the side and sunflowers on the headlights and this hippie vehicle. She was very much, you know, hemp necklaces and all this stuff. She was very much embraced that feel. And on her van, I had this bumper sticker. I love it. One of my favorites of all time. In fact, this should be a book title, but I think it belongs to Farm Sanctuary, I believe, this quote. It's on their bumper stickers from the 80s and 90s. It said, if you love animals called pets, why do you eat animals called dinner? That's right there parked right next to my sister's Volkswagen bus is this big Chevy, a blue Chevy pickup truck with the gun rack that says enjoy a juicy steak tonight. That's my brother's vehicle. And this is what family gatherings were like. This is what going to high school was like. 


Glen Merzer: A little bit of arguing going on over dinner.


Robert Cheeke: Arguing, but also not even talking. I mean, it's, it's kind of sad. My brother and I didn't really even make eye contact, you know, at school.


Glen Merzer: And where is he today on animal rights? 


Robert Cheeke: Now he runs a seven figure cattle farming business. 


Glen Merzer: Still does. 


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He's very successful, although he does have a lot of plant agriculture as well. Wheat, what do you call it? Grass seed, oats, I think. 


Glen Merzer: And do you still discuss the subject with your brother? 


Robert Cheeke: You know, not really. I mean, it's been 30 years. We know where we both stand on that. You know, he's got a couple kids. They follow in his footsteps. They wear the cowboy hat, the belt buckles. And also, if you don't know this, this is mind blowing. I did not know this. I told you I used to sell chickens for like $40 at the county fair. And I don't remember how much cows sold. So my nephew last year was 10 years old. He was just old enough, I think third or fourth grade. That's the requirement to be able to be an active full participant in 4 -H and show an animal at the fair and sell an animal at the fair. You ready for this? Yeah. My mom called me. She says, hey, Robert, any idea or go ahead and make a guess how much money Tyler got for selling his deer at the auction. I said, I have no idea. I haven't even been to the county fair I grew up going to in almost 30 years. I said, I don't know, $1 ,500? She said, no, $16 ,000. 


Glen Merzer: $16 ,000 for one steer? 


Robert Cheeke: Yep, and he's 10 years old and he had to pay taxes on it. He's a tax paying, and he went out and like bought a tractor with it. You know, or he's restoring a tractor. And he's gonna do that this year and all the way until he's 18. Selling, you know, you can pay for college for the whole neighborhood. So my brother's very much, he's the beef superintendent at the county fair. There's this very interesting dynamic within our family, but at the same time, my brother and his wife are incredibly supportive, you know, emotionally or intellectually with like, they buy all kinds of vegan ice creams and things, you know, cause we mostly get together for gatherings, you know, birthdays and all that. Cause I live a thousand miles away from where I grew up. So when I go home for maybe holidays or my nephew's birthdays or some, you know, family gathering, So it's those kinds of things where they will have all kinds of plant -based meats and cheeses and ice creams and all that, which he never would have done even some years ago. He would have been staunchly against it and said, I'm just not supporting that garbage. But now he's really, he totally, he knows where I'm coming from. I think that's just his livelihood. And I still hold out hope. that may just be an empty hope, but. He likes working with animals. I mean, he's covered in cow manure every single time I see him. He likes it. He loves working with animals. And so I would love to see him make 90 % of his income through grass seed, which they live in the grass seed capital of the entire world out there in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and through wheat and different grasses, alfalfa, whatever.I would rather see him do 90 % of that. And if he wants to have animals on the farm, just, you know, to like, for his kids to take to the fair, but not sell at the auction, but just have them around. That would be, you know, that's something I would hold out hope for because he just likes being around livestock. He likes interacting with them and raising them and all that. But if I could just find some way to convince him that he could still make a livelihood, make a...a business be profitable by growing plant crops instead, especially plant crops to feed humans, I think that would be a beautiful thing. I don't know if that's ever gonna happen. And I talked to him, you know, every now and then I just saw him recently when I was back home visiting family. And he was talking about the price of crops or certain things going up and down and all that. And I'm always hopeful that he's gonna. He's like he's really going to come across a huge opportunity where plants are the future and he'll kind of go all in there and have the animals as just a side hobby, just to have them as kind of pets around the house. So we'll see. Time will tell, I guess.


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 All right. Well, it's time to get philosophical again. let's do it. Let's do it. All right. So we both agreed that one of the most effective, impactful things you could do is to create more vegans.


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help people transition to a vegan diet and hopefully in a lasting way. Here's the question. I'm going to use extreme terms and there's a middle ground in between. But when in trying to persuade people to go vegan, to change their lifestyle, to give up eating animals, should people be coddled or should they be confronted? Should we?


suggests that people maybe consider meatless Monday? Or should we say to them, throw all that stuff, that meat, the dairy, eggs out of your refrigerator, just get started today, go 100 % plant -based and stop the stupidity of eating animals. So what's the best approach? Coddling, confronting somewhere in between, or does it just depend on the individual?


Well, I think we have to look at what the data suggests and we have to remove our own personal bias out of this. That's what I think that's step number one in everything, right? Whether we save chickens or fish or goats or turkeys or pigs or cows or whatever, where we put our emphasis and our resources and money and time and effort and all of that, I think we look at what the data suggests rather than our own personal bias.


bias because I'll preface by saying, well, my bias would be that everyone become vegan overnight because that's what I did. And that's what makes immediate difference and reduce the suffering and all that kind of stuff. But the data suggests that doesn't that doesn't work or that doesn't last or that confronting people often makes them feel repelled and reject veganism because they feel like they're doing something bad or they're not good enough or they're being talked down to or.


someone else is better than them or they're being challenged, they get defensive, they double down. I know I'm gonna eat more animals now. So the answer is middle ground, I think. But I would say the former, that the coddling, whether it's Meatless Mondays or what I call in the book, the vegan Kaizen system, it's small incremental steps toward forward progress. That just shows that it's more effective. So.


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Tell me about, maybe I'll ask you a question now. Tell me about your New Year's resolutions. I'll preface by saying, unbelievably, unbelievably, actually, maybe very believably, Americans tend to have the exact same New Year's resolution every year for an entire decade before they realize, you know what, maybe I'm just, it's not, I don't have it in me to lose the weight or to build the muscle or to change my diet. Maybe the problem is me.


and the habits that I've cultivated throughout my entire life that I can't break from because of all kinds of psychological issues and habit forming challenges and all this stuff. And so...


We know that New Year's resolutions typically end on January 18th or 17th or 19th. It moves by like a 24 hour increment over the years. It basically don't work because you're going all or nothing. You're jumping in, you're jumping to the deep end, you're biting off more than you can chew. You're not getting the support that you need. You're going too fast too soon. You're not building up these incremental habits that you can adjust to and adapt to and move around and feel comfortable and ease into. And...


And that's true for many areas. And so I would ask you, like in your observations, when it comes to things like, I use New Year's resolutions because that's usually a shift in worldview or value system. Like I'm going to be someone different than I've been all these years. Now I'm someone who wakes up early. I never was before. I'm someone who exercises. I didn't before. I'm someone who eats a plant -based diet. I never did before. So it really is a worldview shift. That's why I use New Year's resolution as an example. So,


I mean, what have you observed in yourself or your family or trying to get away from caffeine or alcohol or meat or whatever? Do they work New Year's resolutions or is it like a veganuary challenge style, small incremental steps and support that works? Like, what do you see? Well, I confess there have been times when I resolved to work out more and I, and


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my resolve faded over time. I have challenged you to an arm wrestle. So the next time we see each other, I'm good for that. I had to delay that for a while because I had a hernia. But with other things, I just make up my mind and I do it. That's how I made up my mind one day at the age of 17 to go vegetarian and told my friend that I'd


gone vegetarian, when he asked since when, I said since breakfast, and he laughed at me, and haven't had meat in 50 plus years since then. So I do tend to stick to a lot of my resolutions, but I don't know that I've nailed down what it is that makes some stick and others not. Well, I would say the answer is you. And I even wrote this down.


I don't know if anyone can see it. I can't read though. You are not your audience. So just because you like you said, I just decide something, I stick with it. 99 % of people can't do that for whatever reason. And then there's a million self -help books that have sold millions and millions of copies that try to explain why that is. Why is it that you have the ability to just say, you know what, this is.


this is what I'm gonna do and I'm gonna do it. Why do I have that ability to connect the dots and cultivate this like I'm gonna use veganism as a, or my fitness success as a vehicle to promote veganism and I'm gonna use that to write books, I'm gonna use that to reduce animal suffering. Why am I able to commit to something and gain a hundred pounds on a plant -based diet and become a champion bodybuilder? Or why did I lose 25 pounds in less than six months just recently when most people can't even lose one or two pounds?


Well, because the answer is me. We're a little bit unique. Most people can't do that. Why did I stop caffeine in 2018? I haven't had it since. That's one of the most difficult things in the world to do. The entire world runs on either tea or coffee. Tea is the number one consumed beverage outside of water. Coffee is second. So is alcohol, or probably third and fourth. So we have to remember, and that's why I wrote it down, which I know was difficult to read my scribble, but that you are not your audience. And so the answer,


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is not the one that we want. The answer is people need to have their hand held. They need to take these small incremental steps. Why do you think organizations or companies, whatever they're classified as, Forks Over Knives is so successful or the Food Revolution Network or many of these others, they just, they hold hands so tightly, they never let go. Here's every resource you could.


Possibly need here's the recipe. Here's the cooking school. Here's the app. Here's the book Here's the podcast the YouTube show the social media channels We will hold your hand every step of the way, but guess what it works I actually called it the forks over knives effect in the book that whether people Come to that lifestyle for moral or ethical reasons or not. The fact is


because their hand is held throughout the process, they're very likely to stick with it over time, which is why vegan mentoring and coaching is so effective. When I come across people all the time, recently even, days ago, in person, people who were jumped off the deep end into veganism and really tried to navigate it on their own and they just didn't do it. It is somewhat of a difficult thing, except for the 17 year old you or the 15 year old me or the however,


you know, old Jeff AJ was when she became vegan 48 years ago. We are the unique ones in our own ways. And we probably have lots of other shortcomings in other areas, but we've been able to stick with a lifestyle, a value system, some sort of label of identification or something that defines who we are, really because of our own.


psychological characteristics. But for most people, yeah, they are going to need the coddling and the confronting also for most people. If you've if you've spent any time on social media, you as we all do, or at least the 4 .76 billion of us who have at least one social media platform we belong to, you'll see all kinds of confrontation. And does that lead to people? You know what? You're right. Now, all of a sudden, I fully understand your way of thinking, your worldview, and I'm signing up.


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doesn't always work that way. It's mostly combative, combative, and oftentimes not a lot of resolution. And so ultimately, I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. And though, and it comes up on all kinds of podcasts I do, people say, and I kind of bite my tongue because I don't fully agree, and maybe this is an area to disagree, this would be great. People say, but we need all types. We need all types of advocacy. No, we don't.


Like that is just not true. That's like we need. What do you mean by all types of advocacy? So so all types of like screaming and yelling and thread red paint on people and confronting maybe even physical violence towards someone who's no physical violence. No, I'm saying no, I'm saying that some people might like I'm saying that's what I'm saying. We don't need any of that. I'm saying some things we don't need. And so you can fill in the blank like all forms of blank.


help toward the finish line. Not necessarily. I mean, you can use any fill in the any blank you want. You can even say all forms of exercise go toward building muscle. No, absolutely not. Not ultra and endurance running 25, 30 miles a day. That eats up muscle. It doesn't build it. Or some sort of convincing language maybe in.


advancing a political career, we need every type of advocacy, not necessarily let a political careers, you know, die because of, you know, one particular misstep or whatever the case is. It's happened all throughout, at least our US political history. And so I kind of disagree that we need all types of animal advocacy. I think that's a lot of people justifying their favorite forms of animal advocacy that may not be very effective, including some of the,


the most confrontational types of approaches, they may serve some sort of purpose. Maybe they shut down some sort of operation for a certain number of hours, or they inspire other people to get involved in the movement or whatever, but they're just not as effective as some other things. That's my only point. And so I kind of hesitate when, you know, when we have this scale here, do we have the coddling or the confrontational somewhere in the middle?


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The more effectiveness is a little bit towards the hand holding side because that's just human nature and how we adapt to something. Right. Well, here's what gets to me. Tell me if it gets to you. It's that the argument for eating plants, the case for eating plants is so strong. It's so overwhelming from the health standpoint.


I'll even put aside the animals for the moment because we care about the animals. But to those who either don't care so much about the animals or just believe that it's a sad fact of life that we must eat them, it's hard to convince them on that. But from a health standpoint and from a planetary standpoint and from a world hunger standpoint and from a pollution standpoint, the case is so overwhelming.


For our side, it's almost embarrassing because, you know, it just any subject you bring up that's related to planetary health, it always gets better. As my friend, Dr. Sailesh Rao says, everything gets better when the world transforms to a vegan world. And so when the case is that overwhelming, why, Robert, is it so difficult to get people to eat the human diet?


I'll tell you exactly why. It's three very little words. I don't care. I don't care is the number one objection to veganism for health, environment, planet, animals. I just don't care. Why don't people care about their own health at very least? They prove every day that they don't.


They don't care. 80 % of Americans eat fast food once a week. 37 % of Americans eat fast food once per day. That's more enjoyable. It's more enjoyable to get sensory pleasure immediately, instant gratification, than it is, why is sports gambling like the number one thing in America right now? We need instant gratification. We need to feel good. We need dopamine hits. We need this kind of pleasure to experience right away. And...


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I don't care. I've only got X number of years left. Who cares about the planet? That's the, and don't, don't extract those clips. Robert Cheek says he doesn't care. That would be hilarious. A little five second clip from the interview with Glen Mercer. Robert Cheek wants the planet to burn. No, I'm speaking for the 99%. The 99%, they just simply don't care. And let me expand on that. You know, the famous quotes. I don't remember, I don't remember exactly who said it, but a lot of people have said it.


that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we'd all be. Yeah, a lot of you said it. If slaughterhouses. I'm giving Paul credit. You know, I want him to be a guest on the show. Yeah, sure. Sure. Yeah. I'm giving Paul credit for that. Yeah. So again, it's, you know, along the lines of this, if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we'd all be vegetarian. I don't think so. I don't think people. Yeah, I don't think so. I think people know. I think for the most part, people know.


that it takes slaughter to turn animals into food for humans, and they just don't care. They keep it out of sight, out of mind as much as they can. Well, if Paul comes on the show, I'm going to tell him you disagree with him. Yeah. Well, I think the data disagrees with them. And I talked to a young graduate student at Colorado State University during the interview for this book, 25 years old master student. And we were talking about the efficacy of


showing video footage of slaughterhouse footage and factory farm footage and all of that on a college campus. And she said, nobody cares. She said, we all grew up seeing violence on social media. I mean, all they have to do is open their phone to Instagram and they'll see someone dying, either a cow dying or someone getting shot somewhere. Cause that's what posts that those things come up on social media all the time. I see them too.


both violence towards humans and animals. It's all the time I see it on social media. Those are not pages that I follow. These are just things that pop up. And so she said, we're desensitized to that. Like she's speaking for her generation, those around in their twenties. She said, we grew up with that. We grew up with violence. We just don't care. We know there's animal suffering there, and she happens to be someone who is vegan, but she's speaking more for her classmates or colleagues at school.


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that they just don't care. And so I think - Well, do you remember all the protests when Obamacare got started? There were people who were violently against it, others for it, and people just seemed to care desperately about the issue of what they viewed as health care reform. You could argue that Obamacare was really health insurance reform, but in any case,


people seem to care passionately about health care. So if they're going to care passionately about health care, why don't they care passionately about their own health? Well, were they passionately caring about health care or their political position or their political party or their preference toward a candidate? I don't know. It's possible that they were.


they were camouflaging their real concern for their political party as if it was concerned about healthcare. I don't know. I think that's part of it because people show us that they don't care. People don't exercise, they don't move, they don't eat well, they don't seek out fresh air and sunshine. And maybe it's just more of a difficult world to do that where people have to work sometimes two or three jobs or they're indoors more because of all.


all types of influences and reasons and they're too stressed out. It's trying to raise kids or trying to put food on the table or pay their bills or the fact that we've got this in the palm of our hands that distracts us every moment of the day and then more television channels than we can count. And it's just easier to just sit down and consume media than it is to try to make a healthy meal or get outside and exercise.


Well, I'll tell you something a lot of people do care about, because over 70 percent of Americans are obese or overweight. A lot of Americans care about losing weight. Yeah. They want to lose weight. They want to get healthy, at least in that sense. They want to do it. But I mean, I've been in the fitness industry for, I don't know, 30 years now. I don't know that they often act on that desire, you know, like they also probably want more money.


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They want more freedom. They want more of this, that, whatever, more vacations. We don't act on that. Like, man, if I just had more savings, like you do more vacations, whatever, we sometimes don't act on that in ways that we could. So I think I want to give people the benefit of the doubt that yes, weight loss is a big concern. You're right. 73 .6 % of Americans are overweight. 42 .5 % are obese right now. There's a lot of factors involved in that, including super calorie dense processed foods that are


you know, on every street corner, super cheap, accessible, tasty, that's what we want. But also I question the difference between wanting and acting on something. Like people want to probably live longer. Maybe not everybody, but a lot of people do. Longevity seems desirable, but do we act on that? Do we do the things that have been proven to prolong life or at least an active, enjoyable,


life as long as possible. Not necessarily. And so, and also just one last thing, because I just kind of touched on it. When you said why, like, why don't we care about the planet or our health or whatever? And I think one thing that has to be stated, and I'm glad I get a brief opportunity to do so, is that many of us in this plant -based world, we make our food decisions based on health, the environment,


and the animals. But 99 % of people don't. They make it based on taste, cost and convenience. Thoughts of the environmental impact, thoughts on animals, thoughts on personal health, nowhere near the top of their list. I think that's ultimately, if I could sum it up as simply as possible, I think that's what's driving decision making. All right. Well, let's get back to the impactful vegan. What was the most surprising?


encouraging or the most discouraging thing you learned from doing your research and writing that book? Well, I'll start with the most discouraging. It came from a conversation with Bruce Friedrich from Good Food Institute. Bruce shared with me 11 peer -reviewed papers, 11 peer -reviewed research papers thus far, showing that by 2050, which is really just around the corner here, what, 25 or so years from now,


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that we will have anywhere between 62 % and 242 % more animal agriculture than we have today. So if there's 70 to 90 billion land animals killed and 1 .3 trillion sea animals, whatever, this is gonna double, triple, quadruple, quintuple, and it's just gonna be absolutely overwhelming for the planet. I mean, that's what the statistics show. That's what peer -reviewed data.


shows the trajectory that we are on. And that is incredibly discouraging. We're also gonna have 2 billion more people. So we'll be at 10 billion people and just an unfathomable amount of animals suffering unless we do something about it and we just be as absolutely impactful and effective as we can. And speaking of that, so some things that I learned and there's a lot that I learned.


even though I've been doing this for 30 years as a, you know, and a fairly impactful vegan myself for all that time, for very deliberate reasons and using leading by positive example and using fitness and challenging the number one objection to veganism that you can't get enough protein and busting that myth and inspiring a whole generation of vegan bodybuilders. I've done all this stuff that's impactful, but one of the things that I learned is that,


Most of us are only going to spare about 365 animal lives per year, one per day on average at the high end, which is amazing. But if you contribute financially to the most effective animal charities in the entire world, your impact could be a hundred times greater. And that's because those organizations are so good at creating positive change and using resources to do that, where they can spare an animal's life for as little as 33 cents, like the Humane League.


because they work with all these companies and food retailers and packages, and they can change policies and lobby for systemic changes. And they can, they do all kinds of educational outreach. And they are the reason so many people embrace plant -based living or vegan lifestyle. And they get animals out of the food supply chain and they're very, very effective. And so that was really eye -opening to me, the sheer power of our financial contributions to the most effective.


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animal charities and even if you're like me, and I know I've even told you this privately, I don't have a lot of money. I wish I did, but I don't because of the nature of a lot of the work that I do is writing books for months or years at a time without doing a lot of extra income earning and this kind of stuff. But because of my incredible network, I mean, I personally raised, snapping my fingers, I raised $100 ,000 for the Game Changers because I had a wealthy celebrity friend that I reached out to.


and asked if he would contribute to the film, he did, and that was done in a single email or a text message. And the Game Changers went on to be one of the most watched documentaries in history. And that data is real and it's available. And I was just hanging out with the producer, James Wilkes, I actually stayed at his house two days ago. And we know how far reaching that film did and how that inspired. That was a great film. I think that made a lot of people vegan. Well, it did, and it at least showed them.


how you can build your body on a plant -based diet. And to this day, Arnold Schwarzenegger was just talking about that on camera in March to audiences and it went viral online that he's saying you don't need to eat meat to build muscle. And of course he said that in the film too. So we know that financial resources go a really long way. And so that's something that I encourage people to be aware of in the book that even if you don't have the resources yourself, like you read in the book where I also helped raise, not just me, but I'm saying,


These are things that I've been part of. So they're top of mind. I helped raise a quarter million dollars for an animal sanctuary, one that does a lot of really good work, tons of education, sometimes thousands of visitors in a single day at their festivals at this animal sanctuary, because I was able to recruit a lot of products and contributions for their silent auction, even though I couldn't give them lots of money myself.


could barely afford the $150 ticket for the annual gala event, but I raised thousands and thousands of dollars because of my network and my connections. And that's what I'm encouraging people to do, that if you care about animals, if you care about making a difference, and maybe you don't have the financial resources or you don't have the huge online following, or you're not a book writer or an author, there's so many ways that you can contribute to the reduction in animal suffering. And I outline dozens and dozens of those ways.


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all throughout the book. And that's what I'm really excited about that if this book does what I hope it will, it will raise all kinds of awareness and all kinds of resources for the most effective and impactful animal charities in the world. And we will see a reduction in animal suffering. And we can look to countries like the United Kingdom and Germany that are having record lows in meat consumption right now and learn from them and what they're doing. And...


and see how those plant -based products are becoming so popular in those regions. We can adopt some of those principles and practices and bring the cost down and bring the flavor profile up, make it more convenient. And that appeals to the 99%. And that's who we have to reach. Well, I'm going to encourage everybody out there to buy a copy or maybe two or three of the Impactful Vegan. And you can be sure that Robert will spread the wealth around to humane causes.


And Robert, tell people where they can find you and contact you. Yeah. Well, first of all, Glen, thanks so much for having me on. It's always good to see you. And as I'm holding here, the Impactful Vegan comes out June 25th. You can find it on impactfulvegan .com. Of course, it's everywhere. I mean, Amazon, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble. But when you go to impactfulvegan .com,


You can download a totally free sample of the introduction plus chapter one. So you can get a feel for the book. See if it's what you're looking for and see if it's something you're interested in. And from there, you can pre -order from any bookstore and you can submit your confirmation of pre -order purchase and redeem hundreds of dollars worth of pre -order bonuses, which many of us do during book launches. And you can help.


Spread the word and as my friend Glen just said yes, even the proceeds of this book go toward the most effective animal charities in the world and help even with every single sale of the impactful vegan provides a vegan meal to a hungry child in the developing world through my partnership with food for life global and their and under their umbrella and so You can you can find me Robert cheek online e on the end of


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My last name, you just turn the other cheek and find me on social media. Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness is the brand that I've had for over two decades. You can find me there on social media as well. I tend to be fairly active because as you'll find out in the book, using social media in positive ways is an influential way to bring people into veganism. And so that's why I use that tool. And so, and then thank you again, Glen, for having me on.


I certainly appreciate it. And I appreciate the uniqueness and the philosophical questions, which I've not been given yet in these interviews. So thank you for putting me to the test. Well, thank you. Thank you, Robert. Best of luck with the book and we'll see you soon. You got it.




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