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Unveiling Dr. Vasile Stănescu's Vegan Journey: A Tribute to All Vegans

Updated: Jan 17

In a recent episode of The Glen Merzer Show, Dr. Vasile Stănescu, co-senior editor of the Critical Animal Studies book series and a professor at Mercer University, opened up about his unique journey into veganism. Titled "Dr. Vasile Stănescu Honors All Vegans," the episode explores his childhood, activism, and the hidden traumas many individuals face in adopting a plant-based lifestyle.

At the tender age of nine, Dr. Stănescu ventured into vegetarianism, a choice made independently against the norms of his meat-eating household. This experience, as he revealed, is not as uncommon as one might think, with a Harvard study noting that 8% of children explore vegetarianism, often facing pressure to revert to a meat-based diet.

A pivotal moment in Dr. Stănescu's journey was the discovery of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation at his local public library. This early exposure empowered him with the language to articulate his aversion to meat consumption. His activism kicked off with a bold move to introduce a salad bar into his middle school.

The transition to veganism occurred during college, a decision facilitated by newfound control over his eating habits and the example set by his brother.However, the journey wasn't without challenges. Dr. Stănescu shared his experience of going vegan in Texas, where defaming beef is against the law, and a less-than-enthusiastic reception from his family.

One highlight of the episode is the discussion around hidden traumas associated with childhood vegetarianism. Dr. Stănescu emphasized the importance of addressing these traumas in vegan activism, as many individuals face societal pressure and misinformation, causing them to revert to a meat-based diet.

As we navigate the complexities of promoting veganism, Dr. Vasile Stănescu's story serves as an inspiring testament to the resilience required to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. Whether you're a seasoned vegan or someone contemplating the shift, this episode provides valuable insights into the challenges and triumphs of honoring a compassionate way of living.

Join the conversation on The Glen Merzer Show and explore the full podcast episode to delve into Dr. Vasile Stănescu's vegan journey.

Listen to the full episode here. Dr. Vasile Stănescu Honors All Vegans

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Podcast Transcript:

Glen Merzer: Welcome to The Glen Merzer Show, where we talk all things vegan. If you're not already vegan, no worries, we'll get you there. If you are tuned in for health advice, information on climate change, and all the damage done by our most destructive industry, animal agriculture, we'll also talk cooking, theater, film and culture. My two reasons for starting this podcast. To entertain, to inform and to make people vegan. Now that's three. Hello and welcome to the Glen Merzer Show. You could find us across all your favorite podcast platforms. You could find us on YouTube. Please remember to subscribe and you could find us at Real Men Eat My guest today is Professor Vasile Stanescu. He is a professor of communication at Mercer University, and he is co founder of the North American Association for Critical Animal Studies, Vasile, welcome to the show. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Thank you. Thanks for having me. 

Glen Merzer: Now you are a long time, uh, advocate. Or animals. And I take it you came to veganism for the animals. Is that right? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yes. That's right. 

Glen Merzer: At what age did you come to be determined? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: At the age of nine. Um, which is less unique than you might think. So there was a study that actually came out from Harvard that found 8% of all children actually go vegetarian, at least for a while. And they're independent vegetarian. So they go vegetarian against the desires or preference from their parents. They tend to be in meat, uh, eating homes, and then they go vegetarian. And, uh, unfortunately, what actually happens is many of them get pressured into eating meat later. Uh huh. But I won't put staring at the age of nine. Uh, shortly after that, I checked out Peter Singer's Animal Liberation from our public library. It's a bit precocious for that. Uh huh. And, uh. Uh, you know, I already didn't want to eat meat. That's why I checked the book out. But then it gave me, like, the term to be able to explain. No, I'm this, uh, my very first act of activism ever was getting a salad bar into my middle school. Uh, which I succeeded to do because I think the school board was confused and perplexed that a middle school student wanted to eat salad and was like, okay. Uh, and then I went vegan in college. Uh, and it's something obviously I'd wanted to do that I should do. Um, my brother had actually gone vegan before me, and, you know, just hadn't done it until I been in college. I felt like, okay, I have control of my eating enough to be able to make this decision. Uh, and also, uh, Carol Adams, uh, actually went vegan in Texas, which is very rough place to go. Uh, vegan. It is against the law in the great state of Texas to defame beef. 

Glen Merzer: It is against the. Yes. Uh, this this. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Oprah got sued over it? Yes. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah, yeah. Howard Lyman and I, uh, wrote the book Mad Cow Boy. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I thought you might be very familiar with this. Exactly. Correct. Exactly correct. So people used to introduce me in Texas. They would do a stage whisper. They'd say, this is varsity Keith's vegan. Like, somehow this is something, you know, so, you know, but. But Carol Adams was, uh, based in Texas, near to where I was going to college. And, uh, her book, her talk, her mentorship, you know, really kind of convinced me to move on over from vegetarian vegan that I'm a vegan. 

Glen Merzer: But let's go back to when you're nine. How did your family react? How did your parents react to your determination to not eat animals? And do you remember what caused that determination? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well that they did not react well. Uh oh. Yes. They thought it was a phase that was being a picky eater, but it was difficult. And so they stopped preparing food for me. So they would just only make meat. And, uh, and so I had to sort of make do, making the food I could, at the age of nine, lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, uh, you know, huge bags of oranges or whatever till they finally decided, okay, this has gone on long enough, you know, and then they switched and started making, uh, vegetarian food. So it was. Yeah, very tough. Like I say, lots of children actually go vegetarian and from pressure or parents or society, a lot of them switch. And I think about this, a lot of our vegan activism, lots of times we're talking to people who actually have a hidden trauma. So they've gone vegetarian at a young age. Their parents lie to them, so they're going to die or it's not healthy, or it doesn't hurt the animals and they've started eating meat again. And that like hidden trauma is there when you talk to them. It's not that they don't know what we're talking about. It's that they know enough not to know. And so you have to almost like, unpack this trauma to get them to be able to listen to you. Because a lot of kids at one moment go, wait, chicken is chicken. When we tell kids to love animals, we tell every child's all around us. I have an 18 month old right now, and I'm reading on books about like, here's a pig, here's a cow. He loves animals, and none of these books. They eat them, right? And so, you know, of course, he's in a vegan household and he's being raised vegan, but a similar child reading similar books when they first realized, wait, these animals every single day, every Disney movie I see that tells me to love. I'm actually killing so many of them. Go, no! And then what happens is all this pressure is put on them to shift. 

Glen Merzer: Now, do you remember the moment when you were nine? Was it was it eating chicken, eating steak that you said, wait a minute, what is this? Why am I. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Was eating chicken? I was eating like, uh, from KFC. Um, like, uh, you know, big leg of chicken and biting into it, right. And then the kind of thing the blood, like I say, realizing that moment that chicken is chicken. Right? And just being like, I don't want to do this right. You know, I don't want to hurt animals. I love animals, I don't want to kill them. Right. These are actually not highly complicated arguments. I mean, right, sometimes we can get lost in the woods, but, you know, a nine year old can understand this. I love animals, I don't want to kill them. 

Glen Merzer: Right. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So, you know, is it possible for me not to. Okay, it is right. All right. Done. Right. Yeah. Oh, I don't have to figure anything else out. Right. 

Glen Merzer: Well, let me you say quite correctly, this isn't complicated, and I. I agree with you, but let me try to complicate it anyway. Um, I remember I became a vegetarian at the age of 17. Um, and I became vegetarian for health reasons rather than moral reasons. Okay, but I'm going to make a distinction here. Um. It was me and my health reasons, by the way, weren't that there was anything wrong with my health? It was then my relatives were dying like flies of heart attacks. So I had lost two uncles that year and I never met my grandparents. My mother got heart disease, and I think if I eat the way these people eat, I'm going to be dead at 25. So I cut out the meat. I didn't cut out meat because I was an animal rights activist, and I thought that this is species first and so forth. But I did feel that it was disgusting. I had a kind of revulsion at the, you know, picking apart a chicken and seeing the bones and thinking, this is kind of cruel. I would never do this if other people do it. Okay, I'm not judging, but I would never do this. So to me, it was kind of morally revolting without my taking the leap to say, well, I'm going to judge other people that it's morally wrong. Um, is that a distinction that has any validity at all? And and what are your comments on that? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, I mean, my father did get colorectal cancer at the age of 35. Um, and they've been trying to have me to colonoscopy since I've been 35, which I have had every, every few years, because that's just very, very young. And he only eat meat and potatoes, you know, and it can green beans. Right. Um, so the health argument is a true one. I mean, getting me to colonoscopies and, uh, colorectal cancer is like smoking to our, uh, lung disease, and it's irrelevant for me. I mean, I care about health in the sense of. I care about the health of the animals. If tomorrow I found out that veganism was, uh, not, uh, healthy diet, it would make not the slightest difference. I mean, of course I can't hurt my own health. I'm not trying to get anyone else to their health, but as long as it's just healthy enough, um, that is all that I care about individually. Right. I will agree with you about the revulsion. Um. But like I say, I don't think humans are naturally meat eaters. I think it's societal pressure. I remember even at the age of nine, or revulsion, I think other children have that. And then there's these new meat substitutes now. And um. Uh, I like Impossible Meat, and I actually find them for me individually. Not a judgment. Anybody else that likes them, but I actually find them gross. I never want them because they. They taste too much like meat. 

Glen Merzer: Right. Yeah. Um, on the issue of of the health versus the morality of it. Um, there are many vegans who, like you, come to it for the moral reasons. Uh, you know, as advocates of animals and caring about animal welfare. Um, and many of those, uh, become what I call junk food vegans. You know, as long as there's no animal foods, they'll happy to have the vegan donuts and the vegan products made with coconut oil and so forth. And my argument to them is, first of all, if you want to be an advocate for the animals, try to live to 100 or more and keep advocating stay healthy. Um, second of all, the more fit you are, the more persuasive. The vegan case may be if other people see fit, healthy people who are vegans. That may lead to more vegans, which is good for the animals. Your response? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I hope you don't mind. Uh, I do have to disagree with you. 

Glen Merzer: Okay. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: As a debate. 

Glen Merzer: And you're a professor of debate. So yeah, let's do it. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So if you don't mind some some, uh, good spirited, uh, you know, friendly, friendly debate. Yes. I think that there is a large amount of fat shaming, um, and really troubling ways that the movement deals with people. Um, I don't think that we should double down on any of that. Uh, I am opposed to books like, you know, skinny bitch. But the idea that is we should, uh, go vegan to, like, lose weight. Uh, I think. 

Glen Merzer: That, uh, let me just say that I'm not sure that was the point of that book, but go on. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Sure. Okay. Um, but I think that there is a tendency in the movement to prioritize exactly what you're talking about. Uh, that you will lose weight, that you'll lose. Uh, you know, these images that support this. Let's hide the images of other people that don't match this model. I'm opposed to all of that. Um, everyone should be able to go vegan. And if you want to go vegan and you still want to eat junk food, sure. We shouldn't combine completely separate issues. I mean, the torture and killing of 70 billion animals every single year, and rather somebody wants Oreos are just such vastly different issues. It makes no sense to try to, like, put them together. Not to mention, if you go vegan and you don't lose weight or you don't look, whatever this model is, you're not somehow doing veganism wrong. You're not somehow a failure to the movement. You shouldn't, like, hide yourself because you're not helping other people go vegan. I mean, all that's, like, so sad. What you're doing is amazing. There's only 4% of the population that's vegan. More power to you. Whatever you look like, whatever your body is, we love you. That should be the message we have in the movement. 

Glen Merzer: Well, well, no disagreement on whether we should be sending, uh, you know, messages of love versus, uh, fat shaming. Nobody wants to do fat shaming. Um, but let's make a distinction between fat shaming and pointing out to people that being obese. It's not just about appearance. Being obese leads to any number of diseases that are associated with obesity. Heart disease, inflammatory diseases, diabetes, and so forth. So, um. Uh, nobody's interested in fat shaming, but. If if the goal is to have a vegan world transformation to a vegan world. Wouldn't. Isn't it logical to say that that would happen more rapidly, more effectively? If more vegans. We're fit and healthy. Mhm. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, I mean, you have to sort of take a step back and. What? What is the goal? Is it just individually convincing individual people to go vegan, or is it ending animal exploitation and animal liberation? Um, and we have data. So health is one of the major reasons that people first try usually vegetarianism. Uh, but those people also have the highest rate of what we call the recidivism rate. So they go vegetarian and then they stop because it's just a diet. And they've tried so many diets and they're stressed out by diets. Um, many people in this country, young women statistically think about food more than they think about sex. They think about food more than stereotypical men think about sex. They have all kinds of issues around their bodies. And for us to double down on any of that discourse might pressure them temporarily to try one more diet. But it's not talking about a social justice movement focused on helping animals. And so they try it and they feel pressure and they fail and they throw it on that pile of all the other diets they've tried just one more time. 

Glen Merzer: No. Um. Uh, doctor T Colin Campbell, who wrote the China study, also wrote a book called hold Holly, in which he made the point on the issue of health that it's if we try to be reductive, this within the field of health, and we try to look at what each enzyme is doing, what each vitamin is doing, what each uh, uh, phytochemical is doing, it becomes very difficult to figure out. And therefore he is skeptical of supplements because he says that even I with all my years in the field, I can't tell you exactly whether having all these units of vitamin E is going to help you or hurt you. But I'm looking at the whole thing and I say, eat all whole plant foods. I want to make an analogy between that perspective on health to my perspective on veganism, which is it's a whole w h o l only view or a holistic view that it turns out that when we. When we breed. More than a billion cows and breed, you know, countless pigs and chickens and and and imprisoned them and, uh, you know, and slaughter them and and chop them up and eat them and, and and create dairy products that, uh, you know, use bovine growth hormone and, and the antibiotics. And we create this a whole animal foods industry, it turns out. That not only do we, uh, do we kill people by who eat that, you know, not only does that, uh, is that not healthy for the human body? But it turns out that we're deforested in the world. It turns out that we're destroying the water supplies of the world. It turns out that, of course, we're causing all this cruelty to animals, and it becomes a kind of holistic view of, oh, this is all one big, stupid mistake that civilization makes that's destroying the planet, destroying the rivers and streams, destroying the forests, destroying the wildlife, ending biodiversity. You know, it's just one big mistake. And so. I keep writing books to make that case. And part of that case is health. And I don't want to run away from it because it's, it's it is, to me, a salient indication that this whole thing is a mistake. And so. We should, uh, my my take from that is. Well, if we're not going to make this mistake, that's destroying the plan. If we're going to heal the planet and help the animals, let's heal ourselves at the same time and not have the Impossible Burger. Your view. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, I mean, there's a lot that I agree with you on. So I very much agree that there are intersectional problems. Absolutely. That, you know, I'm opposed to single issue campaigns. So yes, absolutely. The environment and climate change to a degree I agree with health in terms of, um, a kind of. Like a kind of environmental racism, where it's like poor folks actually have these really terrible health outcomes, predominantly black people and people of color because they can't access healthy food. Uh, my partner and I lived in Lower Bottoms in Oakland for a while, and there was a big sign paid for by the government that said eat five a day, a billboard of. And it showed fruits and vegetables. Uh, but there were virtually no restaurants in the whole area, and there was no grocery store. So how are these people supposed to buy these fruit and vegetables that just didn't exist in this area with the highways, you know, creating a ghetto. And but there were liquor stores, and so you would see mothers trying to buy food for their kids in the liquor store and buying milk and bread and what have you. And there was only junk food and there was only food that was there. So food deserts, environmental racism, these sorts of effects. Absolutely. And yes, it clearly has health benefits. And I'm not saying we can't focus. I mean that we can't ever say that that's just a true statement. What I would say though. So I fundamentally believe where the movement has gone wrong is articulating veganism as a diet. It is not. It is a social justice movement that affects the way I eat. And as long as it's articulated as a diet, we are never going to win and we are not winning that. And I agree with you. The Impossible Burger is 100% part of the problem, not the solution, but the reason the Impossible Burger is part of the problem, not the solution is a doubles down on this articulation that what veganism really is, is just a diet. 

Glen Merzer: Now there. There are some who come to veganism. Uh, as you do for the animals. Who have become proponents of lab meat, which is something I'm highly skeptical of. Uh, tell me what your thoughts are on on, uh, what may be the fantasy, because I don't think anyone could get it in the grocery store today, but the prospect of lab meat. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Oh, I could not be more opposed to love me or in-vitro meat. Tell us to talk about the fantasy of veganism as a diet only. I mean, there you go. I mean, it's like the best example of it ever. We throw out all the social justice issues of this fantasy of this product, which is not vegan. Um. 

Glen Merzer: Let meat lab meat to be clear, is would be real animal meat just grown in a lab? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: That's correct. That's correct. So uses actual cells from animals. The cells don't replicate forever. Some animals would have to be kept sick. The new cells. There's a growth medium that is used for these cells to duplicate. Uh, they're working on different growth mediums, but the primary growth medium that's been used in the past is the blood of unborn calves. Uh, which has been a huge financial windfall for the meat industry. So, uh, it is. 

Glen Merzer: Really they're selling so much of the blood. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: It's one of the most profitable things that the entire industry sells. It takes a lot of this, uh, bovine serum, the blood from the unborn cows, uh, to use as a growth medium. Uh, then it's been a huge financial windfall. Just the research aspect. So they never actually even get there. Just the research has been a massive giveaway to the meat industry. You know, most vegans are also opposed to animal experimentation, as am I. Most vegans are also opposed to products that are tested on animals as a mind. So if I go to the store, there's a shampoo that was tested on animals. I'm not going to use that. That's not vegan. Somehow some vegans are arguing we should use a product which absolutely was used by animal experimentation and testing on animals to even develop the product. So even if someday in the future they come up with some other growth hormone. What they've already done is so atrocious, I just cannot understand how anyone could advocate it. Um, I had a large public debate against Bruce Frederick, uh, at University of Berkeley on the topic of in-vitro meat and made precisely these arguments. Um, uh, not to mention, I don't even understand the point, because in multiple taste tests, people cannot tell the difference between products like impossible meat and meat already. So if the claim including, uh, you know, some of the biggest proponents for eating meat. So if the claim is somehow we need a meat substitute that will taste exactly like meat, we already have that, right. So what is the point of this? People are not eating meat because of taste. That is not the true reason. Um, and so this isn't going to help. It already harms animals, and it's just a distraction. 

Glen Merzer: You know, what I expect is the point, um, in the decades long, um, attempts to make cars more efficient. Mhm. Um, Congress would regularly, every few years, come up with new standards. Um, uh, what did they call them? Uh uh uh. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Anyway? New standards. Standards. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah, yeah, new mileage standards. And what they would do is they would say, oh, this is terrible, that the average vehicle is only getting 19 miles per gallon. Let's pass a law that by the year 2045, we go up to 55 miles per gallon. Yes, let's do that for the environment. And of course. They have plenty of time to change that law before 2045 shows up, right? So I tend to think that the lab meeting is too, is a way of saying to people, oh, don't worry about eating meat now. Don't worry about the environment. Don't worry about the animals. Pretty soon you'll be eating lab meat and the world will be wonderful. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: You are so right. I mean, I cannot agree with you more. There is a danger in the rhetoric of Lammy, even if Lammy attacks never actually exist as a marketable product and a might not. And it's exactly what you're saying. So first of all, Lammy super destructive for the environment. So earlier talking about climate change, lab meat is even worse in terms of climate change than factory farmed meat, right? So it just tastes so energy intensive to make, but it actually makes more greenhouse gases than even factory farms, which is right. 

Glen Merzer: And and logically, that's because an animal has a liver, an animal has organs that, that kidneys that perform functions that enable it to grow. When you're just growing from a cell and you're trying to create the tissue to eat, you have to somehow find some way to do all those. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: They literally have to create muscle machines and like back and forth in order to create is the most expensive thing in all of like microbiology. Right? So instead of so we're actually making a worse problem and selling it as a solution. And then exactly what you said, the harm of that is to assure people they don't need to do anything because technology is going to solve it one day. It's just like clean coal. So one of the turns for lab grown meat, the term the industry likes is clean meat. And I'm like, that is exactly the right term to use because it's just like clean coal. Clean coal doesn't exist. It was made up by the industry as a way to stop effective movements, to actually decrease the amount of coal. And that's what we do with clean meat. Clean meat may never really exist. It is actually worse in terms of environment, and it's made up and purported to stop movements to actually decrease the amount of meat. Don't worry about these terrible problems with me. It'll all be solved in the labs. Just, you know, keep doing what you're doing. It is so destructive. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. I remember when I was a boy being told that within five years we're all going to be on the metric system. And now we're going to have lab grown meat. Hmm. I'm a little suspicious of the self-driving cars, too. I'm not really sure that that's in our future. I mean, they have them, but I don't think we're going to be relying on them. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah, they don't seem so absurd. 

Glen Merzer: No. Um. So you have a brother, apparently, who is in the same department on the same faculty at Mercer University and who is also a vegan. Is that right? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: James Tedesco. He actually went vegan before I did. And, uh, we work together all the time. I mean, so, you know, and, uh, we grew up in Georgia, which is not the most, uh, vegan friendly state in the world. Yeah. And so we have this very intense friendship and solid. 

Glen Merzer: Who's older? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Uh, I'm older, but, uh, three years. Yeah. And vegetarian first and met vegan first. Okay. And, uh, and we just spent hours even just, like, reading books and talking about it and, uh, you know, authoring articles together. We literally coauthored one article. But most of what I've written, maybe everything I've always talked to my brother about beforehand, send him a copy like he's giving me advice back on it. Yeah. 

Glen Merzer: Now, that article that you wrote together, uh, doing research on you before the interview, I came across it. Orthorexia nervosa. Mhm. Right. Um, so tell us what orthorexia nervosa is and what prompted you and your brother to write that article? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: What's a made up disorder? Uh, which is not actually recognized by any, um, medical body that has gotten popularized in the media as a way to, uh, patronize vegans, uh, suffering from an eating disorder. And so the UN, in particular, the claim is like, what is so wrong with us is that we become isolated and alone because of our veganism. Uh, so we can't break bread with other people. And, uh, technically, you could be vegan if you don't use the term and are happy to eat food, which, you know, has some degree of animal, uh, products in it and are not bothered by people eating meat around you, etc. so something no ethical vegan would ever do. And so it's a way to, um, suggest that particularly young vegans or maybe young female vegans are have an eating disorder and their parents and society should get them help instead of realizing that they're going for real ethical reasons. And, and so debunking of this made up disease. 

Glen Merzer: Okay. And what was it like working with your brother on that article? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: It was a joy. It was a joy. I mean, yeah, we we talk about ideas. He's he is, uh, better than I am, which is not something, uh, academic usually omits. Um, but, I mean, if there's a book related to animals out there, he is, like, already read it. And, uh, so, yeah, um, he's probably my favorite person to work with. I would, I would write 50 articles with him. 

Glen Merzer: Uh huh. Now. In your in your life. How do you relate to Non-vegans? Do you? You know. Go to what? Thanksgiving. That wouldn't be an all vegan Thanksgiving. Do you have non-vegan friends? Do you argue with them? Tell us about that. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, I haven't been to a non-vegan Thanksgiving in a very long time. Um, do I have non vegan friends? Of course. Absolutely. Of course. Um, do I argue with them? No, I don't. Personally, I don't believe that debate, even though I go to debating, is the most effective way to get anyone to go vegan. I can out debate anyone about veganism or animal rights and win probably every time. Uh, and then at the end, they're still going to keep eating meat. So what exactly did all that accomplish? Um, I think actual friendship is probably more effective knowing me, knowing my family, seeing we're fine, eating together, realizing they can eat well, and it's delicious. That's, I think, a little more effective than just trying to argue with people. I don't find arguing actually changes to many hearts and minds. 

Glen Merzer: For a few. If you're in the faculty cafeteria and you're sitting next to a non vegan who's having chicken. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Right? 

Glen Merzer: Um, are you tempted to say something? Do you say something or do you ignore it and discuss, uh, the quality of the students or something else? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, if the, you know, they've already have the meat right in front of them. I mean, I don't think they're going to stop because I said something. But if we're friends, I mean, all I do is things related to animals. So it's every single article, every single conference, a large number of my classes. It's not like anyone doesn't know that I'm vegan. And so at some time or place, anyone who is friends with me is going to like, ask or want to know. And if that happens, yes, um, yelling at them that they're eating the chicken over lunch just probably isn't going to be effective. I mean, I just don't know what that's going to accomplish. That being said, I don't judge a vegan that does this. I mean, whatever you need to do to make it through the world, if that works for you. Absolutely. And when I first went vegan, that is 100% what I did. Uh huh. I mean. 

Glen Merzer: I know how you used to be, like, you used to be more combative in daily life than you are now. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Oh, absolutely. And I got completely burnt out and completely overwhelmed and completely depressed and non, you know, really nonfunctional. And so it just didn't work for me. So if somebody else wants to do it, I support them. I'm in solidarity I don't think they're wrong for it. Um, but it was not something that worked for me emotionally. And I don't think I made a single vegan that way. Yeah. I mean, no one. 

Glen Merzer: Um. And your whole family, I assume, is vegan. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yes. Of course. 

Glen Merzer: And, um. Well, you know, sometimes I come across people who are. Strongly committed vegans. And yet the spouse isn't. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Oh, yeah. Living with bastard. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. What's that? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Living with meat eaters. That's like, uh, something Carol Adams says. 

Glen Merzer: Or maybe the spouse is vegetarian and has their. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah, that's unthinkable to me. I mean, I don't know how they manage it. Uh, I can't even conceive of that. Our first conversation I had with my, uh, partner was about, uh, vegetarianism and veganism. Um, and we've been united in animal rights activism from day one, and, uh, yeah. 

Glen Merzer: And beyond the academic articles you write, uh, what what form does your activism take? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well, I mean, I teach a class about animals. Uh, virtually every semester. I've done it for 15 years now. I've taught well over a thousand students. Um, and I have a real belief in classes, and I think we need a lot more classes. I mean, think how effective a flier is. So there's this term, this joke. You may have heard it about fliers. It's like, here, you throw this away, like, um, you know, and this isn't to in any way discourage or make fun of anyone handing fliers. Absolutely everything that anyone does helps and I support. But I just mean honestly, academically, how many people I mean, I met so many vegans and when I ask, why are you vegan? Not once, not one time has anyone said, I got a flier and I read the flier. That was it. Not a single time. Um, you know, I remember I was teaching a class on animals, and Peta was on the campus, and they were giving away and they were trying to step it up. So with the flier, there's a DVD. And so I asked my students, I was like, how many of you can play a DVD? None of them could. None of them even had a DVD player. So. What will actually help someone to unpack this trauma to make this serious lifetime commitment. You know, you need like a whole long class session where you can read multiple books, where you can watch videos, where you can have lengthy. Not me lecturing angrily at the students, which I did the first time, and it didn't work at all. And no one would vegan, you know. But actually just listening to them with empathy and care. So we need so much more of that. I mean, I'm such a proponent of vegan academics, vegan in the academy, vegan offering classes, not classes or tell anybody what to think, but classes that just honestly discuss the issue. And if we honestly discuss the issue, many people will come to the conclusion that the facts come to. I'll just give you one example is in different classes, environmental rhetoric, which I also teach. And one of the students, they have to do a final paper. And his paper originally was on okay. Going vegan isn't going to do much help the environment and they can choose whatever topic they want. I said, that's fine. And he came to me and he said, hey, I don't know what to do. That's my topic. But all the data I'm finding, all the studies I'm finding are on the opposite side. And I said, well, if that's what the data shows, then you actually have to change your topic to match the data. And so he did, and he switched and he did a critique of Burger King's greenwashing, you know, and pointed out that in reality, going vegan is one of the most effective things any individual can do in terms of the environment. So I never told him what to do. I even approved the other topic. It was just that's what the data shows. So yeah, uh, that is and we need support and we need help to help create pipeline for people to, um, to be able to achieve that. There's still a lot of anti vegan bias. It is tough being a vegan in our society, not because of the eating that's effortless, but because of societal pressures and norms. It's tough getting a job as a professor, as a vegan. I mean, people have to vote to have you work with them, and there's still people who are like, I don't want to work with a vegan. It's tough for people to legitimately see this as a valid area of research. So all that kind of activism that we can do is my number one, uh, place where I'm trying to put my effort, uh, in the academy, in teaching, in legitimizing real ethical care of animals for, uh, people to think and study and work on. 

Glen Merzer: All right. We're going to take a quick break and we'll be back with Vasilis to Niseko in just a moment. All right. We're talking with Professor Celeste Ionesco of Mercer University. And you just made the point, Clay, that that it could even be tough to get a job if you're open about being vegan, to get a job as a professor, that there's a bias. Tell us about that. Yes, I believe it's true. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Um, so we have some data so I can sort of tell you why people eat meat. Um, and it might not be the reason you think. It's certainly not the taste reason. The overwhelming reason why people eat meat is because of societal pressure. Um, I think of this Simpsons episode. I don't know if you've ever seen it. Lisa's vegetarian, you know, and she's trying to get everyone to go vegetarian. And Homer says you don't make friends with salad. And Bart starts chanting along, and Marge starts chanting along and they have a home. You don't make friends with salad. You don't make friends with so. So I call it. You don't make friends with salad effect. That is the reason that people don't go vegetarian or vegan. That is a reason why the recidivism rate is so high. They start to go and the societal pressures too hard. They don't want to be seen as a weirdo. They want to be able to break bread. I mean, I can't tell you the number of people who never invited me over for dinner. Coworkers, close friends, best friends. People that lived upstairs because that just seemed weird or awkward. Was it going to be okay if there was meat there? What would they make for someone that was vegan? We just won't ever invite them, even if I invited them over multiple times. They just never invite me back. I mean, they don't want to be judged. They're just eating. And when I show up now, they're eating meat. Carolina. Which makes them argument the second before the vegan shows up. They're just eating, and now they're eating meat. Well, they don't want that experience. 

Glen Merzer: Right? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So of course that happens in the workplace. I mean, not just for professors. Any workplace like I'm going to hire somebody and are they a team player? Do they fit in? You know, I don't want to be judged. I don't want. Uh, is that valid research? You're just stunning. Like care for animals. Does that count? So while there are these exceptions, these people have managed to do great work in the academy as vegans and vegetarians. Peter Singer, what have you. It is also the case. There's just no question that it is a harder road to go because people have biases and they're voting for somebody they're going to, as a professor to work with for the rest of their life, and they don't want to be judged, and they may not see it as valid research at all. So. Yes. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. No, I think that's absolutely true. And, uh, across fields that that, um, vegans aren't popular because. You know, uh, people feel that we're judging them, even if we're not. And sometimes we may be, but. But, you know, it's you know, I wrote a book called On Your Health in which I use the phrase, uh, you know. Eat on the side of the angels. And to me, that was a light. Um, almost self-mocking praise. Uh, I remember when, uh, uh, the the conservative writer William F Buckley had a brother in the United States Senate. Um, James Buckley. And this posed the problem for him because should he just say Senator Buckley voted this way without acknowledging that it's his brother? Or should he say my brother? Senator Buckley voted this way? So he needed some way to phrase it. And he came up with something that I thought was charming. He said, the sainted junior senator from New York. And that was a way for anyone in the know to realize, okay, that's his brother. And so that's my attitude is to just make light of it and say, come on, eat on the side of the angels. And then if anyone feels I'm being judgmental, well, it's like it's it's almost comic. Um. But somebody read the book and was offended, you know. Oh, you think you're on the side of the angels? What am I, a devil, you know? So, uh, it just becomes hard to deal with that reality that we are eating a diet that doesn't inflict all this pain and suffering on animals and their their. They're eating the diet. That does. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I'll just. Yeah, I'll just say a couple of things. So there's about 4 to 5% of the population is vegan in the United States. 

Glen Merzer: Is it really that high? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: It is really that high. And I'm about to tell you why. You might not know. It's that I, uh, it's even higher for in terms of vegetarian, that's up to 10%. But, uh, one of the reasons why you may not even know it's that high is because about half of people. Who fill out studies saying they strictly avoid the consumption of all meat, dairy or eggs. Still do not identify as weak in your closet. Vegans. That's half of them. They follow up on it, and they don't tell anybody that they're vegan because of the social stigma. And I know you don't believe me, but this is what the actual like. Okay. What did you eat today? What did you eat today? Food log show. Are you vegan? No. But you. You don't eat. You know any meat, you don't eat. Now, veganism isn't just a diet we just talked about. Maybe they also go to zoos. Maybe they buy some other product. But at least in terms of what they're eating, there are large numbers of people who don't like meat or not eating meat, or opposed to consumption of meat, but don't want anyone to think they're vegan. 

Glen Merzer: Lots of dietary vegans. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah. And I'll give you one other example. So and this is true story, uh, I got my PhD at Stanford. While I was there, there was a researcher focused on the environment. And like you, he'd come to the conclusion, the inescapable conclusion that eating meat was destroying the planet. Terrible for animal agriculture. And the single most effective thing any individual can do in terms of climate change is stop eating meat. So he ate meat one time a year. And when I first talked to him before I found out he gave me one time of year, I was like, oh, well, you know, congrats on being vegan. He said, oh no, I'm not vegan. So what was the point of eating meat one time a year? I mean, it would have made him sick. He wouldn't have been able to digest it. It can't be pleasant. Or the only reason is. So he could tell people, oh, no, I'm not happy. 

Glen Merzer: Well, you know, uh uh uh uh uh uh uh uh, dietary hero of mine, Doctor John McDougall, who's been such a great leader on the health aspects of, uh, plant based diet. And he doesn't use the term vegan. He uses because he came at it totally from health. He uses the term a starch based diet. Um, but he used to say, I don't know if he's saying it anymore. I suspect he isn't. Um, but he used to say that he would have turkey once a year at Thanksgiving, and I think he would say that because he wanted to say I'm not aligned with those vegans who are eating vegan donuts. I'm in this for health and this is the healthiest human diet. And so he was, in a sense, the exact opposite of you in that he he came in at. For health from such a strong standpoint that I think at the time, and I think he may have changed on this. He didn't want to even be identified with the vegans. Um. He is now, by the way, very, very committed on the climate issues and the environmental issues to veganism. And I once went to a conference of his in which he had Melanie Joy speak. And of course, her whole emphasis is on speciesism and, you know, the cruelty to animals. So I, I think he's on board with all the issues that the and I can't speak for him, but I think he's on board with all the issues that, that you care about. But it just wasn't his his origin into it. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So I don't want to say anything about him individually. I don't know him at all. You know, I know of him. We've never interacted, so I'll set him as an individual set. But in a larger sense, it is so sad to me that there is so much, in my opinion, like vegan self-hatred and a lot of small groups, marginalized groups have it. We have it too, and it's so painful when white people feel they need to hide or lie or make jokes and be like, oh no, no, I'm just the same, you know, and and I think that's also partly why I'm such a believer in, like, the amount of love and care we need to show to other vegans and be like, no, what you were doing is amazing. It is so good. It is so right. You know you are sacrificing again. The diet is the effortless part. That's the easiest part. It's all delicious. It's easy, there's no problems, but you're sacrificing social stigma for something you believe in. And then it's rare and wonderful. And so, you know, we as a community have to make up. For this difference. And. And feel everyone that's in the community with this like, hey, you know, you're doing it. It's okay. You feel overwhelmed and sad. We all do, but you're doing it. Um, that's one of the best things that we can do as a movement. I really believe this in terms of that recidivism rate. People go vegetarian or vegan and they stop and we know why they stop. They feel judged, they feel alone, they feel isolated. And so anything we can do to fill that in is good. And I think it's sad, I do. I think it's sad when someone knows all the issues and they're like, no, you know, I'm not I'm not actually what I am. And and I'm just like, have the courage of your convictions, you know, help out other help other vegans say it. You know, I'm vegan. I'm proud that I'm vegan. I love being vegan. Vegan. I'm not plant based. I'm not following a plant based diet. I'm not just vegetarian. I'm vegan and I love being vegan. 

Glen Merzer: I'm with you on embracing the term vegan. You know, there are a lot of people in the movement, especially who came to it for health, who use the term that I think began with Doctor Campbell of Whole Food plant based. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Right. 

Glen Merzer: Um, and, uh, there's a fellow who started a, uh, some sort of, uh. And online. Uh. I don't know what you would call it at this advocacy group in which he wanted to. Uh, he wanted to, um, amplify online the health benefits, um, the vegan diet, so people could see how many people went on this diet and overcame diabetes, overcame heart disease, lost weight, whatever. And so he emailed me to fill out this form. And as I fill out the form, I had to choose between. Am I wholefood plant based or am I vegan? I tried to check both, but I couldn't check both. Yeah, so now I have to choose. Oh. I'm vegan. I'm not whole food plant based, right? Or I'm hopeful plant based, but I'm not vegan. It seemed to be silly. Yeah. Uh. Um, and so I embrace the term vegan. But at the same time, I worry when I go to the grocery store and there's a section of vegan products. And vegan cheeses, vegan faux meats, or whatever they call them. And they're all made with coconut oil. And I look at the saturated fat and I think that's more saturated fat that's in beef. And I wonder, and I'm not quite serious about this because I'm not a conspiracy theorist. But I wonder, is the meat industry trying to kill us all? I mean, they couldn't do a better job if they were, you know, so, you know, this coconut oil is just just terribly high in saturated fat, and and it's not going to do us any good. So, um. I want to embrace the term vegan. But try to guide people towards eating a whole food. What gets called the whole food plant based diet? Just a whole food vegan diet and a whole food low fat vegan diet. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I mean, I just wanna be clear. I'm no fan of faux meat. I know I'm actually quite critical of them. Um, primarily because they don't work so well and because they pretend it's a diet and take away all ethical constraints was partly why it doesn't work. I'll give you one example. Do you recall when KFC came out with their plant based chicken? Um, so the chicken itself was not even really vegan because it was cooked with all the other chicken and, you know, so not all meat all over it, but, you know, in addition to that, it had huge sales when it first came out and they did it nationwide and they've already discontinued it. Um, because there's a sell when a new product comes out and then it goes away, uh, Burger King, the Impossible Burger, they still have it, but the sales are not good. Uh, there's so many places that have already come out with a vegan product or not really a vegan, um, plant based product marketed as plant based, had big sales and discontinued it. Even more troubling, some of these companies, like Burger King, do it to hide how bad the company is. The Burger King can be like, look, people just choosing eat meat with other options. It's like the same reason they have salad. No one goes to a fast food restaurant to buy salad they throw away. Almost all of the salad is less than 2% of the sales. So if they're not making money, they're actually losing money on the salad. Why do most fast food chains have salad to greenwash the industry? So they can say, look, the customers are just choosing to eat unhealthy. Don't sue us for the obesity or what have you. We have these healthy options. Well, that's what they're doing with the plant based one. Even if they're not that healthy, most people are buying them. They're losing money on them. They're discontinuing on them. It's not helping any animals. They keep them to greenwash the industry. Even more troubling, they are the sales of the meat products are actually going up. So Doc Martens came out with vegan Doc Martens because they're a, uh, they're a company in Britain that makes boots, and the most of the boots they make are leather based. And they came up with vegan Doc Martens, and they did it to make the, uh, company as a whole seem cool and edgy and revolutionary. Sales have gone way down. They're big in the 90s. They wanted to come back. They're like, um, you know, we're fighting for the environment. We have these new plant based, uh, shoes. Well, they haven't sold a lot of vegan Doc Martens, but the sales of their leather Doc Martens actually went up. Uh. It's called the vegan halo effect. So it's not really marketed as vegan. We talked about there's social stigma in terms of veganism, but kind of a plant based halo effect. The company as a whole now seems cool, or caring about the environment or trying to make change so people will buy from the company. But since the people themselves haven't gone vegan, what they actually buy is the animal based product. And so all of this is just kind of a waste of time. It's not helping a single animal. It's making a lot of money for the people that are inventing it. And if you want to hear some of the conspiracy theory, but true, it's heavily subsidized by the meat industry. Tyson is one of the biggest backers of all of this, of in-vitro, of these fake meat. Why are they doing this? So that they can have, uh, substitutes to blend in with their product. They already have these products that combine meat, actual meat, with these new kind of proteins or soy proteins. You can buy them at the store, um, you know, and, uh, yeah, none of that's really helpful. 

Glen Merzer: Right? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah, it just doesn't. Yeah. And I'm not saying every vegan, whoever eats an impossible Burger is bad. That's not what I'm saying. I mean, you know, we all have to survive in the world. Of course. Whatever it takes. I just mean that is not what the movement should be. Focus on, in my opinion. Right. That's all. 

Glen Merzer: And what the Impossible Burger has done is they've tried to, you know, make their burger even bloody. You know, they've tried to actually actually, you know, make that, make the consumer feel that this is just as cruel as the real thing. Um, but, um. Um. Or in any case, that it looks like it could be as cruel. Um, but, um, it seems to me that if you have a healthy vegan patty, you know, made of sweet potatoes, rice, beans and so forth, then, you know, you could create a burger and you're not trying to you're not trying to imitate meat, you're just creating a patty that's healthy. So I'm, I'm, uh, I'm all for that, uh, because I grew up eating burgers, and I'm happy to put a healthy patty in between bread. And it doesn't look like a hamburger, but it it, uh, you know, it's a way to have a kind of burger. Um, so that doesn't bother me. Um, have you met actual, um, closeted vegans? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Occasionally and I actually I'll call people out. So I'll be visiting with somebody and I'll be like a closet bigot. And usually they act like, what do you say? Like, I can tell. And, uh, it's actually a fairly effective way for those people to actually become me. I feel like I could I never see you eat meat. I can tell you're really compassionate. You're a closet vegan. Or even if you'd sometimes even me, like, say, like Thanksgiving dinner once in a while. Really? Your heart is being vegan as a, you know, and they're always like, whoa. Oh, no. Yeah. And I mean, one of the ways persuasion and something I teach, one of the ways persuasion is people like to be right. And so that allows them to make change in a way that doesn't mean they have to be wrong, but in fact, right. If in some sense they've always been vegan, then actually being vegan is affirming, not antithetical. So it's not really surprising that telling people, if you're actually kind of a closet vegan, aren't you, actually has worked a surprising number of times for people to, uh, you know, really admit it. Um, yeah. 

Glen Merzer: So would you make an analogy to the gave movement in that when more and more Americans came out as gay? And then more, millions more Americans, uh, accepted the way people love as not something that, uh, you know, uh, offended them, that, uh, you know, as, as it was just different, not abnormal. And suddenly we had gay marriage. So would you feel that? It seems to me that the fact that. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: More. 

Glen Merzer: Americans came out as gay led to the acceptance and the legalization of gay marriage? Would you say the same is true with veganism? With veganism, if more. People embrace the term and announce that they're vegan, that that will help the animals. Well. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So I don't like to use analogies of different kinds of oppression. I mean, it's just not, I think, a helpful touristic as animal, uh, advocates to do. Although I see people, animal advocates do it all the time. So. Well, it's been tough being vegan. Uh, vegans, don't, you know, get beaten to death or hate crimes? Uh, there are people trying to pass anti vegan laws like there are anti-trans laws. So while there may be similarities, there are also pretty big differences and it can seem dismissive or minimizing to be like, oh well, the LGBT community is really the same as a vegan. But what I will say is that what I was trying to say earlier is there is. An effective point to saying I'm vegan. Instead of always saying, oh, I'm plant based or disguising it or whatever, and it is the fact that like, well, it might be individually harder on us to do that. We might be more judged for people, might, uh, feel judged or want to hang out with us less each time we do it. It signals to everybody else, you can do this. You know, I mean, in my class as a professor, when I say I'm vegan, that matters. They have a professor who's vegan. Who? That's something they're going to keep for their whole life. You know, when actors are like, hey, I'm vegan. Not that we need to be a celebrity drive movement, but all these things matter since it's social stigma we know is the reason why people are not going vegan and staying vegan. The solution has to be something that challenges social stigma, not something that doubles down on it. That's something that's like, oh, I'm embarrassed, but I'm still going to, you know, eat the diet. That's just going to keep the social stigma. What has to change is the social stigma. That's what has to change. And so we can maybe look to the social justice movement and say, how do they pull it off? What can we learn from them and what can we do that's like that, that, that yes, I believe all that. 

Glen Merzer: Do you see any effective way to try to? Bring together to harmonize. Mhm. The people who came to veganism from the three major perspectives that bring people to veganism, health, animal rights and the environment. What is your advice for how to unite these three sources of veganism? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: There you go. Now you're asking. Now you can just very plain. I mean, there's only one question, which is how do we win? You know, and it's exactly what you're talking about, which has to be not single issue, but solidarity. So I moved from San Francisco to Atlanta, Georgia, originally, where it's from. And my friends were vegan in San Francisco, were like, oh my God, what are you going to do? How are you going to eat Georgia? I mean, it was the opposite. There are more vegan restaurants in Atlanta than there were in San Francisco, and they are black owned and black operated. There were six. And biking distance from my house six. And when you go to these roads. And by the way, statistically African-American communities are disproportionately, uh, likely to be vegan and one of the fastest growing groups of vegans in the United States. And if you go to these black owned vegan restaurants, what you see is just the animals. Absolutely. But also, hey, this is harm. What we're talking about earlier. This is harm that's done to our community and our health and our environment. And this is a way for us to assert control back over our own health. We were given the worst food all the way since slavery, and we're now undoing this harm that's been done to us. The unspoken truth, I mean, it's spoken in these spaces, but the unspoken truth by the mainstream animal rights movement is that meat eating is a diet that is based historically on colonialism, white supremacy, anti-immigrant sentiment, classism, patriarchy. That's why people eat meat to the degree they do. That's the actual history of it, and that's the argument we need to be making to build solidarity within the animal rights community and with people outside of the animal rights community that care about these issues and can have a moment of empathy and go, hey, the same thing that's being done to animals is being done to me. And we're in this fight together against these forces. And I haven't seen a flier yet from a mainstream rights community that's made this argument, uh, excluding the Food Empowerment Project. But I would love to. I would love to. That's what we need to be saying. You know, we're destroying the planet environmentally, and that's destroying animals. Uh, everyone should have bodily autonomy, the right to their own body. Everyone should have the right to choose their own sexual partners and animals. Right. Who never do, um, whatever the social justice issue is. And a thoughtful, well done, not flippant, not not offensive way make those kind of arguments. This is a social justice issue aligned with other social justice issues, which has an effect that affects how you beat. 

Glen Merzer: Now probably correct me if I'm wrong. The most prominent animal rights organization in America is Peta. Which would you say? Of course. Um, how do you feel about the work that Peta does? Not great. Tell us why. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I mean, I just gave you the Peta for many years now has had an ad where they critiqued dog breeding. Of course, I'm opposed to dog breeding is horrible and offensive and should be gone yesterday. Of course I know, but Peter thinks the way to protest dog breeding is to have our rights activist dress in. 

Glen Merzer: Full Klu Klux. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Klan regalia. 

Glen Merzer: You're kidding. Yeah. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Based on. No, no. Google it. I mean, for years they released a TV ad. 

Glen Merzer: That did that. Yeah. What is the argument? The dog breeding regalia. Yeah. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Full Klan, full Klan outfit. That's right. A Klan outfit, the hat. The whole wizard thing. And their argument is, um. You know, dog breeding is eugenics all and, uh, and favor certain species over a dogs over other species of dogs. That's that's that's their argument. But no one can hear that argument when you see someone dressed in a Klan outfit. I mean, there's multiple black publications. I remember I just told you, black folks are the fastest growing. 

Glen Merzer: Demographic of vegans in the. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Country, and then multiple black publications that are like, this is horribly offensive. What is going on? The trauma of racism in this country is used as a joke to try to stop dog breeding. That's what I'm talking about, about not being done in a thoughtful way, being done in a horrible way. And you're talking about the judgment. 

Glen Merzer: We have had no idea that that was done, but I'm immediately offended. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: As anyone, they'd released an ad making fun of domestic abuse ads. The joke being that the Mel, a vegan, was so great and bad that when he had sex with his girlfriend, it like smashed a hole in the wall. So it starts with the music I usually get from domestic violence ads, awareness ads, and shows a hole in the wall when she has a brace on and she's clearly look like she's been beaten. And then the twist is that, oh no, he's vegan. And it's made him so great in bed that they're having such rough sex that it's caused her whole body to be beaten up. 

Glen Merzer: Who does this good? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I mean, it is the worst. It is the absolute worst. I can't make up anything worse than this. 

Glen Merzer: If someone came up with that is what. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Strategy is just definitely going to fail. I couldn't make up a strategy that would offend more people than what Peta seems to want to do every week. 

Glen Merzer: And so it was it was it Peta that did that? Uh, that. Yes. Violence in bed and to just Google it. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yes. And these are not decent black and white and you know, or something like this, these are all fairly recent ads. You know, obviously, I'm not saying that there's nothing that Peta does that's good. Right. Or helpful. Of course there is. You know, there's a whole history of things that they have done. But I am saying it is past time for Peta to grow up. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: And the stakes are too high for them to keep doing these carnival type ideas that don't work, that all the evidence shows don't work that directly harm the movement. And to start being responsible and sincere. Who is going to believe that we are in a sincere social justice movement, or dressing up in Klan regalia? Who's going to believe we're in a sincere social justice movement? We're making fun of the victims of domestic violence. I mean, these are absurdities. And so it just has to stop right now. 

Glen Merzer: Are there animal rights organizations? Uh. Uh, about which you have a higher opinion? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I mentioned the Food Empowerment project before. I think they're outstanding. 

Glen Merzer: Uh, tell us what they do. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Oh, yeah. So they they do. They're 100% vegan. Absolutely. 100% animal rights activist. Absolutely. And they also focus on these other issues that I talked about, like food deserts. So. Think how easy it is for me to be vegan. I mean, all I have to do if I don't want to cook, I just go to my phone and I go to Grubhub and I'm go, okay, well, I'll just have them send the vegan option. I mean, how far does that. That's just so effortless. Well, if somebody lives in a food desert like we talked about. How hard it is for them just to be vegetarian. And how clueless and privileged to the for us to judge them. When they don't even have access to healthy food. For not doing something for me is effortless and for them couldn't be harder. So look, all these exactly what you said. All these issues are interrelated. Fighting against food deserts is a vegan issue. Fighting against poverty is a vegan issue. Fighting be able to afford decent food is a vegan issue. So that's what the Food Empowerment Project does. All of this stuff. 

Glen Merzer: Right? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah. 

Glen Merzer: Well, I hope I don't make the mistake of sliding into politics here, but and I say it's a mistake because, you know, uh, in the online world you get your haters and then you get the angry, uh, comments and all that. But let me say this, um. In at the time when, uh, Obama, President Obama was, uh, was bringing uh. Obamacare as a bringing the legislation forward that became Obamacare. There was on the left. And we could all think of a senator from Vermont who was associated with this. There was on the left this great movement of, uh, you know, we must have Medicare for all and all this, um, this, uh, activism. Towards that, but there was never any activism towards well, if you're such a socialist, why don't you set up some socialist grocery stores with produce in the inner cities? I mean, why was it all about socialist medicine instead of socialist food? You know, um, and it's as if, uh, the, uh, senator from Vermont was saying, I don't really care if people get sick as long as they go to a government funded doctor. You know, uh, I've advocated. Why don't we set up, um, uh, you know, produce markets if Whole Foods won't go into the inner city and set up a, you know, a grocery store. Have government run produce markets that provide food for people. So, you know, stop with this emphasis on socialist medicine and let's have some health. So, uh, you see where I'm coming from on that? 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Yeah. If I can just follow up with you. Um, so have you ever heard the phrase government cheese? 

Glen Merzer: Yeah, we have government cheese and schools across this country. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So Reagan bought up all this milk from the farmers to prop up the farmers and then turned it into cheese, and then gave this, like, slightly rotten cheese out. Hence the legacy of government cheese. So the truth is. We actively fund the meat and dairy industry. Right. Uh, financially, the government does. Every single day. Every single year. So as a vegan, I actually pay for meat and dairy every time I pay my taxes. It's in the farm bill. It's one of the least politicized things. Um, and so at a minimum, stop that. Let's stop funding this mass polluter. This, um, you know, the turnover rate on a factory farm is 100% for workers. So every single year they have to replace all the workers because that's how terrible the working conditions are. Yeah. And, uh. 

Glen Merzer: And, and and these are, these are companies that for some reason seem to keep hiring 13 year olds from Honduras. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: The abuses are amazing and continuous. And what they do is they actually target undocumented folks, recruit them into the US, put them in these kind of, um. Sweatshop type conditions so that we housing that they actually run and own. That's like part of the factory farm like Tyson. And so they stay in this housing, which is terrible housing and then they deduct it from there. It's like sharecropping deducted from their um, uh, pay. So they can't ever get ahead. And when they ever try to do anything unionize or anything, they just call the owners and get them deported. Yeah. And as you say, use children, use child labor and pressure governments to allow child labor. I mean, the cost of cheap meat is just amazing. I mean, when I talk to people, I say, what do you care about? And whatever it is, that's where the conversation starts, because that always intersects with veganism. I mean, doesn't matter what the social justice issue is, if you're just on the right side of history, then it intersects, I mean, mothers, worker rights, uh, the fight for 15 for minimum wage, uh, the rights of undocumented, uh, pollution, climate change, uh, anti-Blackness, I mean, all of them, you know, it's just overwhelming. And what can we achieve as individual consumers if the government replaces us dollar for dollar? The dairy industry is a zombie industry. It is already bankrupt. People just don't like milk. They prefer almond milk. If the government subsidy stopped tomorrow, the dairy industry would go out of business. Why do we have a dairy industry? The government props it up. So yes, let's stop propping up these industries and then maybe, yes, let's prop up healthy food. 

Glen Merzer: And what is the single issue on which Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree? The single issue on which they agree is we must vote for farm subsidies. Yeah, absolutely. Senator Sanders and Senator Cruz. Yeah. Well, for farm subsidies. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Even though we're getting rid of actual farmers right and left, I mean, yeah, mega farms, there's very few actual farmers, you know. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. But it's seen as a nonpartisan issue. It should be a Partizan issue. We should organize and fight for this. I mean, at 10%, that's huge political power, 12% under the age of 50. If all of us actually fought to change the farm bill, we could. 

Glen Merzer: Boy, it's an uphill struggle with these congresspeople. You know, the problem is that they don't get any heat except from us for voting for the farm subsidies, and they get heat for voting against it. It's there are issues like that where the the, you know, the motivated people. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Exactly. Right. 

Glen Merzer: The are the people who are causing the problem. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: That's right. That's right. I mean, you can say with the gun control and the NRA where, you know, they're just literally kids are dying and they're like, oh, the NRA is too powerful. Yeah. So, you know, obviously I dislike the NRA. Obviously, I'm not saying we should be like the NRA. But why can't we be motivated literally to achieve these goals? Yeah, yeah. To at a minimum, stop cutting them a check. Yeah. 

Glen Merzer: And if there was a large and large rally of vegetarians and vegans, you know, down the streets of Washington, D.C., that said, end farm subsidies and I would happily join such a rally. But then people would think, oh, we're against the farmers. No, we're not against the farmers or against an industry that's killing us and killing the planet. But it's got this term farm subsidies. It sounds like it's pro farmer. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Right? That's true, that's true. And here, you know, I'm with you. If you want to just move those farm subsidies over to. You know. Carrots. 

Glen Merzer: Right? Organic vegetables. Yeah. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I couldn't. I couldn't support you more on that. Of course. Yeah. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. Um, why do you think it is that the Republicans and Democrats all unite on this issue? Do you think it's just it's so easy to. And they don't want to lose any farm votes. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Well. So you've never heard this phrase about the Roman Empire. Bread and circuses. Um, we're from the Roman Empire. So no matter how bad things got, no matter how much the empire was declining, no matter how big the wealth inequality was. Um, they had mega farms back in ancient Rome, a lot of funding, as they were called, and they were getting rid of these individual farmers, and they bought everyone off of bread and circuses. So the government subsidized the price of bread and had these, like, Colosseum events to keep everyone distracted. And so even though the population was getting poorer all the time, they didn't do anything political because bread seemed cheap and there was things to watch. Well, my belief the United States does a similar thing with gas and meat. And so as long as people have gas, and particularly as long as they have cheap meat, ever cheaper meat, then they feel wealthy, even though they're getting poorer all the time. Meat for the last several decades has negative inflation every single year. Meat actually gets cheaper even as the price of everything else goes up. I mean, it's horrible as factory farms are and everything we just said, the one thing they do well is make meat always cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper. So meat's actually gotten steadily cheaper. And you saw the way people reacted under Covid for the first time when suddenly meat or eggs, the price started going up and it was suddenly a national emergency. Yeah. They signed a national emergency order to say we're going to waive all the Covid restrictions, like up front in the factory farms, because we cannot have meat or dairy go up one bit because the population was just in outrage. You know, I mean, this was a pandemic. They shut down every business and something that's obviously going to contaminate people. The people that were running them were doing like little betting games. Oh, I wonder how many people are going to get Covid and they get caught for this. And they said, no, we have to. We have to save them because we can't have meat go up one penny. So think of the phrase a chicken in every pot, right? People feel rich if meat is cheap. So no matter how bad things get. And of course, the real wages have gone down for a long time. Everyone knows this. As long as the government keeps making meat cheaper. People feel rich because they can get a burger for a dollar. I mean, you can get anything for a dollar we can get for a dollar, but you can get a hamburger. You need all the meat you want, right? And that is why it is the staying political issue. It is too political, dangerous to have meat get even slightly more expensive. And yeah, in fact they artificially keep it cheap and make it cheaper all the time. 

Glen Merzer: Right? You know, the popular wisdom is always wrong. And when, uh, people feel rich because they've got a chicken in the pot, they're really impoverished in terms of their health and their well-being and, uh, and. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Uh. 

Glen Merzer: You know. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: But even their wages. Yeah. I mean, you know. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. Yeah. And and the and then people you mentioned gas and meat people judge presidents. That's right. On gas prices. It's the one thing presidents have no control over. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: This is huge wars all over the country just to keep gas at the same can't live. I'll hear climate activists talk about the rising price of gasoline. What are you talking about? Uh, yeah. We want less gas used. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. I mean, you know, most people in America believe in capitalism, rightly or wrongly. And of course, we have a mixed system of gas capitalism and socialism. But most people in America believe in capitalism, believe in the free market. And then the price of gas goes up because it's a free market commodity. They blame the president, right? So what do they want? Do they want socialism? And the president declares the price of gas is $2 a gallon? Or do they want a free market? They got to make up their mind. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: So you look back in history, Truman tried to do something about the mistrust and stop this government support. I mean, and the Republicans ran on it as a huge issue and won overwhelmingly. And so the same. Exactly. We're talking about the same thing we see in gas, where the government does all this stuff to keep artificially cheap gas, because as long as things are cheaper, we just drive forever. Americans like things are fine. They do exactly the same thing with meat. Whatever. It takes two just to keep meat prices low. And I'm not saying it's some sort of evil plan. It's just people being aware of, like the political risk they run. Right? And, you know. That's why they do it. 

Glen Merzer: Yeah. And and, you know. There are so many political issues that I care about and undoubtedly that you care about. And so therefore there are certain politicians I like and certain politicians I don't like. And then. If I were to advise a politician that I like. To take some of the unpopular positions that I advocate like ending farm subsidies. Or moving them to fruits and vegetables. Um. That politician might risk getting defeated, and then I wouldn't feel good about that. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: I mean, you know, Cory Booker. So Cory Booker is your and, uh, he has tried to work on bills related to factory farms and subsidies, but. Oh, I mean, we talked about the, uh, clause of meet. I don't care what you watch him trying to explain away being vegan. Yeah. You know, uh, for my health, you know, I like you. You know, uh, I don't judge anyone. I just, uh, it's a coincidence, and I don't know how it happened. I mean, you know, the way he makes it sound, it was just like he woke up one day vegan, and he doesn't know how to fix it. I mean, and it's so sad because I don't believe that's what he believes. I believe that's what he believes he has to say. We have a chance at a political future as a vegan. 

Glen Merzer: You're certainly right. Remember when Dennis Kucinich, who's a vegan, ran for president? Um, I spoke with him once and I said, you know, why don't when you're talking about climate change, when you're talking about the environment, why don't you talk about all the harms being done by animal agriculture? And he said, Glen, I'd love to, but I'm trying to get elected president. So that was what President Kucinich was thinking at the time. Yeah. Uh, you know, I was thinking he was running a symbolic. Campaign and he should. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: Raise to raise awareness about issues. Right? Yeah. Yeah. Why not that. 

Glen Merzer: And he was thinking he was going to get elected president. Mhm. Um. Well, Vasily, it's been a pleasure speaking with you. And, um, keep up the good work. 

Dr. Vasile Stănescu: It's been an absolute joy and absolute honor. And let me just end on this point. If anyone is vegan is listening. I am so proud of you. I am so grateful for you. Thank you. Every single day we're making progress. And I'm with you 100%. Thank you. 

Glen Merzer: We are spreading the vegan love. Thank you. Vassili. It's been. It's been an honor speaking with you. This has been The Glen Merzer Show, where everyone listening turns vegan, regains their health, and annoys their friends and relatives. Find us on YouTube at The Glen Merzer Show and across all your major podcast platforms. Don't forget to subscribe! 


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