One of the things that intrigues me is that you are in
a unique position to have a finger on the "pulse" of
the animal rights, environmental, vegetarianism, and
health movements across the country. What do you see
happening? What's going on now?
JC: Well... boy... more so than you think, what happens is people call me or
e-mail me every day. The stuff doesn't get into VegNews, it's probably a hecka
lot more interesting than does!
The political aside... it's, it's moving... simultaneously at both a snail's
pace and at such a rapid pace. Kind of the way evolution does... you don't
MS: Like punctuated evolution?
JC: Yeah, you don't really see it and you think it's
moving slowly like a glacier, then all of a sudden: wow! There's so much positive
happening... health foods stores that are no longer just these little tiny
things off in a beaten part of town. Gigantic, whether you like 'em or not,
Whole Foods, that are, you know, basically grocery stores, they're not even
health food stores any more. Even Safeways have huge selections of soy milk
and tofu, things that didn't happen.. who knew what soy milk was a couple years
MS: What's also intrigued me is some of the legistlation successes with Animal
Rights, we're seeing "school lunches" becoming a big topic in the
JC: On election day, the governor of California was
re-elected, Gray Davis, but in San Francisco, the Green Party candidate got
more votes than the Republican Party candidate. Which is unheard of - just
amazing! Granted, as my dad says, we live in the land of fruits and nuts.
MS: (laughs) ...the granola state!
JC: Right... the city of San Francisco is run by both
the mayor and the Board of Supervisors, the Board is elected from eleven districts
throughout the city. One of the Board of Supervisors is elected President.
They elected Matt
Gonzalez, who's a Green Party member, not a Democrat. So the President
of the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, the second most powerful position
in the city, is a member of the Green Party.
The city of San Francisco just passed the Guardianship
Resolution, which is a project of Elliott Katz's "In
Defense of Animals." Last week, the city of Berkley enacted Farm Sanctuary "sentient
beings" campaign. We all know what happened in Florida back in November
when they passed the "pig gestation
That's not to say we've all successes. Oregon had a ballot initiative that
requires the labeling of genetically-engineered foods and somehow, it did not
pass, which is shocking.
MS: Corporate money.
JC: Yeah, but still, the trend, Wayne
Pacelle (of the Human Society of America) is someone who knows that the
ballot initiatives and legislation seems to be going in our favor, and I see
a cummulative effect, a building....
MS: ...a groundswell, maybe?
JC: Well, I wouldn't look at it that way. I would say
that the consciousness is being raised is a positive thing. I think as we speak, Farm
Sanctuary is working with the State of New Jersey to pass some "prohibiting
veal crates" legislation as well.
So, even in the country right now, which is conservative now obviously, and
probably paranoid about a lot of things, people are still seeing the value
in these so-called old-fashioned liberal ways of thinking.
We're winning, as Howard would say, we certainly are turning the tide, and
nobody knows exactly when that critical mass is reached, but we're certainly
moving towards that day.[go
MS: Let me ask you this: what would you consider to be the biggest threats
to these movements and issues? Is it possible to indentify them?
JC: The biggest threat, I think, is the same
threat that all social progress movements face. When it becomes obvious
that we're making progress, and when it becomes obvious we're on the
right track, and this is really a no-brainer, then there's going to
be opposition by those who wish to hold on to the "old way" because
they're reluctant to change.
The milk industry, with their Milk Mustache Ads, and James "bypass" Gardner
with the beef commercials.
MS: The dairy industry's "3 A Day" campaign....
JC: Right. When it becomes so overwhelmingly obvious
that your industry is dying, you fight with everything you have. It's usually
a lost cause, and I believe in this case, it will be a lost cause.[go
ELECTRONIC VS. PRINT MEDIA
MS: This raises another question. I recently had a chance to watch the "History
of Chicago" PBS series. I was struck how important the bars were for
the immigrants to communicate, organize politically, and mount their own campaign
to change the conditions they were faced with. In thinking about what you've
done with VegNews, I'm interested in wondering what you think are the strengths
and weaknesses of the electronic media, the web, and newsprint.
JC: They all have their place. I just attended
a conference this past weekend here in San Francisco, Independent
Press Association, it's their first ever convention. It's amazing
to see the diversity (this is mostly all print publications). As you
know, Mark, being a computer guy, once you get computer, and you get
a printer, and you're a publisher.
That's something that was available 10 to 15 years ago, so anybody now can
put out their ideas, whether it's in print form or on the Internet, which is
just another extension of the same thing. The free flowing of ideas is vital
to getting the message across.
The Internet and e-mail have enormous power to reach large numbers of
people quickly. Of course,it can backfire, as well, because the other side
can do the same thing.
MS: There's a lot of disinformation on the web, and the lack of knowing who
people really are is somewhat disconcerting at times. What do you think are
the advantages of having a newspaper, like VegNews, on paper, rather than having
it online as a publication?
JC: There's many. Not only do we have quite a few people who are not web savvy
and don't enjoy reading online, they'd prefer to hold something. I've had people
tell me they love VegNews because they can leave it in their bathroom!
MS: (laughs)... I know that in one of your recent issues that Ingrid
Newkirk wrote a letter saying that she likes to leave a copies in her gym
where she works out, so people can read it.
JC: There you go. Every time I take a bus,
I leave a copy (forget to pick up my copy) when I leave the bus.
You can do that with your laptop computer, if you want to....
MS: Maybe that's why you don't have one!
JC: (laughs) Exactly. One thing that was confirmed at
this conference this past weekend, is that people love holding something in
their hands, a piece of paper. They just love that They grew up with it And
that's not going to go away quickly, although it probably will go away eventually.
People who grew up reading something, newspapers and magazines, they just love
the feel of the paper in their hands.
MS: I like the conversational aspects. Some of my best conversations and meeting
interesting people or influencing them indirectly, is reading veg materials
on the Metro. Plus, VegNews is such a professionally well-done publication,
it doesn't appear to be a "rag tag" newspaper.
JC: Thank you. We try very hard. We wanted it to look like a respectible publication.
I think that by most people's opinion, we've done that. That's it. We want
to be able to show, not only the vegetarian community, but the non-vegetarian
community that this is real. That this is something that's not going away.
This community has their own newspaper, and everyone needs that. It gives what
you're doing validity and also to give it credibility.[go
MS: Tell us about your non-profit organization.
JC: The umbrella organization of VegNews is the Vegan
News Network, that's the actual entity that exists that I started. Actually
I created that out of the group that I had formed back in New York and moved
it here. My vision for VNN is to be able to support projects, the first project,
obviously, and the most noticeable project is VegNews. We've been doing that
now as you said for nearly three years.
The second project of VNN is something called the Bay
Area VegFair, which we've alluded to serveral times. That's coming up February
1st this year in Santa Clara, California, and Howard Lyman is the keynote speaker.
You should come out for that. Now, it's important for us to have different
projects --- we've got many, many others.
MS: I was struck that VNN sounds a lot like CNN which raises an interesting
JC: Yeah, we want Howard to say 'THIS is
3 YR. ANNIVERSARY
MS: You've got a three-year anniversary coming up, of VegNews. How are you
and Colleen going to celebrate?
JC: (laughs)... probably work...
MS: What, is that June or July?
MS: You need to have a special issue... maybe a "best of?"
JC: We have something planned... a special themed issue
for July (not related to the anniversary).[go
MS: Now, the VegFair... how many people did you have at your first VegFair
JC: We had over 4,000.... those are real
numbers, we don't inflate our numbers.
MS: How many companies are involved?
JC: We had about sixty vendors last year, this year we're going to have around
75 to 80.
MS: I guess there's not charge for this?
JC: It's a free event, anyone came come. Check out: http://www.vegfair.org
MS: Are there any special events this year?
JC: Yeah, we have a three-ring circus, as I like to say.
We've got the main Exhibitor Room, where people came come and sample vegetarian
foods, they can pickup literature from their favorite non-profits, just about
all the non-profits will be there, typical exhibitor hall-type things.
The international dining cafe is going vegan, so we've turned a mainstream
convention center "vegan for the day," serving hot vegan food.
MC: That's incredible. Who's the caterer?
JC: It's 'Aramark', which is a major company that sub-contracts out concession
stands to a lot of schools, cafeterias, and things like that... you know, ballparks.
This is a major company and their doing it on their own, with our guidance.
The other two rings of the circus are, as I say, are... there's lectures going
on all day long, and you can check out the website to see who's coming. We've
got 10 different people, people such as Howard Lyman, John
McDougall, Gene Bauston, Peter
Burwash, Alka Chandra, Barbara
Gates, Kerrie Saunders. A list
of lectures, everything you can possibly want to learn, you can learn.
And then the third ring: the cooking demos. We've got four cooking demos going
on during the day, everything from Raw Foods to decadent dairy-free desserts.
MS: Wow, I'm envious.
JC: Again, this is all free. We put this on. We're expecting
between 5 and 7,000 people.
JC: It is incredible. Again, it's a testament that people
believe in what we're doing and they support it. We've got nearly a hundred
people volunteering alone. Which is just wonderful. We do this free for the
public so they can come and sample what vegetarian is all about, and we get
at least 50% non-vegetarians attending this event, which is the people we really
need to reach.[go
MS: What do you think about the future of the movements you've talked about
in this interview?
JC: I would say that our future is bright.
We are starting to come together, and it's just going to get
better. I hear this everywhere I go. I hear this at vegetarian
conferences, at animal rights conferences, and environmental
conferences. I hear this even at this Independent Media Association
conference. Working together, pooling our resources, is what
is going to help us to prevail.
There was this environmental conference debuted in SF called the "Green
Festival," a joint production of several groups: Global
Exchange, Co-op America, and Bioneers.
They put on a festival that really brought together environmentalism and so
much more. They had completely vegetarian food ---- they saw the connection.
I think, and I firmly believe, that the future is working together more closely
our sibling movements, if you will.
MS: So, even though the current political environment is somewhat depressing,
are you optimistic for the species in general on a global level?
JC: For our species in general?
JC: I have no choice but to be optimistic. I'm not going
to let what some people do prevent me from doing what I believe in. I believe
that everything happens for a reason, and I don't know what the reason are
for what's happening now. But I believe it can only lead to an awakening.
Look... this past weekend you had 500,000 people in DC, we had 200,000 people
out here, marching to stop what's going to happen in a few weeks in Iraq. I
believe that those people are speaking loudly, and I have no choice but to