REDWOOD: So from your point of view, the goal was not to attack Giuliani but to help those who, by being informed, might not get the disease?
NEWKIRK: Exactly. If I had found some clever way to reach my father about his diet years earlier, I would have been grateful.
REDWOOD: What else can you say about the health aspects of a vegetarian or vegan diet?
NEWKIRK: I have a cold now, because I travel so much and the air circulation on the plane was appalling, but I used to have chronic bronchitis and haven’t had bronchitis in 30 years, which is when I gave up drinking milk. I drink soy and other nog now, like Silk. But it clearly was messing up my bronchial tubes. And for babies, for kids, their own mother’s milk is clearly what nature intended for them. Putting them on cow’s milk when they’re young can lead to juvenile onset diabetes. It can give them gastrointestinal problems because many kids’ digestive systems are just not geared to digest cow’s milk.
REDWOOD: I was one of those kids myself, quite allergic to milk. However, this is a controversial point of view. Where would you encourage people to go to inform themselves more fully about whatever research exists on this topic.
NEWKIRK: It’s becoming a lot less controversial because the dairy industry is coming under a lot of fire for its claims over the years. One site is Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at pcrm.org. They have a lot about milk. John MacDougall, the physician, has a website with a lot about the deleterious effects of milk. And of course, unless you’ve lived in a cave, everyone knows about hardening of the arteries, with both meat and dairy. So I don’t think it’s hard to find information about the good health effects of a vegan diet or the deleterious effects of meat and dairy, unless you’re just on the industry websites for those products.
REDWOOD: Why aren’t more people aware of where their food comes from, and how it’s grown or manufactured?
NEWKIRK: Because you have to stop and think, and we’re busy. I believe that everything is geared to stop you from thinking. It’s all about pretty recipes. There’s a tremendous amount of money from all these industries that goes into making meat and dairy look attractive, easy to cook and good for you. And the meat and dairy industries sponsor so much on television that you cannot run opposing ads. For example, at Thanksgiving, we have wonderful ads with celebrities, that are very positive, upbeat ads suggesting Tofurkey or Unturkey instead of the bird. We can’t run them for any amount of money on any network, because the networks receive so much money from Butterball [a brand of turkey], and they’ll admit it. And all the other purveyors of flesh foods. It’s simply politics. It’s not good for their business, and they know that we can’t compete in the end.
REDWOOD: So you’ve literally attempted to buy ads, put up the money, and been refused?
NEWKIRK: Oh, yes. Over and over again. And I used to think that there must be something you could do with the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] about this, and there isn’t. Our lawyers have looked at it very carefully. You cannot. It’s up to them.
REDWOOD: Why do you think compassion is not more widespread in our culture?
NEWKIRK: We say the right things, we say that kindness is a virtue. We say apply the Golden Rule. We say that we’re kind to animals. But I think what you just said, too, is telling. Most people have never been inside a factory farm. And if they had, and they saw pigs castrated without anesthesia, chickens living in such filth that you have to actually wear a facemask to enter the barn because the stench will overpower you, animals dehorned and debeaked, having their legs and their wings crushed when they’re shackled on the slaughter lines. People would lose their lunch!