The DJ and musician Moby, a vegan for 27 years, plans to open a vegan restaurant this summer called Little Pine in Silver Lake. He recently appeared at the Skirball Cultural Center in conversation with the co-founder of the animal welfare organization Farm Sanctuary, Gene Baur. We asked him about veganism and creativity.
You've talked about your trajectory from meat-eating punk rocker who made fun of vegetarians in high school to vegan activist. What was the tipping point?
When I was 10 years old, walking by a dump in the town where I grew up in Connecticut, I heard a tiny little mew coming from a box in front of the dump. I opened the box and inside the box were three dead kittens and one barely alive kitten. And I took this kitten and brought it to the vet with my mom and somehow the cat survived. … About nine or 10 years later I was playing with this cat and ... it suddenly dawned on me, if I care about this cat and I want to protect it from suffering — it has two eyes and a central nervous system and feels pain clearly and can suffer — I just simply thought, "Why am I involved in any action that causes suffering to other creatures?"
Many people are against cruelty to animals yet love to eat a hamburger and bacon. Will you talk about the idea that sometimes meeting people where they are can be the best way to effect change?
I'm a vegan for all of those reasons: health reasons, environmental reasons, ethical reasons. First and foremost it's simply that I like animals and I don't want to be involved in anything that contributes to their suffering. ... What's nice is that whenever I talk with someone and I'm sort of espousing the virtues of veganism, I can almost tailor my argument to that person. If someone loves animals, I will bring up the animal argument. If someone is an environmentalist, you bring up environmentalism. If someone is concerned for their health, you bring up health.
There's that Voltaire quote, "Perfect is the enemy of good." Meaning it's better to do a small, good thing than not do it because you're not doing a great, perfect thing. Even just someone reducing their animal product intake by 10% or 20% would be remarkable in terms of the effect of climate change and healthcare … doing small things can really have phenomenal consequences.
How do you think being a vegetarian and then a vegan has affected your creativity?
I'm constantly asked by people where do I get my energy? ... I mean I exercise, but I think a lot of it is just having a healthy diet and being a vegan. … It might just be my constitution, but I have a sort of joy, enthusiasm and kind of endless reserves of energy for work.
It's contrary to the idea a lot of people have of the sickly vegan.
When I first became vegan I basically just got rid of the hamburgers and all that was left was, like, Frosted Flakes and just, like, really terrible, processed junk food. And so when I first became vegan I was one of those sickly, tired vegans because I was what we'll call a French-fry vegan and then I slowly had to realize that to be a vegan and be healthy I had to eat well.
So meat-eaters shouldn't be afraid of Baur's new book ["Living the Farm Sanctuary Life"]?
Maybe if being afraid and being alarmed by the poison and the toxins we're putting in our bodies leads people to change and live longer, happier, healthy lives, then maybe being a little bit afraid isn't a bad thing. ... You know, eating whatever we want to eat, using whatever resources we want to use, and you don't have to be a hippie to see that it's not only unsustainable but it creates so much misery along the way.