Thursday, November 18th, 2021
Protest: Moby on the Positive Environmental Impacts of a Plant-Based Diet
Do What You Can
Nov 18, 2021
By Jake Uitti
Photography by Koury Angelo
Issue #68 – Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
If everyone in the world went vegan, says acclaimed musician Moby (real name Richard Melville Hall), then the lives of some 200 billion animals (land and sea) would be saved each year. Beyond that, there are other benefits. According to the singer, a vegan world would diminish carbon and methane emissions by roughly 30-40-percent. Additionally, 90-percent of rainforest deforestation is a product of animal agriculture. Trees are cut to make room for cows and the corn they eat. There are more benefits: 80-percet of antibody resistance in humans is a result of animal agriculture and somewhere around 100-percet of all health pandemics are a result of humans eating animals they shouldn’t. Not to mention, the water saved and the reduction in diabetes and obesity. Why then, some might ask, do people consume so many animals? The answer, the musician says, is often convenience and government subsidization.
“Almost all animal agriculture comes down to one huge but simple thing,” says Moby, who has been vegan since November 1987. “Subsidies. I believe in the free market as applied to agriculture. Let food cost what it actually costs. If you remove subsides from food, a gallon of milk would cost $25, a family of four would eat at McDonald’s for $90.”
There are a lot of products subsidized by the government, which, in turn makes them cheaper for consumers, from oil to coal, grain, corn, and others. As a result, foods that are filling, fast, and often taste good are also often the least healthy. A sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich from McDonald’s (which I love!) is nowhere near as healthy as a vegan, vegetable-based alternative. And while the fast food breakfast sandwich is cheap and, thus, keeping families fed. It’s also keeping many stunted.
“I understand,” says Moby. “Someone working 80 hours a week, they just want something quick and convenient to feed their kids. But the subsidized food is killing children. Briefly, I dated a woman who was a pediatric surgeon in South Central [Los Angeles]. She said about 75-percent of the kids she saw were obese or on the verge of it. It’s heartbreaking.”
Obesity, social anxiety, and depression all often contribute to a cycle of addiction when it comes to quick gains like junk food, drugs, alcohol, and even pornography. As Morgan Spurlock famously showed in his documentary, Super Size Me, it’s easy to pick up a cheeseburger, eat it, and feel good for a few minutes when you were before feeling down. That’s a short-term gain and fast food companies rely on it. But what is that burger doing to the mind, body, and emotional state? And for Moby, how can American eaters gain a new or better perspective on the long-term affects of what we eat on our physical and mental health?
“From an evolution perspective,” Moby says, “our brains were designed to keep us alive for the next five minutes. Most of our brain is about how do we stay alive right now, how do we feel right now?”
For Moby, who grew up eating fast food despite living with rescue animals in his home (but had his vegan epiphany around 19-years old), there are many benefits to thinking more about what you eat. He was a vegan before the fame, he says, while still living in an abandoned building, discovering his voice, making some $2,000 per year. And while it may be easier for him now—as a Grammy-nominated artist who rose to fame with his hit 1999 album Play—to pick and choose what he eats, Moby yet offers a piece of advice for those wondering how they can change their diets. Namely, that any progress toward benefiting one’s health is good.
“There’s a quote from Voltaire that Obama paraphrased in his first inaugural address,” Moby says, “and that’s, ‘Don’t let the pursuit of perfection be the enemy of the good.’ Some people, like me, are complete abolitionists when it comes to animal agriculture. But it would be absurd if I went to my 80-year-old great aunt and said she needed to go vegan. But everyone can do better.”
[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. The issue was our 2021 Protest Issue, in which we once again examined the intersection of music and politics and conducted photo shoots with musicians holding protest signs of their own making.]