As the founder of the Def Jam music label, Def Poetry spoken-word series, Phat Farm fashion label and Global Grind website, Simmons has been among those at the forefront of pop culture’s biggest trends. As with his other ventures, Simmons — or Uncle Rush, as he’s affectionately called by industry insiders — hopes his choice to follow a plant-based diet will influence others, and maybe even save lives. In his latest book, The Happy Vegan, the 59-year-old father writes about the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how avoiding animal products can help save the planet.
“My book talks a lot about health because that’s what people’s first instinct is — they’re concerned about health and the planet,” he says. But he also tucks in a message of compassion for animals—the main reason he’s against factory farming.
When and why did you decide to adopt a plant-based diet?
I’ve been a vegan pretty close to 20 years. I started because of compassionate reasons. Once I became a vegan and especially when I began practicing yoga, all of the people who are vegan and yogis pointed to all the reasons we shouldn’t consume animals. Fifteen or 20 years ago, I started talking more about it. We want to have a planet to live on, which is second to the compassionate reason. The food we’re eating is poisoning the people. The government is taking $40 billion in subsidies and underwriting the poisoning of the planet and people, causing obesity, heart disease and other illnesses. There’s not one good argument to eat animals … not one. So it became broader than just compassion. My book talks a lot about health because that’s what people’s first instinct is. They talk about health and the planet.
What’s your response to those who consume meat and reject the idea of being “complicit in the torture and murder of billions of animals,” as it states in your book?
There’s no such thing as humane slaughter. The excuses I’ve heard don’t sit well with me. Unconscious behavior is typical of human beings. We’ve done horrible things. The abuse of billions of animals worldwide, birthed into the worst lifetime of suffering just to poison the population is against any scripture and religion. There is always messaging in religious texts about how we treat other living species and how that’s a reflection of who we are today and how our culture is today.
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