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Russell Simmons: 'Why I'm Vegan'

russell simmons' essay

Recently, Russell Simmons was on the show and mentioned that, like Ellen, he is a vegan. Ellen asked him to share why, so he wrote this piece. Please take a few moments to read it.

I was raised eating meat just like most other Americans. I believed that finishing my dinner and gulping down my milk would make me grow up to be big and strong. I was given a familiar message that kids (and parents!) are still being spoon-fed today. Never once did I consider exactly what I was eating or what happened to the animal before it reached my plate. Of course, I did have my vegan friends around me, such as my assistant, Simone Reyes, and good friend Glen E. Friedman always pounding me with reasons to join their team, but it wasn't until about fifteen years ago when I began taking yoga classes at Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC that I became vegetarian. I credit the teachings at that school with many of the life-altering changes in my life. The teachings of my gurus, Sharon and David Life, are responsible for me not only having a newfound respect for my body, but for changing my eating habits and quieting my mind through meditation. Up until this time, a hamburger was something stuck between two buns -- not a cow, a wing was something you dipped in BBQ sauce -- not a chicken, and milk was something you drank as a human, never realizing it was only meant for a calf.

Yoga continues to teach me many things, perhaps the most important is the concept of non-violence in EVERY aspect of your life as a global citizen of the world. The more I opened myself up to the idea of the full scope of exactly what non-violence translates to, the less interested I became in consuming the energy associated with the flesh of an animal that only knew suffering in his/her life and pain and terror in its death. The more I learned about factory farming and the cruelty animals raised for food must endure before they are led (or dragged) to slaughter, the more I realized that I could not, in good conscience, be a contributor to such violence.

The practice of yoga raised my consciousness to exactly what eating meat meant -- not only to my own health, but to my karma and the world at large. Then about ten years ago, I began to live my life in what many vegans refer to as "fully awake." I became a full-on vegan and have never looked back. To me, what Sharon and David were teaching was simple and made sense. What we do to others has a karmic effect on our own lives. If we want to be free and happy, then we should not cause others unhappiness or enslave them. Sharon says it best, "You begin to understand Patanjali's sutra, Sthira Sukham Asana, which means that our connection (relationship) to the Earth and all other beings (what the word asana means) should be mutually beneficial, should be coming from a consistent (Sthira) place of joy (Sukham)."

Being a thoughtful vegan makes our time on this Earth more peaceful and joyous, because you get to have a hand in promoting and increasing the happiness, good health and well-being of others -- both animal and human -- rather than being an instrument of their suffering and death.

I am a father. I want my children and their children to have a healthy Earth to live in for many years to come. The impact on the Earth from eating meat is mind-blowing. Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. Meat consumption is poisoning and depleting our potable water, land and pure, clean air. More than half of the water used in the United States today goes to animal agriculture, and since animals on factory farms produce 130 times more waste than the human population, the result is polluting our waterways. Animal excrement emits gases, such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia, which poison the air around farms, as well as methane and nitrous oxide, all resulting in the number one cause of global warming. This needs to stop.

I grew up in Hollis, Queens and always make it my job to never forget where I came from and to always give back to my community. So, of course, I am particularly saddened that in poor urban communities the cheapest, most accessible food is fast food, which is also the most likely to increase the risk of developing various diseases and illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes and obesity. That is why, whenever I can, I use my voice to speak out for healthier food options to be offered in vending machines, local markets and inner city classrooms. Slowly but surely, I am seeing change happen. I'm not alone. My longtime assistant, Simone Reyes, is a grassroots animal rights activist who works closely with PETA -- and collectively I do believe we are making a dent in the way animals are perceived. We used our reality show to frequently drive home the message of animal rights.

I am very hopeful that as more and more videos make their way across the internet of what happens behind closed doors of slaughterhouses, and filmmakers continue to make films such as "Earthlings," "Food Inc.," etc., the more educated people will become about their food choices. I am optimistic that through education, people, especially parents, will be able to make wise decisions about what pollutants they want to avoid putting into their children's bodies and take responsibility as humans for our part in the destruction of Mother Earth.

Every day, more and more people are turning vegan, more children are looking at a rib and making the connection that it came from a suffering animal and more people are loving themselves and the Earth they live on just a little bit more by saying no to meat and dairy. By switching to a vegetarian diet, you can save more than 100 animals a year from this misery. But we have a long road ahead of us before everyone's consciousness is open to making these changes. Until then, we spread the word, we show the videos and we say a silent prayer for the animals that continue suffer in a world that is not their own.

--Russell Simmons

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I am very disappointed that Ellen is representing Cover girl. This company tests on animals and I thought that Ellen was vegan. Poor choice Ellen!! I am sure you don't need the money my friend.

To Russell & Ellen: you guys are role models and we appreciate you. I am currently still a vegetarian but must be going through the awakening stage Russell was talking about as to where the other elements of foods we eat come from like milk & eggs. I asked the local farmer (where we get our veges, fruit and eggs from) what happens when the free range chickens stop laying. He said they get the chop. To me this is vile, just using animals until they no longer serve our purposes. Same for milk and the abhorrent practice of separating the 'by product' (baby cows) and slaughtering them. Research the way that we get our food before turning a blind eye to it is the only way to eat with a happy heart.

Ellen is a vegan? I am very surprised since she did that Cover Girl commercial. Not exactly the most ethical company considering they test on animals. I am actually a bit disappointed to hear this hypocrisy.

While I respect the decisions made by all of the vegetarians & vegans out there, I think they should all respect the decisions of those of us who do not chose that way of life. Personally, I love vegetables & fruits, but I can't eat in a way that would keep me healthy if that's all I ate - I have too many food allergies & medical issues. And I don't believe in using vitamins in place of a well balanced diet. I do not believe in animal abuse, but I don't have any problem eating meat. There are plenty of vitamins & nutrients in meat & other animal byproduct that we need to stay healthy. And while I do realize that there are other ways to get them, not every one can who is vegetarian or vegan does get everything their body needs.

Baiscally, everyone has the right to chose the best way for them to live. Respect their choices even if you don't agree with them.

Hello Ellen and friends, you are so correct about the misuse of the animals who make our planet Earth unique. I am developing a sanctuary in northern Saskatchewan for rescued animals. I would take the poor bears from Europe that are forced to fight dogs if I could. I had never seen a bear so brutally attacked by dogs. The poor bear was dragged by one man while another pounded the bears back until the bear was bleeding out. The bear was crying and pleading not wanting to go back into the ring as the fur from his face had already been ripped off. The man leading the bear had a bull ring in the bears nose which is a painful way to be dragged to your death. The bear also had all of his claws and teeth removed without anesthesia. What man does for entertainment and money is so very wasteful and sad. I cried for the bear. What happened in Coliseums is not acceptable by most countries but it just takes a few to drive these practices into back rooms We have three quarters of land that will be seeded this year as organic as possible. I have buildings that need to be moved to the property, proper fencing installed and housing for the animals. The house that is being moved to the farm should be ready as a B&B next year. This will allow clients to spend time with rescued animals and help teach whom ever stays, compassion and care for animals. The brutality to animals from people is heart breaking. There are many animals we are able to adopt to make their final time a happy experience. So many of these animals have undergone so much pain and fear. The farm is near the forest gate to the open north. I am working on this vision for the sake of any animal that wants to live there. Saskatchewan had a terrible assassination of a sled dog team last week due to a dog attack by an unleashed member. The owner proceeded to shoot the entire team who were all tethered and could not run. Most dogs shot by someone in rage, have parts of the body shot off and suffer not just physically but emotionality as they watch in horror as one by one the pack is destroyed. The dogs were innocent as they do not know the reason for the attack by the care giver. The dogs were waiting to be fed and therefor would have been very hungry. This story is similar to the 120 sled dogs shot near Whistler when the Olympics concluded. The dogs were not making the cash for the owner after the games and he chose not to feed them. Did the man not plan on the drop in business after the tourists left? The dogs could have been offered for adoption and saved. Anyway, my farm will be a safe home to the regular house pets that so many see as throw away pets. Potbellied pigs, miniature donkeys, alpacas, llamas, cows, horses,goats(I love goats) sheep, fowl and numerous wild species are all welcome. P.S. do not get me started on baby seals, dolphins, the Saskatchewan coyote hunt(75,000 last year lost their lives) or the cats and dogs of an Asian country. North America has lost natural habitats for the wildlife due to roadways and cities. Africa wants to develop but where will they put all of the animals? Killing everything off is a poor control system. Extinction looms ahead because of the greediest animal(man) taking charge (poorly). We are terrible care takers. Bless the animals and the readers of this note.

It only takes 2 meatless meals every week to make a huge difference in the world.I have been trying different recipes and they are delicious.Please Try.

It only takes 2 meatless meals a week to make a difference
In the world.I have been trying new recipes, and they are
delicious.PLEASE TRY.


Thank you for speaking out for all animals and their rights to live happy lives like human animals. I am a vegetarian and I try very hard without alienating anyone to show them why I stopped eating meat. However, they are all ignorant to the fact that these crimes against animals are happening everday, and of course they all make their heartless jokes. They don't bother doing their research and refuse to watch or read anything concerning this subject. Most people don't want to know where meat comes from or how its produced. I think more people would become vegetarians if they educated themselves. They fail to realize that humans are not meant to eat flesh from animals. That's why their is so much heart disease, colon cancer, cancer in general... among other things. I don't know? It frustrates me everyday that most human beings only think of themselves and fail to put themselves in other living things shoes and face the facts. They are responsible for the murder of countless living creatures. And thats a fact. Whether their doing the murdering or purchasing the murdered they are responsible for that animals suffering. I applaud Russell, Ellen and all the other vegans/vegetarians that have made the best decision they could have made and helping to support our wild life.

What happens if science discovers that plants have a consciousness? Do we eat dirt.

Thank you, Ellen for allowing this forum and thank you, Russell Simmons for explaining why you became a vegan. The day I became a vegan, about 3.5 years ago, I took the step toward trying to do my own small part to make the world a more peaceful, less painful place. Until then, I was frustrated and helpless at how bad the world often seemed. I still feel that way at times, but being a healthy vegan has made all the difference in how I feel about my place in this world.
Winter- if the world became vegan, it would happen gradually enough that the demand for animal products would decline over time, and less animals would be bred for consumption. A vegan world is completely within the realm of possibility, but it's up to humans to want a non-violent world, and that includes a world without slaughterhouses.

Every day, my plight for the awareness of animal rights, grows stronger. There are moments when I feel such deep sadness and frustration, asking, "will there ever be change?". Reading Mr. Simmons article, and knowing that Ellen and Portia are such activists themselves, give me a glimmer of hope. If we can educate people, and raise awareness as to what people are eating, there has to be a change. I will continue to try and inform those all around me of what they are really consuming. My hope is that we can change the world, together.
Thank you Ellen, for being a pillar for animal rights.

Winter - most farmed animals on factory farms do NOT mate naturally (they are given so many drugs to promote unnatural growth they simply can not mate without human intervention (on both male AND female animals), therefore your sterilization comment makes no sense. The less meat people eat, the less animals would even be born to such suffering and eventually their numbers would dwindle. The traditional Western diet contains far more protein than we need, which leads to obesity, heart disease and other health problems. You can get plenty of the protein you need - along with all the other nutrients you need, which seems to always seem get overlooked by meat-eaters - from vegetables (yes, veggies), grains and beans. Instead of growing crops for farmed animals (which a large percentage is grown for currently), crops for human consumption can be grown. This would feed WAY more people, by the way. Also, meat is HIGHLY subsidized by the government to keep prices artificially lower and would cost more than most could afford if this was not the case.

Anyway, thanks to Russell Simmons for taking the time to write this post as well as giving back to his community in such positive and healthy ways. Much of his reasons for going vegan echo my own, and it's always nice to see articles like these by high-profile people.

mm meat nomnomnom

Winter - There are many theories on what should and would happen if the world went vegan. The theory I personally prefer is that of abolitionist vegans. All farms could become sanctuaries and we could look after the animals to live out their lives in happy surroundings without them reproducing...that way species that are dependent on us to survive would eventually die out. There is a similar theory for 'pets'. Abolitionist vegans feel it is wrong to keep any animal for our own needs (food, clothing, entertainment).
Veganism is about living in your life in a conscientious way with as minimal environmental impact as possible.
People can often be very hostile to the idea because it is such a big change from their present lifestyle. It's also very difficult to admit that you have swallowed unquestioningly the lies that have been fed to you by individuals who only work for their own ends.

If everyone turned vegan, can you think of how few cows, hogs, sheep and animals we use for meat {EATING PROTEIN] that would be living on earth, these animals would not make good pets, we have no place to keep them, in the city and towns. The food supply for them we grow wood decrease to a min. It would change our whole way of life as we know it, Meal time would be so different, people would have to learn to cook all over again to get the vitamins we need. Do not get me wrong I AM NOT FOR ABUSE OF ANIMALS ARE THESE breeding farms which is cruel and sad and has no place in a world of civilize humans, I AM NOT FOR HURTING ANYONE OR ANYTHINGS. wHAT WOULD HAPPEN WOULD OUR GROCERY BILL GO DOWN OR UP. WOLD FARMERS LOOSE MONEY IN GROWING CROPS. WOULD WE NEED TO STERLIZE ANIMALS TO KEEP REPRODUCTIOON WHERE THE ANIMALS COULD BE FEED, THERE ARE LOT OF QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER, WHEN YOU TURN into a vegan.

Hi Ellen,
It's me again. I forgot to mention when it comes to the reading about forgiving I told my son I love him dearly as well he says in return. I mostly told him to forgive any differences in the past with his dad of growing up as well I have said my forgiveness to him as well.

In doing so while prasing God after church I had the opportunity welcomed by my son to drive with him to vistit his newborn baby sister born the month of "Thankgsgiving" in Orlando by hi Uncle. It was the most joyous and memorable reality show between them both feeding, burbing, hushing, rocking,diaper changing,wiping,my son walking around the efficientcy apt.then cuddling her on his chest to rest. She couldn't take her eyes off my son til one moment she raised her head to him and socked him in the eye, how hallarious. At approx 1 month old she stood up straight they was amazed. My hat goes off to Uncle McBeth and Andre as the best male baby sitters but they need more space and stuff to amuse this little fighter.They are looking for a lot more socializing, visiting and baby sitting between them and the other only two girl cuzzins( 3months & 3yrs)old in the near future. I hope they travel and stay at disney world as the 3 toddlers visits. What a experience especially for my son(24) to share with his Uncle telling his dad via phone.I'm proud "Big brother"!

Hi Ellen,
I fell asleep during your show Monday becasue that migrain headache reoccured so i took advil pm in the am. I guess I'm still stressing about not having won that new car or being turned down for a car loan. I've been so upset and blue so instead i spent all after noon reading through Luke chapter 1 and Ecclesiasters Chapter 1-3 to meditate about how important it is to go to church
and praise god eventhough I'm not a full christian. It was joyful to see the 28 tots age 2 thru 10 pantemining and 10 female youths on Sunday on the decorated stage of (2)two lit xmas tress but there was no gifts nor fake gift boxes.
It worried me eventhough I so want that new honda. I wish you could come visit my church
"Rivers of Christ" 301 lakewood Drive, Brandon Florida 33510. It's packed on Sunday with a good group Wednesday night during bible study. Some Churchs belive xmas is another day but they dress to praise as I do. My wish is for these kids to be gifted with educational things to help them become the Future youths in Christ as they practice. I want to continue to endure praising god under this ministry. Pastor Curtis Swafford is a wonderful preacher and welcomes all.

P.S. Could you bring Kirk Franklin to church for my Birthday? I've been in love with his singing all my life. Have a Happy Holiday Season 2010/2011

Very inspiring. I've learned something today and I'm going to be back.

Thank you so much, Mr. Simmons, and Ms. DeGeneres. Your work in public and private is doing so much to further the causes of animal rights, environmental protection, childhood nutrition and veganism, it makes me very proud to be among your ranks. Thank you for this essay, and for all your efforts.

Thank you, Russell for sharing your story. Thank you to you both, for using your fame as a platform to share new ideas and inspiration with the your fans.

Beautifully put. Thanks for sharing, Russell. Its so great to see folks (especially those with a louder voice than most) speaking out for the animals who can't speak up for themselves.

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