This is very touching, no ?
Among the many letters I have received since I wrote Diet for a New America, there is one that I would like to share with you. I received it in the mid-1990s, from a man in San Francisco, California. It represents, for me at least, a statement of hope for us all. — John Robbins
I am an extremely successful man. I am used to getting my way. When my daughter, Julie, was a teenager, she announced that she wanted to become a vegetarian. She had read your book. I thought this was ridiculous, and insisted that she stop this nonsense. When she did not obey, I became angry. “I am your father,” I told her, “and I know better than you.”
“I am your daughter,” she replied, “and it’s my life.”
We had many fights over this. We weren’t getting along very well, and there were tensions between us, but they seemed always to come to a head over the never-ending vegetarian debates. It drove me crazy. As far as I saw it, she was being disrespectful and willful, and just wanted to get her way. She said the same about me.
At first, my wife and I forced her to eat meat, but she made such a stink about it that meal times were completely ruined. So eventually, resenting it, we caved in and allowed her to eat her vegetarian meals. But I let her know how I felt about it. It’s okay to be an idealist, I told her, but you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground. It’s okay to be a lawyer, she told me, but you’ve got to keep your heart open. It was terribly aggravating.
For my birthday, one year, she made me breakfast in bed. But there was no bacon, no sausage, not even any eggs. It just turned into another bad situation.
I reminded her that it was my birthday, not hers. She set about telling me about how the pigs and chickens were treated, quoting chapter and verse from your book. This was not what I wanted to hear, first thing in the morning, on my birthday.
After she graduated from high school, Julie moved out. I was glad, actually, because I was sick and tired of it. Every meal it was an issue. I wanted her to eat meat, and she wouldn’t. She wanted me to stop eating meat, and I wouldn’t. There was no peace. But after she left, I missed her. Not the arguments, I didn’t miss them, but I missed her a lot more than I thought I would.
Several years later, Julie found herself a husband, and a short while after that she became pregnant. When our grandchild was born, I was on top of the world. But of course it didn’t last. Sure enough, Julie wanted to raise her son, our grandson, as a vegetarian. This time, I put my foot down. “You can ruin your own life if you want to,” I told her, “but you cannot ruin the health of this innocent boy.” As far as I was concerned, what she was doing was child abuse. I even considered calling the Department of Children’s Services. I believed they would either force her to feed our grandson properly, or remove him from her clutches. It was only because my wife prevented me that I didn’t take that step.
While I had found I could (barely) tolerate Julie being a vegetarian, I simply could not accept her doing this to our grandson. Eventually, it got so bad that she stopped seeing me entirely. Not only had this stupid vegetarian obsession of hers cost me my relationship with my daughter, it had also cost me my relationship with my grandson, because now she wouldn’t bring him by, nor would she let me visit. I was completely cut off.
I thought I should at least try to keep the door open, though, so through my wife (Julie wouldn’t even speak to me by then) I asked her what she wanted for her next birthday. She said what she most wanted was for me to read your book, Diet for a New America. I told her this would be impossible, because it would be too time consuming. She told me that if I would actually read it, for every hour it took me, she would let me see my grandson for an equal number of hours. She’s a smart one. She knows where my soft spots are.
So, Mr. Robbins, I read your book. I read the whole thing, every word. What impacted me the most was your description of how animals are raised nowadays. I had no idea it was so severe. It’s ghastly, and I totally agree with you that it must not be allowed to continue. I know cruelty when I see it, and this is extreme.
I’m sure you’ve heard this all before, but no book I have ever read has impacted me in this manner. I was overwhelmed.
I called her, when I was done reading. “I told you not to call me,” she said as soon as she knew it was me. “Yes,” I said, “but I’ve read the book, and I want you to come over for dinner and bring the boy.”
Mr. Robbins, I am a proud man, and what I said next did not come easily to me. But I knew what I must do, and so I did it. “Dearest Julie,” I said, “please forgive me. There won’t be a fight if you come over. I have made a terrible mistake, and I understand that, now. If you come, there will be no meat served, to anyone.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. I learned later that she was crying, but I didn’t know it at the time. I only knew there was something else I had to say. “And there won’t be any meat served ever again in this house,” I told her, “that comes from factory farms.”
“Are you joking?” she asked in disbelief.
“I’m not joking,” I said. “I mean it.” “We’re coming,” she said.
And I did mean it. There has been no meat served here since then. We simply don’t buy it. Julie is teaching us how to eat vegetable burgers, tofu, and a variety of other things I used to mock. I don’t mind a bit. I look upon it as a kind of adventure.
Since then, they have come over for many happy dinners, and many other happy times, too. Mr. Robbins, can you understand what this means to me? I’ve got my daughter back, and my grandson, too. My daughter is a wonderful human being. And our grandson has not yet had a single cold or ear infection or any of the other ailments children often have. She says it’s because he eats so well. I say it’s because he’s got the best mother in the world.
What’s being done to these animals is wrong, terribly and horribly wrong. You are right. Animals should never be treated like that. Never. Never. Never. Never. Never.
I pledge to you what I have pledged to Julie. I will never again let a bite of flesh cross my lips that comes from an animal that has been treated like that.
Now, when Julie says that animals are her friends, and she doesn’t eat her friends, I don’t argue, as I used to. I just smile, happy to know that I am no longer at odds with such a special person. And glad that I can look my grandson in the eye, and know I am helping to make the world a better place for him.
Yours with great respect,
(Name withheld by request)