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NBSV 175


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 175

Robert Cheeke on his upcoming book, effective forms of animal advocacy, and using our strengths to help animals

 This transcript is AI-generated and [lightly] edited by a human.

Karina Inkster:

You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan Podcast, episode 175. Robert Cheeke is here to discuss his soon-to-be-released book The Impactful Vegan, as well as using our strengths to help animals and effective forms of animal advocacy.

Hey, welcome to the show. Thanks for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to no BS vegan fitness and nutrition coach. I recorded my conversation with Robert a few months ago, but I'm recording this intro just a few days before podcast publication, and I just got back from a weekend in Vancouver to join the Planted Expo as a vendor. Planted is North America's largest vegan event with incredible businesses and speakers, and this year the speakers happened to include Robert Cheeke, whom I actually met for the first time in person, even though we've been in touch since around 2013 when he wrote the foreword for my first book, vegan Vitality. And by the way, the same Forward appears in its second edition, the Vegan Athlete, which came out in 2021. So I had a fantastic time at Planted Expo connecting with colleagues, friends, podcast listeners, past clients and prospects.

And my team member Izzy, was at my booth helping out. She was our most recent podcast guest by the way, sharing her strength training insights and talking about nailing her first chin up. So make sure you queue up episode 174 if you haven't listened to it yet. My friends Setareh and Holly helped me out at my booth as well. And my husband Marie, of course, helped me with setup and tear down and keeping me fed for two days straight as usual, when in Vancouver, I tried to enjoy as much incredible vegan food as possible since I don't really have a lot of restaurant options in Powell River.

Onto my guest today, Robert Cheeke. He was on the show in episode 94 discussing his muscle gain journey, protein consumption and mindset tips. So make sure you check that out if you haven't already. Robert grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon where he adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1995 at age 15.

Today he's the author of the books Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, Shred It, Plant-Based Muscle, the New York Times bestseller The Plant-based Athlete, and his latest, the Impactful Vegan to be released on June 25th, 2024. He's often referred to as the godfather of vegan bodybuilding, growing the industry from infancy in 2002 to where it is today.

As a natural bodybuilding champion, Robert is considered one of Veg News Magazine's most influential vegan athletes. He tours around the world sharing his story of transformation from a skinny farm kid to champion vegan bodybuilder. Robert is the founder of Vegan bodybuilding and Fitness and maintains the website vegan He's a regular contributor to Forks Over Knives, the Center for Nutrition Studies, vegan Strong, the Vegan Gym, and No Meat athlete. He's a former multi-sport athlete and has followed a plant-based diet for more than 28 years. Robert lives in Colorado with his wife and two rescue Chihuahuas. He has several favorite vegan meals including burrito bowls, vegetable fried rice pad, Tai, and curries. Here's our conversation. 

Hey Robert, welcome back to the show. How's it going? Long time, no chat.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, Karina good to be here. It has been a while. I don't even know the last time exactly that we were doing a show together and interview together, but I appreciate you welcoming me back.

Karina Inkster:

Well, it's awesome to have you here. I would love to know what Robert C has been up to. I have a really shitty sense of time as well, so it was probably last year, maybe even the year before, but the book we're going to talk about. So congrats new book. We're going to base our discussion points on the impactful vegan, but what else has been going on? Different jobs writing, I assume it's mostly the book since I last spoke with you.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, the book's really been dominating my life the last two and a half years. Right after the plant-based athlete became a New York Times bestseller and actually number one international bestseller, finishing number one in Canada. Thank you. And time to wave my Canadian flag.

Karina Inkster:

Oh, wave the Canadian flag, yes.

Robert Cheeke:

Yep. There it's number one in Canada.

Karina Inkster:

Brilliant, brilliant.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, after we had a pretty good success with the plant-based athlete and got translated into eight languages worldwide now nine, I'm just secured a ninth language last week. Very cool. I started writing this new book, the Impactful Vegan. It was an idea that I got while I was harvesting walnuts on the farm I grew up on back to my hometown of Corvallis, Oregon. And when you're underneath walnut trees that were just incidentally planted, the year that I was born 44 years ago out there by myself for hours a day picking up walnuts, no headphones, no music, no other people aside from a few people coming out to do something or my mom coming down to say hi or whatever. 

It was just me out on the farm. I grew up on thinking for hours and hours and hours a day, and I got the idea of wanting to be more effective as a vegan advocate, something that I've been focused on for nearly 30 years and something that I thought I was quite good at and quite impactful at through lots of measurable metrics that we can look at and evaluate and scrutinize and use as examples.

And so I decided that I would write a book on this subject, which took on many shapes and forms and really took about two years to do from start to finish and just finished it a few months ago and now it will be coming out June 25th, 2024. And I'm very excited to bring it out into the world. So really aside from the book, I bounced around a few different side jobs or full-time, part-time jobs, taking on a few projects myself, done a number of tour dates traveling. I just finished 11 talks and 12 days. Just got home the day before yesterday.

Karina Inkster:

You're a machine.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, it's been a really good rewarding time, but mostly because I really know what my strengths are and I know what my weaknesses are, and I really hone in on my strengths and leverage my strengths to help animals. And I think that's what I'm really effective at. And so that's why I spent so much time writing and editing and working with an entire team of maybe four other editors to make this book really as impactful as possible. And if I do my job well, if the book does well, then it will help move potentially millions of dollars into the most effective animal charities. It will empower people to embrace their own skills, talents, resources, network, their volunteering abilities, generosity to help animals, and they'll have a better understanding of what they can do on a daily basis to vote with their dollars, vote with their actions, put themselves in a position to say, I'm not just vegan, but I'm an impactful vegan. 

And rather than sparing the typical 300 or so animal lives per year that most vegans spare, we can spare about 10,000 animal lives per year or get to a point where I'm in the neighborhood of 100 to 200,000 animal lives spared per year through my collective projects, which I'd be happy to describe later on. And I shared those stories in the book to give people some tools and resources and inspiration and aspiration to just make a bigger impact in the world around them.

Karina Inkster:

That's amazing. So the subtitle of the Impactful Vegan is “How you can save more lives and make the biggest difference for animals and the planet”. So you just mentioned not just being a vegan who saves the lives of however many hundreds of animals just because we're not eating them, but also becoming an impactful vegan. So what does that mean? Is that measured in terms of animal lives saved? Is that measured in terms of inspiring other people to go vegan? What is the definition of an impactful vegan?

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, it's coming upon principles of effective altruism, which is doing the most good. So effective altruism tends to be focused on alleviating human poverty and helping the world's poor in the most effective ways, like getting mosquito nets, anti-malaria nets in Sub-Saharan Africa to help as many lives as possible. This helps flourishing help get clean water to those who don't have access to it. 

We have a million people or so who die every year from diarrhea or not getting access to clean water. It's helped getting distribution of wealth money to the poorest people who literally live in dirt huts in Cambodia or other parts of the world where simply a hundred US dollars or a hundred Canadian dollars would change their lives wholesale for an entire year perhaps. So it's using a lot of those principles which are quantifiable and measurable of doing the most good.

That's the key here. And applying those principles to help farmed animals. And the reason I focus on farmed animals is because 99.9% of animal suffering is tied up into the food system. It's not in leather shoes and wallets and purses and fur jackets and rodeos and bull fighting and rooster fighting, all this other stuff. It's in the food system. It's food, food, food. And many of those other aspects, maybe leather and some other industries are often byproducts of the food system. So even vivisection, which is awful, all the animal testing and animal exploitation, testing, cosmetics and other things on animals, it's still only less than 0.1% of total animal suffering. So what I'm doing is working really hard to impact the food system. So supply and demand, behavior change, policy change, legislation changes, that kind of thing. So Karina, at the end of the day, it is about to some degree changing hearts and minds, but to a greater degree really about changing menus and meal plans.

Basically, we've got to change what people spend their money on and what they put on the end of their fork, what they put on their plate when they put in their mouths. And so there's all kinds of campaigns to help animals in all sorts of different inspirational ways. But what we have to do from my perspective and from the data-driven evidence of what helps animals the most and what moves the needle for animals and reduces animal suffering, is we need to change individuals behavior as far as primarily their eating habits. As you know, we're all going to have some sort of finite calorie intake in our lifetime. The average American lives, unfortunately now, only 76, it was 78, but it's gone down due to covid and due to other issues that have dropped the life expectancy by over two years, for the first time in over a hundred years in the US at least where we've had a two year draw and from age, let's say, as adults, 18 to 76, we're going to eat X amount of calories and a certain amount of those are going to come from animal protein, animal byproducts, animal-based foods.

So if we can alter that, if we can change the way that individuals eat, what they choose to buy, what they choose to put in their mouths, what they choose to contribute to the supply chain, then we have a really good measurable influence and impact on the reduction of animal suffering, the numbers of animals that are bred to be brought into existence for the sole reason of being factory farmed and then slaughtered and then turned into an individual's meal. And so that starts with understanding how to do that, how to create that shift. And as much as it is a mental shift or emotional shift or moral or ethical position, one takes at the end of the day, habits that we form, the sum of our actions are going to be the most impactful overall. And we also have to understand that, and I hate that this is true to some degree, I dislike that this is true, but our donations are far more influential than our actions.

You can think of that in any capacity you want. You can think of it from disaster relief, or you can be more effective by you sending a thousand dollars or you putting on your jacket and rushing over there and trying to help each individual person by attending one by one medical aid, getting food supply and emotional support. No, you're going to be far more effective by getting resources that are allocated in the most appropriate way for those individuals based on the greatest need. And that's the same with animals. They're organizations that can spare animal lives for 33 cents, and that's a lot more than most of us can do on our own because these are organizations that have entire teams who have dedicated decades to understanding the efficacy of sparing animal lives, which is through all kinds of things from education to outreach, to working with thousands of corporate food companies, to working with the general public, working with politicians and enact policy change, legislative changes, working with the school, the public school system, and their food program. 

It's a lot of things, but I break it down throughout the book based on things we can do as individuals, as organizations, the most effective animal charities to contribute to. And if you can't make financial donations, here's other ways to use your strengths, your skills, your talents, your own personal network, your resources, your volunteering capabilities to help animals really effectively. And it's filled with stories and examples and interviews from some of the world leaders in this space showing exactly how to do this.

Karina Inkster:

Amazing. Thank you for that, Robert. I hear you mention strengths a couple times. So in terms of your own strengths that you recognize, and also just in general a portion of the book that's about understanding what our individual strengths are and then using them to help animals, is that something that appears as a chapter or a theme in the book? And how do we go about figuring out what our strengths even are in first place? Some of us know, some of us don't.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, exactly. And unfortunately, a lot of people don't. And they have this personal bias toward themselves and what they think they're effective at, what they think they're good at because of reinforcement, they get from their peer group, their social circle, pats on the back, and encouragement, even if they're actually highly ineffective because of their communication, that turns people away from veganism because of their actions that turn people away from veganism, even if they feel like they're serving a greater purpose and they're here making a difference and taking a stand. And all of this we have to recognize is how do our actions impact and influence those that we are trying to reach? Does it welcome them to a community? Does it turn them away? Does it inspire their actions and behavior changes or does it not? All of those different things are things that we have to really take to heart and look at as objectively as possible.

So naturally, there is an entire chapter dedicated to understanding what I call our strong V, which are our strong vegan characteristics. Those are our skills, talents, resources, other strengths, network, generosity and volunteering. And once you figure out what your strong the characteristics are, you are so much more impactful, so much more influential, and can create so much more change. And so I list them in the book I list, so what do skills even mean? Well, these are learned things that we went to school to learn that we developed through teaching from others. This is like computer applications, nursing, web skills, construction, all this kind of stuff. These are things that we learned. Talents are the things that are inherent that we were just kind of born with, like athleticism or critical thinking, problem solving, singing the things that are just naturally our talents. Other strengths might be, let's go in our order here, skills, talents, resources.

So our resources are the things that we have available. Financial resources, intellectual property, community, material items that have monetary value, know-how and experience and all that. It lists all these different things. And then let's go down the list. SCRO, other strengths. So other strengths might be your abilities in public speaking, in writing, in creativity, in management, managing other people, all kinds of different things that are other strengths that may be a physical intellectual that may be foreign languages that you speak. It may be a particular hobby that you developed a really keen understanding in maybe social media making or something like that. 

And then network is a really important one. Network are all the people that you engage with, your audience, your family, your friends, your colleagues, your coworkers, your audience members of your community. All of that is your network. And then your generosity is your ability to give and contribute, whether that's contributing to the most effective animal charities or organizations or animal shelters or local, maybe vegan organizations or international organizations.

It's your generosity that makes a significant difference. Maybe teaching someone a new skill or teaching someone how to be more impactful in one area. And then volunteering, which is using our time and our strengths and many of the other characteristics to give unconditionally in areas that make a big difference. So that's something that should not be overlooked either, is the ability to volunteer, give of ourselves, give of our time, give of the resources that we have. And when you can identify that stuff, that gives you all kinds of leverage to push this agenda forward for animals. And of course, that chapter after it outlines all of those things, it gives plenty of examples. 

So here's an example of using a variety of the combination of skills and talents and resources in order to achieve this. I talk about raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for an animal sanctuary and how to use some of those characteristics to do that, even if you don't have any money at all, even if you have $0 in the bank, how you can raise thousands upon thousands of thousands of dollars for effective animal charities, how to have this plant-based by default approach, and how to get more plant-based menu items in restaurants and in curriculums and on the menus within your community or within your state or your country or globally or within capabilities that you have, how you can give back if you have a company for profit company, how you can give a percentage of proceeds to help others.

And so there's all kinds of stories, but that is one of the central themes, Karina, is that we've got to understand what our strengths are in order to put those to use, and then we can measure that and see the impact that it has, and that can also inspire others and encourage others to do the same. And from there, we get some forward progress.

Karina Inkster:

That's amazing. Robert and I see that the acronym is strong V, so that's an easy way to remember. Lemme just put myself on the spot here. Little quiz time, skills, talents, resources, organization. Is that the -

Robert Cheeke:

Other strengths?

Karina Inkster:

Other strengths. Other strengths, okay. Network, generosity and volunteering. Is that correct? Yeah, I get like an A minus because I got one of them wrong.

Robert Cheeke:

Yep, that's your strong V. That sounds good.

Karina Inkster:

That's amazing. So when we chatted about what our potential topics might be in today's episode, one thing that came up related to the book was effective forms of animal advocacy and how that relates to letting go of our personal biases. So I'm very interested in this latter part here of the personal biases and what that means in terms of effective animal advocacy. Maybe you could enlighten me on that.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, yeah, thank you. And I think this one might, this is one aspect of the book that could ruffle some feathers, so to speak. And I am not sure if that's a fully vegan expression, but ruffling is not necessarily an act of cruelty, but I think this is something that's highly important and will challenge people's innate perspectives and their biases and their initial thoughts about something. 

For example, there are a number of studies and surveys, including some done by Lytics, which is an impactful animal organization charity that does a lot of research articles, the biggest animal advocacy research library hub in the world, very likely, thousands and thousands of studies and surveys and papers and all of that. That's at pH alytics. And for example, they quantify effective forms of advocacy by interviewing thousands of omnivores and ask them how these different tactics influence them.

Some of these different approaches to advocating for animals and promoting veganism are very attractive to omnivores, which is again, the audience we're trying to reach. We're trying to instill these new habits among people who are not already on board with veganism. That's the whole point of being effective and impactful. So there are some approaches that are very inviting that not only change an omnivore's perspective, but change their behavior, therefore have a net positive result. There are some that have kind of a net neutral result, and then there are yet other tactics that have a net negative result, and that actually lead to omnivores to resent vegans resent veganism and actually claim, which I know is super cliche. But again, we have to understand our audience. They claim now I'm going to eat more animals because I'm turned off by these forms.

Karina Inkster:

Oh, I see that all the time. All the time on the various internet threads, even on your Facebook group that now has a massive reach, the vegan bodybuilding page, all these meat eaters who are like, well, I guess I'm going to eat extra animals just because I'm seeing this vegan stuff in my timeline. But yeah, you have a point. It's coming from a place of understanding our audience.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, that's a whole nother chapter too, is understanding our audience, which I use reference from Melanie Joy's work and Joanne Moo's work and a variety of other people's work as well as lytics and others. So the point is, Karina is that we often think that our approaches are best. That's what we know, that's what we do. And we feel empowered. I am a voice for the voiceless, and I'm out there marching in the streets, pounding the pavement, yelling and screaming because the voiceless need a voice. And I get that empowering feeling, and I appreciate the enthusiasm and the energy and the passion for people to want to get out there and scream and yell and debate in people's faces. But does that result in the recipient of that interaction saying, you know what? That's a good point. I'm going to change my worldview overnight and I'd like to join you.

I'd like to join the team of screamers and yellers and throwing red paint on fur coats, and that's what I want to be part of. That's a community that I need to be with. That doesn't happen. I would agree. 

And I just saw, speaking of social media stuff, I just saw this the other day. I don't know who it was or was in my timeline, but someone was out there saying they were out there holding signs or holding videos of animal abuse, infected farming footage, and they said they were out there for two hours, somewhere, town square or whatever, and not a single person came by to talk to them. And they said, I'm going to keep doing this thing. I'm going to keep staying out there and I'm going to keep fighting the good fight, and everyone is cheering them on and way to stand up for animals and stand for what you believe in all this kind of stuff.

And my response in my head, I didn't say anything online. My response is, what a profound waste of time. You're going to tell me you spent two hours out there and not a single person talk to you when you could have spent that time writing letters to the editor of newspapers, writing information articles, doing social media posts, following the vegan strong method and getting plant-based products into the hands of omnivores, having conversations with those who are low hanging fruit that are on the fence and interested in potentially veganism or cruelty-free lifestyle or more compassionate living. But you're going to stand out there for hours on end and talk to nobody and have your peer group and your social circle give you pats on the back and round of applause for doing nothing. And some people might think that's a little bit of a calloused or insensitive response on my end, but I'm not looking to be sensitive.

I'm looking to be impactful. I'm looking to be effective. And so I know this carina, because I've been not only an advocate for animals and animal rights and veganism for just about 30 years now, mid 1990s, or I like to say the late 19 hundreds date, hundred percent. I've been doing this since the late, yeah, doing this from another century, from the late 19 hundreds. And I've been part of it too. I've been part of holding signs, marching in the street, getting into some trouble, factory farming footage and all this kind of stuff. And it just is not as inviting as other tactics that have been shown through surveys. 

Thousands of recipients that simply news stories, sharing information, writing articles, newspaper television exposure on these, for whatever reason, trusted media outlets. Many of us grew up trusting certain outlets like television, newspaper, radio, online articles that are professional platforms.

Those still have a good reputation. Those still influence people, and some of those things are far more effective and quantifiably, so we can look at the numbers and based on surveys, and they're just far less sexy than so many other things that make us feel like we are in the trenches and that we are kind of warriors and fighters for animals. And the things that give us a pat on the back. 

And I know because I've been part of that too, where taking group photos sometimes of our advocacy tends to be for social media, for the validation and for the reinforcement and for the appreciation that we're seeking is often one of the focus points more so than the advocacy, which I find somewhat strange, but not strange because we're in an ego-driven environment where, and I've been caught up into that too, taking selfies and me holding signs out on college campuses, look at me go, even if I only had three conversations that day and maybe none of them went well, whereas I could be far more effective by engaging within a community that's open and receptive to these messages, you can even feel the strain in my voice.

I just gave 11 presentations in 12 days in four countries and multiple US states. It's been exhausting. But I even spoke with the US military, gave a present presentation to the US military, I'm building your body on a plant-based diet, being a former champion, vegan bodybuilder. And I can't tell you Karina, how many people came up to me after my presentations and talked about how it changed their perspective or how even hearing me on a previous presentation, which is why they came out to see me in person, changed their life or how they read my book, and it changed their perspective overall and how it changed their life, changed their behavior, changed their habit, all that kind of stuff. And I don't know that I've ever received that feedback when I was out there doing direct action type of protests. Now, some of those can help rock the vote or get people to sign petitions and all that.

But also surveys show that in some cases, people were less likely to sign petitions when they felt like they were being offended or talked down to, or not feeling included and feeling excluded from a conversation or debate. And so what I want people to do is evaluate what the data and evidence suggests is actually effective. I know that's a huge part of your platform, a huge part of your podcast, a huge part of your books, a huge part of your conversations you have are show me the evidence what really works. Absolutely. And that's been my approach too. And that's why I interviewed 30 or 40 leading experts, presidents of nonprofit organizations that oversee $50 million annual budgets, presidents of the largest vegan or animal charity organizations in the world for-profit company CEOs and founders who have changed the food or beverage industry forever because of the plant-based products they brought into the market decades ago, and interviews with all kinds of other thought leaders in this space who make a real measurable impact, including those who've been doing this.

I interviewed someone, some people have been vegan since the seventies, since the eighties, many since the nineties, back in my territory and early two thousands. I know you've been at this for a long time over 20 years now. And I interviewed many people who've been at this for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years or more, including some fellow Canadians like Brenda Davis, who's been at this for four decades. Charles Chang, who completely shifted the plant-based nutrition supplementation industry forever when he created and co-founded Vega, which went on to sell for over half a billion dollars. And it changed the way that people looked at sports nutrition by making a plant-based brand, the biggest number one selling brand in Canada and in the United States for years on end of all products in that category and others, Eve's pop in another French Canadian who created Eve's veggie cuisine and then Gardeine and Conscious Foods, and he's an omnivore.

He is not vegan, he's not plant-based, but he changed the way people looked at plant-based meats in the eighties, the nineties, and then throughout the two thousands, it's conversations with those individuals, my own experiences for decades, including the vegan strong method, which I'm very proud of, and I think is incredibly effective if done correctly, and I'm happy to talk more about that. 

That's an entire section in the book. It was the longest and largest chapter until it got condensed down and edited down quite significantly. But it's still very, very impactful, which basically just in case we don't get back to it, it basically means to lead by positive example, challenging the biggest status quo in the entire vegan movement, which is that you can't get enough protein or you can't build your body or you can't be healthy. And so I have an entire team of champion vegan athletes that I assembled over half a decade ago to go to the largest fitness expos in America, have a booth presence there and distribute 125,000 plant-based products.

Everything from protein powders to branch amino acids to vegan jerky to energy bars, protein bars, snacks, plant-based meats, non-dairy cheeses and milks and other beverages, and all kinds of other sports supplements, foods, snacks and beverages, to a 99% non-vegan audience swapping one for one, what they would normally be consuming in a whey protein drink. Now we provide them with plant-based protein drink, maybe pea protein, rice protein combo. Amazing. Instead of a jerky product, swapping that out with a plant-based jerky product and doing this to the tune of 25,000 product samples per event, five events per year, 125,000. And while also providing all kinds of free product coupons for people to go grab frozen entrees like the Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods of the Worlds the Day, follow your Heart major brands where they can go get that while also providing literature full of recipes and other protein charts and incentive guides so that people walk away with not only high quality plant-based products that completely replace one for one, their animal-based counterparts.

They also get coupons and discounts to purchase in the future. They get full-sized tubs, they get 'em on 30 servings, 60 servings, et cetera. So they develop new habits and then they develop this preference for that product. So then when it's time to buy something, instead of going to buy whey or casing, which they were before, now they're kind of hooked on this new plant-based product hopefully, and we'll buy that at least occasionally. And furthermore, they've been reinforced with all these full color print materials of plant-based protein charts and recipes and how to make all these incredible tasty stuff from curries and burritos and tacos and lasagna and make it super palatable for people. And then furthermore, we connect with them on social media and provide a social media presence and platform and a newsletter and articles and intellectual property and information. The vegan strong method is one of the best things we can possibly do.

It, it shows people anything you can do, I can do vegan. And then it reinforces that with all the foods, sports supplements, nutrition, snacks and beverages to help people incorporate that into their lives, which then has a recurring impact and influence in their purchase power, which changes supply and demand for the items they will buy at the grocery store, from the frozen food section, from the sports nutrition shop, and from restaurants when they go, even before they were a really big consumer of animal protein, they will, at least on occasion, because of our influence, because that constant reminder of the products they have at home, the literature, the stickers, the coupons, the infographics, the charts, they will, and we've seen this over the course of more than half a decade doing this and taking surveys and talking to people year after year. We know it to be true.

They will change their dietary patterns, their purchase power, voting with their dollars differently. They will alter their calorie intake to eat more plants. And this has a significant impact. And that's just, that's just one part of how I personally spare perhaps 200,000 animal lives per year compared to the typical vegan that spares 300. The vegan strong method is just part of that. I have many other approaches that contribute to other tens of thousands of animal life spirit, including the organizations that I donate to, the organizations that I fundraise for. The way that I leverage my own network in order to acquire tens of thousands of dollars in marketing dollars to make sure that my books end up on bestseller lists and get translated worldwide and have an influence on people from Asia to South America, to Europe, to Australia, to North America, central America, and dipping into Africa to some degree and maybe eventually Antarctica. We'll see.

Karina Inkster:

That would be the dream.

Robert Cheeke:

That's just - pun intended - the tip of the iceberg with what you can do using your strong V characteristics of which vegan strong method is one of the ones that is one of my greatest strengths as someone who uses athleticism, athletic performance, physique achievements to push this message of the power of plants forward. And I've done that and demonstrated that in myriad sports backgrounds, and even recently winning all kinds of physical challenges in groups that I was part of, which as someone who's been doing this for 30 years speaks to the longevity of the power of plants. Again, that's just one small aspect of how to make a significant difference in the world around you.

Karina Inkster:

That's amazing. Well, some of what you were saying around just rewinding a little bit and going back to personal biases and making sure that we're being the most impactful vegans that we can be, it kind of reminds me of two things while you were telling me about these different methods. And what I really like also, by the way, is the quantifiable part of this where you can just objectively tell whether something is working or not. So measuring whether it is changing anyone's behavior, measuring whether people do end up eating more plant-based foods. These are all really important aspects, but it kind of reminds me of this idea that I see within veganism a lot, which is if you criticize any aspect of veganism, you're a bad vegan, which is a complete BS thought, obviously, but there's this strain of vegan folks who are vegan at all costs, right?

And they're not looking at the results, they're not thinking about the audience. And I feel like that's doing veganism a disservice. So having some measurable outcome, having these groups like Lytics you mentioned, who are doing legitimate research on some of these outcomes, isn't that more important? It kind of reminds me of the point that if you look at fitness Instagram accounts, all the really exciting shit is not what got people fit. The boring stuff like your squats and your deadlifts for 10 years is what got people strong, but that's not going to bring people in. It's not entertainment, it's not exciting, it's not sexy. So it's kind of the same, the stuff that actually works is not us in a group taking a selfie saying, look what I did today and then getting pat on the back for it. The stuff that actually works, depending on context is usually the stuff that isn't flashy, and it's not necessarily social media friendly. It's not like virtue signaling. So it kind of reminds me of this whole fitness idea. 

My friend John Goodman always says, same shit, different shirt. If we actually showed what our training was, it would be so boring, we'd have zero followers. So it's kind of the same idea where people are doing flashy stuff, they're throwing the paint, they're yelling through megaphones, but it doesn't necessarily have that quantifiable result. And doesn't that then harm the vegan movement in the end?

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah. So let's look at some scenarios here, and I'm glad you brought that up and I'm glad you're kind of an appreciation of that perspective. Absolutely. Vegans should be criticized and critiqued in order to be more impactful because this is a demographic of individuals that claims to care about animals. So shouldn't we be open to being as effective as possible? So what does that mean? It means listening to our audiences. Imagine going home for the holidays and just fighting with your non-vegan family members over and over and over, just hoping they'll change, wanting them to change, demanding they change. I even met someone recently, and I'm not going to throw 'em under the bus here or put 'em on the spot or anything like that, but he's very passionate about animal rights and veganism and philosophy, and he basically just calls his friend who's not fully on board yet.

He just calls him a loser and an idiot, and oh dear, talks down to him. He actually uses those terms. You are such a loser because you are acting yikes in ways that are not in alignment with your intellectual capacity of understanding the rights of these sentient beings. And that's his approach to promoting veganism is to name, call and criticize friends and loved ones basically saying, you're a complete loser if you're not on board. Oh, dear. Yeah, if you're not on board with this, then there's something wrong with you. Many people do that approach as well with their friends and family during the holidays, and I just can't take you anymore. You're a complete idiot. You're a moron if you don't share this worldview. I mean, where are you getting your ideas from? This is not helping animals and we need to listen to our audiences.

So let's talk about some controversial topics. Then some of these are just coming to mind, and particularly while talking to you because you're in this fitness space. So let's say we have this idea that we don't think that as vegans, that we need to worry about consuming enough protein. I mean, obviously we all get enough protein and all this kind of stuff and never met a vegan with protein deficiency and all that kind of stuff. But if our target audience, if omnivores continue to bring it up over and over and over and over, and they express this genuine concern, I'm really concerned here that I am not going to be able to build my body or maintain the muscle that I've already spent all this time building that I want to have this wrapped up into masculinity or my own self-worth or image or confidence or whatever.

And we just ignore their topics of concern and we ignore their conversation perspectives and we just say, well, just figure it out. I mean, just quit being so sensitive. Just go eat some more tofu or whatever that may not be doing a super good service. And so we need to listen to our target audience rather than just poking fun or saying, well, you just don't have what it takes. And I know that's hard, and I know sometimes we all fall into these traps, and sometimes I post kind of like these popular memes on my very large quarter millions page social media Facebook page for vegan, bodybuilding and fitness. Sometimes they're designed to kind of rub trolls the wrong way. I know I get a decent troll following on that particular page, which I'm eventually going to take, I'm going to remove. But I've also, in some ways, they help the growth of the page through their engagement.

And that's something I wrote about in the book too. But back to your point about what works and what's not sexy even, I just got back from a week of leading fitness classes for usually 50 to a hundred people per class. The exercises I was doing are not ones that I do in my own personal life to build my physique into what it is, but it was what that audience, which was a bit of an older audience, 60 to 75, or let's say maybe 55 to 75. It was exercises that I thought were aimed at that demographic, but it was in a way, a misrepresentation of what I do behind the scenes to get me where I'm going with the free weight exercises, the dedication, the showing up at the gym on a regular basis. That's what I really do. That makes a big difference, but I'm just showcasing what I think the audience wants to see or wants to hear or whatever that's going to maybe resonate with them, but it may not be fully transparently honest with what I'm doing behind the scenes.

And that's the same with, like you said, people I see, and I don't know what pages you follow. I follow all kinds of accounts and I see all kinds of disruptive protests where audiences are being really turned away. 

But the participants, and again, I've been one of these participants and I've gotten into some trouble. I I've done some things. The participants feel so empowered, but they're not listening to the audience who's rejecting what they're doing and feels very turned off, very offended, and in fact wants to go out and spend more money on exploiting animals because they're just so upset with that demographic of these aggressive vocal vegans where if we were to ask them questions like, what are you afraid of that might change in your personal life if you were to eat fewer animals and more plants? That's a good one. How would your identity change?

What do you think plant-based foods would taste like compared to what you eat now? And would you miss something? And can we address that? How you identify within your own social groups or your own social status, would that be influenced in a way that maybe concerns you and surgeons ask these questions? Do you care about animals? 

And if you could eat very similar foods with similar taste and texture and similar price point and similar convenience in some regard without contributing to this very painful and scary animal slaughter that these animals go through in order to be turned into the food you're currently eating, would you be open to that and why not? And do you think that other animals, including farmed animals, deserve to be confined and be raised, bred and born and raised in ways where they can't even turn around in the form of chickens, hens, sows in gestation crates, et cetera?

Is that something that you choose to support or that you want to support? Or do you think those animals are deserving of a different kind of life? Some of these questions, it might reveal some concerns. Well, you know what? I do care about animals, but I'm just really concerned about my protein intake or my iron levels, or I don't want the guys in the football team to make fun of me or tease me. And I kind of grew up where my dad was. This really, I don't know, this kind of macho or alpha character took care of our family, and I don't want to let him down by being one of those weak vegetarians or weak vegans. And I'm really content in my social circle right now. And I feel like changing my diet might mean losing some friends because I wouldn't be going out to the fast food restaurants or the family diners or going on those hunting trips or something like that.

And as soon as you have those conversations and people can let their guard down and tell you what's really going on in their life and what they're really afraid of and what they're really unsure about, and for many people, they have really legitimate concerns. They don't want to lose their health, the health that they think they might have, whether that's true or not, maybe they don't have good health. Maybe they could be obese, they could be hypertensive, they could be diabetic, they could be all these things, but in their mind, they feel like that's pretty normal. 

That's pretty normal for a western citizen, and they don't want to lose what they're used to and they don't want to be judged. They don't don't want to be the odd one out. They don't want to always be having to make excuses. Then we get to know who they are and they get to know who we are and that we actually are willing to listen and be concerned about what their fears and worries are.

And from there, I think we make some progress. And lastly, to your point about the sexiness of doing all the things behind the scenes that do make a plant-based lifestyle or vegan lifestyle, effective and practical and palatable and doable, a lot of that is batch cooking foods or understanding our why or being prepared for travels or circumstances or doing small incremental steps toward forward progress and having small conversations with those in our lives. And it's not this whole, I love the way Paul Shapiro said it in one of my interviews with him, which got turned into a story in the book. He said, it is not enough. It's not enough to win arguments with omnivores. We have to win them over. And he said many other similar profound thoughts, and he's also been vegan since the late 19 hundreds. So he's seen a lot. And so that's one of the themes too, is that we can't just all of a sudden win arguments and win hearts and minds and think that we're going to have this paradise without vegan recidivism.

We have to understand that the data is there. The data is very likely true, and it doesn't do animals any favors to pretend that vegan recidivism doesn't happen. Oh, those people were never vegan in the first place. Don't get caught up in the nuances and minutia and the small stuff of the wording of a particular idea. We don't want people to go back to eating animals, and if they're concerned about something related to their health, let's address that and not just tell them they're not doing it right, or they were never vegan in the first place, and if they really cared about animals, they wouldn't go back to eating them. Let's have some intellectual honesty and have a real conversation here. And that can be life changing and lifesaving on not just a one-on-one individual level, but imagine if I'm giving a talk, I had hundreds of people in the audience for just a single lecture just a few days ago, and I gave many such lectures to 50 to a hundred people or 50 to 300 people in every lecture.

But imagine answering those questions to an audience of hundreds of people who are nodding and they start resonating, and you're not having just a one-on-one conversation. You're having a conversation with hundreds of people who are very interested in how you're handling a particular challenge or a question that's being asked of you, and then it resonates with them and they say, oh, that finally clicked, and now I recognize that in order for me to create new habits, I need to do something like what I described as the vegan kaizen system, which is small incremental steps toward forward progress while being open to feedback and suggestion and recommendation and alteration and moving forward. Even if that is so much less sexy than my story of December 8th, 1995, going vegan overnight at an animal rights week at my high school, and then organizing it two years later as a senior, and how I changed the sports equipment that was ordered in high school, from leather materials to manmade synthetic materials and all this wonderful story that I have that's really sexy.

That's really cool. Robert's a pioneer. What a leader in the community, but that's not really what I do. That's what I've done. But what I do now is have meaningful conversations with those who are outside of the vegan sphere to try to bring them inside the vegan sphere and bring them into our community in a very inviting way, not through name calling and yelling and trying to beat them in a debate. I'm trying to win them over where they're like, I don't know. That vegan guy was really, he was really nice and warming. He had a good point, and he offered support and gave me resources, and he was fit and accomplished in certain ways, and maybe that's something I could try.

Karina Inkster:

A hundred percent. I'm fully in agreement. We have to keep in mind our audience, we have to keep in mind our methods. We have to be critical thinkers in an effort to be impactful vegans. So the Impactful Vegan is coming out June 25th, 2024. Very excited. Congratulations to you, Robert. Super excited for this book. Cannot wait to get my hands on it. Thank you so much for coming on the show and speaking with me again.

Robert Cheeke:

Yeah, thanks, Karina. I appreciate you listening to many of my longwinded stories, trying to cover a lot of the material in the book to hopefully get people interested in these proven and tested strategies that really do help animals, and for those that vegan or not who care about animals. I think the Impactful Vegan is going to be an absolutely incredible resource for people to read and then leave an indelible mark on animals with the actions that they take.

Karina Inkster:

A hundred percent. Thanks so much, Robert.

Robert Cheeke:

Appreciate you. Thank you, Karina.

Karina Inkster:

Robert, thanks again for joining me on the podcast. Access our show notes at To connect with Robert and to pre-order his new book. Thanks for listening.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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