Russell Simmons on being a 'Happy Vegan'

Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons hardly needs an introduction -- the co-founder of Def Jam records is also a largely successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. His latest book, “The Happy Vegan,” catalogues the health and spiritual benefits he’s experienced by turning to veganism.

Veganism is the practice of eliminating all animal and animal-based products from daily life. Vegans avoid meat, dairy and even wearing certain clothes, like leather. Simmons told that he turned to veganism 20 years ago, and that his quality of life has improved ever since. He also credits veganism for a 20-pound weight-loss that he has been able to maintain.

Simmons told that a diet focusing on plant-based foods has many benefits, as leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can help protect the body from a range of illnesses.

“[Green vegetables] not only do they protect you from cancer, but they reverse the growing of cancer cells and that is a very interesting, important revelation,” Simmons said. According to, “a few studies have shown that the bioactive components of cruciferous vegetables can have beneficial effects on biomarkers of cancer-related processes in people.”

The avoidance of meat can also be a benefit to veganism, Simmons said, especially in the case of non-organic meats that may be filled with hormones and antibiotics.

“The animal product, especially the American factory farms animal product, is poisonous and we don’t have anyone protecting us,” Simmons claimed, adding “Americans believe they are being protected.”

The introduction of hormones and antibiotics to animals is problematic. According to Reuters, many scientists and health advocates are concerned that the use of additives in meats creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria which can make diseases more difficult to treat.

Besides these health risks, Simmons calls this mass production of meat a “karmic disaster” because of its impact on the animals themselves and the environment.

“These animals are birthed through factory practices, from rape to whatever you can imagine, and made fat however possible, put in little crates. Pigs are smarter than half the people we’re talking to and they live in the most horrible conditions and they are stuffed with so many growth hormones and so many antibiotics,” Simmons said, adding “How is that going to affect us if we keep ingesting them?”

While instances of inhumane treatment of animals is well-documented by animal activist organizations, the impact on the environment is not. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), domestic livestock is a source of methane gas, which many scientists believe contributes to climate change.

Simmons said “Happy Vegan” also aims to right some of the misconceptions about veganism, like that the lifestyle can be costly. In the book, Simmons demonstrates ways to save up to $4,000 a year by going vegan. Critics also claim that going vegan can deny the body necessary nutrients that come from protein, but Simmons countered that in today’s society supplements are readily available to combat any deficiencies.

Simmons said his hope is that by writing this book and touting veganism, he can “change the world.”

“I hope that I can convince people to go on a plant-based diet and save their lives and save the planet,” Russell said.