For many the name Russell Simmons is associated and highly regarded with master hip-hop artists launched to stardom on his music label Def Jam, comedic stars breaking out on his HBO series Def Comedy Jam, and his funky yet sophisticated style creations trademarked and sold through his clothing lines Phat Farms, Argyleculture, and American Classics. For others, perhaps a smaller yet rapidly expanding population, the name Russell Simmons most recently conjures images of the mogul himself executing seriously advanced yoga poses called asanas, and speaking fondly of his gurus; Sharon Gannon and David Life Co-Founders of Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC.
Crediting several of his life-altering changes to his teachers and their school, Simmons notes his decision to choose a vegan diet amongst the many, stating the teachings of his gurus are responsible not only for his newfound respect for his body, but for changing his eating habits and quieting his mind through meditation.
Recently Simmons discussed his veganism on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, explaining in depth his reasons for choosing a plant-based diet. He notes that prior to his yoga practice 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, says Simmons, “continues to teach me many things, and 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.”
Simmons goes on to credit the practice of yoga with raising his awareness to what eating meat means to the world at large. Noting the yogic and vegan principle of living consciously or what is known as “fully awake,” he declares that “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.”
Staying true to his roots, Simmons continues to use his hard earned fortune and fame to give back to his community. Growing up in Hollis, Queens he understands the plight of poor urban communities having limited access to healthy food choices, resources, and education. With this knowledge and his celebrity platform he speaks out whenever possible, rallying for healthy food options in vending machines, local markets, and inner city classrooms, as well as spreading the message of animal rights on his reality television shows, The Russell Simmons Project and Running With Russell Simmons.
Ever hopeful that the message of non-violence will continue to spread and children and adults alike will begin to make the connection between themselves and the animals that suffer at our hands, Simmons encourages the making of films that expose the happenings going on behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses, and is optimistic that “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.”
He notes in closing that, “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.”