Howard F. Lyman Interview
(Author of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth from the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat)

He was dubbed “Public Enemy Number 1” by a group of Texas cattlemen who sued him after an appearance on Oprah in which he discussed Mad Cow Disease.

That was in 1996. The Texas cattlemen lost the lawsuit and Howard F. Lyman continues on with his mission to educate the public about the growing dangers of eating not only meat but poultry and dairy products as well.

Q – Mr. Lyman, no doubt you’ve made a lot of converts with that book of yours haven’t you?
A – Well, it’s in the 12 th printing. It’s actually been printed in Polish, Korean, Japanese and now Chinese. It’s been around.

Q – Have you written a sequel to that book?
A – Yeah. It’s called ‘No More Bull’.

Q – How did that do?
A – It’s doing well. It’s been out a year now and it’s a book I wrote when people asked the question, ‘now, if I change my diet-----what do I eat’? It’s the difference between good diets, bad diets and I put a hundred vegan recipes from the best chefs in North America in it. And-----it’s doing well.

Q – Now, how do you get that book?
A – They sell it in bookstores. It was published by Simon and Schuster, but, you can go to my website and buy it right online.

Q – Was there a feature documentary being made on your life?
A – Yeah. It’s being shown right now on P.B.S. It’s going to be shown on 400 stations, four times in 3 years. They’re also making a movie of my life right now.

Q – You’re saying the feature documentary is being shown as we speak on P.B.S. stations across the country? I have got to see it.
A – Each station picks their own time and so we never know when it’s going to be shown other than the P.B.S. lead channel every now and then sends us a list of the stations that are showing it, and we put that up on the website. It is being shown. I hear from the people. I talked to a lady yesterday in Toronto who saw it on a Detroit station. So, it is being shown around.

Q – You have a syndicated radio show that is broadcast to 3,000 radio stations?
A – I don’t do near as much radio work as I used to. I used to try and do 1,000 stations a month, but, I don’t do that any more. I do not have a syndicated show. I do syndicated shows.

Q – I know you’ve been through Syracuse a couple of times…..
A – Lots of times. First time I was there is when Joe Connelly had the Vegetarian Society of Syracuse. It was held at the Country Club and was a black tie event. That’s the first time I was there. That’s a long, long time ago.

Q – In 1996, when you spoke in Syracuse, you drew a crowd of 125 people, which was considered a big crowd. How many people do you typically draw at one of your seminars?
A – The largest one I’ve ever done is 40,000 and the smallest one was 2.

Q – Where was that one?
A – I was at a community college in Salt Lake City, Utah, and the person who booked the event did not do anything about it. I showed up and nobody knew it. So, I ended up with a couple of people that dropped in and I talked to them.

Q – They got a real treat then with a personalized lecture.
A – Well, I don’t know if it was a great treat for them. I think any time anybody shows up my responsibility is to do as good of an event for ‘em as possible.

Q – Where did you speak to those 40,000 people?
A – That was Earth Day in Edmonton, Alberta ( Canada). When you get people up there who spend all winter fighting the snow, when you end up with a nice spring event like that, they come out in droves. That was held at the park. That’s the biggest crowd I ever spoke to.

Q – I would guess that since the Mad Cow Disease story broke in the U.S. your phone has not stopped ringing. Would I be correct?
A – Oh yeah. I got lots of phone calls. I have 46,000 names in my rolodex.

Q – After people read your first book, what would they call up and tell you?
A – What the normal response from reading the book is-----I had a relative who had something like that, but, when we talked to the doctor he said, no, no it’s probably just Alzheimer’s or sporadic CJD. We tried to get an autopsy. We couldn’t do it. I think I had that conversation 100,000 different people.

Q – How has your life changed?
A – Well, I would say my life when I finally started paying attention to the way I was eating and living----improved about a thousand percent. I’m healthier and happier than I think you have any right to believe in.

Q – How’s your life changed since the book came out?
A – (Laughs). Oh, well I don’t allow that to change my life a whole lot. I’m still just an old farm boy. Any time you let your ego over run your common sense, you’re in big, big trouble. I’m the same guy.

Q – What’s at the heart of this whole meat-eating story is tradition, isn’t it? People don’t think about what they’re putting in their mouth. They eat what they’ve always eaten. The hardest thing you can get people to do is-----change.
A – Well, see I think it’s deeper seated than that. I think that anytime you talk to somebody about changing their diet, the first thing they think about is, wait a minute, the way I eat today is the way my mother cooked for me. I know there is no doubt in my mind my mother loved me. She would not have fed me something that wasn’t good for me and so what you’re saying is my mother was wrong and I’m not going to put up with what you’re talking about because I know my mother was right. She loved me. And that’s where you end up with the problems with the way people eat.

Q – Do you think more people than ever today are getting your message?
A – Oh, absolutely. I mean when you end up with the National Restaurant Association which is not a vegetarian publication to come and say to their members that one out of every five meals served in a restaurant today is dictated by a vegetarian…..the group that provides more food to colleges than anybody else did a survey and the majority of the people responded requested more vegan meals. There’s no doubt about it, a diet going from a carnivore to a vegetarian today is fairly well accepted. It’s more so done by the younger people than by the older ones. I just went to Africa. I spent two weeks in Africa, and I was able to eat a vegan diet. When somebody tells me you just can’t get that kind of food here or there, it’s all in knowing what you want and being able to relate it to the people who are supplying the food. It’s becoming very mainstream.

Q – What were you doing in Africa-----lecturing?
A – No. I went to see the animals and people before they were gone. I’d always wanted to do both and that’s exactly why I went there. I wanted to go and walk through the market with the local people. I wanted to see what they were eating. I wanted to see how they were living. The amazing thing for me is when I went to the local market in Africa; the one thing I never found in the market was meat. There was no meat for sale. The people at that market sure looked a lot healthier than the people in American airports. It really makes you take a look at what we’re doing and how we’re living. The people that I met in Africa had no welfare system and no healthcare system. Their life was completely dependent on what they did. They were the happiest people I ever saw in my life. I never, never saw a kid in Africa begging for money. They would ask for candy. They would ask for a pen, but they would never ask for money.

Q – They would ask for a pen?
A – They thought that was the greatest thing in the world. My wife gave a little kid, probably 7 or 8 years old her pen and the first thing he did is see if it would write on his hand and what it did. He took off running for his mother and was holding it up like we had given him the Holy Grail.

Q – I would understand why you would want to see the animals? Because of all the hunting they’re becoming extinct. But, what’s killing off the African people-----AIDS?
A – AIDS. We were on the AIDS Highway and it’s not unusual for 80% of the people within 10 miles of the AIDS Highway to have AIDS. I’m glad I went. They were wonderful people. I’m glad I took the time to go into the villages and meet the people. Even though I could not speak too many of them in their language or they couldn’t speak in mine-----we got along famously. We were able to transact business together. I ended up seeing some wonderful, wonderful children. Mothers whirled around and are more than willing to let you look at their babies.

Q – You told an interviewer back in 1998, that within your lifetime you’ll see meat labeled as a dangerous product.
A – True.

Q – How far off is that from becoming a reality?
A – Oh, I think it’s already happening. When I was in the Beyond the Beef campaign we sued the Federal Government and they ended up having to put a label on meat. The USDA label says safe and wholesome. When we sued them in court, they had to admit that that was not true. So, I think what’s happening right now is that with the impending pandemics that are out there, whether we’re talking about Bird Flu or Mad Cow Disease, I think that meat is a tenuous product at best. I believe it will be labeled just like tobacco, in my lifetime.

Q – Each year 1 million people give up eating meat. Where did you get that statistic from?
A – Aaah…..I don’t recall. When you go through all the material I go through. How much of that sticks in your head I don’t know. If you go to my website we have the facts and the sites where they come from. That’s where I would send you.

Q – The meat industry is a $175 billion dollar a year business in the U.S. $75 billion in just Texas. If meat is labeled dangerous, what happens to all those cattle ranchers?
A – Well, I think what is going to happen to cattle ranchers is the same thing that’s happened to everybody who’s been out of step with technology. What happened to all of the iron workers? When they built the Erie Canal it went out of business when railroads came about. So, you will see a lot of changes that will happen, but I think right now if I was a cattle rancher and I was looking at the future out there, I would be preparing myself to be using my property to entertain tourists to see wild animals. I think that’s where the future is for people who are in the ranching business. The people in New York City would just love to go see a coyote or a deer or an elk or an antelope. That’s where I think the future is.

Q – I never realized that cattle ranchers would feed road kill to their cattle. When did that practice start?
A – It basically started after the Second World War and there were rendering plants that came about. It didn’t take long before they found the best way to get rid of road kill and dead animals was to haul ‘em to rendering plants and let ‘em grind ‘em up and turn ‘em into food.

Q – Where is the Federal Government in all of this? Why don’t they hire more meat inspectors?
A – (Laughs). Because the regulatory system of the United States government is absolutely in the pocket of the multi-nationals. The last thing in the world they want to do is to increase the inspectors. Ask yourself the question, why is it that we just cut back the testing on cows for Mad Cow Disease by 90% when we weren’t even testing the high-risk animals in the first place? We have the best government money can buy, Any time that you think that the Federal Government is doing something that is in the best interest of the consumer-----you’re smoking the Number One crop out of California.

Q – This practice could end up killing everybody!
A – Two studies were done: one at Pittsburgh Veteran’s Hospital, the other at Yale University. They took people that died of dementia, took out their brain and put it under a microscope. They showed anywhere from 5 ½ to 13% of the people dying from dementia really had the human form of Mad Cow Disease-----CJD. When you look at the United States right now, we have 4 ½ million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. If those two studies are valid and I have no reason to believe they’re not, that means that 450,000 people that are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s today really have the human form of Mad Cow Disease-----CJD. Our government says we should have one case per million inhabitants. That means we should have 300 cases in the United States. Those two studies indicate we have 450,000. Now, you tell me who’s concerned about the welfare of consumers and who’s concerned about the welfare of multi-national companies.

Q – When did that Mad Cow Disease come about?
A – We never had a real threat. I believe prior to the time we ground up cows and fed them back to cows that we probably did have one case per million inhabitants of spongiform disease. But, if you take one animal that has the disease, this one in a million and grind it up, then you have the potential to infect thousands because it only takes the amount of material that covers the sharp end of a pin to transfer the disease. So, when we started grinding up cows that had Mad Cow Disease, we started grinding up sheep that had scrabbies and we started feeding ‘em out there. Then we started infecting thousands of animals. From 1945 when we started that practice till today, we are still grinding out potentially infected animals and feeding them back to other animals. If you went down today to your local fast food restaurant and got a burger and took it to a DNA lab you would find there’s anywhere between 200-1,000 animals in that one 4 ounce burger. Now, with the amount of material to cover the size of a pen, just think an infected animal ground up and turned into hamburger how we can spread that in the population. We’re talking about something that takes anywhere from 10 to 40 years to show the symptoms. I personally believe that we have hundreds of thousands of people in the United States today that are incubating the spongiform disease.

Q – What exactly is the spongiform disease?
A – All these diseases like Mad Cow Disease and scrabbie in sheep and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk are spongiform diseases. When Dr. Marsh in Wisconsin…..he was one of the early researchers; he claimed that he thought that were over a thousand spongiform diseases in North America. That is the umbrella name for all of the diseases like Mad Cow and CJD and scrabbie and chronic wasting disease. They’re all spongiform diseases.

Q – If things are this bad, how is it people are living longer these days?
A – What do you think added the greatest amount of longevity to humans?

Q – Probably the advancement of medicine.
A – Hell, no. Clean water. If you wanted to go to Bangladesh today and actually extend the longevity of the people, the best way you could do it would be to go out, drill wells, and end up with clean water. It isn’t what we know that gets us in trouble; it’s what we know that isn’t so. Hygiene is what has added more longevity to humans than anything else. You remember when they had small pox in England and nobody thought it had anything to do with water until they went and took the handle off of the pump, where the water was coming from.

Q – To go into a different direction here: you were an admirer of Bobby Kennedy. Tell me what you liked about Bobby Kennedy.
A – What I liked about Bobby Kennedy was that he was willing to stand up for people that had less than he did. This to me really came to the forefront when I was in Africa: it’s not about a newer car. It’s not about lakeshore property. It’s about being able to live life and enjoy it as we know it. All species out there enjoy life as they know it, whether we’re talking about leopards or lions or elephants or humans. Each and every one of us ought to stop and look at it and say, am I part of the problem or part of the solution? For me, Bobby Kennedy was much more of an activist than John (Kennedy). When Bobby Kennedy decided to run for President that really lit a fire in my belly about politics. That’s what he did for me. I just think everyone of us should look inside of ourselves.

Official website:

© Gary James All Rights Reserved