Ingredients almond hummus

The ingredients for the almond hummus.

Meet The Authority on Systemic Change in Food

Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, activist for systemic change, straight at camera

Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, Vegan Investor and Activist

#TimesUp Big Food. Systemic change is urgently needed to fix the catastrophe that is…. modern-day food consumption! Everyone knows it! Even guys huddled in man caves watching ESPN and scarfing down hot dogs are aware that something is VERY WRONG with the way we eat. Burb. But, how do we fix our mess of a food system? Who better to ask than Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni.  This award-winning, global authority on vegan investing gave JaneUnChained‘s Elysabeth Alfano a generous serving of his plant-based wisdom. You can watch the whole Plant-Based Business Hour interview at the bottom of this story.

A Plant-Based Powerhouse!

Born in Milan, Italy, Sebastiano is a committed vegan involved in animal rights activism since the age of 15. He initially achieved success in the worlds of art and wine. He then began investing in about sixty companies in the plant-based and cruelty-free space, some of these through Vegan Capital, the venture capital firm he co-founded with his wife Jane Patterson.  He is also a partner in the Swiss-based Blue Horizon Group, one of the largest investors in plant-based enterprises. Sebastiano has applied his brilliant business skills to everything from vegan baby food to pasta. Click here for his full bio. 

The Current System Is a Gross Mess. We Must Change It.

many chickens in an indoor barn

Broilers UGA CAES/Extension @Michael Czarick via flickr. Licence https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugacommunications/16555376156

Sebastiano explains why we urgently need to change the food system completely, from the ground up.

“The system is definitely broken. We already know the entire meat industry is amoral. There cannot be morality in producing food by torturing sentient beings and getting people sick.  They know that every time they put out a product and it’s bought, someone is getting worse.”

“Their highly industrialized production system has completely failed. The meat and dairy industries could not exist without government subsidies. They unload their huge costs onto the taxpayers. And I am not only talking about the obvious economic cost but the environmental cost and the social cost.

“The poorest sections of society are fed horrible unhealthy fast food because, economically, they don’t have access to better food. And that’s something that needs to change drastically as well.” Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and activist.

Create Something Better!

vegan food stall in a market, part of the systemic change we need

Vegan food stall in an indoor market in London. @Jordi Casamitjana

For a healthy, compassionate, and climate-friendly food system, consumers need affordable and widely available vegan alternatives for everyday products.  Sebastiano says:

“Companies are coming up with alternative products that replace meat, fish, and all the other animal products. There are plenty of choices.”

“Some very innovative people have imagined a new strategy: Going to the people that produce the food that we want to change and convince them to produce the food that we need. And it’s working.”  

“The great news is that people with experience in scaling, producing, distributing, marketing, and bringing food to everyone through all their retail chains, are joining us in the revolution.” Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor 

Vegan Activism Is Also Fundamental for Systemic Change

Masked demonstrators holding signs and video devices for systemic change in a city centre

Vegan activists in an Earthlings Experience demonstration for systemic change in London. @Jordi Casamitjana

Despite his huge reputation as an entrepreneur and businessperson, Sebastiano is an animal rights activist at heart. He knows we need vegan activists out on the streets showing the public why everyone will benefit from a plant-based food system. He has helped many vegan activists, including me. Sebastiano generously donated to the crowdfunding campaign for my legal case, which led to ethical veganism being declared a protected class in the UK. He explains how it all began for him:

“I am involved in this because I love animals. What happened with me was that when I was 15 years old someone in the middle of the street, in Milan, where I was born, gave me a flyer about animal experimentation. I started reading. Overnight I became a vegetarian. Then – obviously later – vegan, when I understood more. But from that moment on, I became an animal rights activist.”

“How do we produce the change? We offer alternative options, but we also provide information. The Ag-gag laws are trying to stop us from showing  people what happens behind closed doors.”

“Our beloved organizations that do undercover investigations — and help us reveal what happens behind the scenes that the industry is trying to hide — are important and they need our help.”

“Activism is fundamental. People with tables on the street, or videos nowadays, distributing literature, is fundamental. It does change people’s lives. It changed mine and it has changed many others.” Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and activist.

 Who Is Key to Bring Systemic Change?

woman and man on a zoom meeting talking about systemic change

Elysabeth Alfano conversing with Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni about systemic change. @Jane Unchained News

Individually and collectively, we all need to move the world away from animal exploitation and the destruction of our planet. We may advance further as the culture shifts away from traditional patriarchal power constructs allowing more matriarchal values to intervene on the side of compassion in business and government.

“I think it is very important in our cause to underscore the role of women in all parts of society and in our movement. It is key to have more women in places of command, in companies, in governments, and politics in general.  In the field of plant-based food,  I would like to see more investment in companies run by women.”

“I would like to see more women coming forward, and the ones I see already in the industry are phenomenal. They are great examples, but we need more.” Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and activist.

 Bringing Systemic Change in a Gradual Way

vegan activists with vegan placards demonstrating for systemic change

Vegan activists demonstrating in an Awaking Compassion event in London. @Jordi Casamitjana

If we want to be effective, how we push our message about systemic change is crucial. If we don’t push enough, nobody will listen, but if we push too much, we may scare our audience away. Sebastiano has learned from his wife how to do it.

“My wife Jane teaches me every day how to bring these ideas to the world in a kind and effective way, as opposed to being as aggressive as I would normally be. As vegans, we need to produce the change not only by our choices but bringing this knowledge in a gentle way.”

“People have eating habits and traditions, so we need to work with them along the path of change. Of course, it would be better for the planet if there was an abrupt change, but we cannot advocate for that. And we have to respect people’s attitudes and will to change. With food, you are touching emotional places that are fundamental. Some people think back about what their grandmother used to cook for them. They don’t want to give that memory up.”

“It’s very important that we, as vegans, put this information in front of people but in a very gentle way. And accept that the people may take time to come to the right choice. Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, investor and activist