Food & Drink

Feast Q&A: Joan Jett to host Sacramento benefit for Farm Sanctuary animal-rights group

There’s a pig in upstate New York that does not care one whit about its reputation. Because that pig, which resides in muck provided by the farm-animal rescue and advocacy group Farm Sanctuary, is named “Joan Jett,” after one of the baddest performers in rock ’n’ roll.

The human Jett, 55, is a vegetarian and animal advocate who believes in feeding loose change to jukeboxes and meatless meals to people. She will address most or all of these topics Friday in Sacramento.

Jett and her band, the Blackhearts, will perform at the California State Fair. Before the show, Jett will host a lunch benefit at midtown’s Plum Café and Bakery for Farm Sanctuary, which has rescue sites in Orland, as well as Acton (Southern California) and Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Reached by phone last week, Jett – her unmistakable rock rasp as strong in her speaking as in her singing voice – discussed her activism and diet.

Why did you become involved with Farm Sanctuary?

There were some disasters that happened several years ago. ... The Mississippi flooded up in the area of Iowa, and there were a whole lot of stranded farm animals. I heard that this organization Farm Sanctuary sent a bunch of trucks out to pick up the animals and took them to their farms.

As I investigated what Farm Sanctuary was about, I discovered that they take in all kinds of animals, but basically, farm animals that maybe were in an accident. ... I thought that was a great thing.

Have you visited the Farm Sanctuary sites?

Since I lived in New York, I was able to get to the one there first. I went to visit, and I was very impressed. Before I even went to visit them, they named a little baby piglet after me. They sent me a picture of her when she was just a baby. When I finally got up to the farm in New York, she was 3 years old by that time, and she was huge. I got a chance to lay around with her in the pen, and it was quite funny. ... I also got a chance to visit the farm in Northern California.

You became a vegetarian years ago. What inspired you?

Well, a couple of things. Kenny Laguna, who is in the band and is my songwriting partner and producer, has been a vegan since he was 11. ... I always sort of knew that about him, but he never really foisted it on me. ... (But) he would tell people why he was vegan, and I started thinking about that, because I have always been a huge animal lover but never sort of connected the dots, of what is the difference between my cats or my dogs or other (animals)?... As I started really connecting the dots, also, I read (John Robbins’ 1987 factory-farming exposé) “Diet for a New America.” It was really eye-opening and tough to get through.

By the time I got through that book, I didn’t want to eat meat ever again. ... I used to not want to talk about it as much, but (now) I am more willing to talk about it, and challenge people’s views on it. I don’t say that they shouldn’t (eat meat).

Were you concerned talking about it might alienate fans?

No, I just thought, “Well, it took me a while to figure it out, so maybe it just takes everyone their own period of time to come to that conclusion or not.”

Is it ever a challenge to be a vegetarian on the road, considering the places you play? When I think of the State Fair, I think turkey legs and corn dogs.

There’s always peanut butter and jelly and wheat bread, or pasta, with just garlic and oil and basil. Those are my go-to things, and they are pretty much available everywhere.