An Interview With Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni

Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni’s vision for an equitable, just and truly sustainable society starts with reshaping the food system.

In a recent interview with Gambero Rosso, Querciabella owner and vegan investor Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni discusses what he has been up to in recent months and the ways in which his activism has become increasingly focused on protecting animals, people and the planet from the catastrophic impacts of animal exploitation.


What have you been thinking about during these recent months?
The fact that the situation we are in, which to many appears extraordinary, is nothing more than the consequence of a series of wrong choices. What triggered the pandemic is that we exploit and kill animals for food production. From the wet markets of China (which – mind you – also exist in Italy or New York) to the major, yet unsurprising outbreaks occurring in slaughterhouses and meat-packing companies all over the world. The agri-food system must be rethought from the ground up.


How have you changed your behaviour and which changes do you think may be temporary and which are permanent?
My behaviour has not changed too much. But I have dedicated even more energy than usual to engaging in dialogues with actors from all corners of the world dedicated to transforming the food system. Our collective sense of bewilderment and absolute uncertainty was temporary. The world as we knew it before will never return. We will have to get used to a new reality of diluted and filtered human relationships, caution and, unfortunately, of general distrust.

We also need to permanently, urgently and radically change
how we (as humans) treat the planet.

What have been the best and the most distressing moments for you during this time?
The best moments were when I learned about the recovery of people near and far, for whom I had feared the worst. The most distressing moment was leaving my son, who studies and works in the United States. He decided to stay there instead of coming with me and reuniting to the rest of the family in Europe. To say that my heart was torn is an understatement. But he’s fine and he’s safe.


What have you dedicated yourself to in recent weeks in terms of hobbies, and how much of this will change or remain the same?
The concept of a hobby is completely foreign to me. I pursue many passions thoroughly and have no “free time”. I wish! On the one hand, I have dedicated myself even more intensely to investment activities and creating new ideas and companies that will help accelerate change in our food system. Eradicating animal-centred agriculture is a fundamental step in resolving the most urgent crises affecting humanity: from climate change to food insecurity, from people’s health to wasting resources, from the danger of further pandemics to the indifference towards the suffering of others.

I am fortunate to have exceptional colleagues both at Querciabella and among the other businesses and organizations I’m involved with, who were able to manage the emergency of the situation flawlessly. It has been a tremendous help to know that everyone feels like they’re part of a team and shares similar ideals – namely that they’re not driven by the pursuit of profit at all costs, and feel part of a much bigger picture where ethics and principles are the most important factor.

Among the projects my team and I have launched, one is based in Senegal. Women coops there grow fonio, a spectacular indigenous ancient grain. We trade with them buying at prices deliberately above market to help them and to encourage the practice of organic agriculture. At the same time, we have established a foundation to build a school with a plant-based canteen powered exclusively by locally grown products. Each project is guided by a 360-degree ethical vision: vegan, organic, non-discriminatory, driven by respect for people, nature and animals and committed to restoring dignity and power to women.


How do you think you are contributing to this new normal? And with what considerations?
My fundamental contribution is to underline that the “normality” we had before did not work. It was and it is a disaster. The new normal must take into account the future of people and the planet. We are talking about far more than personal tastes when we sit at the table devouring meat, fish, milk and eggs at the expense of environmental and human devastation. We are talking about the fate of generations to come. Overcoming the self-destructive economic, industrial and social model we have today is only the first step towards building an equitable, just and truly sustainable society. The future of our children and our grandchildren depends on us and the choices we make right now, today, not tomorrow.


Adapted from Gambero Rosso (August 2020).


Just in:
Thanks to Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni and Jane Patterson, Sea Shepherd Italia has a brand new weapon to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Mediterranean Sea: the 17-meter-long motor catamaran CONRAD. Aboard the vessel, Operation Siso 2020 has returned to end the destruction of habitats around the Aeolian Islands and to investigate, document and take action as necessary to expose and confront illegal activities committed against marine wildlife.

Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni, Major Donor and member of the Council of Wise Men of Sea Shepherd Italy and of the Board of Advisors of Sea Shepherd Global and USA, comments: “The extensive collaboration with the Italian Authorities combined with the enthusiasm of the brave Sea Shepherd volunteers offers a unique and extraordinary opportunity to protect our ocean. The protection of all species threatened by the various forms of illegal fishing is urgent and indispensable.”

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