by Sandy Pukel
Gene Baur, the cofounder and president of Farm Sanctuary, has been hailed as “the conscience of the food movement” by TIME magazine. He was a pioneer in undercover investigations and instrumental in passing the first U.S. laws to ban inhumane factory farming practices. Since 1986, he has raised awareness about the abuses of animal agriculture and our cheap food system and encouraged people to live cruelty-free lifestyles.
Gene is the author of Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food (March 2008) and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day (April 2015). Farm Sanctuary currently operates in three locations in Watkins Glen, NY; Orland, CA; and Acton, CA, near Los Angeles. A fourth location in New Jersey is expected to open in 2018.
In what ways does Farm Sanctuary support compassion for all beings?
We encourage people to eat plants instead of animals, and we care for cows, pigs, chickens and other farm animals as friends, not food, at our sanctuaries. We present and provide examples of more respectful and mutually beneficial relationships with animals who are commonly abused and denigrated in our society.
What are some recent or upcoming programs and projects that Farm Sanctuary is hosting to support its mission?
Farm Sanctuary is conducting regular farm tours and other events at our sanctuaries, we’re hosting Plant Powered Runs in several cities across the U.S. to demonstrate that plant foods can fuel athletic activities, and this November, when millions of consumers will celebrate Thanksgiving with the body of a dead bird on the dinner table, Farm Sanctuary will host compassionate vegan Thanksgiving meals, where the turkeys’ lives, not deaths, are celebrated, and they are fed and not eaten.
How is veganism the solution to nutrition, health, and global warming?
Animal agriculture is a greater contributor to global warming than the entire transportation industry, according to the United Nations, and it also contributes to chronic, preventable human health problems like heart disease that kills millions of people prematurely every year. By eating plants instead of animals, we could lighten our environmental footprint, attain better health, and enjoy longer, happier lives.
In your experience, what are some of the best ways to convince people to adopt a plant-based diet?
I believe that humans are social animals and that we tend to follow the examples of others, so one of the best ways for vegans to convince others to adopt a similar lifestyle is to be a positive role model. To me, being vegan is an aspiration to live as kindly as possibly, and a key part of that involves seeing other animals as someone, not something.
When it comes to legislation on the meat industry, any recent wins or changes? How does such cruelty continue to take place largely unchecked?
I think the key changes that are occurring now are in the marketplace. When consumers vote with our dollars, businesses respond. It is very exciting that we are now seeing traditional animal-based food companies investing in plant-based alternatives.
What are some myths about meat that are largely believed?
People tend to assume that eating meat is necessary and plays an important part in human nutrition. In fact, we can live well and obtain all the nutrients we need to be healthy with plant foods. If we can live well without causing unnecessary harm, why wouldn’t we?