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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Gene Baur- Animal Rights Activist

  For most of his life, Gene Baur has been a forerunner in establishing animal rights and speaks out against the consumption of animals and animal products. In the 1980s, Mr. Baur began visiting factory farms and slaughterhouses and was appalled by the inhumane treatment the animals received leading up to their deaths. As a journalist, he further investigated the situation and exposed the cruel realities of the factory farm world to the rest of the world. Mr. Baur wanted not only to expose the mistreatment, but, to be a part of the change so that these animals would at least have a chance at living decent lives. In 1986, Mr. Baur became one of the founding partners of Farm Sanctuary, which is the first animal rescue organization established for farm animals. Prior to the development of the Farm Sanctuary, Mr. Baur became a vegan on the principal that no animal should suffer or be killed for human consumption. Since making those decisions in the 1980’s, Mr. Baur has been committed and dedicated to fighting for animal rights by expanding the Farm Sanctuary vastly, being a part of passing legislation to protect animals, and has become a best-selling author for his revealing book Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food.
            Mr. Baur has had a successful career and brought about great changes for animal rights, so I inquired what exactly brought him to first notice and learn about the abuse of animals at these farms. His answer was simple and genuine, saying, “I always wanted to do something positive in the world.” Mr. Baur spoke about how he was raised in a time of chaos and war, with the Vietnam War and Cold War persisting, and desired to see something positive amongst all of the negative things happening in the world. He followed his ambitions and became a volunteer at a children’s hospital and soon after joined environmental and animal rights organizations. Through his involvement with animal rights organizations, he came to see that industrial animal farming “was an assault on animals who were treated horribly and an assault on the environment that was being destroyed.” Mr. Baur was unnerved that “consumers were unwittingly being encouraged to abuse animals through buying their products.” During this time, animal rights were receiving very little attention, which prompted Mr. Baur to sneak onto these industrial farms to videotape and witness these atrocities, which he would later share with consumers.

Delving deeper into the consumer aspect, I asked Mr. Baur what most people do not realize about animal treatment on factory farms. The answer is simply that “most people don’t think enough about the way animals are being treated and as a result support horrible cruelty” through the purchase of meat, eggs, milk, and many other products. He continued to depict the brutalities these animals face; they are crammed into small cages in which they can barely move, they are mutilated, and then slaughtered at young ages. The mutilations that some of these animals, for example chickens and pigs, face include parts of beaks, toes, and tails being cut off. He continued to explain how people are unaware that these animals are killed at very young ages for their meat, for example “chickens are killed at just six or seven weeks old and pigs are killed at just six months old.” When he informs people of the harsh lives the animals live and the young ages in which they are killed for food, they are surprised, which is understandable he explains because “most people are humane and would not choose to support that kind of cruelty.” The real issue is revealing the truth to people because a lot of it is kept hidden, and if more people knew the reality they would not continue to support these industrial farm factories. One of the goals of Farm Sanctuary is to encourage people to think about the food they are eating, where it is coming from, and “to make choices that are more aligned with their own compassionate values.”

            My next question for Mr. Baur was, “What percentage of animal products purchased are likely to have come from an abused animal?” From his perspective, any animal that has been raised and killed for food on a factory farm has been abused. Mr. Baur clarified his answer by explaining that the degree of abuse varies, “some animals are mistreated more than others,” but they are abused nevertheless. The majority of farm animals are raised in confinement, never able to see the sun, an astounding number of which he estimates to be about 98-99%. The remaining 1-2% may live “a halfway decent life while they are alive, but then are slaughtered… and humane and slaughtered don’t go together very well.” Due to the overwhelmingly high percentage of abused animals, I wondered how consumers can be informed of whether or not the product they are purchasing comes from an abused animal. Unfortunately, it is difficult to determine the truth behind the labels on animal product packages because, Mr. Bauer revealed, labels are misleading and “sound a lot better than they are.”  One example of a somewhat misleading label is “free-range.” The label provides a false sense of confidence in the consumer that the chicken they are buying lived a good life and roamed freely outside instead of being cooped up all the time. Although some of these labels are true, many stretch the definition and still apply it. According to Mr. Baur, the condition under which a chicken can be defined as free-range is that it requires the animal has access to the outdoors. The key word is access; many industrial factory farms apply the term loosely. He continued to paint the disturbing picture of many farm animals’ reality; thousands of animals are raised in a warehouse where there is one small door leading to a dirty paddock which is classified as access to the outdoors. Despite the fact that the animal has never had real accessibility to the outdoors and may have never had the chance to actually leave the warehouse, it is sold and marketed as a “free-range” animal.
            Mr. Baur’s goal is to establish rights for these animals so that they can live good lives as well as to inform consumers of what they are buying and putting into their bodies. He continues on his journey to spread the truth and by embarking on a speaking tour to promote healthy living and animal rights. To find out more about Gene Baur and the Farm Sanctuary, you can visit
-Olivia Poletti 

Susan Adams- One of Marin's Leading Ladies

Recently, I interviewed a remarkable leader in the Marin community, Susan Adams. Mrs. Adams is a member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors and represents the first district, which is the San Rafael area. A passionate activist for helping people and preserving the environment, Susan Adams has contributed a great deal to bettering the world and has been behind many of the ideas that have been implemented in Marin County. The motto that Mrs. Adams uses to encompass her philosophy is “Healthy People Healthy Planet,” connecting the impact the planet and mankind have on each other. Throughout her career, Mrs. Adams’ mission has been to “build healthy communities” and she has worked hard to fight the injustices and inequality she sees in community health and wellness.


            One of Mrs. Adams’ primary concerns deals with the incongruities in the healthcare system. Mrs. Adams strongly believes that there has to be improved access to healthcare, making it available to families, regardless of income or any other discrepancy. Due to Mrs. Adams’ strong support in favor of improved accessibility to healthcare, I asked her if she believes it is a viable possibility in the near future for universal healthcare. Mrs. Adams does believe that there is a strong possibility that her vision will become reality but she is unsure of just how long that will take because healthcare is a nationwide issue. She continued to explain how she has worked with the National Association of Counties, along with 3,000 other counties in the country, “to help develop policy positions about the implementation of what happened with the Affordable Care Act.” The Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare”, was signed into action in 2010 with the purpose of increasing the rate of coverage for health insurance in America as well as reducing the overall cost of health insurance. One of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act that coincides with Mrs. Adams’ views is that healthcare should be made available to all applicants at the same rate regardless of pre-existing conditions or gender; insurance companies should not be able to exclude you for such reasons. Supervisor Adams has, for almost her entire healthcare career, been a supporter of a single payer health system because “when you look at the data and economics… and the health outcomes” of countries utilizing a single payer/universal system, they have “populations that live longer and live healthier for longer.” She continued to explain that in America, we spend two to five times more per patient population than countries, such as Canada, with a universal healthcare system.
The problem Adams has found in the current healthcare system in America is that it allows insurance companies to provide insurance packages to consumers and make a profit, which does not happen in a single payer system. Recently, this has become more regulated as rules have made it so that insurance companies can collect no more than fifteen percent profit from the sale of these packages. In the past, some insurance companies “took up to thirty percent of the income you make which means the money is going to investors more so than actually providing the care.” What Supervisor Adams believes to be more beneficial in a single payer system, like Medicare, is that the customer pays their tax proportion and is covered for healthcare. The issue with insurance companies not on a single payer system is that they still have a for-profit basis. One of the recent issues with the system is that insurance companies have to provide forty-four million new people with healthcare, because it has become more regulated. This decision has sparked controversy, for example with the birth control dispute; whether women should or should not be provided with birth control coverage. What it all boils down to, Mrs. Adams concludes, is a moral issue, not a money issue; the money should not play a factor when it comes to people’s lives. In the Marin community, Supervisor Adams has actively played a role in finding a solution to the problem by establishing the Health and Wellness Campus in the Canal lines (in the San Rafael area). One of the great successes of the Canal lines, Adams explains, is that it is a place people can go to for healthcare, regardless of income.
            Due to the beneficial changes that Mrs. Adams has been a part of making in Marin, I asked her how the Marin community can get involved in promoting wellness, both in the community aspect and environmental aspect. She was quick to reply that change “starts with us, the individuals,” which is why it is important to submerge ourselves in making the world a better place to live. Every little effort can contribute to a bigger effort. Mrs. Adams named some examples of how we can get involved, including recycling and taking part in Earth Day, an annual event on April 22nd to support environmental protection. “We make the changes in our lives,” Mrs. Adams mused, “and people follow example, not dictates.” Rather than demanding a person to be a part of the cause, let them watch your lead and they will follow in suit. We lead by example, and the image we set forth is what people will perceive us as, so make it a good one. Mrs. Adams explained the importance of talking about your views and ideas about helping the community to inspire others to take the same action and not stand by. The motto “Healthy People Healthy Planet” embodies the domino effect of how our lives affect the lives of others and the planet and vice versa. If we start living healthier lives, she explained, it reduces the amount of widespread diseases and can lead to prevention of such diseases, reducing the vast need for healthcare. Mrs. Adams lives what she preaches, for example by riding her bike to work everyday and sometimes opting out of driving her own car to take the Marin Transit, a form of public transportation. By making small adjustments to our lives, such as the ones Mrs. Adams has made, she believes that we can promote wellness in ourselves and in the environment.

-Olivia Poletti