Last week we had the privilege of interviewing Gene Baur, “the conscience of the food movement” according to Time magazine and president and co-founder of the Farm Sanctuary, America’s largest animal rescue and protection organization. Baur explained to us that his ambition has always been to do something positive for the world. He believes that this stems from the context of his childhood; he grew up with the Vietnam war constantly on television when the cold war was at full steam ahead. This inspired him to lead a life of activism.
Baur’s work has been largely targeted in the rescuing of animals and fighting against and raising awareness of animal abuse. He founded Farm Sanctuary, a sanctuary that rehabilitates rescued farm animals that has spread first began on one of his visits to a stockyard in Pennsylvania. He was walking around documenting various hinges and came upon a pile of dead lambs when one of the lambs lifted its head and they realized she was alive. They took her off the pile of dead animals and directly to the vet, where she was treated to recovery. She ended up living for more than ten years. This inspired the idea of rescuing animals from brutal circumstances and rehabilitating them back to health.
This continued search for rescuing animals from inhumane conditions led to horrifying discoveries regarding animal treatment on farms. Baur found that animals are treated like commodities rather than live creatures. He found that they are frequently mutilated, parts of their bodies are cut off. He frequently found that the beaks and toes of chickens and turkeys were severed as well as the tails of cows. Farm Sanctuary rescues countless animals annually across the nation and nurtures them to health.
These factory farms not only result in harm to animals but also for the environment. The animal production industry produces more pollution than the entire transportation industry. Baur believes that by moving away from factory farms we can prevent the exploitation of fossil fuel resources and take a bite out of global warming. He explained that these environmental effects can be examined from both the front and back end. On the front end, the factory farms necessitate enormous resources to raise animals for feed. This means crops, water, land, fertilizers and heavy equipment to harvest just the feed for the animals. On the back end, the farms create enormous pollution by confining animals and releasing massive concentrated amount of menure into the ecosystem that can’t be absorbed. This pollutes waterways, makes the air reek, prohibits neighbors from even going outside during certain times of the year, and, as animals are fed drugs routinely in order to grow faster, results in an antibiotic resistant bacteria in the groundwater near factory farms.
Due to his experience and research, Baur has made the decision to lead a vegan lifestyle, a decision he avidly promotes. One of the main benefits of transitioning into a whole foods plant based diet would be the prevention and decrease of three main killers in our country: heart disease, cancer, and obesity. Consuming a whole foods plant based diet, based on Baur’s experience, would drastically decrease one’s probability of contracting such health issues.
We also wanted to know how we, as citizens, could assist in Farm Sanctuary’s cause, even if we don’t want to become vegan. Upon asking if there were certain labels we should either look for or avoid, Baur gave us some unfortunate information. Apparently, the majority of the labels sound better than they are and are misleading. For example, “free range” only requires that animals be given access to outdoors, and in the majority of “free range” farms investigated by Baur and Farm Sanctuary associates, this meant that there was a small hole granting minimal access to the outdoors and that the animals were still largely extremely overcrowded and in brutal conditions. He explained that the only way to really know how animals are raised is to actually visit the farm. However, as that option isn’t always feasible in our busy lives, he explains that the second best option is to purchase meat and produce at local farmers market and to question the farmer about their facility directly. Baur also believes that in order for these factory farms to be stopped, it is necessary that the government take more a role in supporting local, sustainable, eco-friendly farms by providing them with the tax breaks and providing them with resources such as water and fuel for prices lower than market prices as opposed to providing factory farms with such benefits. He explained that one way we can take power as citizens is by seeking and spreading awareness and supporting legislation that would help diminish the presence of factory farms. Overall awareness and a conscious decision to make oneself aware of what one is putting in their body is crucial. He advised that we make choices that are aligned with our values, as opposed to the “don’t tell me I don’t want to know” attitude regarding the effects of our actions. DASADSH explained that this situation, however, is hopeful. Beginning several years ago, the number of animal foods being consumed has started to decrease and has continuously done so since it began. Baur is hopeful that is will continue to go down and accelerate.
For more information regarding Farm Sanctuary and how you can contribute to the program and the environment in general, visit their website at http://www.farmsanctuary.org/.