Interview with Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary

By Jodi Truglio — August 06, 2015

“Going vegan is empowering. In addition to feeling better physically and emotionally, it helps instill confidence,” said Gene Baur founder and President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary. “There are many

imagethings in this world that are outside of our control, but each of us has a lot of power over what we eat. Being mindful and intentional about the way we eat can lead to improvements in other parts of our lives as well.”

Established in 1986, Farm Sanctuary’s goal is to expose and confront the abuses of factory farming and change how society treats and views farm animals by promoting compassion and vegan living through rescue, education and advocacy.

Global Looking Glass is pleased to share a recent interview with Gene Baur in which he discusses Farm Sanctuary and his beautifully wimageritten and engaging new book “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food”.

Looking back what has been one of your most memorable moments?

One of my most memorable moments was finding Hilda, an incapacitated sheep, who was left on a pile of dead animals behind Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania. I was shocked to find a living animal discarded, like garbage, amid decaying carcasses of other animals. It was very healing and inspiring to see her recover and ultimately live a long happy life at Farm Sanctuary.

How did your book come about?

For years, I was encouraged to write a book about the founding and growth of Farm Sanctuary. That book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food, was published in 2008 and provides important information about factory farming and the conditions animals suffer, and how Farm Sanctuary is working to change the system. The new book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, picks up where the first book left off and reflects the increased public concern about the need to reform our food system. It focuses more on “how” to live in a way that is healthy and compassionate, and it includes 100 amazing vegan recipes contributed from top vegan chefs.

Do you have a favorite chapter?

I like the entire book, but tend to gravitate toward the lifestyle sections that discuss mindfulness and living in alignment with our own values and interests. I am continually amazed by how thoughtless and careless human beings are, and how we behave in ways that are detrimental to ourselves and the planet.

What are some of the biggest misunderstandings about factory farming?

One of the biggest misunderstandings about factory farming is that it is an efficient way to feed a growing human population. In fact, animal agriculture is inherently inefficient and requires far more resources than plant based agriculture.

Why are farm animals the most exploited?

In the U.S., we exploit more than 9 billion farm animals, representing over 95% of all animals who are mistreated in this country. We subject them to intolerable cruelty and control every aspect of their lives from conception until the day they are slaughtered. Anti-cruelty laws have actually been amended to exclude farm animals from basic humane protections. Farm animals are seen as production units and commodities, not as living feeling individuals who deserve to be treated with compassion. We are working to change that.

Why should people care about factory farming?

Factory farming has profound impacts on ourselves, other animals and the planet. It is an affront to our humanity and discourages us from empathizing with others. We carelessly subject billions of animals to horrific conditions and violent deaths every year. Factory farming is a severe drain on increasingly scarce resources, like water, and a top contributor to the Earth’s most serious environmental problems, including climate change. Consuming factory farming products like we do in the U.S. contributes to leading human health problems, and untold human suffering as well. We could save more than 70% on health care costs by shifting from eating animals to eating a whole foods plant based diet instead.

In your book you tell the story of a farmer who nursed a pig back to health only to send it away to be slaughtered. Do you think there are a lot of farmers like the one you mentioned that are haunted by their actions or do you feel they have become desensitized?

I think most farmers have become desensitized to the feelings of the animals who they exploit, and most would not spend time caring for and nursing individuals back to health like Bob Comis, the farmer mentioned in the book. Unlike most animal farmers, Bob paid attention to his feelings and ultimately decided to stop killing and eating animals. He is now growing plants for food.

Where does the majority of the farm animals that you rescue come from?

The animals that Farm Sanctuary rescues come from a variety of places. In some cases, they’ve been discarded by the industry, left for dead in trash cans. In other cases, people who work in animal agriculture intervene to help animals in need and contact Farm Sanctuary. Sometimes, neighbors or other people who live near or work on farms see abuse and contact Farm Sanctuary to help. There are also times when animals escape from slaughter on their own volition, such as by jumping over a fence, or they are loosed from factory farm sheds by natural disasters like hurricanes and tornados, or human disasters, including transportation truck accidents.

What is your response to the part of the medical community that frowns on parents raising their children vegan?

The medical community has failed to heed the wise adage “let food be thy medicine” and has become steeped in treating illness with pharmaceuticals rather than preventing illness with food. Doctors do not receive adequate nutritional training, and haven’t focused enough on understanding the benefits of a whole foods plant based diet. Many doctors incorrectly assume that parents cannot raise their children as vegan, but thankfully, a growing number are recognizing the health benefits of consuming plant foods, and they are increasingly improving their patients’ health through more mindful food choices.

What is your favorite vegan food?

I really like scrambled tofu, with mushrooms, spinach and other veggies, and toast, especially as a hearty, leisurely weekend brunch.

What animal rights law has been the most frustrating to get approved?

All laws pertaining to protecting farm animals are pretty frustrating to get approved. We are battling a deeply entrenched industry that has invested in the political process for decades. It’s amazing that we have to fight so hard for such minimal reforms, and even these are often challenged in the courts for years. Still, it is important to work to protect farm animals under the law in order to reshape how our society perceives and interacts with these animals. But it’s a long, hard slog.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about animal rights?

Sometimes people assume that recognizing animals’ rights somehow diminishes our human stature. I completely disagree. Kindness to animals is good for people. It elevates and enriches our lives along with the animals’.

What’s in store for the future?

With increasing awareness about the many problems associated with our animal based food system, I believe we will continue seeing incremental improvements, especially with people eating fewer animal foods. Vegan entrepreneurs are being established, and will grow and develop more and more cruelty free options. It has never been a better time to be vegan.


Courtesy Image: Farm Sanctuary

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