Gene Baur is an activist and advocate for farm animals all over the world. He is the founder of Farm Sanctuary––an organization working hard to spread awareness about the plight of farm animals and bring aid to animals that have suffered. He is also an author, his book Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food has received critical acclaim.
We spoke with Baur to learn more about his passion and his organization.
TAILS: What changes have you seen in the farming industry since you started Farm Sanctuary 26 years ago?
Gene Baur: Over the past 26 years, there has been significant consolidation in the farming industry as small farms have been subsumed by larger, more industrialized operations. Even as the number of farms raising animals fell, the number of animals confined and slaughtered in the U.S. skyrocketed. But — good news — over the last few years, the number has been falling; finally, fewer animals are suffering for food. I believe we are at the beginning of a burgeoning food movement with farmers markets spreading and people with a greater interest in sustainable farming moving into agriculture.
What originally drew you to the plight of farm animals?
In the early 1980s, factory farming was becoming more prevalent, and farm animals were suffering terribly. This issue was largely unknown, and most citizens were unwittingly supporting factory farming abuses by buying meat, milk, and eggs. I felt it was important to expose the animal farming business and to educate people and encourage them to make more compassionate food choices.
The most direct thing we can do to help animals is to not eat them and to choose plant-based foods instead of animal foods. Thankfully, there are great vegan foods available, and vegan resources are increasing daily.
How does connecting with farm animals better us as people?
The earliest animal protection laws were passed because of a recognition that causing animals to suffer coarsens us and makes us less compassionate. And, of course, how we treat other animals says a lot about us. Connecting with farm animals is part of our connecting with our own compassion, and it strengthens our ability to empathize with others. If your every meal is a vote for compassion, that is likely to make you more compassionate and peaceful person.
What are the issues that Farm Sanctuary is most focused on right now?
We just launched our Compassionate Communities Campaign, which will be bringing the most effective vegan advocacy to cities around the country. We’re also working with the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA to pass legislation outlawing hog gestation crates and veal crates in more states. Our “No Downers” campaign, which would prevent the slaughter of animals that are too sick, injured, or weak to stand, is ongoing. We have a new project called “Someone, Not Something” that will be focusing more attention on the science of farm animal cognition, emotion, and behavior. And we are, of course, continuing our core work of caring for animals rescued from slaughter and seeking to change how our society views and treats farm animals. This past summer we acquired our third sanctuary, just 40 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. We’re excited to do more in this key population center to help others see farm animals as friends, not food.