Friday, May 4, 2012

GENE BAUR on Abuses of industrialized factory farming: Farm Sanctuary. Food Revolution

I say we are brainwashed to believe that MEAT is synonym of PROTEIN, when in reality, it is far from the truth. The terms "natural" "grass fed" "free range" and "organic" are questionable and the semantics carefully manipulated to fulfill their monetary interests.

Words from the Food Revolution Summit:

Gene Baur, the founder of the world’s largest farm animal protection organization, Farm Sanctuary, and a man who has been called the Conscience of the Food Movement. For 25 years Gene has campaigned to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our food system. He is the author of the bestseller Farm Sanctuary. Some highlights: “Most people would be appalled by the conditions that are commonplace on today’s factory farms. In fact, the industry is trying to pass legislation to make it illegal to take pictures and videotape of the conditions of these facilities.That says an awful lot about just how bad the conditions are and the fact that they are unacceptable in our society.”
“What we believe is that most people are humane. Most people oppose cruelty. Most people do not think it is right to treat these animals with such wanton disregard.”
“People are getting a whiff of factory farming and they don’t like it. In response a lot of animal producers are now starting to label their products as if the animals are being treated well but unfortunately those labels tend to sound a lot better than they really are. In the case of “free range” for example, access to the outdoors is not defined, so what it means in many instances is you have basically a factory farm warehouse with thousands of animals in it with a small door that goes to a crummy little paddock outside. So that is technically access to the outdoors but the animals never use it and they are basically confined in a factory farm. That is an example of free range.” “In the case of ‘natural’, that says nothing about how the animals are raised. It only describes the processing after the animals are killed. You can have beef cattle for example that are raised in a feedlot, given hormones and fattened for slaughter just like other factory farmed animals and then their meat can be sold as natural. So these terms unfortunately mislead consumers.”

An excerpt from the interview:

Ocean Robbins: Welcome to The Food Revolution Summit where we explore how you can heal your body and your world with food. This is Ocean Robbins and I am joined by my dad, John Robbins in welcoming our guest, Gene Baur.  Gene Baur has been hailed as “The Conscious of the Food Movement” by Time Magazine.  For 25 years he has campaigned to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system.  A pioneer in the field of undercover investigations, Gene has visited hundreds of farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses documenting the deplorable conditions that exist. His pictures and videos exposing factory farming cruelties have aired nationally and internationally educating millions about the plight of modern farmed animals. Gene has also testified in court and before local, State and Federal legislative bodies advocating for better conditions for farm animals. His efforts have been covered by many of the top news organizations.  Gene is the author of the bestseller Farm Sanctuary, changing hearts and minds about animals and food and also the founder of the leading non-profit organization Farm Sanctuary.  Gene, we have considered you to be a trusted colleague and also a treasured friend for years and we are so excited to have this time with you.  Here to interview you now is my dad, John Robbins.
John Robbins: Thank you Ocean and I join Ocean and all of our listeners in welcoming your voice, Gene, into this conversation. It is a voice that is passionate and persistent. You have been at this for the long haul as have I and I have always felt strengthened by your work and inspired by it as well.
John Robbins: The fact that animals raised for food in this country are subjected to almost unimaginable cruelty, that it is built into the system of modern meat production and modern dairy production at a level that most people, if they saw it, they would find it appalling if the veil were to be lifted. I often say, “You don’t have to be a vegetarian or an animal rights activist to find it appalling if you see it,” but the industries of course don’t want people to see it. They want the veil to be locked in place. Your organization, Farm Sanctuary, is one of the leaders in confronting this violation of the human/animal bond.  Can you tell our listeners about the cruelty you have seen in livestock production and what you are doing to expose it and to prohibit it?
Gene Baur: Yes, absolutely and as you say, most people would be appalled by the conditions that are commonplace now on today’s factory farms.  In fact, the industry is now trying to pass legislation to make it illegal to take pictures and videotape and to make it illegal to distribute pictures and videotape of the conditions of these facilities. That says an awful lot I think about just how bad the conditions are and the fact that they are unacceptable in our society. What happens to these animals is that they are basically treated like production units, like commodities, not like living, feeling animals. It is common for them to be locked in factory farm warehouses by the thousands.  Millions of these animals are packed into cages and crates so tightly they can’t even turn around or stretch their limbs. What we believe is that most people are humane. Most people oppose cruelty. Most people do not think it is right to treat these animals with such wanton disregard. A bit part of our work is just educating and raising awareness about the realities of industrial animal farming and animal slaughter and encouraging people to make food choices that align with their own values. So instead of saying, “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know,” which is too common a response that we hear, people should feel like they can look at where their food comes from and can feel good about it. There is nothing better than getting fresh produce at a farmer’s market and knowing exactly where it was grown in terms of feeling good about your food. We encourage people to make choices that are aligned with their own values and also aligned with their own interests. 

The way we are eating in our country today is creating horrible suffering, tragic deaths, unnecessary deaths of billions of animals and also of people who are dying of heart disease and cancer, they are dying too early.  We think people by making informed choices can make a world of difference for themselves and for the animals and we also work to support legislation to ban some of the worse cruelty. We encourage people to make choices but we also work in the legislative and policy realm. 
John Robbins:   We have laws against cruelty to animals in this country but in every single one of the 50 States, most of the legislation specifically exempts animals destined for human consumption with the result that the animal agriculture industry today routinely does things to animals that if you did them to a dog or a cat you would be put in jail.  What can our listeners do to help put an end to the most abominable practices of modern meat production?
Gene Baur: Yes, as you say most of the anti-cruelty laws exempt farm animals as long as the practices are considered to be normal by the agriculture industry. What has happened is bad has become normal and no matter how cruel it is, it is still legal. So what listeners can do is number one, do not support those industries. Never buy animal products that come from factory farmed animals. Ideally we can live and eat very well by eating plant foods instead of animal foods. So ideally, move towards a vegan lifestyle but to begin to definitely say no to products from these factory farms and also get to know your elected officials. It is a long slog and passing legislation is a tedious process and usually the laws that are passed are not going to be as strong as we would like, but it is important to get to know your elected officials, express to them your concerns and your desire for there to be some oversight and accountability and some basic standards on farms to require, for example, that animals at least be given the right to turn around, stretch their limbs and engage in basic natural behaviors. Right now these animals are confined in cages and crates so tight they can’t even turn around and the confinement doesn’t allow them to move at all for their whole life. So that is just dead wrong.  These animals also should be able to go outside and they should be able to engage in normal behaviors and be able to develop social bonds and relationships with other animals. They should be in a more humane environment.  So those are some of the things that people can start expressing to their elected officials.
John Robbins: Gene, you, as I have, have been involved in this for more than a quarter century, what has surprised you in your years of activism?
Gene Baur: I think less surprises me and maybe it really shouldn’t surprise me is just how habits can be so deeply held and slow to change.  People do things because that is how they do them and how they learn to do them and how the people around them are doing them.  And just how slow change is to happen is this thing I think that most surprises and kind of frustrates me.  On the other hand when people want to they can change in an instant and that is the good news.  But one of the things that has been surprising is just how disempowered people tend to feel and how afraid they are of trying something new.  I am hopeful though that there will be more interest and desire to try something new.  Too often it comes on the heels of a disaster or a life threatening illness like a heart attack for example.  It would be nice if people, instead of just responding to such a drastic incident could sort of step back, assess their behavior, assess their food choices, assess the way they are living and make choices that make sense.  I actually think that is starting to happen. We have, for the first time, the number animals being slaughtered in the US has started to go down.  There are more vegan restaurants and vegan foods available than ever before.  I think consumers are starting to come around but it has been a lot slower than I would like to see.
John Robbins:   I have been using the phrase “plant strong diet” lately to emphasize the idea of getting as many of our nutrients as possible from plant sources, including our protein.  The meat industry uses the word protein as synonymous with meat as though the only source of viable and adequate protein in our diets is their products.  Of course that is not true. Nutritionally it is not true. We interviewed Frankie Lappè recently for this summit and she was the person in her book, Diet for a Small Planet who originally brought forward to the mainstream consciousness the idea that vegetarians or vegans needed to combine proteins carefully in order to get adequate proteins so their needs were met. She made the point, and it is well known now that that is not actually true.  Although she was the one who brought it to mainstream awareness, she has reversed that and made it very clear that it is much easier than she had thought for vegans or vegetarians to get plenty of protein as long as they eat a variety of plant foods. We are seeing that a plant strong diet is a strong diet. It gives strength to the body and it improves the health in so many ways.

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