Book Review: Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food

Farm Sanctuary by Gene BaurAre you going to do the Walk for Farm Animals this month because you read this book? Read this book and you might find yourself there next year.

Of all the causes one could devote their life to in this world — farm animals? It’s easy to forget how much we love them. Gene Baur offers a reminder.

…farm animals are sentient beings, capable of awareness, feeling, and suffering, and we humans have an ethical obligation to refrain from behaviors that inflict suffering on them.

Baur, co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, a farm animal protection organization with sanctuaries in New York and California, talks about his activism on behalf of farmed animals.

The book contains disturbing descriptions of suffering and facts about how animals are treated. It also examines the consequences for the environment and human health “…it’s not much of a stretch to say that our health care crisis is closely tied to the health crisis in the animal agriculture industry.”

It does not, however, tip over into titillating descriptions of violence. Rather, the focus is on the animals (the small percentage among the billions slaughtered) that make their way to farm sanctuary.

The humane farms serve as sanctuaries for the animals, but also for the activists. Watching individual, named animals at ease and healthy on the farm, people can take comfort in the lives they can save while confronting the institutionalized cruelty inflicted on billions of others.

It can be easy to forget how enjoyable and healing it is to see animals living in peace. In part, that’s because, viewed as commodities, most animals are now hidden from view in warehouses. Factory farming has become standard practice (actually a number of increasingly “efficient” and increasingly cruel practices) enforced by agribusiness.

With the suffering of farmed animals come health and environmental disasters and failures in social justice for the contract farmers and farm workers. A quote attributed to Brian Halwell of the Worldwatch Institute points out that, “…there are now more prisoners than farmers in the United States. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.”

So, yes, of all the causes one could devote their life to in this world Gene Baur chose farm animals. Thank you, Mr. Baur.

He makes a compelling case for why people should consider the treatment of cows, chickens, ducks, turkeys, and pigs. When we’re aware, we care.

It’s time to face industrial agribusiness, whose blindness to the suffering of animals is almost equal by their indifference to the well-being of the public. Our health, the appropriation of scarce planetary resources, food security, and how we treat other animals cannot be left to corporations and the government alone.

What to read next?
The Jungle (1905) by Upton Sinclair. See the EcoLit review.

If this quote stood out for you: “Accepting institutionalized animal cruelty as a cost of doing business requires a flexible conscience, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when the same attitude starts slipping into the way we treat each other.” See also: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (2010) by Karen Armstrong or The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty (2009) by Peter Singer.

If this quote stood out for you: “Eating plants instead of animals goes a long way toward promoting kindness and sustainability, not to mention good health.” See also: Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health (2011) by Gene Stone and Dr. Colin T. Campbell and Animal Liberation (1975) by Peter Singer.

shelpigInspired by this book?
Visit Farm Sanctuary or go to your local sanctuary. Over on my blog, I wrote about my recent experience at Pigs Peace Sanctuary in Stanwood, Wash.

And, of course, there’s always the Walk for Farm Animals. I’m walking Sept. 21 in Seattle.

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