How Going Vegan Changed Gene Baur’s Whole World

The author of Living The Farm Sanctuary Life speaks about what makes his livestock haven special.

May 8, 2015
Gene Baur
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FARM SANCTUARY

Gene Baur started Farm Sanctuary in 1986 as a tiny rescue operation while still in college. Today it is a bicoastal barnyard animal paradise that saves livestock from the brink of death and nurses them back to full health to live out their days on the sanctuary.

Rodale’s Organic Life: What is Farm Sanctuary, and what sort of work do you do there?
Gene Baur: It’s an organization that works to change how our society views and treats farm animals. We have done undercover investigations to expose the cruelty of factory farming, which led to rescues, and we now operate three sanctuaries for rescued animals. Once they come to us, they get to live out their lives. We care for them and look after them. They are our friends, not our food, and we encourage citizens to make food choices that are aligned with their own values, are mindful, and are sustainable.

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ROL: What did you do before Farm Sanctuary?
GB: I got involved in activist organizations pretty early on. I didn’t want to be the cog in the wheel of a system I thought was causing so much harm. I always wanted to do something to make a positive difference in the world, so in college I hitchhiked around the country learning about factory farming.

ROL: What led you to become vegan?
GB: It was learning that I could be vegan. When I was in high school, I remember my mother had made a chicken dinner, and I saw the full bird on the table with the legs and the wings attached. I had glimpses of the fact that I was eating animals, and I was not comfortable with it, but it wasn’t something that stuck. Later, I learned about the inefficiency of animal agriculture, and how wasteful it is, and the fact that I could live well eating plants instead of animals. It just made sense. If we can live life without causing unnecessary harm, why wouldn’t we?

Living the Farm Sanctuary LifeROL: What inspired you to write a book?
GB: The book allows us to reach more people, and we wanted to bring the Farm Sanctuary life to a wider audience. It has incredible vegan recipes that make it easier to live a more mindful life. The intention is to empower people to live well and in a way that honors the best of our humanity. It’s a tool for people who want to eat healthy and feel good about themselves.

ROL: What is your favorite quick and easy recipe?
GB: I love green smoothies. When I have a relaxing weekend, I’ll make scrambled tofu. It’s actually a recipe that is in the book.

ROL: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
GB: The most rewarding part, to me, is to see people and animals’ lives transformed in such a positive way. I’ve met people who have lost 100 pounds since switching to a plant-based diet. This one calf I rescued, Opie, was comatose, and just getting him to lift his head was a victory, but then when he was able to stand, walk around, and ultimately go out into the field and play with the other cows, that was beautiful. There’s this healing that happens at Farm Sanctuary. It’s a healing of animals and a healing of people. It’s trying to live in a way that is mindful, compassionate, and supportive of the animals’, planet’s, and humanity’s wellbeing.

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