University News

Animal rights activist: foods can have consequences

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Animal Rights activists and meat eaters alike packed List 120 Monday night as Gene Baur urged the audience to consider the consequences of what we eat.

In his visit to Brown, Baur said he hopes to send the message that “our food choices have profound consequences and it’s important for people to be thoughtful how they eat.”

Baur has a master’s degree in agricultural economics from Cornell. He is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that rescues animals from stockyards, factories and slaughterhouses.

Farm Sanctuary boasts a 175-acre farm in New York and a 300-acre farm in California. Both play host to hundreds of animals and provide them with food, clean barns and freedom.

Baur’s presentation centered around the disparity in living conditions of farm animals on factory farms and those on Farm Sanctuary, highlighting the use of gestation crates and the slaughter of downed, or sick animals on factory farms. As he put up pictures of pigs rolling in mud or cows seemingly smiling at Farm Sanctuary, Baur said, “They express a companionship and love.”

In addition to his involvement with Farm Sanctuary, Baur also helped pass the first ever U.S. laws banning inhumane farming techniques like gestation crates.

In his presentation, Baur showed the relevance of large-scale factory farming in personal health, the health of the environment and in the animal rights movement as a whole.

Due to eating habits in the United States, the current generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents, according to statistics Baur displayed. He explained that obesity in the United States is now officially considered an epidemic and that the United States spends more money on health care per person than any other country.

Using a more environmentally-centered argument, Baur also pointed out that a meat-oriented meal requires 16 times as much energy to prepare as that required for a vegan meal. According to his presentation, the livestock sector is one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at both local and global scales.

“At the end of the day, we all can be empowered to make choices to make a huge difference,” Baur said.

“I’m in an environmental studies class and he came and spoke to us earlier today,” said audience member Megan Nolet ’14. “He is very inspirational.”

As the audience sat in awe, Bauer explained that 10 billion land animals are raised and slaughtered in the United States every year.

“These animals are seen as financial units and not as living breathing creatures,” Baur said.

Claire Miller ’11, president of the Brown Animal Rights Club, said, “I would like the audience to think about their food choices when they sit down to eat a meal and how it affects their health, their environments, and animals.”

“I drove down from Boston,” said audience member Marc Pedi ’84 excitedly. “This is like a big deal.”

Closing his presentation, Baur quoted Anne Frank. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world,” he said.