“But even if we rescued a million animals every year, it would be a drop in the bucket. There are millions of animals killed every day,” Gene Baur said at his lecture “Eating Plants to Save the Planet.”
Baur has been an active member of the animal rights community for more than 25 years. His book ”Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food” was a national bestseller, he’s been written about in a slew of national publications for his work, and is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary.
On Oct. 28, members from the Athens-Clarke County community and students at the University of Georgia all came out to hear his lecture.
The lecture, which was organized by Speak Out for Species at UGA and the UGA Office of Sustainability, packed a room at the Zell B. Miller Learning Center. Baur, a long-time vegan, spoke about the harm that is done to animals as a result of the mass production of meat products.
He also spoke about his dream of vegans working with dairy farmers to switch their efforts from dairy production to growing vegetables.
“I would love to see vegans working with dairy farmers to come up with new solutions,” Baur said. “Because right now we have too much dairy, we’re not eating it, and we need more fruits and vegetables.”
Baur talked about animal sanctuaries, which are places where rescued animals are taken to be rehabilitated while they are waiting to be placed in new homes.
“I’ve worked to rescue many animals over the years, and I will continue doing that,” Baur said.
According to the Humane Society, 9 million land animals are “raised and killed” in U.S. factories every year.
Katey Elliot is a pig rescuer in Georgia. Her love for pigs started when she got her own pigs just two years ago, and has snowballed into her full-time commitment to rescuing pigs throughout the Southeast.
“I just got out there and started doing what needed to be done for these animals,” Elliot said. “If a pig needs to get to Asheville, North Carolina, if I’m open that day and I have the money in my account to gas up my car, I’ll take it.”
During the lecture, Elliot also listed several of the different sanctuaries where rescued animals are rehabilitated and kept until they can be placed in new homes in Georgia.
Sahana Parker is a freshman studying astrophysics. She said she came to the event because she’s becoming more involved in environmental activism, and is curious about plant-based diets. As a non-vegan, she said the event wasn’t what she expected, but she still felt a little skeptical when it was over.
“I definitely want to do more research on my own about how animals should be treated,” Parker said. “I don’t necessarily agree that everyone should be vegan, or that’s the idealized system, but I do think that it’s true that farm animals aren’t very well protected by current legislature.”
Chanda Clements, owner of Let It Be Yoga in Watkinsville, said her and her three children are all vegan.
“I took a good year to kind of change over our diet, I didn’t just cold turkey us,” Clements said. “I never was a big meat eater, and neither were my children, we ate a lot of pasta and veggies. So getting the meat out wasn’t that hard, I did kind of cold turkey meat. It was more like cheese and milk that took a lot of time.”
“It can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re working and raising kids, on how to do things differently,” Clements said. “You go through years of cooking a certain way, the way you learned your family did it.”
Baur ended his lecture by saying that he’s excited by the traction veganism is gaining among people.
“Thankfully there’s more awareness than ever about the environmental impacts, the health impacts, the ethical problems, the social justice impacts. Workers also suffer terribly in these places,” Baur said. “But we vegans, also need to be humble. We can get pretty angry and upset about a world where we see a world of cruelty happening and not be as kind as we should be to others. But to me it’s all about being kind.”
Amy Scott is a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in design + media and studio art, and earning the new media and sustainability certificates at the University of Georgia.
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