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'Farm Sanctuary' author to talk sustainable food choices

September 29, 2010

Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary and author of the best-selling book, “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food” (Simon & Schuster), will visit Arizona State University’s West campus Sept. 30 to talk about people’s food choices and the unsustainable nature of animal agriculture.

The Thursday discussion is co-sponsored by ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability to engage the community in the larger university-wide sustainability vision.

Baur’s appearance is part of the weekly ThinK (Thursday’s in Kiva) series produced by ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The Sept. 30 discussion takes place in the Kiva Lecture Hall on the West campus at 6 p.m. and is free to the community (parking at the West campus is $2 per hour).

“Gene Baur is well known and well respected for his insightful promotion of animal rights, that animals are not simply a commodity,” says Elizabeth Langland, New College dean. “Through Farm Sanctuary and his writing, he has advanced the way we think of the animal products we eat; he has raised our consciousness, and what he has to say on the 30th will be of great interest to the audience.”

Baur, a native of California, began investigations into factory farms, stockyards and slaughterhouses in the 1980s. What he viewed as unacceptable practices led to his founding of Farm Sanctuary, a national organization that advocates against the mistreatment of farm animals and, more broadly, against the consumption of animal products.

“When I learned about animal agriculture, I didn’t want to contribute to the cruelty and abuse of factory farming,” says Baur. “I want people to know how violent our animal-based food system is, and I want people to understand that it is completely unnecessary for us to be exploiting animals for food. We can be healthy without eating meat, milk or eggs.”

His book, written in 2008, has provided Baur an even larger platform to inform and educate. The book topped the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe bestseller charts that year and was also a Booklist top-10 sci-tech book. It captured the attention of Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees and a United Nations messenger of peace, who wrote, “In Farm Sanctuary, (he) highlights the appalling conditions billions of animals are forced to endure in factory farms – in order to produce more meat more cheaply in the shortest possible time. His descriptions of the courageous battles fought by many individuals to end such practices are touching. Filled with hope, this book is written for all who strive for a more compassionate world – I highly recommend it."

“Farm Sanctuary exposes the abuse of animal agriculture and seeks to educate and empower citizens to make conscientious and healthful food choices,” says Baur. “How we eat has profound consequences, and we don’t think enough about these.

“Most citizens unwillingly support animal cruelty and environmental destruction by consuming animal foods, which also threaten their health. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and the book makes that clear.”

Baur has played a key role in the passage of several animal-protection ordinances, including a 2006 ballot measure in Arizona banning gestation crates and veal crates. He says industrial agriculture is inherently inefficient – growing plants to be fed to animals for slaughter is unsustainable and that it is impossible to feed the world’s population on an animal-based diet like that consumed in the U.S. Clean water and other scarce natural resources are “squandered” to produce food of animal origin.

In a recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Baur said of his speaking engagements, “We want people to ask questions. Is the current system the most efficient way to feed the world?  Is it really? Should we kill animals? I don’t think so. We want people to challenge their assumptions and make choices that are consistent with their interests and values.”

He hopes to raise the level of subject consciousness during his visit to the West campus.

“I hope people will become more aware of the consequences of their food choices,” says Baur. “I hope they will recognize that it makes sense to eat plants instead of animals and that it’s easy to do.”

Earlier in the day, before his appearance at the West campus, Baur will speak and sign copies of his book at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe (6428 S. McClintock Dr.) from 3-4:30 p.m.

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird Road in northwest Phoenix.