Gene Baur captured the attention of about 100 people in the Aloysius P. Kelley Presentation Room on Thursday, Oct. 22, with pictures of poorly treated stockyard animals that he has collected during his visits of farm factories and commercial farms as an undercover news investigator.  He took the audience through pictures of live baby chicks carelessly piled on top of one another, grown egg-laying birds in cages much too small for them and pigs squeezed into iron bars that limited movement

Many animals have been abused in farm factories for years and not enough people know about it, according to Baur. He came to share that information, along with his experience as a current president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that saves and adopts abused farm animals. Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 specifically for the rights of farm animals.

“Many things in our world are out of our control, but animal protection is not,” Baur said.

One particular story that moved the audience was one of Baur’s undercover visits to the Lancaster Stockyard in Pennsylvania. He showed a picture of dead sheep thrown in a pile behind the stockyard. When he went over to look at the supposedly dead animals, he saw one sheep in the corner of the pile lift its head.  He immediately took the sheep to the veterinarian.  After the sheep was treated and recovered, it ended up living at Farm Sanctuary.  The sheep is now known as Hilda.  Once tossed in pile as almost dead, Hilda has now been alive for 10 years and is thriving at the Sanctuary.

Baur believes that the animals at the Sanctuary are the voices for all of the other animals at farm factories. The animals at the Sanctuary can roam around and are treated kindly as living creatures. “Rescuing the animals helped heal the animals, but it also helped heal us,” said Baur.

Baur believes that the Farm Sanctuary should be guided by certain values and ideas. The Sanctuary follows five tenets that reminds them of what their goals are and why they are doing the things they do, one of which is:  “Live and eat in alignment with your values.” Taking from his latest book, “Living the Farm Sanctuary Life,” Baur, also spoke about the benefits of living a vegan lifestyle, as well as the pros and cons of our food system today.

Baur understands that not everyone appreciates the cruelty experienced by commercial animals, but he knows there are challenges to becoming a vegan. However, he believes there are certain steps that people can take in order to participate in the movement and begin to evolve with slight changes.  

During the question and answer section of the presentation, a woman was concerned about vegan segregation as opposed to vegan integration. She mentioned how cooking shows didn’t do enough for vegan dishes.

“There is no connection between the vegan dishes and all of the other food,” she said.

Baur understood where she was coming from, but also made it a point to be realistic. “No one is perfect,” he said.  Baur’s definition of a vegan is “an inspiration to living as kindly as possible.” He understands that the movement is only the beginning and there is more to be done.

One suggestion that Baur recommends in his new book is Meatless Mondays, where people can take that first step by cutting meat out of their diet for just one day a week.

Baur understands that passing protective laws and making personal changes in this area are not easy, but reminded the audience at the end of his presentation that change has to start somewhere and usually with an individual taking one step at a time. 

Mary Coe, a branch reference librarian at the Fairfield Public Library, attended Baur’s talk, and commented on his presentation-style which she felt was less of a lecture, and more of a conversation.  

I do think that Gene excels at presenting and promoting the ideology behind a vegan lifestyle in such a way that informs rather than alienates,” she said.


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