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Bringing Moos and Oinks Into the Food Debate

by 5m Editor
25 July 2007, at 1:18pm

NEW YORK - The first farm animal Gene Baur ever snatched from a stockyard was a lamb he named Hilda.

That was 1986. She’s now buried under a little tombstone near the center of Farm Sanctuary, 180 acres of vegan nirvana here in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

Back then, Mr. Baur was living in a school bus near a tofu factory in Pennsylvania and selling vegetarian hot dogs at Grateful Dead concerts to support his animal rescue operation.

Now, more than a thousand animals once destined for the slaughterhouse live here and on another Farm Sanctuary property in California. Farm Sanctuary has a $5.7 million budget, fed in part by a donor club named after his beloved Hilda. Supporters can sign up for a Farm Sanctuary MasterCard. A $200-a-seat gala dinner in Los Angeles this fall will feature seitan Wellington and stars like Emily Deschanel and Forest Whitaker.

As Farm Sanctuary has grown, so too has its influence. Soon, due in part to the organization’s work, veal calves and pregnant pigs in Arizona won’t be kept in cages so tight they can’t turn around. Eggs from cage-free hens have become so popular that there is a national shortage. A law in Chicago bans the sale of foie gras.

And earlier this month, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to hear a case concerning common farming practices that a coalition led by Farm Sanctuary says are inhumane.

All of these developments reflect the maturation and sophistication of Mr. Baur and others in a network of animal activists who have more control over America’s dinner table than ever before.

Among animal rights groups, the 1980s were considered the decade of grass-roots activism. The 1990s saw the rise of court actions and ballot initiatives. This decade is about building budgets, influencing policy and cultivating elected officials, all with a deliberate focus on livestock.

Source: NewYorkTimes

5m Editor