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Activist Gene Baur discusses Farm Sanctuary’s crusade

Gene Baur and a four-legged friend.
Gene Baur and a four-legged friend.

Activist Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has devoted himself to raising awareness of the health and environmental perils of factory farming. And he says more people are joining his crusade.

“There’s more awareness than ever about these issues,” says the author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day (Rodale, $29). “Most people recognize factory farming is cruel and that animals suffer terribly. There’s a growing interest in alternatives. We’re in the midst of a food movement, with farmers’ markets spreading across the country, community-supported agricultural programs, community gardening. . . . Some people are even tearing up their lawns and planting vegetables.”

On Saturday, like-minded individuals or groups can help the cause at the South Florida Walk for Farm Animals in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Farm Sanctuary — with a shelter in New York and two in California — has been holding the walks since its inception in 1986. Harry Lynch, Farm Sanctuary’s executive director and CEO, will also speak at the event.

“It’s a way for people who care about these issues to participate and to do something in their community,” says Baur, who was featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives.

Baur believes the foodie revolution has made a huge impact on people’s willingness to eat more plant-based diets.

“We have amazing vegetarian and vegan restaurants,” he says. “Sublime in Fort Lauderdale was one of the leaders. That worry that vegan food isn’t tasty is being dispelled by amazing chefs. And eating processed foods creates enormous suffering for people as well as animals. . . . We have these culinary artists coming up with amazing plant-based substitutions.”

Baur understands that not everyone feels ready to leap straight into a vegan or vegetarian diet. But he says there are still ways to help.

“You can participate in Meatless Mondays, go meatless one day a week,” he says. “You can make a conscious effort to eat more plant food. People are eating fewer animal foods now, and that has resulted in 400 million fewer animals being killed, which is huge.

“For us, a big part of the job is getting people to think and pay attention. Ultimately everybody has to make up their own minds. We encourage people to make choices aligned with their values. People say, ‘Don’t tell me about factory farming!’ But it’s important to be mindful and aware of the impact of our food choices. We also encourage people to make choices aligned with health, to eat nourishing food. That’s in our interest. It’s irrational to eat food that makes us sick.”

South Florida Walk for Farm Animals: Saturday; check-in 10 a.m., walk 11 a.m. starting at Huizenga Plaza in downtown Fort Lauderdale; $15 online registration, $25 day of event; under 18 free; dogs welcome; donate or sign up at walkforfarmanimals.org

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