As an early champion of undercover investigations on factory farms, animal activist, best-selling author, and cofounder and president of Farm Sanctuary Gene Baur has testified in court before state, local, and federal legislative bodies on his findings at slaughterhouses and stockyards.
Baur has been on a speaking tour for his latest book Living the Farm Sanctuary Life – the Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, And Feeling Better Every Day, of late and will bring copies with him to the second-annual Compassionate Cuisine Event: A Benefit for Farm Sanctuary on Tuesday, May 12, at Darbster’s in Boca Raton.
The book, he says, is intended for the curious and concerned, those who may be in the beginning stages of thinking about where their food comes from and how if they adopt a more plant-based diet, it can translate into a healthier self and planet.
“It’s intended for the growing number of citizens who are concerned about the abuses of factory farming and interested in exploring ways to eat more conscientiously and healthfully," Baur says. "I wanted the book to have background information about why it makes sense to eat plants instead of animals and also to provide practical ‘how to’ suggestions and recipes to help people shift toward a plant-based lifestyle.”
Baur's videos have been seen by millions, and he continues to tour internationally, speaking to crowds about the benefits of plant-based living and the emotional lives of rescued cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that live at the nation’s largest farm animal rescue, Farm Sanctuary. So it wouldn’t seem that an interview on a late-night cable TV show would be the thing to truly shake the nerves to the core, but when said interview just happened to be legendary pundit and funnyman Jon Stewart of The Daily Show last month, it did.
“I was very nervous,” Baur relays to Clean Plate Charlie recently. “Before my appearance on The Daily Show, I felt pressure to make the best of such a huge opportunity. After we finished the interview, I felt I could have done better and was second-guessing myself, even though I was told that it went well.”
Stewart relayed that since his family began taking care of two pigs, making the connection to the animals on your plate is a real one. It was an honest moment about humans’ inconsistent relationships to other sentient beings, one that Stewart crystallized with: “On the one side, eating mindfully and vegan seems to be the solution to nutrition, to health to global warming, and on the other side – corned beef.”
The interview managed to be smart, thoughtful, and funny, the last part — a feat that many vegans will note can be a tough one when making the pitch for others to give up long-held habits and traditions to go meat-free.
“When I watched the segment the next day, I was very happy with it. I am grateful to Jon for being so gracious and welcoming and for speaking so kindly about the benefits of vegan living. The response to that segment has been overwhelmingly positive and is an indication of how far our movement has come.”
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Baur has seen the movement grow from the early days, more than 25 years ago, when he would hand out veggie dogs out of his VW van at Grateful Dead concerts to one that includes public schools embracing Meatless Mondays nationwide, a plethora of vegan options at grocery stores and chain restaurants, and a growing number of people wanting to learn more about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and the phenomenon of the “cheap food” system.
Tuesday’s Compassionate Cuisine event includes a buffet featuring a lineup of vegan delights including caesar salad, palm cakes, falafel, sliders, Chickn Francese, penne ala vodka, enchiladas, raw pizza, brownies and vanilla, chocolate and strawberry gelato – a very long way from veggie dogs at Grateful Dead concerts indeed, notes Baur.
“It is so much easier to be vegan today than it was in 1985 with new products coming out all the time. I enjoy trying the various new substitutes for meat, milk, or eggs, and I also love how many amazing vegan dishes are offered at both vegan and nonvegan restaurants. In recent years, I have been eating more fresh and whole foods and getting away from processed foods as I learn more about the health benefits of eating this way.”
The second-annual Compassionate Cuisine Event: A Benefit for Farm Sanctuary featuring Gene Baur is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, at Darbster's, located at 6299 N. Federal Highway in Boca Raton. Tickets for the dinner that will benefit the Farm Sanctuary cost $50 and include a free drink ticket, appetizers, buffet dinner, and dessert. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. Purchase your tickets in advance to be entered in a raffle at darbster.eventbrite.com.