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March 06, 2008

Man Behind a Movement

With the effects of the HSUS investigation into cruelty to downed animals at a California slaughter plant still being felt, it's a good time to read Gene Baur's new book, "Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food." A longtime friend and a passionate advocate for animals, Gene has been a pioneer on the downed animal issue, and has just authored this engaging account of two decades of labor.

Gene Baur's book cover When I first got involved with animal issues during my college years in the mid-1980s, the animal movement was struggling for ways to get traction on farm animal welfare concerns, and especially on factory farming. HSUS veterinarian Michael W. Fox offered early critiques of animal agribusiness and its mistreatment of animals, as did Peter Singer and Jim Mason in their book "Animal Factories," and Henry Spira in his final campaigns. Still, there wasn't critical mass on the issue, and perhaps our movement was not mature enough, and the inhumane systems operated without interruption and even expanded.

That’s why it was so encouraging for me to meet Gene Baur at a conference, within a year or so of becoming active myself. Gene and his former wife Lorri were innovators who founded a unique organization, one that combined the notion of safe haven for abused farm animals with a strong set of public education and public policy initiatives. It was a winning formula, and Farm Sanctuary established itself as a leader in our field. Advocates were hungry for their kind of leadership, and they responded by joining Farm Sanctuary and growing the organization. It was exciting to be around them.

During the past two decades, it has been my privilege to work closely with Gene on a number of matters, including the Florida and Arizona ballot initiatives concerning factory farming, the downer legislation at the federal level, a measure in California to phase out veal and gestation crates and battery cages, and more. I admire him for all that he is, and for all that he’s done.

Now, I’m happy to say, you can read Gene’s own account of how Farm Sanctuary started in his outstanding book.

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