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May in animal news: Five questions with Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder Gene Baur

We're asking prominent figures in the animal-protection community to give us their insights on animal news and updates on their work in a new feature called Five Questions. Farm Sanctuary president and co-founder Gene Baur took our questionnaire; here's his take on the most important animal news to happen in May and what animal advocates should watch for in the coming month.

Baur Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in May?

Gene Baur: The most important development for animals in May was the expose of animal cruelty at Conklin dairy farm in Ohio. Video footage was obtained by an undercover investigator for Mercy for Animals that showed farm workers violently abusing cows and calves, kicking and beating them and jabbing them with pitchforks, among various assaults.

Unleashed: What were Farm Sanctuary's biggest projects in May?

Baur: Farm Sanctuary reached out to law enforcement officers investigating the Conklin dairy case, and we've engaged them to provide rescue and refuge for animals who were abused at Conklin dairy should authorities seize any of the animals.

Farm Sanctuary also continued supporting an initiative effort in Ohio that aims to ban inhumane confinement where animals are packed in cages and crates so tightly they cannot even turn around or stretch their limbs. The goal is to collect more than 400,000 signatures in order to place a measure on the November 2010 ballot for a vote.

Finally, Farm Sanctuary's annual visitor season opened in May, inviting people to participate in farm tours, special events, overnight stays and other activities on our farms in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif.

Unleashed: What will Farm Sanctuary be working on in June?

Baur: Farm Sanctuary will remain involved with the Conklin dairy case and initiative in Ohio, and our farm visitor programs will continue. We'll also be reaching out to officials in Washington, D.C., and urging them to support policies to prevent animal cruelty and promote a healthier, plant-based food production system. Among the federal legislation we are supporting is the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act (H.R. 4733) and the Healthy School Meals Act (H.R. 4870).

Unleashed: How can interested animal lovers help in June?

Baur: Animal lovers can help in June, as always, by educating others about the cruelty of factory farming and by choosing to eat plant foods instead of animal foods. They can also bring friends to Farm Sanctuary to meet rescued animals and learn their stories, or they can sponsor an animal who lives at Farm Sanctuary through our Adopt-A-Farm Animal Project.

Unleashed: What led you to become involved in the animal-protection movement?

Baur: I've always wanted to make a difference and combat cruelty done to innocent victims, and animals, especially those exploited by agribusiness, are among the most abused. In the 1980s, there was little awareness about the abuses of animal agriculture, so I co-founded Farm Sanctuary in 1986 to rescue needy animals, educate citizens about the cruelties of factory farming and advocate for change.

Gene Baur is the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that advocates for the humane treatment of farm animals and operates two sanctuaries in northern California and New York. A vegan since 1985, he lives in Washington, D.C., and campaigns to raise awareness about animal welfare and food safety. Baur holds a master's degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University and is the author of Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food.

Photo: Baur with a Farm Sanctuary resident. Credit: Derek Goodwin

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Gene Baur is one of my heroes. Farm Sanctuary continues to promote a humane ethic for treatment of animals, and anyone who loves an animal should make a donation. However small, every bit helps.

If we eat all plant foods.. what will cattle and sheep and goats eat? Will we be competing with them for food? If we grow food for ourselves based on a plant diet.. what will that sheep eat ? If we all eat plant based foods.. why will we need domestic animals at all? Why would you need a sheep if you cannot use the wool or eat the meat? Why need a dairy cow if you cannot drink the milk, make cheese or cream? Why have a goat if you cannot do the same? Why have a chicken of you cannot eat the eggs.. or the chicken itself?
When vegans say they "decry the use of animals" what they really mean is the elimination of domestic animals. Think about it..

Thank you Gene and Farm Sanctuary for shedding light on this horrible industry and the inherent abuses. We need to put a video camera in every stockyard, dairy farm and slaughterhouse to protect these valuable sentient beings from rape, torture and ruthless murder. Then and only then will the consumers be informed! Wake up America and see the Truth! Go OHIO SPCA! Clean it up! Love to GB & FS!

Alice -- you are truly breaking new ground in logic-free reasoning. No doubt you are correct, rampant vegans and vegetarians are absolutely responsible for the inhumane deaths of millions of chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs every year.

Has it never occurred to you that if fewer people ate meat and wore leather fewer farmed animals would be bred in the first place? Bringing genetically warped animals into existence just to cruelly confine them and then inhumanely slaughter them is a PRODUCT of our non-stop mindless consumption of meat, dairy and other animal-body products. Do you think that meat-eating is responsible for long, happy, care-free lives for animals? Just to use one example, pigs genetically manipulated to grow as big as sofas have short, painful lives -- even if they do escape slaughter. Is it better to have a short, painful, cruelly confined existence ended by a brutal slaughter, or to never have been factory-bred at all? Not to be personal , but I'd call that a no-brainer...

But my favorite part is your sanctimonious "When vegans say they 'decry the use of animals' what they really mean is the elimination of domestic animals. Think about it.. " to which I can only respond: You first.

I look forward to your trenchant critique on how it turns out that the BP oil spill is actually the responsibility of, oh.. I don't know...Greenpeace?


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