Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: On Eating Less Meat
By Gene Baur
Earth Day Guest Editorial
Of course it would be wonderful if everyone who came to Farm Sanctuary–where we rescue farm animals and provide education on the devastating impacts of factory farming on animals, human health, and the planet–immediately became a plant-based eater. I doubt that’s going to happen. But many of Farm Sanctuary’s visitors start on their vegan journey by making small changes in their diet. And small steps often lead to much larger ones.
For instance, just eating less meat is a great start. That’s how my own journey began. When I was in high school, I learned about the cruelty that young calves endure in veal production, and I swore off veal for good.
In this definitive vegan and animal-friendly lifestyle guide, Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur and Gene Stone, author of Forks Over Knives, explore the deeply transformative experience of living day-to-day in harmony with your basic values.
Here are ten suggestions to get you started on your own journey:
Participate in Meatless Monday, a program endorsed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. It encourages people to forgo meat one day a week.
Try learning more about specific food industry practices and then avoid the cruelest animal products, like veal, caged eggs, chicken meat, and foie gras. This discourages inhumane practices and sends a market signal that such cruelty is outside the bounds of acceptable conduct in our society.
Use plant-based milks and creamers, like those made from soy, rice, almond, or coconut, in place of cows’ milk on your cereal and in your coffee. There has been a huge increase in the flavors and varieties available in mainstream groceries in the past couple of years. I used soy milk for decades, and today I prefer vanilla-flavored almond milk.
Shop at your farmers’ market for fresh seasonal produce—it is healthy and supports a more local, humane, and sustainable food system. My favorites are berries and greens during the summer, and squash and apples in the fall. Fruit is a sweet snack that can be enjoyed right away, and I sometimes snack on the greens as well. When I travel, I love getting to know the local farming community and culture by visiting farmers’ markets.
Replace meat in recipes with plant-based options. For example, instead of meatballs, try veggie meatballs or even just veggies in spaghetti sauce. In many recipes, you can leave the meat out entirely. Check out the recipes starting on page 111 of my book Living the Farm Sanctuary Life for plenty of dishes without meat.
Eat ethnic! The animal-centered diet we consume in the United States is a modern development. Explore and rediscover traditional ethnic dishes, including Chinese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, Ethiopian, and many others, which tend to be plant-based.
Consider the advice of food experts and authors such as The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who suggests we go “vegan before 6:00,” or bestselling food expert Michael Pollan, who says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Enjoy fashion with compassion when shopping for clothes. For more information and tips, check out top fashion designer John Bartlett’s suggestions on page 32 of my book.
Substitute! There’s a whole range of meatless meat substitutes, including veggie burgers and hot dogs, cold cuts, nuggets, cutlets, sausages, fillets, and even roasts. Explore and enjoy the many possibilities. You don’t have to give up your barbecues and picnics, but you can make them much healthier!
Get to know beans, the mainstay of the legume family. There are so many different kinds of beans, and there’s so much you can do with them to add protein and flavor to your meals. I use white or garbanzo beans in salads to make them heartier, and I pack my chili with kidney and pinto beans. I like lentils and lima beans on their own with just a touch of seasoning. And I love beans with steamed greens, such as navy beans with kale, or black-eyed peas with collard greens.
Gene Baur is co‑founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal protection organization. TIME magazine calls him “the conscience of the food movement” and he is widely recognized as one of the most influential social justice activists of the 21st century for his work to change the way society views and treats farm animals. He is a national bestselling author, triathlete, and a pioneer in the field of undercover investigations. For 30 years he has traveled extensively, campaigning to raise awareness about the abuses of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. Gene’s latest book, published by Rodale, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, shares lessons learned from his nearly 30 year career with Farm Sanctuary, which now helps thousands of animals at its three expansive sanctuaries in California and New York. His previous bestseller, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, was published by Touchstone in 2008.