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The Green Life: Farm Sanctuary Celebrates 25 Years

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March 23, 2011

Farm Sanctuary Celebrates 25 Years

Farm Sanctuary Twenty-five years ago, Gene Baur was selling veggie dogs out of a VW van at Grateful Dead concerts. He was disillusioned with a food system he saw as violent and broken and wanted to do something, however small, to change it. Today, Baur’s digs have changed. He’s still fighting the same fight, only on a much larger scale.

Farm Sanctuary, the nonprofit animal-rights group founded by Baur, now calls itself “the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization,” and it's 25 years old this month. Known for rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured farm animals, political lobbying, and adamant support of veganism, the group has made great strides, Baur said: “The industry used to ignore us, but they’re now in some cases fighting us, which indicates that we’re making progress.”

The group was the force behind a federal ban on selling downed cows (those too sick to stand) as food. Because ill animals no longer represent potential profit, ranchers have an incentive to keep them healthy, Baur said: “That’s really what the ideal is, is that it improves conditions on the farm.”

Baur is also proud of helping get a veggie burger on Burger King's menu, as well as Farm Sanctuary's two expansive animal-rehabilitation facilities, one in California and the other in New York (you can stay overnight if you like). But when the group isn’t caring for animals that would have otherwise been destined for slaughter (like Opie, pictured here with Baur), it pushes its more global endorsement of veganism.

Vegans are a minority, but are becoming more recognized in pop culture and gaining a foothold in the food market, Baur said. As evidence, he cited a long list of celebrities who eat an entirely or partially vegan diet, including Bill Clinton and string theorist Brian Greene. “We’re all over the place,” he said.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Farm Sanctuary will host parties first in New York City, then in Los Angeles. Baur plans to drive from one to the next, completing a cross-country road trip in the same old VW he sold veggie dogs out of two and a half decades ago.

“It feels good, man,” he said. “There’s still a lot to do but we’re making progress.”

--Tim McDonnell

--Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur for Farm Sanctuary

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