Jessica Eve Watkins

22nd September, 2014

“When we face issues, remarkable things can happen. That’s why, in spite of the appalling things that I have seen with my own eyes, I remain optimistic that the situation will change.”  – Gene Baur

When I went to university I learned about cooking for myself, and about the things I no longer cared to eat. It took less than a year to discover that consuming animals wasn’t for me, despite a lifetime of enjoying my mamma’s delicious omnivorous fayre. When it came to chopping up body parts, I just didn’t feel so great. I became incapable of separating thoughts of flesh and personality from my mind as I chewed on meat, and soon after banished it completely. Nobody seemed to mind (myself least of all) – occasionally I felt like a burden – but the transition was mostly painless.

I often think vegetarianism found me before my consciousness could catch up, and for several years I existed as a plant eater, but remained uncommunicative in my stance. I couldn’t voice exactly how I felt about it – couldn’t work it out for myself either – further than a certain knowledge held close to my heart that if something had a face, I didn’t deserve to munch on it.

Eight thoughtful years later, post Jonathan Safran Foer’s bestseller Eating Animals, and documentaries like Food Inc., I am more informed in my vegetarianism. I am violently disgusted by factory farming – by an industry that collectively turns a blind eye to the consciousness and intelligence of the ‘food’ it rears, lies on a global scale, and claws every last profit at the expense of millions and millions of animals’ lives every year. An industry spreading disease amongst animals and humans, causing unfixable damage to the environment, and leaking negativity into this fragile world like wildfire. I think it’s a crime to pack up flesh in pretty cellophane boxes, pump out the homemade roasting smells we hold so dear, and pretend to the buyer that it isn’t what it really is. (Perhaps even more of a crime to label it ‘organic’ and ‘free-range’ when those words mean so little by supermarket standards.)

I am fine with meat eaters, if they are conscious about where their food comes from, and can look it in the face. If a man buys small-farm local meat occasionally, great. If he rears it himself, tans the hide and uses all parts of the divine creature’s body, I am in awe of his bravery. It isn’t for me, but I know it is nourishment for a lot of people, and I understand we are part of the food chain, we are also animals, and I’d be (unfortunately) idealistic to think we can transition immediately. I’m not perfect in my own eating habits by any means – I’m still prone to nibbling on dairy, and reliant on supermarkets in times of need. Sometimes though, a little idealism works miracles.

By divine syncronicity, Harper and I found ourselves in Athens, Georgia recently, on the same night as a warrior named Gene Baur. Gene is the wonderfully humble founder of The Farm Sanctuary, an animal rescue organisation dedicated to reviving the lives of liberated factory-farm animals. We noticed Gene was giving a talk on being vegan at the university, called Face Your Food, so we went along, happy to pretend to be students once more.


His ringing passion as he spoke about pulling a dying sheep from a pile of lifeless bodies, and nurturing her to the smiling woolly lady she has become, had us crying on the steps of the packed-out auditorium. His adoration for the chickens and cows he rescues is so beautiful, I felt our whole hearts sing with recognition of an earth angel. Gene believes in vegan-ism, has followed his dream emotionally and wholeheartedly, and created a sustainable business from it.

The next day, we interviewed Gene in the sunshine. Insects crawled up our legs as we sat in the grass, bonding over mutual politics. He is happy to be included in Ways of Living, and we feel so grateful for his time and honesty. In a sprawling car chat as we drove north afterwards, Harper and I talked about how this man’s work, lifestyle, and books encourage us to try harder for the things we believe in. He reminds us that it is truly workable to create a business founded on love and purity, there are ways to stab through a sometimes impenetrable system, and we can all make a difference.






2 thoughts on “Vegan Hero

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