When animal rights activists Gene Baur and Lorri Houston were documenting the conditions at Lancaster Stockyard in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, they came upon the “dead pile,” where animals that had died were left for a renderer to make soap, feed, and fertilizer.
As Baur writes in part one of his new book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, while he and Houston were taking photos of the maggot-filled heap of rotting flesh, one of the sheep (later given the name Hilda) lifted her head to look at them. Their “hearts melted,” so they pulled her out of the stack, though they had no legal right to do so, and smuggled her out. That was in 1986, and it’s how Farm Sanctuary (3100 Aikens Road, Watkins Glen; 607-583-2225) got its start.
With farms in California and the Finger Lakes area of New York, Farm Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing thousands of animals that have endured unspeakable abuse. The nonprofit aims to strengthen humans’ connection with other species. Baur’s book tells the story of how the organization came to be and how to live in alignment with its ethics, with lifestyle tips and cruelty-free recipes.
The tome is not a staunch vegan manifesto intended to chastise those who choose to eat meat. Instead, it explores the steps one can take to live consciously. “The main thing is that this book encourages people to take positive steps,” Baur says. “It encourages people to live within their values and interest and to feel better, live better, and live longer, happier lives. Who doesn’t want to do that?”
Baur’s goal is to make plant-based eating delicious and accessible, while demonstrating it’s actually not that hard. The book has 100 vegan recipes, like a greens-and-chickpea-curry bowl, pumpkin bread pudding with brandy nog crème anglaise, and “The Best Tofu Scramble You’ve Ever Had.”
It’s not just about food and recipes. The book outlines Farm Sanctuary’s guiding principles. Baur lays out five tenets; the first is Live and Eat in Alignment With Your Values. To Baur, if everyone followed their own belief system, there would be massive change in the agriculture industry. Engage in a Mindful Connection With Animals is next. While many people create deep and lasting relationships with their pets, their personal food choices result in the suffering of countless farm animals, like conventional dairy cows, which are separated from their calves within hours of their birth.
The last two tenets focus on well-being: Eat Plants…For Your Health and Eat Plants…For the Health of the Earth. “It’s been estimated that we could save 70 percent on health care costs by shifting to a plant-based diet, as opposed to eating food that makes us sick,” says Baur. “And just because we’ve been eating a certain way, doesn’t mean we have to continue eating a certain way. The U.N. has put out several reports on this topic discussing how animal agriculture is one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems we’re facing, including climate change. Animal agriculture does more for climate change than the entire transportation industry.”
When Farm Sanctuary was founded in ’86, few were aware of the horrors of factory farming. Since then, there has been a steady increase in reports and news stories about what takes place behind the walls of slaughterhouses and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The accounts can be horrifying. Baur recounts the story of Hope, a pig found abandoned near the unloading area of a stockyard. With a badly broken and untreated back leg, she couldn’t walk. She was left to die, helpless and alone. When Baur and his colleagues found Hope, they scooped her up and rehabilitated her; she was able to live out the rest of her days with other pigs on the farm.
The upstate New York shelter now houses 1,000 rescued farm animals. Guests can visit with all of the animals that want interaction: pigs, cows, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys. There’s a sheep that will paw (or hoof) at guests when they stop petting it. One turkey, named Turpentine, has earned a reputation as the resident photo-bomber: Whenever visitors would go to take a picture, somewhere in the background, Turpentine would show up. Others would rather keep their distance; here, they’re given the opportunity to do so. “They communicate with us, they communicate with other animals,” says Baur. “They have relationships with other animals, they have memories, they dream. They have complex emotional and cognitive lives, and this is something that the more we pay attention, the more we learn.”
Farm Sanctuary now gets rescue calls from all over the place: law enforcement agencies, concerned neighbors, farmworkers, the farmers themselves. The goal of Farm Sanctuary and the book is to connect individuals with animals and the ways they’re treated. Whether it’s going vegetarian for Meatless Monday, getting to know your local farmer, replacing meat in some recipes, or making the switch to vegan, Baur wants to inspire readers and visitors to do the best they can in terms of making the planet and its inhabitants healthier and happier. “It is not about an endpoint, it’s a process and it’s an aspiration to live as kindly as possible on the planet,” he says. “And it’s not perfect — not even the most vegan vegan is living without causing any harm. It’s striving to do better every day.”
Pancakes with Orange Moscato recipe
Pancakes with Orange Moscato Syrup and Pine Nuts
Recipe excerpted from Living the Farm Sanctuary Life © Rodale Books (April 7, 2015).
Jason Wyrick, executive chef of The Vegan Taste and author of Vegan Tacos
Says Jason: “I created this recipe when I was leading a vegan food tour in the south of Italy. Everyone really wanted pancakes for breakfast, but I wanted to utilize some of the exceptional ingredients we had. That included a bottle of orange moscato, fresh pine nuts, and oranges picked directly from the orchard outside the villa where we stayed. It’s quintessential Italian.
Not a lot of ingredients so the ones that are there can really shine. Best of all, this is a fancy breakfast that doesn’t take any more effort than making regular pancakes.”
Makes 4 servings
Time to Make: 15 minutes
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts
2⁄3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2⁄3 cup almond milk
2 teaspoons olive oil
Grated peel of 2 oranges
1⁄4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons orange moscato*
In a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts for 1 minute.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder, making sure they are evenly distributed. Whisk in the almond milk and oil until you have a thin batter.
Bring a medium skillet to just above medium heat. Add a very thin layer of olive oil and wait about 30 seconds for it to heat. Pour about 1⁄3 cup of the batter into the skillet and quickly rotate it a couple of times to get the batter to spread out. Cook the pancake for 2 minutes, then flip it and cook for 2 minutes. Remove and keep it warm. Repeat until you are out of batter.
In a medium bowl, combine the orange peel, agave, and moscato.
Plate the pancakes, pour the syrup on them, and top with the toasted pine
*Skip the moscato and add 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice and 1 tablespoon white wine.