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Farm Sanctuary

Farm Sanctuary

Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food

  • reading group guide
Leading animal rights activist Gene Baur examines the real cost of the meat on our plates -- for both humans and animals alike -- in this provocative and thorough examination of the modern farm industry.

Many people picture cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens as friendly creatures who live happily within the confines of a peaceful family farm, arriving as food for humans only at the end of their sun-drenched lives. That's what Gene Baur had been told -- but when he first visited a stockyard he realized that this rosy depiction couldn't be more inaccurate.

Amid the stench, noise, and filth, his attention was drawn in particular to one sheep who had been cast aside for dead. But as Baur walked by, the sheep raised her head and looked right at him. She was still alive, and the one thing Baur knew for sure that day was that he had to get her to safety. Hilda, as she was later named, was nursed back to health and soon became the first resident of Farm Sanctuary -- an organization dedicated to the rescue, care, and protection of farm animals.

The truth is that farm production does not depend on the family farmer with a small herd of animals but instead resembles a large, assembly-line factory. Animals raised for human consumption are confined for the entirety of their lives and often live without companionship, fresh air, or even adequate food and water.Viewed as production units rather than living beings with feelings, ten billion farm animals are exploited specifically for food in the United States every year.

In Farm Sanctuary, Baur provides a thoughtprovoking investigation of the ethical questions involved in the production of beef, poultry, pork, milk,and eggs -- and what each of us can do to stop the mistreatment of farm animals and promote compassion. He details the triumphs and the disappointments of more than twenty years on the front lines of the animal protection movement. And he introduces sanctuary. us to some of the special creatures who live at Farm Sanctuary -- from Maya the cow to Marmalade the chicken -- all of whom escaped horrible circumstances to live happier, more peaceful lives. Farm Sanctuary shows how all of us have an opportunity and a responsibility to consume a kinder plate, making a better life for ourselves and animals as well. You will certainly never think of a hamburger or chicken breast the same way after reading this book.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743291590 | 
  • November 2008
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide includes discussion questions, a Q&A with author Gene Baur, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Questions for Discussion

1. What were the larger societal trends that fostered a transition from traditional, independent farm work to factory farming? Do you believe these transitions toward factory farming are inevitable signs of progress? Why or why not?

2. Which of the animal profiles proved most memorable for you? Why? Why do you believe Baur employs the animal profile? What are his aims? Do you believe he is successful? Why or why not?

3. How does the author’s reference to animals as individuals, sentient beings, units of production, and meat impact your understanding of the power and value of labels? What do you perceive to be the primary challenge in engaging the public in reimagining the labels we attach to animals raised for food?

4. What are downers? How do Baur and his fellow advocates use their plight to spur changes at the Lancaster Stockyards? What were the gains and losses in their first major animal rights campaign?

5. What are the compelling images for you as Baur recounts the life of the animals on either Watkins Glen or the Orland, Californi see more

About the Author

Gene Baur
Photo Credit:

Gene Baur

Gene Baur is the president and cofounder of the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, Farm Sanctuary, which advocates the fair treatment of farm animals, a return to the roots of agriculture, and the end of animals' suffering for our consumption. Since 1986 his organization has not only helped to enact groundbreaking laws and policies to help prevent sick and diseased animals from ending up on our menus but has also rescued sick, abandoned, and abused animals from farms, stockyards, and slaughterhouses across the country. Baur and his colleagues provide, on farms in New York and California, a safe home and a healthful life for animals who are in desperate need of rescue. Please visit Farm Sanctuary's website at www.farmsanctuary.org.

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