Gene Baur Featured in TIME

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Javier Sirvent for TIME

Gene Baur, President and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary is featured in TIME Magazine this week. Baur, who recently took part in the Intelligence Squared debate, “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face“, answered several questions in TIME’s interview.

You can watch the interview video below.

* UPDATE: in the print version of the interview, there is a lot more content, you can see the page here:

TIME 10 Questions _genebaur

 

Interview: Gene Stone, Co-Author of The Awareness

There are some people that know a little about everything and some who know a lot about a few things – but Gene Stone, co-author of The Awareness, defies the binary and knows a lot about most things. He’s published thirty-six books (many of them best-sellers), attended both Harvard and Stanford, and plunges into tackling societal dilemmas with gusto and artistry. Stone’s latest work, co-authored by Jon Doyle, illustrates a dramatic, dark and exciting quandary. But unlike George Orwell’s revolutionary farm animals, Margret Atwood’s post-apocalyptic vision of genetically-altered creatures, or Pierre Boulle’s apes, Stone and Doyle do much more than use the non-human world as a two-dimensional metaphor:

On a day like any other, all mammals suddenly gain human-level consciousness—and begin a systematic attack on humankind. Among the ranks of these animals are a bear in the Canadian Rockies, an elephant in a circus traveling through Texas, a pig on a hog farm in North Carolina, and a dog living with his beloved owner in New York. As these four contend with the realities of who they were before the awareness, and who they must now become after it, they are each called to battle. The animals must then fight two wars: the one outside between mammals and humans, and the one inside each of their minds. http://theawarenessnovel.com/

I spoke with Gene about The Awareness. Here is our conversation:

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Joshua Katcher: You’ve written many best-sellers. What led to The Awareness, and why did you choose to self-publish?
Gene Stone:
The Awareness is my 36th book, more or less. The others were all published by traditional publishers– many were New York Times bestsellers. But I couldn’t find a single agent willing to represent The Awareness although I tried n twenty-five of them. They all said basically the same thing: there’s no market for a novel about animals. And, one of them added, “Anyway, animals don’t talk.” Even coming out after the success of Forks Over Knives, which has 275,000 copies in print, they just didn’t see how a book that espouses the animal side of the equation could interest anyone. Meanwhile I knew that many authors had self-published with great success so I thought it was worth a try.

JK: While this is a work of fiction, The Awareness does have implications for our current society. What do you hope people consider while reading the book?
GS: The Awareness is a bit of a double-entendre. Ostensibly it’s about the “awareness” that all mammals get one day that gives them the same kind of consciousness as humans. But it’s also a hope that humans get awareness too–awareness of the plight of animals and just how poorly we treat them in this country. The book doesn’t have to be read as an activist’s book–I think it’s an adventure book as well. But if in the course of reading it, just one person changes his or her mind about animals, then it was all worthwhile.

JK: Many books about animals are quite two-dimensional and geared toward children, but The Awareness is quite chilling. In your opinion, what is the scariest thing about the book?
GS: These days books geared for the young adult audience are more than just chilling–they can be gruesome. My 18 year-old niece read it and said it was tame compared to The Hunger Games. (She also said that she had never thought about animals in this context before and added that she wanted to become a vegan–if I would give her some tips). But I suppose the idea that, if given awareness, even our dogs and cats would consider going to war against us is a pretty scary thought–although Cooper, the dog in the book, can’t make up his mind which side to fight for because he loves his human companion so much. And although there are some battle scenes, I’m way too soft-hearted to create any book where you have to read about cruelty to animals. So there really isn’t that much that would scare people off. I hope.

JK: Which character did you enjoy creating the most? What is your favorite thing they say or do?
GS: I wrote this book with my friend Jon Doyle and it was totally a joint effort. However, I would say that Nancy the elephant and Cooper the dog are a little more me, while the bear and the pig are maybe more Jon. I also worked more on Clio the cat, who is based on Minnie, my wildly intelligent and loving tortoiseshell rescue who was my wonderful friend for 18 years. I love the interaction between Cooper and Clio–those are the scenes I most enjoyed writing, I’ve always wondered what dogs and cats would say to each other if they had a chance to talk.
I think Jon’s favorite scene is the one in which 323, the pig, frees herself from the factory farm and ends up in the house of the farm’s owners. She sees the happy photos on the wall, the souvenirs of human lives, from births to marriages, and then imagines what it would have been like to have had the opportunity to raise her own family. Jon didn’t tell me much about what he was doing there, and when I read his first draft, I cried.

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JK: Why is it important for you to tell this story?
GS: It’s vital that we all apply the Golden Rule not just to other people but to animals as well. Do onto every creature you come in contact with as you would do onto yourself. Humans have a way of thinking that somehow we need only be considerate to each other (not that everyone is, of course). Consideration to animals is, in my mind, the mark of a truly compassionate civilization. The hope is that readers of this book will come away with a greater sense of how animals might be feeling about the way we’ve been treating them–and how wonderful it would be if we changed the way we treat them.

JK: While writing this book, what did you learn about our relationship with animals that you may not have considered before?
GS: Jon and I spent some time researching the treatment of pigs at factory farms and we were horrified. We knew that they were treated abysmally, but actually watching videos and reading reports was sickening. Likewise, learning more about how elephants are treated at circuses was also repellant. It makes you admire organizations like Mercy for Animals that are willing to go undercover and expose the ongoing cruelty.

JK: What do you anticipate as criticisms of The Awareness, and how are you preparing to respond?
GS: I would assume that a lot of people won’t bother to read the book because they’ll assume it’s all pro-animal and anti-human. But that’s not the case at all. We were very careful to show that there’s good and bad everywhere–humans can be good, animals can be bad. One of the most heroic creatures in the book is a human. We are thinking of writing a sequel, in fact, which describes the war in more detail, but makes it clear that the sides begin to shift from human vs. animal to good mammals vs. bad ones. Also, some people might object that the book centers on mammals, and ignores the plight of birds, reptiles, etc. That wasn’t a philosophical distinction, it was just a matter of keeping the subject matter from becoming so broad we wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

JK: Some have compared your work to Planet of the Apes. Did this or anything else provide inspiration for your creative process?
GS: Several people have mentioned Planet of the Apes but actually more people have referenced Animal Farm (which, by the way, George Orwell could barely get published because, editors said, “there is no market for animal stories in the USA.” We’ve also heard a few comparisons to Watership Down. (Given the success of those books, we consider it quite a compliment.) But the biggest inspiration for these books was the work of all the tireless advocates for animal rights who we admire so much, and to whom we dedicate the book.

JK: The Awareness asks what if animals gained human-level consciousness? Some might argue that since they won’t, our treatment of animals is no dilemma. How would you respond to that?
GS: Consciousness isn’t the only reason to be compassionate toward other living creatures. And although it’s probably true, as you say, that animals’ minds aren’t like ours, perhaps their hearts are. Perhaps their souls are. Perhaps they’re more like us in many ways we don’t or can’t recognize. Regardless, the point is that being a kind person means being kind not just to your own kind.

JK: Do you foresee or hope for a future where humankind learns to communicate more effectively with the non-human world?
GS: That’s a great question and I think the answer is definitely yes. It seems that every week a new study comes out that shortens the distance between us and them. Just this week The Los Angeles Times published a piece showing that African elephants who hear human voices can distinguish from them the human’s sex, age, and even their ethnicity. Think how incredible that is for an animal that up until recently people thought of as simply a circus animal or a source of ivory. The more we learn about the non-human world, the more intelligent and human-like it seems. Or perhaps, the more we understand how mammal-like we humans are. One of the best books on the subject, Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, is already two decades old but even back in the early 1990s he was able to gather enough evidence to show how nearly all the traits we think of as just human are actually endemic to the rest of the living world. Compassion is one of those traits–but it seems to be in short supply in the human treatment of animals today.

 

 

A Shocking Look Behind the Desire for Animal Trophies

exotic animal trade Eric Goode interview WILD mag

The Wild Magazine shared a eye-opening interview with conservationist Eric Goode, and it’s a must-read. Goode is former NYC club and restaurant owner and art-scene  staple of the 80s and 90s. Now, he’s turned his focus to something quite different. From the interview:

“It’s like having fine art. There are people that have collections of wild animals and some of the rarest animals in the world, like certain types of birds, or antelopes that no zoo even has. So, there’s a huge demand in the Middle East and there’s a ton of money. It’s like having a Matisse.” Read the full interview here.

Hit Back: List-Making as a Simple Step to a Life Less Stupid

By Adam Gnade

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All Photos: Adam Gnade

This is how morning happens here on the farm. Up when it’s natural to be up. Let the rescue pitbulls out into the field. Bring them back in and feed them. Open the barn and let the sheep, goats, ducks, chickens, and pig out to graze, then feed everyone and fill the ducks’ pool. Open the side-barn where the two pygmy goats (Harriet the Spy and Dixie) sleep and feed them and fill their water. Last step is to let the cats out into the field. We have eight cats so that’s a great ball of white and black and gray through the front door. I wasn’t much of a cat guy before I moved out to the country but a good rural cat is a fine thing to see. Hemingway had his pirate cats. I have my barn cats and they are goddamn good creatures.

After that it’s back into the farmhouse to make coffee or black tea. Open the curtains. Light some nag champa. Turn on the radio. Sometimes I’ll bring my kiddy-size portable ’70s record player to the kitchen while the coffee is brewing and play some old Album Leaf or Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain or Blanck Mass, something quiet and rich and melodic to help me slow back down and get my head straight and ready for the work at hand.

Then breakfast. Avocado, refried beans, tortillas fried with a little Earth Balance, garlic, and lime. Diced tomato and grilled poblano from the fields. Maybe a bowl of brown rice with black beans and cilantro. (My current philosophy is “eat for how you’ll feel afterwards” which cuts out anything trashy; I don’t always pull it off but it’s what I shoot for).

If the weather is good I’ll sit outside on an old metal folding chair I bought for a buck nintynine at Goodwill in town and watch the animals graze while I eat. If the weather is great I’ll take a while longer and have some red wine with breakfast. (New Year’s resolution: always keep a jug of good cheap red wine somewhere within arm’s reach). After that, I get to work.

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Now, before any bookwork happens I sit outside at my writing table under the black walnut tree and go through the notebook where I keep all my lists. (Sometimes the wine jug comes along. Most of the time not. My rule these days is don’t drink until the work is done and lately the work is never done).

The notebook is from Eberhardt Press in Portland; it’s college-ruled with a big, proud-looking tiger on the front, and the lists are everything from daily to-do lists to words I want to remember to things I’d like to fit in the book I’m working on right now (March 13th entry: “scorpions swarm around the lighthouse lamp in the front room at the beachhouse in Tamarindo, Italian-made Rossi shotgun, Nicole’s friend Jasmine (the gypsy), knife-sharpening in the dark, Ben Frank at night in the pool at Tyler’s house, Germanic gothy maelstrom, the first line to ‘Georgia Clay,’ the corpse you saw across the street from Pokez at JP’s birthday, Raymond Carver’s bookcase, Country Grind Quarterly, Pioneers Press zine tour, Julia Eff’s goddamn good hair, bats in the dusk in Dallas, Caveworld as 2014 Trainspotting, StenaLine ship to Amsterdam, the graves you dug last spring, trailerparks and ‘bad sneakers’, the fog up from the canyons by the 52, sudden loss”).

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I make lists because I’m a total fucking wreck; I can’t stress this enough. Without the structure of lists I have no direction and I waste time worrying about what to do next and I make a lot of stupid mistakes and forget things. I’ve got one of those worthless selective memories where I can remember a lot of minor shit that works to your advantage when you’re writing fiction but can’t keep the day-to-day in order enough to save my life.

All that adds up to anxiety, regret, and missed opportunities, and I don’t want any of that. So I make lists and when I make lists I’m a lot happier. Here are the seven sections from my list-book. Maybe they’ll give you an idea of where to go with your own:

1) “Five-year plan.” This one’s pretty elaborate and expansive and includes big things like where I want to be living in five years, how I hope to spend my time, and the toxic bullshit I’d like to see cut from my life. I don’t want to be rich or famous but I’m about as ambitious as you get about wanting to write good things and have a better life (not “there” yet of course) and this section is where I keep the shit that keeps me on track. It’s half pep-talk and half blueprint and I refine it every day.

2) “Daily to-do list.” I make these before bed after all the work is done. They vary every day and most of the time I only get a tiny fraction of it done. What’s left over is carried on to the next day’s tasks, or a section I call:

3) “Overdue to-dos.” These run the gamut of farm things I need to buy that I’ll never have money for to broken things that need fixing to all sorts of schemes that only require an hour of free time and the right head-space to be checked off. This is the section that I fail at the most. Sometimes I don’t want to even turn to that page because it makes me feel worthless but I do because what kind of men are we if we don’t look our failures in the eye and acknowledge them for what they are? You have to know your mistakes like close friends if you’re ever going to move beyond them.

4) “Life goals.” Like the five year plan, I rewrite this section all the time. This is all big stuff. Long-term plans. A lot of guess-work here but anyone who says planning for the future isn’t mostly guess-work is pulling your leg and probably has something to hide. Fuck those people. Transparency above all, always.

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5) “Publishing goals for the year.” These are the books I want either written or in-print by the end of the year. Includes ideas on how to surprise everyone with each new thing you release and plans for making whatever you’re working on be your “one great work.” I don’t really pull that off (not yet at least) but that’s what I’m trying to do. Why not try to make each new thing you release better than the last? Why not shoot for the magnum opus every time? You’ll almost certainly fail but your work will be better for it. (“If the poet is caught up in things, the reader will be caught up too.” –Roberto Bolano.) Nothing cleans out your mind better and makes you grow more than an honest-to-god all-guns-blazing struggle. I’ll take that any day over half-tries and mediocre but “respectable” results. The critics may like you but will you like yourself?

6) “Money and finances.” I have a checking account and two $750-limit Mastercards I use in an attempt at building credit enough to buy a big chunk of land some day. This section has vertical columns down the middle of the page for each account and I update their balance every day. There’s also a column for bills I have to pay that month, a column for money owed by me and to me, and one for expenses in the foreseeable future (propane, tour costs, plane tickets, train-fare, etc). Life is pretty spare out here on the farm and I have to run a tight ship with my expenses or shit gets overwhelming fast. I hate money, and being stressed or upset because of financial stuff makes me feel like I’m failing so I work damn hard to stay away from that.

7) “Secret section.” These are lists too embarrassing to talk about here. Personal stuff; angry stuff; life goals in the sense of chipping away at the things about myself that I don’t like. These are the ones you really need if you want to overhaul your life and live better. This is where the true struggle happens, where the bad guys come out and take pot-shots at you and where the basic matters of life and death play out on a serious, real-life scale. Because sometimes shit gets Shakespearian and by that I don’t mean poetic. When that happens you need to put your back into it and be smart and ethical and honest about your choices. It’s a chess game and it would be great if we didn’t have to play it but sometimes the shittiness of life makes it a requirement. Of all the lists in the book this section is the most important.

The combination of that part and the more utilitarian and task-oriented stuff keeps me moving forward. It also allows the unstructured part of me (which is a big part) to get loose and do what it needs to do. Some people are very regimented and some flow a little more free. Half the time I wish I could be one or the other but I’ve tried that before and it’s against my nature and things get totally derailed. For me, one side cannot function without the other and that’s why list-making is a big part of my simple steps to a life less stupid.

I’m as clueless as anybody in the whole path-towards-better-life thing but this works for me right now and I’m going to stick with it until it doesn’t anymore. In the end, you’ve got to be flexible and if something doesn’t work for you or if it stops working you need to know when to jump ship and try something else. That kind of perspective and judgment is important. If you’ve got that you’ve probably got a good head on your shoulders. I’m there maybe half the time but I’m working toward it every day.

Best of Spring

• Brooklyn-based Fanmail’s spring 2014 collection has arrived. Featuring jackets, shirts, shorts and tees made in organic cotton and hemp that is milled in Fair Wear Foundation certified mills.

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• Turn your home into a sanctum. The huge 1.25 liter Santal 26 Concrete Candle is a gorgeous, substantial candle that will burn 150+ hours. Le Labo’s distinct fragrances have garnered a cult-following, and the Santal scent is my personal favorite. It’s GMO-free, vegan and cruelty-free. $420

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• See what’s up with KOWTOW’s bold graphic printed Portrait Tee. Made from premium 100% certified fair trade organic 190gsm cotton jersey and hand screen printed.

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Zeal Optics frames are some of my favorite shapes. But what makes them even better is that they’re the only optics company that uses 100% plant-based materials to make their glasses, and the e-llume lenses are biodegradable. ZEAL is leading the way towards completely removing crude oil from sunglass production. E-llume lenses don’t skimp on protection or prevention either, with complete protection from UVA, B and C as well as HEV light. They even have a zero-waste Rx Lab – check out the video below for a glimpse into their lab.
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• Shop UMASAN’s spring styles for layered pieces, asymmetrical and angular cuts, and a darker aesthetic. All materials are sourced and milled in Europe. The most high-tech, biodegradale, plant-based, vegan materials are used such as: MicroModal, Tencel, Smartcel, SeaCell, Soyfiber, Bamboo, ColdBlack, Energear and Protein Fiber.

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• Get ready for tank tops. Groceries Apparel has both a Lyocell and recycled-poly tank to choose from (as well as great basic tees, shorts and sweatshirts).

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