Documentaries That Will Make You Go Vegan (Guest Post)

Ghosts in Our Machine

Maria Ramos contacted me awhile back about writing a guest post summarizing some of the recent documentaries that exist regarding eating a plant-based diet and living a vegan lifestyle. Enjoy!

Many people do not pay very close attention to what they eat. In fact, it seems that most Americans would rather not know anything about where their food comes from. This is no accident. The factory farm industry would rather you not know about the abuse and murder that animals suffer and how instead of treating animals humanely, they treat animals as disposable property. Many people have dedicated their lives to showing how the factory farm industry is harmful to both animals and people. The industry has responded by sponsoring many “ag-gag” laws across the country and trying to criminalize people reporting the truth about the conditions that exist inside these farms.

Despite this effort to silence those who would speak the truth, many important documentaries have been made to show people the conditions inside these farms. Many also are made to explain why going vegan is an important way that they can help stop the way farm animals are treated by industry. This list is by no means complete, but these are some of the most important works that have been done in recent time.

Food Inc. (2008)

Food Inc. is probably one of the most well-known documentaries around. This film looks inside America’s corporate-owned food industry and how it is unsustainable (both economically and environmentally) and inhumane. While filmmaker Robert Kenner does not expressly advocate going vegan or even vegetarian, his film shows a lot of the negative consequences that our factory farms have had on people, animals, and the environment. Food Inc. can be found on Netflix.

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home (2012)

We explore the horrible conditions of the factory farms that “food animals” are forced to live in in Peaceable Kingdom. This documentary follows several people who have been in the farming industry all their lives as they find peace through going vegan and seeing the animals as more than just sources of profit. You can buy the DVD with bonus material here.

Vegucated (2011)

Three New Yorkers give up meat and cheese for six weeks in this documentary. We follow them as they become influenced by what they learn about the meat industry and modern factory farms. By the end of the film, we find they have (mostly) kept up with their vegan diet, proving that by simply being open to what others have to say, you can make a difference. You can stream Vegucated on Netflix.

Cock Fight (2015)

One farmer became a whistleblower against the chicken industry and was set on showing not only the awful conditions that the chickens “live” in, but the dire poverty and suffering that the people who work on the farms endure as well. This documentary shows how big agri-business has developed virtual monopolies in each of their areas, preventing both humane conditions for the animals and the people that work the farms. You can watch Cock Fight on DirecTV’s Fusion channel.

Farm to Fridge (2011)

With undercover, graphic footage, this documentary shows what life is like for the animals that die for our food. Narrated by the actor James Cromwell, who played the farmer in the movie “Babe,” the film shows the work of the group Mercy For Animals. MFA’s groundbreaking undercover investigations have sparked legislation, both to help protect farm animals and to prevent the “ag-gag” laws that the large factory farms want to pass. Farm to Fridge has been uploaded to YouTube.

I’ll add to this great list Cowspiracy (2014), Speciesism (2013), The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013) and the classic Earthlings (2005). -Sam

Riding The Cloud To Victory; or, I Got My Laptop Stolen (Part 1)

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Typical disclaimer about how I don’t update anymore, blah blah blah. Life is great and full of wonder, or, the night is dark and full of terrors. Either way, I’m busy and trying to enjoy every minute of the short life I have. You should too!

I recently had my laptop stolen. Yes, it sucked. It’s not a pleasant experience, imaging someone going through your personal affects (it was in a messenger bag), looking at my decor and organizational strategies and sneering with delight. Of course, I have no idea what they’re doing – they could have smashed it on the side of the road, or it could be halfway to China by now with a new MAC address. Of the three apps I used to try and track it, none of them: Find my Mac, Prey, or Tile, turned up anything the day after it was stolen out of my car (a smash and grab job), a few feet away from where I was quietly sitting in a cafe. This, of course, is not surprising: in order for the apps to work, they would need a constant internet connection. Since there was already a secure password set on my computer, the thieves probably spent little time cracking it and immediately opted to reformat the hard drive, which would delete the tracking software I had installed. The Tile locator, which works via Bluetooth, had a slightly better chance, attempting to ping off other Tile users in the area, but the app’s popularity doesn’t really warrant much success in this area. The locator was also attached to the laptop case which was easily removable.

This also begs the question: where the thieves intelligent, or dumb? Their behavior can tell a victim or law enforcement a lot about where to look. Unfortunately, I’ll probably never know what happened, and there is little recourse for a situation like this. However, some precautionary measures like a better car alarm, putting valuables in the trunk, and increased vigilance, would make quite a bit of difference.

Another potential issue with WiFi based trackers like Prey or Find my Mac (via iCloud) are they require a user to have the computer open and connected to WiFi. If you have a password set for your user account, as I did, this won’t work. However, if you leave your account password un-protected, you’re in business; here’s a success story using Prey for this method. As the comments bear out: this is not a tenable option for me – if I leave my laptop without a password, a thief would have access to all my files, cloud back-ups, and Google Chrome with hundreds of passwords saved. An alternative solution would be a guest account with no password (called a “honeypot” for this use) that Prey still runs on in the background. I plan to employ this solution when my new laptop (this time with some sort of insurance) arrives.

Setting a firmware password would block the hard drive reformatting, which could by you some extra time as a thief becomes frustrated and may try to guess your password again (obviously secure passwords are a must!) An alternative is LoJack, which claims to be embeddable in the firmware of the device itself, thus surviving reboots, reformats, and I would imagine even hardware modification. They claim to “work with law enforcement” to give your device back, which may or may not be a good thing. I’m interested in this, though it seems to bring up privacy concerns by the number of “remove LoJack” videos that exist on YouTube. A low-tech, alternative solution is an anti-theft sticker that becomes nearly impossible to remove, betraying the item’s true nature (and making it less attractive to steal, from, say, a coffee shop).

Clearly, I’ve thought a bit about this in the last few days. In Part 2 I’ll detail why the disaster wasn’t so great after – almost all my data was backed up to either the cloud, or a local Time Machine disk. Cloud back-ups can be nebulous, so I plan to discuss my history with it and offer some of what I feel are the best solutions currently.

Note: it should be said that while Find my Mac/iPhone/iPad comes free with iCloud and OS X/iOS, and while Prey offers a free version. LoJack does require an annual license for its premium software. Use at your own risk!

Note 2: an alternative solution would also be so low-tech I didn’t even think of it in the first place: don’t own an expensive laptop, don’t travel with it, or at the very least, keep it on your person if it’s so damn valuable. I’m constantly reminded of how incredible it is; the worth that we apply to pieces of metal and mineral with a fruit logo on them.

Update 1/17/15: As there is no BIOS in Macbook Pros; a firmware based installation of LoJack seems impossible. Strange, as Apple often tries to bundle the software as an add on.

Fall In Love, Join the Revolution*

burning-hearts

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of love recently, and how it can simultaneously propel someone to greatness, but also induce massive anxiety. Does the object of my love feel the same way? Do they love someone else? Am I loving too soon (or even too late)?

While my propensity to love, quote, and praise CrimethInc is not hidden, it’s often through their anarchistic lens that I find so much to comfort myself when it comes to love. “Love like you’ve never lost” graces their gift wrap when they mail you books (along with the follow-up: “Fight like you’ve never won”). Isn’t that a novel concept? To love like you’ve never lost. Meaning, simply, to not dwell on past relationships that may have failed or gotten fucked up; to get back up and try again – move on! – NOT, as was immortalized in the 1995 movie Hackers “mess with the best, die like the rest.” No, you don’t die, silly: you learn and grow stronger!

I can’t miss this opportunity to critique Christianity, and will do with the eloquent words of A.C. Grayling whom my mother has been a fan of recently and loves to quote. When speaking about his book “The Choice of Hercules,” Grayling responds a to comment about “moral failure”:

It’s one theme and one very dominant strand of Christian morality that if you commit a sin it’s an almost ineradicable stain on your soul and you may well have to pay for it, especially in a posthumous dispensation. It might be millions of years in purgatory or something. Whereas the Greeks had a much healthier attitude to this; they thought of doing something wrong as a mistake, as a sort of misfired shot. They likened it, in fact, to shooting an arrow at a target and if you miss, well, you just simply try better next time, you learn the lesson, pick yourself up and you move on. This very, very practical and I think rather healthy attitude means that people can regard the experience of trying to be moral, trying to live an ethical life that is full of satisfactions and achievements in the end is one that you can get better at rather than get worse at.

To me, the idea of a “moral failure” lives deep within someone who has failed relationships; a relationship where they took a chance, loved hard, and fell flat on their face. If this happens just a few times, the idea of falling in love with someone new can become perniciously avoided, even to the extreme that a walled stone fortress lives around the heart of such person. While my path of love has earned me enough to live without this bastion, such a guarded life doesn’t seem like the existence of someone – man, women, or otherwise – in their fullness (a phrase I’ll borrow from the writings of Robert Moore and archetype-based psychology).

In the modern age, love should be reveled in, and given as freely as possible. Science backs this, although from the traditional standpoint of a monogamous relationship, but also offers clues about how to keep the “spark” alive and fall in love all over again. See “The Psychology Of Loves That Last A Lifetime” on HuffPo recently. Science isn’t biased, however, and researchers from the other end of the spectrum are working on an anti-love drug (a la Eternal Sunshine) with uses from erasing a bad memory to treating trauma victims. But what if it has a bad reaction…? Ah, the possibilities.

CrimethInc’s chapter on “Love” from Days of War, Nights of Love, is worth a read, and reading 10-15 years after its original publication makes me enjoy the ethos evermore. Love is rebellion, love is revolution, love is an act that we can truly engage in without commodification, without interference from capitalism. That is, if we are honest and open, anyway. That sounds like an environment that I can support, and wish to create for myself, my lover, my family, and friends…

One might say that it is ridiculous to implore others to fall in love—one either falls in love or one does not, it is not a choice that can be made consciously. Emotions do not follow the instructions of the rational mind. But the environment in which we must live out our lives has a great influence on our emotions, and we can make rational decisions that will affect this environment. It should be possible to work to change an environment that is hostile to love into an environment that will encourage it. Our task must be to engineer our world so that it is a world in which people can and do fall in love, and thus to reconstitute human beings so that we will be ready for the “revolution” spoken of in these pages—so that we will be able to find meaning and happiness in our lives.

 

*I must attribute this phrase to Shane Becker, the “veganstraightedge” on all social media ever, who likely “stole” (not really, see the copyright of this blog) it from CrimethInc, and I’ve actually modified it to say “revolution” as perhaps a new way of loving, without fear of failure or harm, can be a revolution of sorts.

Photo: Daniela Hartmann, Flickr

Seeds of Compassion: New Vegan Interview Series

Jessica, Ashley, Chris

Several months ago, I was fortunate enough to interview three “new” vegans – three young adults who all went vegan at some point during 2013. Jessica, Ashley, and Chris (L to R) are all friends of mine through different ways – two are into metal, and I met through my band, and Jessica worked at a vegan-friendly cafe I frequent. I wanted to get their perspective about veganism as new vegans, to inspire, motivate, and put in perspective the ideals and beliefs that I and other long-time vegans hold so dear. Their thoughts are compelling, and I’m grateful for the time they took to answer each question thoughtfully.

TNTSU: All three of you have gone vegan in the last year, I believe, for a variety of reasons. I’d like to start by having each of you state how long you’ve been vegan, and a brief summary why (i.e. animal rights, health, environmental, or something else):

Chris: I have been vegan since around the beginning of June, 2013. Before that I’d been vegetarian since March, which is really where the whole transition began for me. I started taking an interest in an alternative diet since October of 2012 where I was dabbling with cutting meat out of my diet for weeks at a time and was feeling a lot better physically when I did. Around January, 2013 was when I really started thinking about doing it seriously. I saw a documentary called Vegucated that taught many sides of veganism I never knew about before. That when I started to care about animal rights and realized I didn’t feel right about what I was contributing to.

Ashley: I’ve been vegan since July 4th, 2013; figured it was a great American time to start. I used to be paleo for a very long time. I played basketball for my university and was on a strict 3,500 calorie diet. I used to chow down on large pizzas, pounds of chicken tenders, triple cheeseburgers, whatever was high in calories that i could get in by the end of the night. When basketball ended and I graduated, I moved down my calorie count and ate mostly chicken and vegetables. I wasn’t entirely happy with it, as my body wasn’t exactly adapting to the changes of intensity of workouts and leaning out.

Fast forward about 9 months, and I took a free class from Coursera titled U.S Food Systems. It was taught by [a] Johns Hopkins [professor] and the Center for a Livable Future. During this class, I learned about the destruction of the environment due to cattle and dairy farming, the changing fertility and soil degradation of the land in the United States, the malnourished of the world and how much it would change if we altered our eating habits […] Chemical fertilizer runoff, the poisoning of marine life and dead-zones, federal subsidies and the connection between health and the increase in meat consumption, etc. The class kept a distance from the morality of eating animals until the last module, which was about 15 minutes long, but I felt that was a wise move from the professor. Those statistics and information were plenty to convince me (without sounding too preachy) about switching my diet around.

I switched to a vegetarian diet a week into that class (middle of March, 2013) and slowly cut out the small amount of dairy I was eating (I’m allergic to casein as it is). I would still eat a small amount of dairy here and there while I was at work, since it smooths things over with my mentally challenged clients if I do what they do. On July 4th, I finally officially made the switch and I’ve never been happier. I found more and more that I was being drawn into animal rights issues, which was something I tried not to get involved with when I was paleo. The more I dove into the ideology behind being vegan, the more it stuck and made sense. The more I read about environmental and health related issues (which made me switch to begin with), the more it confirmed my belief that I was doing a great thing for myself.

Jessica: I went vegan in March 2013. I was originally a vegetarian from age 15 to about 20. I slowly began incorporating meat back into my diet after I began culinary school and met my omnivore boyfriend. When I went vegetarian at age 15 I was all about animal rights; I knew and learned so much about the meat industry (never thinking dairy could be “that bad”) and I tried to inform my friends on why I was the way I was. It really struck a chord with me and stuck with me for a long time. So when I went back to eating meat, it was like I kind of put my knowledge of what was really happening in some closet somewhere in my mind and just ignored it. I thought learning all the cuts of meat and different ways to prepare it was so fascinating and I wanted to know as much as I could!

About a year and a half ago I decided to take control of my health because I was overweight and completely unhappy with my body and afraid of becoming diabetic and getting heart disease and suffering heart attacks like both of my parents. I started working out and eating “clean”. I was slowly cutting out the dark meats and stuck to chicken and turkey. I eventually lost about 30 lbs. I then did a cleanse called The Ultimate Reset by BeachBody (the same company who puts out Insanity and P90x and the other programs that helped me get in shape.) When I got the package I realized, “wow, it’s basically just going vegan for a month!” Tons of water drinking and tons of awesome veggies – I even got introduced to tempeh!

So during this “cleanse” I decided being vegan was the best option for my health and well being and was still avoiding the other reasons. I suppose I didn’t want to be reminded of all the things I pretended weren’t real before. In June of 2013, Earth Friend’s Café hired me to be the creative mind in her primarily vegan/vegetarian kitchen! I was so excited! I couldn’t believe I had found a place that serves vegan food! So as I began working with Earth Friends I was reminded of all the things I put in that closet a few years back [like] how truly terrible the meat/dairy/egg industries are. I began liking pages on Facebook that are pro-vegan and I started doing more and more research on the ethical side of veganism, not just the health side.
All in all I feel amazing both physically and mentally. I love being vegan and I will never put my knowledge of why it is good for not only me but also the animals and environment back in that closet in my mind.

 

TNTSU: It sounds like all three of you were initially drawn to veganism through vegetarianism, and then as the reasons began to unfold, on both a personal and global level, a true plant-based diet emerged. Do you feel like vegetarianism is a solid middle-ground for others to pass through? Is there a risk of getting “stuck” there, when, after the facts are presented, veganism seems like the logical choice?

Jessica: I definitely feel like vegetarianism is a solid middle ground for getting to veganism. For some people removing things slowly from their diets helps the transition be a more smooth one [however] I do feel there is a great risk of being stuck there. I was there at one point in my life as a teenager. I knew the dairy and egg industries were no better than the meat industry. For some reason I just ignored it or maybe I thought I was doing my part enough by being vegetarian. So I do beleive that some people could get stuck and I’m sure several do.

Ashley: I think it all depends on your motives and how much you’re willing to dive into the research part of it all. If you become a vegetarian [and] don’t know much about animal abuse, exploitation, environmental impact, and morality, you might just be cool with sticking to vegetarianism. I think it’s a great first step that can take you further once you become more aware of the reasons surrounding going vegetarian and vegan. In my case, the more I learned, the more it stuck with me and the more I felt the need to transition [to veganism].

Chris: It seems everybody is sort of on the fence about the middle ground aspect, and I am no different, either. I think it can be a great way to start off a transition to veganism. Without that “trial period,” if you will, I probably would have crashed and burned before ever getting comfortable enough to cut dairy and egg products out of my diet. That being said, at least they’re not eating meat, which is what I consider worst of all. My girlfriend is vegetarian, and seems to not have plans of moving on from there. So this is definitely something I have to deal with and think about regularly.

TNTSU: Chris – great point. We all have to deal with that “middle ground” in our lives all the time, especially with those we care about, and we don’t want to scare them away by being the typical militant vegan. At the same time, sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. During that transition, at least for me, “faux” products really helped: soy sausages, non-dairy cream cheese, coconut ice cream, etc. How much of these do you the three of you utilize, and do they still represent a significant part of your vegan diet?

Chris: Absolutely. I use so many of these things on a daily basis. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t stock up on Daiya cheddar and Boca spicy chicken patties. It really debunks the myth that vegans eat super healthy because I certainly don’t. I make a lot of pizzas, “burgers,” “chicken” lo mein, that sort of stuff all the time. Bottom line, “faux” products helped me with a great deal of my transition and remain a steady part of my diet, as I love to get creative with them so much.

Jessica: While I was vegetarian for so long I definitely ate the faux meats. I loved Bocca brand products as well as the brand Quorn. They can be very tasty. As for now I cook more and more from scratch and focus less on consuming processed foods and getting my nutrition from whole foods. However I am still known to throw a pita pizza in tbe oven with some daiya cheese on it for a quick and tasty dinner. Along with my obsession with tofutti cream cheese, I lobe to add things like caper and garlic to spread on english muffins or toast. As well as the Olive Nut sandwich we serve at Earth Friends Cafe which has green olives laced inside the tofutti and it is to die for! But I try to stay away from products like these personally but only because I try to eat as little processed foods as possible. I do believe that the faux products are a great way to help meat eaters transition to vegetarianism and into veganism and am by no means against them because they are super tasty!

Ashley: I was all about the faux products when i started out – sort of like a way to show people i can eat what you can eat without the misery – anything you can do i can do vegan. Because I work four 17 hour shifts in four days (with only enough time to sleep between them), i stuck to amy’s frozen foods – teriyaki bowls, enchiladas, macaroni, rice bowls, etc. it’s gotten pretty bad, where i’m just reaching for a meal at work. starting next week i’m cutting out all faux products except daiya shreds out of my diet and focusing on macros and complete, whole food meals like i used to. faux products are great if you’re in a rush, but they can also be a slippery slope where they become too convenient and permanent

TNTSU: We’re almost to the point where “lab-grown” meat is a reality. Would you consider eat animal flesh if it was derived from animal without harming it? Say, using the cells from animal biopsy that didn’t result in the animal’s death or suffering.

Jessica: Personally, no I would not. I truly believe our bodies are not meant to process animal. I feel a huge difference in the way my body works when not eating meat, egg, and dairy, all things which are incredibly difficult to digest, for me that is anyway. However, I wouldn’t be as opposed to others eating it. I would still hope for my family and friends to make the choice not to solely for their health. But I would be way less opposed to it.

Chris: The whole lab grown meat concept has always hit as a solid compromise; animals get to live, meat eaters get their fix, and we all get a conserved planet and hopefully a brighter, more progressive future. I’ve never seen anything about lab meat and thought “awesome! I’ll be able to eat meat again!”. I’ve always been very optimistic about it because it is an overall better alternative. To me, being vegan is ridding yourself of using all animal products, despite if it is harmful to acquire them or not. I will not consume lab meat out of personal choice. I hope others will, though.

Ashley: This is an issue I’ve been struggling with recently. I would never touch it, but I am conflicted if it is a good thing or not. On one hand, as a vegan I find it great that less animals will be harmed, the environment can attempt to slowly recover, and the food used to feed animals could help feed the hungry all over the world, but I also don’t believe that food needs to be, nor deserves, to be made in a laboratory. You don’t need to genetically alter or spray food to get it how you want.

TNTSU: I had a great conversation with someone about the movie Blackfish today, and that really opens the door to discussing animal rights on a larger level. Is there a particular issue that has stirred you besides farmed animals and their relation to food? (ex. animal testing, animals in entertainment, dog breeding, etc.)

Chris: One thing I really looked into and was outraged by was the Ringling Bros. Circus. I looked further into [this] after seeing the things you were posting about it, Sam. I watched a video about the elephant camp they have in Florida, where they break baby elephants and train them and the techniques they used. It was no different from dairy cows when I saw how the baby elephants were separated from their mothers. Truly heartbreaking. I also watched footage of the elephant’s trainers handling them backstage at the circus, where they were beaten for no particular reason with bull hooks. The whole video was a court testimony of an ex-Ringling employee who had experienced all the events firsthand. This is what really opened my eyes to animal rights beyond factory farming.

Ashley: Same as Chris. Also, when trying to switch over to organic, vegan cosmetics and bath products, I was pretty outraged at how little there is compared to those who do test on animals, and how expensive it is compared to the rest of cosmetics. I’ve almost completely switched over to Tarte for my cosmetics, and I still haven’t found a shampoo or conditioner that works good with my hair.

Jessica: Something that really outrages me is the production of leather products. I recently decided to learn about it and watched some short videos about the cows they use. I often stray away from watching these videos because they make me so emotional that it hurts. But I decided I needed to be educated. Leather comes from some of the most beautiful cows I have ever seen! They are abused and left without food or water for days and it is even worse, I just don’t like to think about it. In the end meeting their inevitable deaths just so people can have shoes, jackets, and furniture. I actually just bought a sofa the other day and it was a faux leather one. The furniture salesman asked me why I was so happy it wasn’t leather and I explained I was vegan and that it would have compromised my ethics to buy leather. His response was “Leather will last forever though!” I didn’t say much to that, but it makes me sad that people are willing to take lives to have a piece of furniture that will “last forever” even when we will probably be buying a new couch in 5 years.

(Follow-up question for 2014)

TNTSU: Thoughts as we turn into the new year on veganism?

Ashley: Over the last month [December 2013], I’ve worked on throwing away all my makeup, bath products, clothing, shoes, and accessories that weren’t cruelty-free and replaced them with ones that are. Armed with the proper knowledge and experience of almost 6 months down the road, I’m completely stoked heading into the new year and watching myself grow even more. Cheers!

Chris: This new year, I am definitely out of the transitional stage of veganism and have decided its time to actually follow a plant-based diet, not just a lot of fake meat [products]. For the most part, I own nothing cruelty-free. I have a pair of work boots that do need replacing, but that’s about all I can think of. I also want to have at least one person I can turn onto being [vegan]. I have joked around quite a bit saying to friends and family “I’m getting at least one conversion this year”, but it really is a goal of mine. My one year anniversary without meat is coming up in March and I couldn’t be more stoked about that. My one year of veganism will be in June and I couldn’t tell you how the thought of committing to this for a whole year makes me feel. 2014 is definitely going to be a positive one!

The Turlock Rescue: Commemorating Efforts (Guest Post)

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turlock

Turlock: The Documentary is about the rescue of chickens from the largest animal neglect case in U.S. history, and the dedicated activists willing to do anything to save as many lives as possible. When Northern California animal sanctuary Animal Placfound out a factory farm in nearby Turlock had closed, and 50,000 hens had been abandoned and left to die without food and water, rescuers spring into action against considerable odds, including a dramatic standoff with local authorities, to save as many lives as they can.

Filmmaker Keegan Kuhn of First Spark Media shared the story of the rescue with TNTSU.

It was Tuesday, February 21, 2012. A news story broke about an egg farm outside of Turlock, California owned by A&L Poultry. A&L Poultry had abandoned 50,000 hens in barren battery cages for more than two weeks without food.

I was one of the first animal advocates to arrive at the farm and was promptly escorted off the property by state officials, who told me that my help was not desired or needed. An estimated one-third of the chickens had already died of starvation, and the state was in the process of gassing to death all surviving animals.

Injured hen

Being the hardheaded activist I am, I camped out in front of the farm overnight waiting for an opportunity to help. By morning, a crew of animal rescuers from animal sanctuary organization Animal Place had assembled at the farm.

We pleaded with officials to allow us to come onto the property and help any animals we could. We bombarded the local director of animal control, who now had authority over the animals, with mass call-ins. As the hours ticked by and we were forced to stand and watch helplessly as state officials killed hundreds of animals right in front of us, our patience started to wane. We were getting ourselves ready for an action of civil disobedience in plain view of the police and state officials to get as many animals as we could out of there before being arrested.

As our numbers grew and the authorities caught wind of our plans, Kim Sturla, executive director of Animal Place, was able to put pressure on the county’s animal control director – on live TV. We were granted access to all the “savable” hens, as determined by the state veterinarian on site.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, we were able to save over 4,400 hens from the horror that had been their lives trapped in wire cages.

I was involved with the initial rescue, but continued to work for months alongside Animal Place staff, who brought back more than 4,000 chickens to their two sanctuaries. We worked 12 to 15 hour days, every day of the week. When I wasn’t cleaning barns, building perches, helping with sick hens, or sadly burying those who had not made it, I was trying to document the rescue effort.

When the one-year anniversary of the rescue started to approach, I wanted to create a short film commemorating the monumental efforts of all the people involved in what became the largest animal rescue in California history. I had intended to make a 10 to 12 minute long video, but as I began editing the footage and interviews I had shot, I could not bring myself to cut the story down to such a limited time frame.

It felt like a great disservice to the animals’ and rescuers’ story to make anything short of a feature documentary film for them.

I came away from the rescue with a profound desire to increase my efforts to raise awareness of how animals are used on farms. I want to use the film TURLOCK to help facilitate a growing conversation about our view of non-human animals in our society.

The brutality that the hens from the Turlock rescue endured at the hands of their abusers is not an isolated incident. That is animal farming. And regardless of how any animal is raised, whether in filthy “factory” farms or on perceived “humane” farms, each and every one of those animals is violently killed at just a fraction of their normal life span.

Hen rescue

I became Vegan almost 18 years ago and at that time there was only one vegan egg substitute. Today with exciting developments such as Hampton Creek Foods’ Beyond Eggs products, I truly feel that the needless suffering of hens on egg farms will become a thing of the past. As people being to wake up to the reality of what it actually takes to get an egg to your plate, there will be a massive shift towards a more compassionate and just world.

I want to thank Keegan for his time, and Gary Smith of Evolotus PR for reaching out to me! To host a screening of Turlock, or find one near you, visit www.turlockrescue.org.