Don’t Have a Cow, Kiss One

 Los Angeles Magazine  | June 2013

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   None of the 350 people that crowded into hot, straw-stuffed stables Saturday afternoon ate animals for dinner. Instead, they embraced them.

   At the second annual “Hug A Farm Animal Day” at Farm Sanctuary in Acton, guests had the chance to hold animals that had been rescued from factory farms while noshing on meatless tamales and vegan sundaes from Sage Organic Vegan Bistro and KindKreme. The sold-out event was a success, and the $1,750 in ticket sales will fund animal care and educational programs.

    One animal in particular convinced Kristy Shands, a nurse, to make the trip from San Diego. “I literally just came to kiss a cow,” Shands said. “I’ve been a vegetarian for seven years, which was a moral decision. I didn’t want to contribute money to the meat industry.”

    Cows are among the 149 animals the 26-acre farm cares for, along with geese, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats, sheep, pigs and horses. The staff names each one, meaning even the 55 chickens, the farm’s most abundant animal, peck through straw with names like Talula and Demee. They’ll live there for the rest of their lives unless adopted by screened owners.

   Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur, who co-founded the organization in 1986, said he has seen more interest in veganism in recent years, perhaps because of information and recipes posted online.

   “Farm animals seem so distant, but they’re right on most people’s tables,” he said. “If people were consuming in a more mindful way, we could see a massive shift, and I think that’s starting to happen right now.”

   Baur spoke at the event, along with Kathy Freston, author of the book Veganist. Despite few farms in urban cities like Los Angeles, Freston said the support is crucial.

   “You’ve got chatter and class there, and they’re the trendsetters,” she said. “When you see celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres or Portia de Rossi go vegan, and they look so beautiful and so vibrant, it goes out in such a big way.”

   Meg Minguela said she wanted to explain the meatless lifestyle to her daughters, 7-year-old Izzy and 9-year-old Maya, as she led them through the stables, dotted with photos of animal activists and quotes on animal compassion.

   “These animals would be hamburgers otherwise,” Minguela said. “I like to teach them that just because we’re bigger and stronger, it doesn’t mean you can do what you like with their bodies.” Maya added, she wanted to hug a cow.