Diane talks with The New Yorker's Susan Glasser.
When bone cancer forced the amputation of Jenny Brown’s leg at age 10, she learned firsthand the suffering of living as a victim of forces beyond her control. Now, as an author, activist and founder of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, she works daily to protect domesticated animals who also have no choice in their fate. She joins Diane to talk about her passionate fight for farm animals and her new memoir, “The Lucky Ones.”
- Jenny Brown Co-founder and director of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
A photo tour of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary:
Read An Excerpt
Excerpted from THE LUCKY ONES by Jenny Brown with Gretchen Primack. Copyright (c) 2012 by Jenny Brown. Reprinted by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When bone cancer forced the amputation of Jenny Brown's leg at age 10, she learned firsthand the suffering of living as a victim of forces beyond her control. Now, as an author, activist, and founder of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, she works daily to protect animals who also have no choice in their fate.
MS. DIANE REHMShe joins me in the studio to talk about her passionate fight for the farm animals and her new memoir titled "The Lucky Ones." We do invite you to join the conversation. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, Jenny. It's good to have you here.
MS. JENNY BROWNGood morning, Diane. Thank you so much for having me.
REHMJenny, first of all, tell us how you are today.
BROWNWell, I mean, I've been -- I'm 41, so I've been cancer-free for quite some time. It was when I was 10 years old that I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my right leg and my ankle.
REHMAnd you had been so active as an athlete. What were the first indications that something was wrong?
BROWNWell, I was a gymnast. I loved -- you know, I took gymnastic classes. I played softball. I, you know, did dance recitals in the living room all the time. You know, it's a peculiar thing because I had been playing on an old rusty swing set. I jumped down, gashed my leg open on a rusty screw, and there has been some suspicion that that might have caused the cancer. But basically, nine months later we were moving.
BROWNMy mother and my sister and I had been living with my grandparents for years in Louisville, Ky., where I'm from. And we were moving to low-income housing and a three-flights-up small apartment, and my leg was really beginning to bother me. And my mother, being a nurse, of course, took me to the pediatrician who took x-rays, who immediately sent me to a bone surgeon, somebody that deals, you know, with this type of thing, to have a better look. And, sure enough, it was osteogenic sarcoma, which is bone cancer.
REHMAnd I have to ask, did you have a tetanus shot at the time you gashed your leg?
BROWNYes. 'Cause I remember going to the hospital and how horrible the wound was and how painful it was cleaning it out 'cause it really -- you know, I was using the top of the swing set that had long been missing the swings as, you know, playing around on it like in gymnastics. And I did receive a tetanus shot, but there have been studies that indicate that osteogenic sarcoma is -- can be common in adolescents, but there's also studies that show that trauma to a bone -- and, of course, it was a rusty screw -- could also have been the reason.
REHMYou, when you learned that you were going to have your -- the portion of your leg amputated below the knee, were not very happy.
BROWNIt was beyond traumatic, in the mind of a 10-year-old child, to realize that there will be a surgery where you will wake up and part of your body will be missing, was a terrifying prospect. And I rebelled, believe me. And I begged my mother, and I begged the doctor, is there any way, any way? For a short period of time, there was the possibility that the bone -- that the cancer was isolated to the bone and that the bone could be replaced, but then that option went away.
BROWNAnd heavy duty chemotherapy for months leading up to the possible amputation was not slowing the rapid spread of the cancer, and so the decision was made for me. And I felt really helpless in that decision. But, you know, looking back, I often say that losing my leg was nothing compared to the chemotherapy that I endured for over two years, even after the amputation, where it makes you not only physically ill constantly -- and I lost all my hair, and I, you know, looked like a cancer poster child -- but, psychologically, you know, you're on these drugs.
BROWNYou're hooked up to IVs all day, periods of time four or five days where you can't even leave the bed. It was -- you know, but now that I talk about it, and I look back at it, it sort of feels like I'm talking about it in third person. I feel like I've put a lot of those memories behind me, and I'm glad that I have.
REHMWell, I wish our listeners could see you because you look like the picture of health. Your hair is fully grown. Your complexion is radiant. You're clearly in good physical shape, and I'm so glad to see that.
REHMTell me about the little kitten.
BROWNWell, I had always wanted a pet. Now I call them, you know, animal companions. But I really wanted an animal in my life and had always loved animals. I loved going to the zoo. I loved going to the circus. I loved the neighbors' cats and dogs, and I longed for one. And it was being able to play that cancer card with my mother that allowed me to adopt a kitten. I spent an incredible amount at home by myself when I wasn't in the hospital.
BROWNMy sister would be at school, and my mother worked the night shift as a nurse. And somebody would come and stay with me during the night. She would sleep during the day. And I named this cat Boogie, and she was with me for 18 very formative years from the time I was 10 to 28. But it was that time and that close relationship with her, who was a feisty calico kitty, that really led me to believe that animals possess souls as I was taught that we do.
BROWNBut growing up in a southern Baptist family and going to church three times a week, you know, I would talk to my grandparents, and I would say, well, but what about the animals? What about, you know, the dog next door? Will I not see the dog next door when I go to heaven? And, you know, it was always very strange to me that she would say that the animals that we love, of course, we'll see, but that, you know, basically humans are the only animals that possess souls.
BROWNAnd so, from a very young age, I started to question that. It didn't make any sense to me. You know, her personality, her individuality, her range of emotions, she was a friend, a steadfast friend, and I still miss her very much to this day.
REHMI can well understand that. I want to go back for one moment to the operation because you not only had the leg amputated, but, as you said, had two years of chemotherapy. How did your mother pay the medical bills?
BROWNWell, we -- you know, we had insurance, health insurance that covered 80 percent of it. But, you know, when a bottle of Methotrexate, which is one of the types of chemotherapy, cost -- this is in 1980 -- $2,000, just that medication alone, what you're left with is 20 percent. And, believe me, that really adds up, so we were fortunate enough, right before we had to file for bankruptcy, to go to Kosair Charities, the Shriners, you know, the fellows that wear the little fezzes. And we were blessed that they helped us get out of that situation and paid off a huge amount of debt.
REHMWow. And that must have left you very, very sensitive and open to the idea that there are an awful lot of people out there who cannot pay their medical bills.
BROWNAbsolutely. And, I mean, again, we were fortunate enough to have health care. What if we didn't?
REHMYou know, it's interesting that you did not really make the connection between the food we eat and your love, your adoration of animals till much later.
BROWNThat's right. And I think that's the case for many people. Many people who, you know, spend so much money on their beloved companion animals, the cats and the dogs amongst us, but yet they never stop to think about the plight of farmed animals, the 10 billion farm animals that are slaughtered every year in this country for human consumption. And, in all the ways that matter, we are all truly the same, and that goes for, you know, the cats and dogs.
BROWNWhen you think about the fact that pigs are more intelligent that dogs, it's just the simple fact that we are so completely disconnected from the animals that we only know as food. And, you know, I grew up, again, in Louisville, Ky. There was, you know, I remember I loved flank steak and bacon and just like anybody else. You know, we had the standard American diet.
BROWNIn the South, there was hardly even a vegetable, like, you know, greens that were cooked on the stove that didn't have a floating ham hock in it, which is a pig's knee. But it wasn't until I started college that I picked up some literature during college orientation week that really opened my eyes to taking a look at that.
REHMWhat is the evidence that pigs are smarter than dogs?
BROWNWell, I mean, it goes beyond me. I men, there's scientific research that has shown that pigs are the fourth smartest animals on the planet. It's primates, dolphins, elephants, and pigs. And, I mean, of course, we're supposed to be up there. I sometimes wonder if humans are the smartest among the animals, but they have very complex behaviors, distinct personalities.
BROWNThey form close friendships and bonds, cliques, believe it or not, that feud amongst each other sometimes. You know, sort of -- there's always the sort of head mama pig or the, you know, the big bossy male pig that will push the others away for food. They respond to their names. They respond to affection. They're wonderful, wonderful animals.
REHMJenny Brown, her new book is titled "The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals." We're going to open the phones very shortly. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, Jenny Brown is a young woman who, at the age of 10, had to have one leg amputated below the knee. As a result, she adopted a kitten, began her sense of compassion, understanding, appreciation for the sensitivity and the sensibility of creatures, so-called lesser creatures than we human beings. She's written a new book. It's titled "The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals."
REHMShe is the founder of the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. I want to know about your college years, Jenny, because that's when you really developed this sense of I've got to do something for these animals.
BROWNIt was during -- it was 1989 and during my freshman college orientation week that I had picked up some literature. And I believe it was literature from PETA. And I picked up ones about animals being used in experimentation for medical research, for cosmetic testing, animals that are used in entertainment, the circuses, the horrors of zoos, the puppy mills, and how we treat the animals we eat, the treatment or farm animals.
BROWNThese were issues that I had never stopped to think about. And, of course, you know, feeling in my heart of hearts that I loved animals, that love was only directed to dogs and cats. And you hear many people say, oh, I love animals. But we compartmentalize animals in those we love and those we eat. So that was the awakening, and, within a few weeks, I became vegetarian. I also selected a class that was all about public speaking.
BROWNIt was a speech class, and we could choose a topic that we needed to focus on for the entire semester. I chose animal rights. And it was during that semester, you know, which was wonderful for class research, that I was able to really dive in and do the research on our ill treatment of animals across the spectrum. I was -- also, I became depressed because I realized that many animals had suffered to save my life with the chemotherapy drugs and the various treatments that had all previously been tested on animals.
BROWNAnd, again, that sort of planted another seed of why don't we talk about this? Why aren't these things brought up in school? But so, you know, I became a PETA supporter. I would go to circus protests and that sort of thing. But it wasn't until I left Louisville -- I had attended three years at University of Louisville, taken a photography class, decided I wanted to get into camera work, motion picture work, and I moved to Chicago and studied film and television at Columbia College.
BROWNAnd it was there, while I was waiting tables at the famous Chicago Diner, which is one of the country's oldest vegetarian restaurants, meat-free since '83, that I -- there was a woman at one of my tables, and I saw in front of her, you know, some PETA letterhead. And it was like I was meeting a movie star. And I had asked her, do you work for PETA? And she said that she did, and she told me why she was in town.
BROWNAnd she was there doing a big fur protest down Michigan Avenue, which is, like, you know, sort of the millionaire row of Chicago. And I think it was in front of Neiman Marcus or something that they were doing the fur protest. And she said well, you know, you do this video work, I need somebody to document this. And I thought, perfect. I need, you know, I need a project for a documentary class project.
BROWNAnd so I followed her out. And that day sort of changed my life. And I documented the protest. I met a number of activists. You know, a number of them got arrested. I submitted the footage to PETA. It was, you know, and I had edited it and done the whole thing and gave them a package like an electronic press kit sort of thing about that event and formed a friendship with this woman who I told I wanted to get more involved.
BROWNAnd that's kind of when it began, about 1994 that they sort of tested my allegiance to the cause. And I did a number of activist things to sort of prove how brave I was, including dressing up in a rabbit costume that looked like it had undergone what's known as Draize eye testing where they pour chemicals into rabbits eyes typically for cosmetics testing, something that we should be very ashamed of.
BROWNAnd I stormed an advertising awards ceremony where Tony Bennett was performing and where the company Gillette was winning a number of awards for these pioneering commercial ads they were doing. And so, you know, I basically hid down with a lawyer and another activist in the basement, put on the costume, went up on the floor where everybody was out on the floor and having cocktails right before the ceremony, rode up on the elevator with Tony Bennett. It was the staff elevator. We had one stop to make, and, wouldn't you know, Tony Bennett gets on the elevator.
BROWNI have a giant sign around my neck that says: Gillette tortures animals, shame on Gillette. By the way, I think they have quit testing on animals. But at that time, it was just amazing. He read my sign. He said, I had no idea, and I handed him a leaflet and said, read all about it. At that moment the elevator doors opened, and I ran out and stormed this crowd of people, you know, shouting: Gillette tortures animals. And was pushed to the ground by security, had my giant rabbit head taken off and was handcuffed and led outside.
REHMI want to go back a little bit because you said something that made me wonder. Couldn't it be argued that, in fact, you would not be here were it not for the fact that animals had provided the basis for the experimentation on those cancer-saving drugs -- cancer-killing drugs that you had?
BROWNI think you could argue that. But I think at this point in my life, knowing what I know, I think if I had the choice, I might have refused those conventional treatments.
REHMBut at 10 years of age, your mother would not have allowed you to refuse those.
REHMYeah. And I think it's also important to say that not many of the animals we talk about -- cats, dogs, orangutans -- are being used in that animal experimentation anymore. Many companies have stopped using live creatures, except for the mice and the rats...
BROWNAnd the rabbits.
REHMAnd the rabbits.
BROWNAnd, believe me, the primates, too. It does continue. There are many major companies that still have not ended their use of animal experimentation. And, of course, there's many campaigns, and it's well documented that many of these tests are repeated over and over again to satisfy FDA regulations or -- and because of the lack of a networking system where information can be shared about what knowledge has been gained from previous animal testing.
REHMI also love to go back to a very amusing situation that is after you had learned to use your prosthetic leg, you began to, once again, be involved in athletics and cheerleading and the like. And at one point, you lost your leg.
BROWNAt the time, I wanted to die over that situation. But, yes, and this goes back to just several years. I was in middle school and joined a cheerleading group. It wasn't for my school. It was Metro Parks, which is more of like a county league. And at that time, leg warmers were very much in fashion. So my friends -- you know, we had our skirts. We wore the leg warmers. You couldn't really tell I had an artificial leg.
REHMDid people know, though, that you had an artificial leg?
BROWNI think many people knew.
REHMMany people knew.
BROWNBut not everybody knew.
BROWNAnd my hair had just started to grow back. I had a little pixie cut, like, little, you know...
BROWN...two or three inches.
BROWNBut -- and I had been practicing to learn how to do cartwheels and round-offs and that sort of thing. And this was a big game. And I was so proud to show off to my friends and to my mother and the other mothers that I knew that -- and, of course, I had crushes on several of the boys on the team. But, you know, we were doing great. And we had just scored, and it was, you know, really amping up towards the end.
BROWNAnd I went to do a cartwheel round-off combo, which I'd practiced many times, but at that moment, when I did that and my legs were up in the air -- it didn't just fall off -- it shot off into the air.
REHMIt flew off. Yeah.
BROWNIt flew off and literally spun through the air and landed in the middle of the court. I had looked up, and I literally saw a mother, like, cover her child's eyes. And everything started happening in slow motion where my mother was yelling to my best friend Cindy at the time, you know, Cindy, go get the leg. And by that time, I had hopped and then scootched on my butt out of the auditorium, hid in the bathroom, cried my eyes out and thought I could never face the world again.
BROWNThat's a story that my pediatric oncologist, my cancer doctors, love to tell the young cancer patients about, you know, overcoming such things and how, later on in life, you can reflect on such things with humor and that that humor is a part of healing.
REHMAnd people gave you understanding and kindness and sympathy after that happened.
BROWNAbsolutely. I mean, kids can be brutal, though, you know?
REHMYes. Of course.
BROWNI was made fun of. I was peg leg. I was Long John Silver. I was baldy. You know, I had my wig pulled off during the class break one time in seventh grade and, for the one and only time in my life, fainted. I woke up, and somebody had, like, laid my wig on top of my forehead. It was humiliating. In high school I learned, you know, with other teens making fun of me, sort of, you know, not so sophisticated way of dealing with it.
REHMYou were a fighter.
BROWNI was a fighter, and because I wasn't going to take it. I mean, the verbal abuse and the bullying and the making fun of with somebody with a disability. I mean, now it's just, you know, I'm horrified by hearing about such things. But living it myself, you know, I really learned to defend myself. And, I mean, sadly and wonderfully, the counselors at the school would protect me because they understood. I mean, of course, I got several verbal warnings. But, yeah, I used to get into some fisticuffs, you know, which is not something I'm so proud of.
REHMDid you have psychological counseling as well?
BROWNThe hospital, the children's ward, had a wonderful doctor. And I remember his name was Dr. Hampy. (sp?) And I loathed him. How dare you come in here and talk to me about what I'm going through. You have no idea. Quit having me feel and touch warm fuzzy things and talk about my feelings. I was angry. And I didn't want to talk to anybody. And I shook my fist at him and anybody around me that tried to comfort me. How could they understand what I was going through? How could they understand losing a leg and the illness that I endured on a daily basis?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Of course, your involvement with PETA somehow channeled some of that anger later on.
BROWNAbsolutely. And, you know, I was an angry young activist. I, you know, wore "Meat Stinks" and "Fur is Dead" and had my car, you know, covered in bumper stickers. But anger and proselytizing and soap box preaching, I've learned over the years, is not a very effective way of getting your message across. But when you learn these things and you sort of have this epiphany that things feel very wrong in the world to you and that the innocent amongst us are being abused on a scale that is overwhelming -- I was angry.
BROWNAnd I turned a lot of people off, and I lost a lot of friends because I really lost respect for friends that didn't adhere to my personal feelings.
REHMNow, tell us about the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
BROWNMy husband and I, after working in film and television for a decade, I -- in the early '90s, after that episode I told you about, did the activist work, I had gone undercover for PETA, and my one big job that is sort of my claim to fame, you know, my biggest accomplishment was being flown to North Dakota and getting into a Premarin facility, where millions of women are taking this drug called Premarin. It's an estrogen replacement drug.
BROWNIt comes from the urine of pregnant horses. We've created a brand new form, a factory farming in northern states of this country and in Canada for the drug known as Premarin. Basically, these horses are lined up in stalls during their entire gestation period, and they live in miserable conditions. These foals are sold to slaughter. And that footage that I was able to obtain showed in four countries, and I was very proud of it.
BROWNBut, you know, I began to get work in film and television. I needed to make money. I needed independence. I stayed involved in animal rights as much as I could. But it wasn't until 2002 that I started really focusing my attention on farmed animals because the greatest need, the largest amount of suffering occurs with the chickens and the turkeys and the pigs and the cows. And I visited a farm animal sanctuary and fell in love with the work they were doing and longed to be a part of it.
BROWNAnd I was starting to get a little disillusioned with working in film and television, even though I'd worked on shows like "Frontline" and "Nova." I worked for the filmmaker Errol Morris. That's where I met my husband who's a film editor. And right before the biggest job of my career where I was producing and directing an hour long show for the Discovery Channel, I visited farm sanctuary in Upstate New York...
BROWN...in Watkins Glen, N.Y. And the experience of meeting these animals that I felt so passionate about and happy socialized animals that behave very differently when they're not treated as commodities -- I spent a weekend there. I wanted to maybe start a small little farm or just adopt some farm animals. But that experience really changed my life. I told the owners I had done some undercover video, went undercover again, and I can tell you more about that.
REHMIndeed. And you're listening now as Jenny Brown talks about her new book. It's titled "The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals." Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, Jenny Brown is here. She and her husband own a farm animal sanctuary in Woodstock, N.Y. and have now, what, about 200 farm animals. Jenny, how have these farm animals come to you?
BROWNEvery imaginable story but, believe it or not, typically -- we're just two hours north of New York City. Many animals come from the streets of New York City. There are around 100 what's known as live kill markets where it might -- you might not even be able to read what the sign says above, but it -- they serve halal meat. They cater to different cultures who require their meat to be slaughtered a certain way or who are used to walking in and buying a live chicken or buying a live lamb. And many of these animals escape when they're being...
BROWNLiterally escape because they -- I mean, we have also several slaughterhouse escapees that bolted from these slaughterhouses, one that just came from New Jersey earlier in the year, another one that escaped from a slaughterhouse, both halal slaughterhouses where they're -- you know, these aren't in big, big industrial, you know, remote slaughterhouses. They're right on -- they're in urban environments.
BROWNAnd so when these animals have the opportunity to escape and because they're in urban environments, when the news gets a hold of the story, people -- something very interesting happens. And people see these animals as individuals, and they fight for their right to live. But -- so slaughterhouse escapees, hoarding cases, people who have gone just sort of kooky and start taking in way too many animals, letting them breed out of control, animals living amongst the dead, starving to death, neglect, abuse, abandonment. We work with the ASPCA and Animal Care and Control in New York City.
REHMNow, of course, we think most of hoarding as far as cats and dogs are concerned, but surely not pigs or not calves or whatever.
BROWNBut it happens oftentimes with goats and sheep and that sort of thing.
BROWNYes, with horses. You know, we're dealing with a hoarding case right now with someone that has over 100 ducks and 50 roosters all living together in two small sheds with no access to water, standing in their own excrement. You know, people buy fancy breeds off eBay or from hatcheries, and then they get overwhelmed. And so we work with humane law enforcement officers from the local SPCAs to get these animals out.
REHMAnd, Jenny, how do you and your husband support yourselves and these creatures?
BROWNWell, we are a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization, and we're member-supported and supported by the public. There are many people who are becoming aware of the cruelty and the suffering and the intensive confinement that these farm animals endure. People come to the farm. We're open on the weekends. We do educational tours and take people in with the animals. And that's when some synapses start to fire and people see them as individuals and hear their names.
REHMAnd, as a result of all this, you have not only become a vegetarian. You've now become a vegan. You do not even eat the products of chickens, namely eggs.
BROWNPeople are largely unaware that there's actually more suffering involved in the dairy and egg industry than there is in just eating beef and chicken. No animal suffers worse than egg-laying chickens, who are crammed into battery cages, six hens to a cage the size of an album cover. They're painfully debeaked when they're about 10 days old. Around 300 million male chicks from the egg breeds are ground up alive or thrown into plastic bags where, once they're full, they're just tied up, tossed out in the dumpster and suffocated. We only want the females that lay the eggs.
BROWNThey live in such intensive confinement. We have denied them everything that makes life worth living to them. They can't spread their wings. They can barely turn around. They debeak them because they would peck each other to death, and they only live for about 18 months to two years. That's when their egg production declines. That's when they become cheap, you know, dog and cat food chicken.
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones, 800-433-8850, first to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Anthony.
ANTHONYGood morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
ANTHONYI would like to preface by saying that I'm very athletic myself, and, for dietary reasons, I do consume a fair amount of meat just because I have to keep up a certain amount of protein intake. But I wanted your guest's opinion about making sure that I get my meat from sources where the animals are treated well, from free-range cattle, free-range chicken, free-range eggs, places where the animals have freedom of movement, they have access to natural sources of their own food, grasses, insects, that kind of thing.
ANTHONYAnd I just wanted to know what kind of things I should look for also in terms of the farming practices.
BROWNWell, I will start out by saying that I believe that animals are here with us and not for us. And there is an incredible amount of evidence that says that we do not need meat, cheese, dairy or eggs for -- nutritionally, for any reason at all. You can find the protein in legumes and in a wide variety of vegetables. There's so much information about it. There are vegan athletes everywhere out there. One vegan athlete just kicked Manny Pacquiao's butt, you know, a vegan boxer who did that.
BROWNThere's vegan athletes all around the globe who are realizing that plant protein is far better and more readily internally, you know, processed more productively than animal products. And, no matter what, there's so many -- the public is largely fooled by clever advertising. Free-range, cage-free, these are not governed labels. The only thing that's governed is organic, and organic has nothing to do with animal welfare.
BROWNIt basically means they're -- the grass they're grazing on was not sprayed with pesticides, and they're not being given therapeutic antibiotics. It has nothing to do with animal welfare. I cannot say that there's a happy meat that is out there or happy dairy and egg products because, essentially, we're taking their lives for the trivial pleasure of our palates. And that's really what it comes down to.
REHMAll right. To Durham, N.H. Good morning, Pat.
PATHi. Thanks for having me on your show, Diane.
PATI'll probably come out on the -- I know I'll come out on the wrong side with your guest Miss Brown. But I'm -- my family runs a small farm in New Hampshire, and we raise free-range animals. And the way we define free-range is we invite people to come out to our farm and see what we mean by that. And we raise poultry and eggs and meat.
PATAnd I think one of the things that she brings up, that I really do agree with, though, is that we have really lost the image of what's involved in eating meat or wearing leather or using other animal products because we've gotten so detached by moving to cities and not being involved with where they come from.
PATMy -- you know, the animals we raise are definitely raised and then killed, which she would disagree with, but we do so in a very natural way. And we believe that we're doing the right thing. Just as there are lots of studies that would show that you can eat a completely vegan diet, there's lots of studies that show that that's not really adequate. And there's lots of people, you know, (unintelligible) whatever that would die if we denied them the opportunity to eat meat.
REHMThanks for calling, Pat.
BROWNWell, you know, a lot of people wonder, you know, why animal -- are you putting animal causes over human interest? We're feeding one-third of the global grain harvest to livestock when 60 million people die of starvation-related diseases every year. No matter how happy the cows are or that you assume that they're happy for dairy, no matter what, they keep -- you know, cows don't just magically produce milk.
BROWNThey are artificially inseminated. When their babies are born, whether it be male or female, that calf is torn from her maternal nurturing and over her heartbreaking bellows of helpless protest. We steal their babies, so we can drink the milk that rightfully belongs to them. And in the end, no matter how -- I mean, saying humane slaughter is an oxymoron. We're taking their lives.
BROWNWhen so many studies are out there that show that a vegan diet is an optimal diet and that we could be taking the land that's being used for farming to grow, you know, food that's for optimal health for humans. Instead of putting the plants into the animals to get the nutrients, we could be eating the plants directly.
REHMHowever, taking our caller's perspective for one moment as he talked about humane approaches to raising the animals, what about Temple Grandin and the work she has done providing, as she puts it, more humane ways to slaughter animals?
BROWNWell, think about this. You know, you're talking about their last moments of life. What about their entire lives? And so I believe she's done a lot of damage to animal advocacy because people want to feel better about eating "humanely-raised" animal products. And the fact of the matter is we -- it's violence. It's unnecessary violence. And, you know, if we can live happy and healthy lives without causing harm to others, why wouldn't we, and to do so with gratitude?
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, Sonny.
SONNYHi, good morning. Hi, Jenny. I've been an ethical vegan now for eight years, and I can say that I'm extremely active. I have a full-time law practice. I am vegan and live that lifestyle for ethical reasons. I've seen the suffering of animals before they're slaughtered. No matter how good they're -- well they're fed, they still suffer. There's no polite way to take a life.
SONNYBut I want to mention the environmental impact of the so called happy meat in free-range animals, that they're taking up our valuable green space and wild space and really putting a damper on conservation efforts when our planet right now is heating up. So I just wanted to know if you have any tips on going vegan.
BROWNWell, just to follow up on what you were talking about, the UN has reported that raising animals for food is one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems that we face today. And, you know, tips for going vegan, for me, it's not about, you know -- take incremental steps. You know, these meatless Monday campaigns are brilliant. You know, have a day where you commit to saying I'm going to try different foods.
BROWNGo to a vegan restaurant if one is in your area. You know, the fact that you can make a big plate of beans and rice with avocado and tomatoes and get some, you know, healthy multigrain burrito shells or something, pastas, Thai food, Asian food. You can get sushi. You can get avocado and cucumber sushi. It's delicious. It all goes into the wasabi and the soy sauce. It tastes exactly the same instead of eating, you know, fish because fish are not sea vegetables. You know, they are sentient beings as well.
REHMSo you put fish off your menu completely.
BROWNAbsolutely. And even if you don't care about fish and you don't think that they're conscious beings, we are destroying our oceans. And so -- and they are sentient beings. I say leave it all -- anything that has a face -- out of your diet.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Norman, Okla. Good morning, Cody.
CODYHi, Diane. Love your show.
CODYI wanted to first preface my comment with the fact that I am totally sympathetic with the uses of animals in cosmetic testing and horrible conditions in our animal farming machine. But I wanted to put a comment and hear your guest's thoughts about from the evolutionary standpoint, the domestication of animals and the consumption of animals, specifically animal fats, scientists have shown that that led directly to the growth of our brain and evolution to the point where we are.
CODYSo I'm kind of on the cusp of wanting to become a vegetarian, but, at the same time, if I do so, I would feel that I'm neglecting what led humans to where we are now.
BROWNWell, here's a response to that. Just because we've always done something doesn't make it right. You know, it's only been in the past 200 years that we've abolished slavery and women have gained rights. So you have to look at that. Nutritionally -- I mean, you know, regarding evolution and the -- and our brains, you know, let's focus on now and move forward. We have learned -- and for all the studies that you can cite about meat consumption as good for us, I guarantee there's 10 more studies out there that prove that a vegan diet is even better for us.
REHMFinally, I understand you're not the only one on your farm with a prosthetic leg, which, by the way, is gorgeous and which allows you to move absolutely freely. But tell us about Albee the goat.
BROWNWell, Albee the goat is partially why I'm here today because a New York Times story had come out that featured myself and my artificial leg and this little goat that was found in Prospect Park in New York City who had been hogtied with wires. And Animal Care and Control had picked him up. He had broken free, but one of his legs had literally maggots just falling out of the wound. And we did everything we could to save that leg, but, ultimately, it had to be amputated.
BROWNAnd, of course, I was very sympathetic to that, and I talked to my prosthetist who's the gentleman that makes my legs, Erik Tompkins. And I asked him if he could try to create something for Albee. And that's where it all began. And now we have a little sheep as well, Felix, who had his leg chewed off by some kind of predator at a farm that was raising him for lamb meat. And he, too, wears an artificial leg. But, you know, we encourage people to come out to the sanctuary, meet these animals, see them as individuals, hear their stories.
BROWNWoodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary you can find at woodstocksanctuary.org. We have a fabulous bed and breakfast now that you can stay in with an all vegan meal. You can look out and feel guilt-free, walk out, love on the animals, meet them, see them as individuals. Each and every chicken has a name. Know them as something other than animals, you know, to eat.
REHMJenny Brown, her new book, next to her beloved pig, is titled "The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals." Congratulations, Jenny, and thanks for being here.
BROWNThank you so much, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Megan Merritt, Lisa Dunn and Rebecca Kaufman. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
Most Recent Shows
John Grisham on growing up in the segregated South, writing sex scenes (badly) and how he manages to publish a book a year.
As President Trump ups the ante right before the midterms, how should the press respond? Diane asks The Washington Post's media columnist Margaret Sullivan.
"Books have souls," author Susan Orlean tells Diane. Hear her account of when hundreds of thousands went up in flames.