May 2016 Update: Farmers tried to intimidate me

On May 7, I drove three hours from my home to speak in two rural communities in Ontario. At the first, in Petrolia, something strange happened just five minutes into the event. About a dozen people in the audience started interrupting me as well as others in their community in an effort to stall the conversation. It turned out that they were factory farmers—people whose farms harm animals and degrade the environment.

Their tactics did not stop at disruption, but continued toward harassment and intimidation. At my second event, in Sarnia, as I stood on stage, I was startled to look out over the audience and discover that several farmers had stalked me over from the first event to the second.

These factory farmers averred that it’s morally acceptable to confine animals for the brief span of their lives in cages and crates in which they’re completely immobilized. These farmers don’t realize that the word ‘animal’ shares a root with ‘animate’ and that it’s the ability and interest to move that sets an animal apart from a plant, ‘planted’ in one place. In part as a result of Project Animal Farm, consumers are starting to learn what goes on behind the closed doors of factory farms, and they don’t like it.

Agribusiness continues to reiterate nonetheless that animals are not sentient beings, but objects. The industry considers progress an enemy to the pocketbook, fearing that a humane economy would be harmful to their bottom line. It doesn’t have to be.

At my events, I remained calm and courteous with the farmers, which only served to fuel their ire. The difference between me and them is not just our perspective on responsible business and the treatment of animals, but also our perspective on free speech. I believe that free speech is the hallmark of a democratic society and that dialogue is necessary for change. Factory farmers, on the other hand, are not interested in conversation—they’re looking for war.

The question is: Why would factory farmers try so desperately to silence me?

Because they’re afraid change is coming. They’re afraid there will be no room for their exploitative practices in the kind of world I advocate in Project Animal Farm.

These factory farmers don’t realize two things. First, I already knew I was risking everything by writing Project Animal Farm and going up against concentrated interests. Second, Project Animal Farm has grown to become much bigger than me. The book has been resonating with readers of all ages and backgrounds, and I’ve been receiving countless appreciative e-mails, like those below. The book is, in fact, going global, about to appear on the shelves of bookstores in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau in just a couple of weeks.

In other words, change has already begun.

Here’s a round-up of recent reader reviews:

  • “I read your book Project Animal Farm quickly. In fact, I couldn’t put it down, sharing your ideas with everybody… Thank you for writing on such an important topic.” – Mary Jean
  • I just wish I could give your book to every person in America to read.  I certainly will recommend it to everybody I know.” – Terry
  • “I purchased your book and took it with me on vacation. From the first page I was hooked…I learned a great deal from your research and personal accounts.” – Steph
  • “I was a little sad when I finished the book as it was such a good read.” – Mary-Jo
  • “I just finished your book and thought it was excellent.” – Paul

Here’s Project Animal Farm in the media:

  • A review in Common Ground: “One of the most important voices emerging in the exponentially growing chorus of global awareness is Sonia Faruqi. Her book, Project Animal Farm, is unprecedented.”
  • An interview in New Canadian Media: Project Animal Farmdescribes “what can be done to create a farming system that is better for farmers, animals and consumers.”
  • An article in The Observer: “Faruqi began a personal journey that would take her around the globe…The result is the critically-acclaimed 2015 book, Project Animal Farm…”
  • First Monday Business Magazine (a Sarnia publication): “Soniavalues the necessary work that farmers do…Her goal is to help farmers find humane alternatives through her research and writing….Some animosity towards the guest speaker appeared to emerge, yet Faruqi remained composed and courteous to all who expressed opinions.”
  • You can view a taping of my Dartmouth College event in Aprilhere, filmed and broadcast by CATV, a New England TV station.

In an insightful new book titled The Humane Economy, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, points out that there was a time when auto makers fought seat belts because they didn’t want to bear the increased production costs of the belts. Common sense and public safety eventually prevailed over the private interests of corporations, mandating seat belt use.Can we even imagine cars today without seat belts? Relatedly, agribusiness currently has knee-jerk reactions to basic regulations that would protect animal welfare, worker well-being, consumer safety, and the environment, but there will come a time when the concentrated financial interests of less than 2% of the population are no longer allowed to supercede the values and interests of the remaining 98%.

We can take heart in Gandhi’s words: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Currently, as a society, we are in the third stage—the fight—and it’s a tough place, but it’s the stage just before winning.

All of you who receive this newsletter have the power to be ambassadors for change. I thank you for your efforts and hope you continue to join me in moving together toward a better world.

My best now and always,
Sonia