Transcript of Harold Brown’s ARZone Guest Chat
16 October 2010 at:
3pm US Pacific Time
6pm US Eastern Time
11pm UK Time
17 October 2010 at:
8am Australian Eastern Standard Time
ARZone would like to welcome Harold Brown as today’s guest.
Harold Brown was born and raised on a cattle farm in south central Michigan and spent over half his life in agriculture, including three years in the dairy industry. Harold has said that growing up as a farm kid gave him a rich experience that few people have the benefit of knowing these days. It taught him the value of community, of hard work, and that our personal choices have everything to do with the world we create.
Harold is featured in the Tribe of Heart documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. His story is one of transformation from animal farmer to vegan animal advocate. He also works as an advocate for animal rights, sustainable independent family farms, environmental justice, social justice, and peace through non-violence.
Harold is the founder of Farm Kind. Farm Kind was founded to be a place where everyone can come to learn about issues concerning our food, how it is produced, and the many complex connections it has to our world and our lives.
Harold has given generously of his time today to engage ARZone members on topics ranging from his transition from animal farmer to animal advocate, his vast knowledge of farming practices in the United States and his advocacy and theories in general. Please welcome Harold to ARZone.
Thank you for having me.
Hi Harold!! Welcome
Greetings from the Great Northwest
Hello from Michigan :-
Before we begin, I’d like to request that people refrain from interrupting Harold during the chat session, and utilise the open chat, at the completion of Harold’s pre-registered questions, for any questions or comments
I’d also like to remind all questioners to use “done” at the completion of their question, to allow for a more streamlined chat. I’d now like to ask
Harold’s first question on behalf of Tammy McLeod. What was it that made the
light go off in your head, and made you see cows as sentient beings?
It was a steer at a sanctuary. We had developed a realtionship of about a year and a half period. One day we interacted and he broke my heart open. I had known all my life what I
thought about animals but I never truly knew how I felt about them.
Thanks Harold. Next Q is from Lee Hall asked by Carolyn Bailey.
Harold, you know a lot about farms and the animals they use. The US group known as ALDF (see http://www.aldf.org/section.php?id=148
), which happens to be running a major law conference that sold out this weekend in Portland, has an "Animal Bill of Rights" and it insists on a "right of farmed animals to an environment that satisfies their basic
physical and psychological needs." The document then decries high-volume
animal agribusiness and inhumane slaughter.
Harold, is there such a thing as an environment that suits these animals' needs? And what is the reality, in the culture you envision, for these animals? Can you talk a little about the future, and how we'd think about the
animals who have traditionally been called farm animals? Thank you for your time
Great question! In my opinion farm animals are in a unique situation in the world of non-human animals in
that they are brought into this world by humans for one purpose. This conference presupposes that there is a
humane way to breed, raise, transport and kill them. There isn't, plain and simple.
As for an environment that suits them, not really. Most of these animals are engineered to fit the machine and are not capable of surviving on their own in nature. Some are though. In any case they are solely here for our purposes and are totally denied their interests, needs, behaviors,
family bonds, community and so on. I envision a world where all beings are able
to live on their own terms, and it really isn't that hard. But as for farm animals they will most likely
be ushered into extinction as the demand for them declines and disappears.
Thanks Harold. Carolyn has a question she'd like to ask on her own behalf....
Thanks, Tim. Hi Harold, when you created Farm Kind, what were your main objectives and who were you hoping would be more influenced by the material and
advice available from Farm Kind?
My aim is to bring all of the issues that you stated in your introduction and show how they are actually a whole. Not separate issues that should be micro-managed. I believe that until we
awaken to the larger picture of interconnectedness we are going to continue to
scatter our message to the wind and few people will get what veganism is about.
Thanks Harold. Tim Gier has the next question...
In your essay Animal Rights at farmkind.org, you recount your journey out a world steeped in the exploitation. Do you think that you would have made
your journey had your health not been an issue? –more- Do you think that some
other event would have triggered the changes in your life, or would you still
be enjoying ice cream today if not for your heart troubles?
It is hard to say what the trigger is for other people. These were the situations and circumstances that led to my awakening. I think I had some inkling of the larger problem of exploitation because I was a child of the
60-70's and watching the Vietnam War on television every night and all of the
other dynamics of the time with civil rights and so on. It was a time of fostering dreams, i.e. JFK, Martin Luther King Jr, Chaves, etc. This is something that I see missing today in young people, a vision of a better tomorrow, a dream like King's, hope. I think
this is the power of the vegan movement, we offer the world a vision and hope.
Thanks for that, Harold. Roger Yates would like to ask the next question, go ahead, Roger.
Your story of Snickers always gets to me and makes me cry. For those who have not heard it, would you please recount it again here?
I had got to know Snickers and after a couple of years I attended an event where many people were in the barn along with the other cows. I saw Snickers
standing on the other side of the cow barn chewing his cud with no one paying
attention to him. I called out his name and to my surprise he came running over
to me and planted his head in the middle of my chest and leaned against me. I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave
him a long hug and I had an epiphany. I had this mental image in over my heart
of a light switch. This switch had been off for most of my life and I realized
that I had turned it on only when it was convenient. At that moment I realized that
my coping mechanism to deal with the objectionable things in my life by saying
"I don't care." I now knew that I could no longer use that phrase and in turn I could only say "I
care." This required me to show up entirely differently in the world. It changed my life.
Thanks, Harold. Is that Snickers in the picture to the left?
No. He was a Jersey steer and passed away a couple of months ago.
I’m very sorry to hear that.
That's a moving story Harold, thank you for sharing it. Kate-Go-Vegan has the next question, but Kate's busy creating the transcript of tonight's
chat, so Carolyn will ask it for her...
In 2007 you suggested the core problem for "farm animals" is free market capitalism. You also said that you had no answers to that problem
at the time but recommended that we think about the issue. 1) Are you still of
the same mind, 2) has this thinking taken place, and 3) are we any nearer
working out a plan!?
I still am of that opinion. It isn't a stretch for anyone to understand that business as it is conducted in most of the world is a system that is based on extraction and
exploitation. Everything is seen as
resources whether it is minerals, oil, soil, air, water or people. Yes people,
who hasn't worked at a business that doesn't have a "human resources
department". The answer is a fundamental restructuring of how we do
business, of bringing real ethics into corporate board rooms, of mutual
respect. This is what veganism has to offer, a moral baseline for how we
conduct ourselves in the world.
Kate Go Vegan:
Thank you Harold. I am really sorry to hear about Snickers passing away recently. Thanks for your great answer
The next question is from Tim Gier. Go Tim!
At the end of his essay "One-Track Activism" (http://www.veganoutreach.org/articles/normphelps.html
) Norm Phelps is critical
of you because he says that you do not offer "a single idea for making
concrete progress" to deal with animal exploitation. In the first place,
do you see it as your role to provide those ideas, or do you see your role as
something else? Secondly, do you accept
his criticism of you at all; have you any concrete ideas on how to deal with
I do work to offer solutions. One of the biggest is promoting and helping farmers adopt veganic farm practices. I also work for and in farm workers’ rights and I help citizens who are being
exploited and displaced by industrialized agriculture.
Unfortunately some people will posit opinions without talking with the people they have a problem with. So much misunderstanding can be avoided by simply talking to one another. I also spend
a good deal of time talking with college students and waking them up to the
myriad interconnections of exploitation and offer a new vision.
Thanks, again, Harold! Ben Hornby would like to address you next, go ahead, Ben.
You became a vegetarian in the late 1980’s after moving to Ohio, becoming vegan a year later. What, if any, advice would you give to someone thinking about
becoming vegetarian, but reluctant to move to veganism because they believe it
may be too difficult, or even too radical?
Ah, the radical card. When I talk with people and they call either me or what I have to offer radical I ask them if they believe that rape is always wrong, or if murder is always wrong, or
child pornography. They always say,
"Why yes, those things are always wrong!" Then I tell them that being radical is simply
a position that we think that something is and always will be wrong. In this context everyone is a radical. This closes the gap of our dialogue. I then talk to them to find out where they
are coming from. Is there current interest their or their loved ones health,
the environment, or if I'm lucky, their love of animals.
As a matter of fact I'm working on a local beef farmer who is an animal lover and her resolve is eroding with every new calf and every steak she is selling. I am nurturing her innate compassion. I think in a year or less she will give up the business. Today it is
easier than ever to eat a plant based diet and with all of the information at
our finger tips we can make a huge difference. Of course this means we need to
do our home work and be well educated.
Well said, thanks Harold.
Next up is Carolyn Bailey to ask a question from Priscilla Feral
Thanks, Jay What are your thoughts on the infamous (nonbinding) "Ohio Agreement?" HSUS and Farm Sanctuary aborted an Ohio ballot
measure targeting battery cages and other practices which resulted in Wayne
Pacelle's endorsement of the meat industry-controlled Livestock Board --
calling its collaboration with the Farm Bureau a "Landmark Animal Rights
In my opinion there isn't a heck of a lot of difference between these "animal protection" organizations and the industry and its
Another way to think of this situation is what we have seen in the environmental movement since the 1980's. What I have observed is that once any organization grows to a certain critical mass things change. There is always a disconnect from the
grassroots and survival of the corporate entity is job one. It was a back room
trade off. An "I'll scratch your back, you scratch mine." The industry is changing of its own volition due to recent developments in animal husbandry and the re-engineering of the animals them selves.
As far as I know these "animal protection" organizations have never put into print, spoke of or promoted animal rights. It is the media that has conflated these animal husbandry reform organizations with animal rights and many well meaning
activists become confused and support them thinking that they are convertly
animal rights organizations.
Thanks again, Harold. Great reply!
Roger Yates would like to ask another question now. Go ahead Rog.
Thanks. Hi again, Harold. Your story is very interesting from a sociological point of view. You talk about cattle and dairy culture being validated by TV advertisements; about a dominating culture of indoctrination;
and how frightening social change can seem. You point out that we often have a
crude instrumental view of all animals, human or nonhuman. What changed you was
a crisis. Does this mean, in your view that huge percentages of the population
will forever be beyond our reach and our message?... Is it necessary for
individuals to have some crisis to wake them up - or is that being too pessimistic?
Not at all. From my perspective it’s the power of the story we have to share. Joseph Campbell explored the human condition well and understood human nature. The power of story is everything to society in developing its mythos. Where the animal movement has gone wrong
for over 30 years is the story they shared. It is a message of suffering,
cruelty and harm. Things that humans spend every moment of their lives to keep
as far away from themselves as possible.
People don't have the eyes to see or the ears to hear these messages. Sure
they need to look behind the curtain but 90% plus of our message has to be
about the joy of veganism. Of what Will Tuttle calls radical inclusion.
For years I watched the animal movement from the other side of the fence and I knew that they weren't going to go any where because the message was not something that society at large could handle and the follow up manipulators are
guilt and shame. Guilt and shame never changed anyone’s heart or mind. As for activists I think we do need our hearts broken to find our true passion. I know that probably everyone here has had their hearts torn apart dealing with the crisis of caring for and working for
the respect and dignity of non-human animals. Sometimes it may be our working
with humans that takes us through our dark night that takes us to that place
were we embrace our less than desirable selves and come out the other side
connected to our deepest love and passion.
Thanks Harold, Ben Hornby has another question, Ben?
Hi, Harold. Recently, in Australia, there have been celebrations regarding Tasmania outlawing sow stalls by 2017. This will, of course, be phased in, and
vehemently challenged before then. Obviously, even at this early stage, many
people now feel able to buy pig flesh with an ease of conscience. Should we be
aiming for “victories” such as this and celebrating these, or should we be
focused on educating people not to eat any animal products instead? Are these
“victories” helpful if we’re aiming for the abolition of speciesism?
In this particular case, no. I was at Cornell University a couple of years ago to listen to an industry spokes person who is the polar opposite to me. During his rant against
the animal protection movement and their campaigns to "ban" (read the
legislation, they don't ban anything) he claimed it was by their pressure that
state were either changing through ballot initiative or voluntarily to abandon
sow crate systems. A professor stopped
him and corrected him. He said that they
have to transition away from the current systems because they have developed a
new "super sow". That's to say, sows in the past and present give
birth to about 10 piglets per birthing.
They now have a new sow that gives birth to about 20 piglets and that
her body size is such that the old crates are too small, that they literally won't
fit into the old crates. These transitions take time and money but they are
making them. We can do no less than speak the whole truth. That non-human
animals are here for their own reasons and we shouldn't waste our time
negotiating regulations of use but speak clearly of the necessity of justice
for all beings.
Thank you Harold
Next question is from Karink - which I’ll ask on her behalf.
As a former dairy cow milker, how do you feel and what do you see as a humane solution to dairy cows that deliver bull calves. 99% are sold just weeks old for veal. It is such a heartbreaking issue and I have seen with my own
eyes. Just the most terrible things. So very sad I have been a vegan for the
last 20 years and I am just horrified by the way these babies are cared for.
Just to clarify, I grew up on a beef farm. I worked 3 years in the dairy business. There is NO humane solution to dairy other than just making it stop. Another point to clarify is that most calves are sent to auction 24-72 hours after birth. Most veal is bob veal, special fed veal
accounts for a minority of veal consumption. The difference is that bob veal
calves are 24-72 hours old, special fed veal calves are about 4 months
old. The core issue here is the breaking
of a sacred bond, the bond of a mother and her child. It is as simple as that.
Thanks Harold. The final pre-registered question comes from Tim Gier. Go ahead Tim....
In your essay Global Agricultural Domination (http://www.farmkind.org/domination.htm
) you talk about humankind's desire to bring order to chaos as it has manifested itself since the dawn of the
agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago. Considering that it seems to be a
condition of human reason that we seek such order, what, if anything, can we do
to remedy the situation? –more- Dr. Steve Best suggests that the coming
convergence of global warming, peak oil, population growth, ecological disaster
and other factors will force a remedy upon us.
Do you share that view?
I do share this view. Unfortunately a part of human nature is that in some cultures we are programmed to be "crisis management" oriented. It isn't until we find ourselves in the wringer are we going to get up and change
something. I am the eternal optimist and believe that people are capable of great
things if given the opportunity. I have seen it time and again. It is about
creating a safe place and a community where people can come and deconstruct
At this stage I’d like to sincerely thank Harold Brown for being so generous with his time today, and responding to some excellent questions with insightful and intelligent responses I’d like to open the chat up for other
members to engage Harold, but ask that you please message either myself, Jason
or Roger if you wish to. Fina would like to address you first, Harold. Please
go ahead, Fina.
Hi, I would like to ask a question: Some people (me included) are not ready to give up cheese and eggs yet, what is the best way to go about it? I am buying all stuff from small local farmers who treat their animals well and not
from big producers.
I think it is important that although you may want to give up cheese it isn't all your fault that you can't, despite your will power. there is a component in the protein of milk called casomorphine. Yup, morphine. You are addicted as are so many vegetarians
that want to eat a plant based diet. It
is a tough addiction to break but to be informed goes a long way. One we understand that there isn't anything
in any animal product that we need then it is recognized that it is only a
want. Wants are easy to leave behind.
Thanks, Harold. Will would like to ask you a question now. Go ahead, Will.
Hi Harold - what are your views about non-violent direct action for animals?
I support non-violent direct action. Veganism is direct action!
However when it comes to overt violence I cannot support it. I spent most of my life in a culture of violence and it is a monster that will consume you once you let it loose. It was and is the darkest part of my life that I deal with on a daily basis. Our
culture makes violence a form of entertainment, sport, and a way to resolve
problems...think Chuck Norris
Thank you Harold Hah, Chuck Norris. Thanks Harold! Christina Louise would now like to ask you a questions, go ahead, Christina.
Thanks Carolyn. Hi Harold, nice to meet you. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the Peaceable Kingdom DVD. I know it is making a big impact in the cities where it has already screened. Coming from a farming background, you
would know how reluctant farming communities are to change, and how protective
they are of their culture and family heritage... I live in a small country town
Would you envision a community screening of PK might change lives in towns like
mine, or do you think people would be more open to the message if they saw the
film individually where they were not subjected to the peer pressure of fellow
farmers when watching it in a group setting?
I have attended large screenings of the movie with farmers in attendance and talked to a few of them afterwards. The impact this film has on them is amazing. Not to give too much away, in the new film
there is footage of a county fair during the auction of the kids animals. This
section of the film takes these guys back to when they did this and how
emotionally raw they felt but pushed it away. One dairy farmer shared with me
that he didn't buy everything he saw in the film but he was moved; I asked him
what part moved him, he said it was the fair footage. There was a moment of
silence and then he looked me square in the eye and said, "What did we do
to ourselves?" This film does not give the audience the usual outs of
reason or emotion.
That’s great, thanks very much.
As a follow-up, I guess that the online version of the original film Peaceable Kingdom has been pulled awaiting the release of the new film. Do you know
when we might expect to see working links to the film for online viewing again?
Rumor...and it is only a rumor, is possibly next month. don't hold me to it.
I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Harold for being so generous with his time today and going well over the allotted time. We
sincerely thank you, Harold.
Kate Go Vegan:
Thank you Harold
By the way, if you are interested in the movie just go to Tribe of Heart's website and you can get on a list to keep you on top of its release.
Thanks so much!
Great chat Harold, thank you!
You've been wonderful, Harold, and thank you for the insightful replies to some great questions!
Thank you Harold!!
You are welcome, bless you all and all you do.
Thanks Jason done
ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after a chat by starting a
forum discussion or by making a point under a transcript.
Robert D. Shepherd:
Thank you, Harold. You rock!
Don’t forget to check out the new ARZone Q&A site, Words to Inspire - http://animalrightszone.blogspot.com/