Leah Garcés On Turning Adversaries Into Allies — Leveraging Empathy To Change Animal Agriculture
“My purpose is to reduce suffering.”
Meat is complicated. Political, divisive and often polarizing.
The most common story told focuses on factory farmed cows. Hormone injected and antibiotic-laden, red meat is inextricably linked to an array of human illnesses. Resource and waste intensive, beef is inarguably environmentally damning. And perhaps the most ethically fraught.
A typical response among many? Swap that beef for chicken.
America's favorite meat, chicken constitutes a staggering 95% of all factory-farmed animals. The U.S. currently consumes 9 billion chickens per year with worldwide numbers in the 50 billion range. That's about 137 million chickens a day. Every day.
But is chicken actually healthier than beef? Is it more environmentally responsible or ethical in comparison to other alternatives?
Today Leah Garcés joins the podcast with a public service announcement: everything you think you know about chicken is wrong.
The new president of the international non-profit Mercy for Animals, Leah Garcés has spent her life on the frontlines of the animal welfare movement exposing what actually transpires inside industrial chicken farms. Devoted to improving conditions for factory-farmed animals, she has made significant progress not through a traditional strategy of antagonism, but instead by pursuit of cooperation, working alongside some of the largest food and agriculture companies in the world -- including Perdue, Popeye’s, Panera & Chipotle -- to produce positive change.
In her new book, Leah chronicles her experience teaming up with whistleblowers in the megafarm industry. Part memoir, part investigative thriller, Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry is a great read that not only elucidates the ills of our broken food system, but also casts an optimistic lens on a better future for food, animals, and humans.
Most impressive is Leah's profound empathy. Not just for the animals, but for the people most animal rights folks consider the enemy: the factory-farmers; the slaughterhouse workers; and the corporate executives that control animal intensive farming.
Rather than fight against these people, Leah adopted a different approach, working with them instead.
It's a tactic that might strike the hardened animal rights activist as anathema. Controversial and perhaps even unacceptable. But the cornerstone of the vegan movement is compassion. And lasting change can only come from directing that emotion not just to the animals, but to all — including the people behind the animals.
Today we unpack all of it.
It's a conversation about the insidious reality of industrial chicken farming. An exploration of the modern-day farmer's plight as an indentured servant. And the industrial complex that entrenches our broken and undeniable cruel system of food production.
But ultimately, this is a conversation about empathy. It’s about practicing what you preach. And the strategies required to create sustainable change to forge a better world for all.
Note: For those who shut down at the mere mention of animal rights, I ask only that you set aside your preconceived judgments. Because this conversation isn’t just about the suffering of animals. It’s about the suffering of people. And it’s about a system that is hoodwinking us all, including the chicken farmer with his boots in the ground.
Final Note: this conversation was recorded pre-pandemic on January 31, 2020. Our world has since changed. But given what we are learning about the relationship between large-scale intensive animal farming and the propagation of disease, Leah's message, experience and wisdom is more relevant now than ever
I am grateful for Leah's advocacy and passion. May you find this conversation as impactful as I did.
Peace + Plants,
Listen, Watch & Subscribe
Thanks to this week’s sponsors
Daily Harvest: Daily Harvest makes it easy to eat more fruits and vegetables with thoughtfully sourced, chef-crafted foods that are ready in five minutes or less. Go to dailyharvest.com and enter promo code RICHROLL to get twenty-five dollars off your first box.
Squarespace: Make your next move with Squarespace and start building the website of your dreams. Start your free trial site today and get a free domain if you sign up for a year at squarespace.com/richroll. Listeners of the podcast can even save 10% off their first purchase when they use the offer code RICHROLL at checkout.
Grove Collaborative: The online marketplace that makes it easy to go green by delivering all-natural & non-toxic home, beauty, and personal care products right to your doorstep. For a limited time, visit grove.co/richroll and get a free Sustainable Swap Set with your purchase with free shipping & a FREE 60-day VIP Trial.
Note: One of the best ways to support the podcast is to support the sponsors. For a complete list of all RRP sponsors and their respective vanity url's and discount codes, visit my Resources page and click "Sponsors".
Pick up Leah's new book, Grilled: Turning Adversaries into Allies to Change the Chicken Industry*
- Connect With Leah: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
- Mercy For Animals: mercyforanimals.com
- NY Times: Abusing Chickens We Eat by Nicholas Kristof
- NY Times: Animal Cruelty or The Price of Dinner? by Nicholas Kristof
- The Atlantic: The Human Cost of Chicken Farming
- VICE: Why a North Carolina Chicken Farmer Exposed the Depressing Conditions on His Own Farm
- Wired: Hoping to Change the Industry, a Factory Farmer Opens His Barn Doors
- Washington Post: The not-so-humane way ‘humanely raised’ chickens are being raised
- Forbes: Poultry To Plant-Based: Animal Farmers Are Now Working With Vegans To Get Out Of The Meat Business
- Forbes: Popeyes Signs On To ‘Better Chicken’
- Vox: Replacing beef with chicken isn’t as good for the planet as you think
- Vox: Battle-tested lessons from the animal rights struggle
- Civil Eats: Americans Eat More Chicken Than Ever
- Civil Eats: The Plant-Based Movement to Transition Farmers Away from Meat and Dairy Production
- VegNews: Mercy For Animals Convinces Popeyes To Agree To Better Chicken Welfare Standards
- LiveKindly: This Farmer Started Growing Hemp Instead of Killing Chickens
Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy
- RRP #335: Nathan Runkle Has Mercy For Animals
- RRP #423: James Aspey: Eat Plants, Not Animals
- RRP #111: Lisa Lange On Why It's Cool To Be Compassionate
- RRP #138: Gene Baur On Living In Alignment With Your Values
*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT THE PODCAST?
Tell Your Friends & Share Online!
Donate: Check out our Patreon account
Support The Sponsors: One of the best ways to support the podcast is to support our sponsors. For a complete list of all RRP sponsors and their respective vanity url's and discount codes, visit my Resources page and click "Sponsors".
See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.