Today I did something I usually abstain from; I actually took time out of my day and sat down to watch The Oprah Winfrey Show. Why? Because she was talking about a topic that I care about, animal agriculture and the welfare of animals on farms. Of most importance, I wanted to see what her guest said about modern agriculture. Those guests included Michael Pollan, author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and Kathy Freston, a vegan author and spiritual advisor. During her show Oprah issued a challenge to her staff and audience to go vegan for one week.
After watching the show I considered taking Oprah up on her challenge. How hard could it be? I have gone for a week before without eating steak, and I also like salad! So, I began by doing the logical thing and Googling “what does it take to be vegan?” Of course the answer is that a vegan must reject the commodity status of animals and the use of animal products for any purpose.
In essence to fulfill Oprah’s challenge I began to make a list of things I would have to sacrifice for the week. I began with the logical answers of steak, chicken and milk. Then I started thinking about the definition of a vegan, I would have to give up all animal products, so I broadened my list to include gelatin, lanolin, honey, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, stearic acid, and broccoli.
So I know what you are thinking, “why can’t a vegan eat broccoli?” Well as I made out my list I noted stearic acid was a byproduct of animals, a byproduct that makes tires. Tires are used by the farmer that grows the broccoli, by the truck driver that delivers it to the grocer, and would require that I walk to the store in…. I guess bare feet as even rubber shoes have animal products in them. So in essence I could grow the broccoli in my garden using organic methods and fertilizing it with manure; oh wait that is an animal product as well.
So as much as I wanted to take Oprah up on her vegan challenge I am just not positive I have it in me. I will also congratulate any vegans out there that are able to find a way to live a vegan lifestyle, yes there are individuals that do and it is no small task.
For me, I will continue to be satisfied knowing that me and the other farmers that raise my food do so in an ethical manner, caring for their animals to make sure that they live a healthy and content life. If you question the level of care that farmers provide their animals I encourage you to find a farmer and ask him your questions directly because despite popular belief, farmers know more about what they do every day on their farm than Google does.
In fact, that’s my one-week challenge for Oprah. If anyone has a chance to get this to her, here’s my challenge and invitation to help her succeed:
We’d like you to spend a week seeing what happens on farms, asking those farm families the questions you want answered. My wife Pam and I would be glad to help make arrangements with friends here in Ohio and across the US. In fact, we would welcome you starting your tour here at our farm. If you come in the next few months, we’ll be able to show you calving. We can show you how we work to provide good nutrition and how we work with partners to take beef to the table. If you’d like to start a bit later in the spring, we could show you planting, etc.
Looking forward to your visit. Respectfully, Mike Haley
UPDATE: After I made this post several farmers formed a Facebook page asking Oprah to visit their farm. Feel free to join as well! http://www.facebook.com/visitmyfarm