Q and A with Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gene Baur, the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been one of the strongest advocates for farmed animals in the United States since the 1980s.  His  investigative exposés and advocacy efforts on behalf of farm animals have earned international media coverage. “Time” magazine described Baur as the “conscience of the food movement.” In March 2008, Baur released a book entitled “Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food.”

Baur comes to Charleston this week to give two public talks -

5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday in room 227 of the Addlestone Library, College of Charleston, located at 205 Calhoun Street. Free.

7:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday at Jivamukti Yoga, located at 320 W. Coleman Boulevard, Mount Pleasant. Donation of $10-$20 for Farm Sanctuary suggested.

Q: It seem like awareness about the ills of factory farming has come a long way in 25 years. Back then, did you feel like were you a voice crying out in the desert?

A: Yes, it has come a long way. It was frustrating that so few people weren’t thinking about these issues back in the 80’s. Even today, people still aren’t thinking of these issues as much as we need to be but  we’ve come an awful long way. Vegan food is much more readily available. There are plenty of alternatives to cow’s milk, for example, such as coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk or hemp milk. And many these are available in regular grocery stores. There are veggie burgers – even Burger King has a veggie burger.

I think it’s a lot easier now (to be a vegan) than it used to be and I think the idea of not eating animals and eating plants is becoming more widely acceptable …

Vegan living is actually tied into some very prominently held values and beliefs that most people have. Most people want to be kind to other animals, but most people are unwittingly supporting cruelty by buying these animal foods that are raised in these horrible conditions. I think what’s happening is that people are starting to align their own behavior with their own values. And that’s where a big part of the change is happening, I believe.

Q: Do you get people asking isn’t vegetarian good enough? Why do I have to go all the way vegan?

A: Any step people take in a positive direction is something we support and encourage, but when you look at the reality of how these animals are being treated, dairy and eggs are, in many cases, some of the worst abuses because these animals live a longer period of time in horrible conditions.

 In the case of dairy cows, they have their calves taken away from them every year, because in order to produce milk, like other mammals, cows have to have a baby. Then the mother is produced to push ten times more milk than she would normally produce.

They are pushed hard and live short, painful lives and then they are slaughtered for beef. Then their babies, if they are male, they are raised for veal, which is one of the worst cruelties, too.

Q: What about pasture-raised and certified humane eggs?

A: I don’t think the word humane is accurate. Dairy cows, even if they are raised on a pasture, they still have their baby taken away from them. Then they are killed when they are no longer profitable for milk production.

As for certified humane, chickens, even if they are free range, they’ll still have their beaks cut off. Those terms seem to sound a lot better than they really are. Free range only requires that animals be given access to the outdoors, but the access is not defined. So you commonly find animals by the thousands with a small door to crummy paddock.

That can still be called free-range, but that’s not what consumers think they are buying.

There is not enough infrastructure right now to enforce (the standards). Even the minimal standards on the books right now, even if enforced, are pretty weak.

You have a strong demand for alternatives to factory farm foods and a lacking supply. What’s happened is that standards have been pushed down. Besides that, you don’t have a robust infrastructure to certify and to visit and make sure these operations are in compliance.

Q: Do you see any trends, anecdotically or statistically, about a move to vegan lifestyle? It seems like women are more apt to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle than men.

A: I think women tend to be more open-minded to these issues than men generally. But we’re starting to see more and more men get involved, as well. People like Bill Clinton are going vegan, mainly for health reasons, but people like Mike Tyson went vegan a couple of years ago …

We’re seeing more men getting into it, including athletes. Last season, Arian Foster of Houston Texans went vegan (and later got lambasted for eating chicken). You have people doing it for a variety of reasons. MMA fighters. Lance Armstrong – I hate to mention – when he was working on his comeback, he was eating more plant-based.

Q: Is social media helping the cause?

A: I think that social media is playing a huge role. People have to become aware of these issues. For many, many years, people have not been aware and social media makes it easier for people to become aware.

Q; The mainstream media has often avoided the subject. Has that been a frustration of yours?

A: Yes, it’s been frustrating.

 It reminds me of a case with USDA (US Department of Agriculture). We argued that it should be illegal for diseased animals to be used for food, including animals that are too sick to eat and walk. Their response to us was that it was legal, common and appropriate for diseased animals to be used for human food. And that’s still there position.

That’s the kind of thing that I think consumers would like to know, but the mainstream media generally has not covered it.

Q: Do you worry that the industry is starting to get worried and trying to get convert films inside factory farms banned? And how important it is to see these?

A: It’s troubling that the industry is doing this, but it’s not the first time.

There was something passed in 1993 called the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, a federal law that protects animal agriculture, and more recently, an attempt to prevent people from taking pictures on these farms. That shows that they (the factory farming industry) have a lot to hide.

But I believe that there’s a lot of information out there already. People are seeing what is happening and the industry is not going to be able to hide their cruelties. They may be able to try to prevent people from saying what’s happening.

This is just the newest swath of the same old thing.

Q: You seem very hopeful and upbeat that things are going to change.

A: I am. I am. I have seen things change. There’s never been as much awareness as there is today about these issues.

There has never been more incentives, some that aren’t so positive. We’ve got an obesity crisis. Heart disease and cancer are the top two killers in this country and the risks of both can be significantly lessened by plant foods instead of animal foods. When people see that and they change, it’s very inspiring. People are becoming empowered to take control of their lives … and that does make me hopeful. But obesity, heart disease and cancer are horrible and unnecessary.

But also now we have economic problems. We, as taxpayers, have subsidized this industry in various ways. We subsidized the production of cheap corn and soybeans, which are then used as animal feed, so that the price of meat is much cheaper than it should be. We also subsidize health care …

Unfortunately, there are other economics pushing in the other direction.

The pharmaceutical people make a lot of money on heart disease. More than half of the antibiotics produced in the United States are fed to farm animals to make them grow faster.

 If people were to step back and look at these issues objectively and look at what’s in the best interest of our nation and each of us as individuals, the answer is very clear. If the idea is for a particular industry to get wealthy – the pharmaceutical, dairy, beef – that’s a different answer. But most people are not in those industries and most people would benefit to a more holistic approach to our food system and I think that we are seeing that and it makes me hopeful.

Q: What’s the status of possible changes with the federal farm bill?

A:  I wish I could say I was optimistic about that, but I’m not terribly. What happens in Washington, D.C., is so difficult. The types of changes that need to happen are big, but the changes that allowed to happen through Washington, D.C., are going to be small.

We’ll work on whatever we can to advance these issues through the farm bill, by promoting more plant-based eating and less for factory farm industry, but the change will be modest.

The big change will happen is as consumers that are shifting away from eating animals to eating plants and supporting local plant production, farmer’s markets and a whole different agriculture system. There are more farmer’s markets, the organic food industry is growing, there are more CSAs. We’re seeing the shift.

That’s where, ultimately, change is going to happen.

Some of that farmer’s market produce is meat, dairy and eggs?

That is true, but the majority of it is produce. Some of it is animal foods,too.

On a whole another area, besides the cruelty and health issues, there’s the environmental issue. It’s incredibly inefficient to be growing corn and soybeans, and feed crops,  to feed animals. If we were growing those foods to feed people, we could feed a lot more people.

If  you have cows on a factory farm, they’ll take up less space than cows in a pasture. But the cows on the factory farm need to be fed, so you need more acreage to grown corn and soybeans to feed these cows.

That was makes the issue so challenging. People are unwitting accomplices in this horrible, ugly systems. It requires ourselves to look at ourselves and ask ourselves if we should be doing what we are doing. Change is scary. Those are the things that are obstacles, from the lack of information and a fear of change.

Is eating a vegetarian and vegan diet moving away from something that hippies do?

I think there are more people adopting the lifestyle. More people know vegans and recognize  that these vegans are just trying to live in a way that is healthy and compassionate.


Charleston Running Club to feature “Mind and Body” panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (3/20) at College of Charleston

Mind and Body Speakers Panel

Wednesday, March 20 at 6:30 PM
TD Arena at College of Charleston
McAlister Hospitality Suite, Third Floor
301 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29424



Whether you are trying to motivate yourself to go for your first run or whether you are trying to win a race, you won’t be successful without a positive outlook.  This discussion will cover issues relating to mental health and its effect on physiology.




Dr. Karissa Adams

Psychologist – Individual Therapy/Private Practice

Dr. Adams treats Anorexia and Bulimia in male and female adults. She also works with Athletes, Compulsive Exercisers, Food Addiction, Binge Eating Disorder, Obesity, Night Eating Syndrome, Compulsive Overeating and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).


Dr. Michael G. Flynn

Department Chair, College of Charleston Department of Health and Human Performance

Michael G. Flynn completed his Ph.D. in Human Bioenergetics in 1987 at Ball State University.  Flynn taught and conducted research for 10 years at the University of Toledo and 12 years at Purdue University before moving to the College of Charleston in 2009.  Flynn teaches research design and analysis, exercise physiology, sport physiology and marathon training.  He is also in the first semester of a Freshman seminar called: Sport Physiology and the Cooper River Bridge run.  Flynn is an avid runner and amateur boat builder with a single kayak, tandem kayak and sailboat in his fleet.


Dr. Michael Kollar


Michael Kollar is a licensed psychologist with extensive experience in both private practice and academics.  For over 25 years, Dr. Kollar has worked in individual, couple and marital therapy and he has consulted with local and national agencies on issues ranging from mental health to industrial safety.  He has also taught courses at MUSC, The College of Charleston, The Citadel, and The University of Tennessee.  In addition Dr. Kollar, was listed as one of the 51 Best Psychotherapists for Women in the US by Self Magazine and he received the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award from the South Carolina Psychological Association.  Dr. Kollar earned a Ph.D. in Educational and Counseling Psychology from The University of Tennessee – Knoxville along with a Master of Arts in Education and Bachelor of Science Degree from Western Carolina University.


Dr. Patrick O’Neil

Director, MUSC Weight Management Program

Patrick M. O’Neil, Ph.D., Director, is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University where he has been on the faculty since 1977. He is a Certified Clinical Trial Investigator through the Association of Clinical Research Professionals. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dr. O’Neil has devoted his career to helping patients manage their weight and is the author of more than 100 scientific papers and presentation.  For over nine years, Dr. O’Neil wrote the popular “Weighing the Choices” column which appeared every week in the Sunday Charleston Post & Courier.


Dr. O’Neil was recently awarded honorary membership by the American Dietetic Association for his work and dedication to the field of dietetics. This is the highest award granted by the ADA to non-members, and only two are awarded each year nationwide. He is also a leader of The Obesity Society (the main scientific and clinical professional association devoted to obesity) and now serves as President of the Society.


Amy Seago

Head Coach College of Charleston Cross Country and Track & Field

Head coach Amy Seago continues to build the Cougars’ cross country and track & field programs as she enters her 10th year at the College of Charleston.   Under Seago’s tutelage, Charleston’s athletes have captured 18 conference titles in six different individual events and earned three trips to the NCAA Outdoor Regionals.


Prior to coming to the College of Charleston, Seago served as the head women’s cross country and assistant men’s and women’s track & field coach at Washington & Lee University as a graduate assistant at Pittsburg State in Kansas.


Formerly Amy Schuckert, Seago was a track & field All-American at Allegheny College. A two-year captain of the cross country team, Seago qualified for the NCAA Cross Country Championships twice. Additionally, she was a six-time NCAA national qualifier in track and set the conference record in the 800m. She won 12 North Coast Athletic Conference titles and was named to the all-conference team 18 times.


Named the 1999 Allegheny College Female Athlete of the Year, the Canton, Ohio native graduated with a B.A. in English. She was recognized in 2004 when she was named to the North Coast Athletic Conference All-Decade Team for both cross country and track & field.

Fleet Feet opens its 100th running specialty store in Mount Pleasant on Thursday

Charleston is becoming a fitness town, too. Check this FF release out. DQ

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.—Fleet Feet Sports, the nationally recognized specialty retailer of running and walking shoes, apparel, and accessories, will open its 100th store in Mount Pleasant on Thursday.

Family-owned and operated by Mount Pleasant residents Chris and Amy Minkel, the new store will be the third Fleet Feet Sports store in South Carolina. It is located near Whole Foods Market in the Patriots Plaza Shopping Center.

A variety of giveaways and activities are planned as part of Fleet Feet Sports’ opening weekend, March 14-17.

“We are so excited to bring Fleet Feet Sports to this area,” says owner Chris Minkel. “Our primary focus is to help people of all ages and abilities achieve their fitness goals by helping them find the very best products to fit their needs. Our store will also serve as a community hub that brings people together for training programs, educational clinics, and weekly group runs.”

Chris and Amy Minkel have years of professional experience in the fields of hospitality management, healthcare, and exercise instruction.

The Minkels previously lived in Mount Pleasant before their careers took them away to other states. When they decided to pursue their dream of opening their own Fleet Feet store, there was no question that they would return to the Lowcountry.

“This is much more than a business opportunity for our family,” says owner Amy Minkel. “We are making an investment in the overall health and well-being of our community. Our whole family and our entire staff will be actively involved in supporting our community through volunteerism, educational outreach, and group activities that promote health and wellness.”

About Fleet Feet Sports

Fleet Feet Sports is the nation’s leading franchisor of running specialty stores.  Since 1976, Fleet Feet Sports has helped its customers live healthier and more active lifestyles.


Fleet Feet is committed to providing superior customer service in a supportive and encouraging environment. With a 100% satisfaction guarantee and proprietary fitting processes for footwear and sports bras, Fleet Feet caters to the unique needs and goals of each and every customer.





Fleet Feet opens its 100th running specialty store in Mount Pleasant on Thursday

Charleston is becoming a fitness town, too. Check this FF release out. DQ

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C.—Fleet Feet Sports, the nationally recognized specialty retailer of running and walking shoes, apparel, and accessories, will open its 100th store in Mount Pleasant on Thursday.

Family-owned and operated by Mount Pleasant residents Chris and Amy Minkel, the new store will be the third Fleet Feet Sports store in South Carolina. It is located near Whole Foods Market in the Patriots Plaza Shopping Center.

A variety of giveaways and activities are planned as part of Fleet Feet Sports’ opening weekend, March 14-17.

Continue reading

March is FINALLY here and the Leprechaun Run is less than two weeks away! Q&A with co-race director Mike McKenna


2013 Catch the Leprechaun

 Date & Time: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 6:30pm
Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park
99 Harry M Hallman Jr. Blvd
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
$30.00 From March 1-13
$40.00 on Race Day
Includes Food, Drinks, Beer* and St Patrick’s Day Festivities
*Photo ID Required
• St Patrick’s Day Party from 6:30 – 9:00
• Pot of Gold for the Winners
• Prize for Runners who Catch the Leprechaun
• Costume Contest

Q&A with Mike McKenna

Why is this race so fun and popular?

I think the popularity of the race is due to a couple of things.  In a nutshell, it’s a fun race that supports a great cause.  There’s an endless sea of 5Ks and we tried to give the runners something they won’t get at other races.  It’s a night race which features a bagpiper, prizes for people who finish before the Leprechaun, pots of gold for the winners and a post race party.  It’s different and I think people appreciate it.  While we try to appeal to everybody, we focus on the avid runners.  It was important for us to create a fun, family friendly atmosphere, but we knew we also needed to concentrate on race operations.  Anybody can throw a party, but not everyone addresses the needs of the serious runners.  They are the ones who will complain if things don’t go right, but they are also the ones who will come back every year if they go well.   The timing of the race also attracts runners who are training for the Bridge Run.  If you are looking to test your legs before you run the 10K, it comes at a perfect time.

Over the past few years, Catch the Leprechaun received tremendous support from our friends in the running community, our sponsors, and the staff at Pattison’s Academy.  We are very fortunate to have a pool of people who are willing to provide us with the resources we need to put on the race.

What’s new and different this year?

We have a few changes this year.  For starters, Lowcountry Loop Trolley will be providing a free shuttle to and from the race.  They will be picking people up from Dunleavy’s and the Hampton Inn and dropping them off after the race is over.  Egan’s Spirits will be giving out beads to the runners and they will also be offering a discount to anyone who brings their bibs to their grand opening on March 16 & 17.  A discount at the liquor store on St Patrick’s Day weekend might come in handy for some people.  Rather than having multiple bands, we decided to go with one band.  This will make it easier for the awards ceremony and it will also ensure the band gets more playing time.  In addition, the prize money has gone up by almost 50%, we added a costume contest, and we will have a drawing for a free class at Exhale Pilates.  Turnkey Creative put together a retro design for the shirts which I think people will enjoy.

Talk about the costume contest and why you wanted to make that something more. Should people think more than just wearing green clothes?

Our runners have embraced the St Patrick’s Day spirit and we have seen some great costumes over the years.  I think the contest will encourage more runners to dress up and it will add to the festive atmosphere.  I am not sure what our judge will use as the criteria, but I’m pretty sure just wearing green clothes won’t cut it.

 Did last year’s Runner’s World mention make that much of a difference?

The Runners World exposure was fantastic, but at the end of the day I think most of the people that came to our race didn’t see the write up.  The people who run Catch the Leprechaun are more likely to read about us in the Post and Courier than in Runners World.

What has been the growth of this race?

We had 319 finishers in 2010, 693 in 2011 and 880 in 2012.  If my math is right, we increased the race 175% in 3 years and we are currently on pace to beat last years numbers by over 20%.

This was the first race at MtP Waterfront Park. Since then, many are using the course. Does that, in a way, hurt the possibility of it growing/

I don’t think it hurts our race.  We have an excellent relationship with the town, the police, the staff at Mt Pleasant Waterfront Park, and the businesses in Patriots Point.

What are the caps on this race?


How many do you think it can hold?


Talk about Pattison’s and why it’s the charity of choice? What does Pattison’s use the money for?

Pattison’s Academy is a school for children with multiple disabilities and the money goes towards programs which provide them with much-needed physical, speech, and occupational therapy along with specialized educational instruction and support.  In addition to being a very worthy charity, Larry’s son Will attended Pattison’s and his wife Julia was on the board.  We have received tremendous support from Sloan Cooper and the staff at Pattison’s throughout the years.

Y’all (Mike and Larry) work well together. How did you meet and talk about the working relationship?

Larry and I were introduced to one another by Megan Mahoney.  Megan worked at the Pattison’s Academy Summer Camp and when I told her I was thinking about organizing a race she suggested that the proceeds should go to Pattison’s.  I lucked out because Larry was involved with the school and he happened to be the President of the Charleston Running Club. I don’t think I could have found a better person than Larry to help me with the race.  Things clicked right away.