Ep 39: It’s Such Layered Work

Gene and Tracye talking and laughing
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Season 3, Episode 7

The Relationship:

Gene Baur and Tracye McQuirter

Tracye McQuirter is a public health nutritionist, activist, and vegan trailblazer and has been promoting a plant-based lifestyle for over 30 years, focusing on health and African American communities. She is most recently the author of Ageless Vegan: The Secret to Living a Long and Healthy Plant-Based Life as well as best-seller By Any Greens Necessary. In 2016 Tracye partnered with Farm Sanctuary to create the African American Vegan Starter Guide.

Gene Baur co-founded Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, and is also the co-author of best-seller Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day. Gene has been involved in animal rights for over 30 years and has been called “the conscience of the food movement” by Time magazine. 

The Conversation:

What does diet have to do with chattel slavery? A lot, actually. Nutritionist, author, and activist Tracye McQuirter and Farm Sanctuary founder Gene Baur sit down to talk about veganism as a tool for social justice for the environment, for animal rights, and for communities of color.

Gene and Tracye begin by talking about their work and collaboration on the African American Vegan Starter Guide as something that didn’t exist and was necessary to create. This project helps bring to attention the intersectional connections between veganism and broader movements, including the Civil Rights movement and non-violence. These connections are not just between movements but a general respect and kindness: to animals, the earth, and also ourselves. The questions the drive the movement forward are about how we can avoid causing unnecessary harm to others.

African American Vegan Starter Guide

The issues the veganism addresses is intimately tied to communities of color. From a modern perspective, this has to do with the workers in slaughter houses, the Black communities suffering from living near industrial animal farms, and the effects the food industry has on health. But Tracye and Gene also talk about the importance of understanding history and context. Tracye makes connections between factory farming and chattel slavery as well as the direct line from slavery-era sugar crops to the health of modern African American communities. Through this lens, African American communities are deeply connected with the efforts of veganism and Tracye notes how it was important to her to include that history in the creation of the African American Vegan Starter Guide. She also talks about how she approaches veganism from a joy and abundancy mindset rather than one of deprivation. Gene agrees that “It’s about living in alignment with our values and our interests. Living in a way that we can feel good about instead of causing unnecessary harm to others.”

As the movement progresses forward and becomes more popular, other questions of how to proceed arise. Gene brings up partnerships with major fast food producers, like Burger King putting the Beyond Burger on the menu. The two of them talk about how this is potentially problematic but also a step in the right direction, and discuss the issues that come with popularization and, inevitably, industrialization. This leads to a discussion of urban farms, reconnecting people with their food, and encouraging an upheaval of our food system from the individual to government subsidies. The movement is not perfect, yet it continues to grow in the right direction.


Topic Timestamps

It’s about respect, kindness, and empathy

  • Living the Farm Sanctuary Life by Gene Baur with Gene Stone
    00:00 – Sandy introduces the episode by asking our audience to think about how we can improve our community. Diet is often viewed as a personal or environmental choice, but what we eat connects us to larger systems and communities. 
  • 00:42 – Sandy introduces Gene Baur and Tracye McQuirter.
  • 01:27 – Tracye and Gene’s background, their partnership on the African American Vegan Starter Guide
  • 03:30 – The connection between non-violence against animals and people, connecting it to the Civil Right movement. From animals to people to social justice, health, spirituality, and the environment, everything is connected and everything is linked. 
  • 05:13 – It’s about empathy to other people, other animals, the earth, and also to ourselves. Gene discusses the tendency in the animal rights movement to have anger towards human beings, but he emphasizes that it’s a matter of learning and figuring out “how do we not cause unnecessary harm to others?”
  • 07:05 – Tracye talks about the visceral reaction because of the connection to chattel enslavement: the state treated African Americans as animals. The two talk about the importance of history and context and recognizing historical patterns that are passed down generationally.

Everything is connected: It’s really layered work

  • Ageless Vegan by Tracye McQuirter with Mary McQuirter
    09:14 – Factory farming as “the commodification of sentient life,” but Gene notes that that’s a historic human problem, here in America from its inception: “America has beautiful ideals but also has conducted itself in ways that are very inconsistent with its ideals.”
  • 10:48 – Pulling from the New York Times 1619 Project, Tracye talks about the line running from sugar as a crop harvested during enslavement to health and obesity in modern African American communities. We must look at history and the narratives that we’ve grown up with and critically evaluate them.
  • 12:08 – The importance of including the history of Black folks and veganism in doing the African American Vegan Starter Guide and approaching it from a position of centrality and abundance, rather than deficiency: “People see themselves in a way that’s joyful and positive and aspirational and it’s inspirational.”
  • 13:48 – Broadening Farm Sanctuary’s perspectives through collaboration on the African American Vegan Starter Guide.
  • 14:53 -Industries like factory farming or sugar have a history of harm; Gene talks about patterns of abuse that need to be acknowledged and addressed so that we can be accountable and figure out what to do next. 
  • 16:02 – Veganism as a lens through which they’re able to address so many different issues.

How do we feel about it? Where do we go from here?

  • 17:33 – Partnership is important but how do we address tricky partnerships like those with big fast food companies (like Burger King)? This may be an inevitable stage in the movement’s growth.
  • By Any Greens Necessary by Tracye McQuirter
    19:30 – Gene discusses the Purists who say they can’t work with big companies in the meat industry, and the Pragmatists who see every step in this direction as positive, though imperfect.
  • 22:35 – Gene talks about urban farm projects and the public reconnecting with their food. It brings up the question of if we focus on veganism AND organic food. Is veganism enough? There are big systemic issues to be addressed.
  • 25:51 – Gene thinks the vegan food in fast food restaurants, while not perfect, is a positive step in the current system.

Wrap up

  • 26:56 – Gene and Tracye wrap up, noting that all of this is to be continued.
  • 27:25 – Outro: volunteer at a local 5k, read a book about composting, and leave a positive review of our show on your podcatcher of choice.

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