Monday, October 13, 2008

Ex-cattle farmer says no to meat

Cattle-farmer-turned-vegan Harold Brown gives a talk entitled "Animal Killer to Animal Advocate," sponsored by the Dartmouth Animal Welfare Group.

Photo: Tiffany Ho/The Dartmouth Staff

Former beef cattle farmer and mechanic Harold Brown decided to become a vegetarian after learning the word from a bumper sticker on the back of a car that he repaired. The slogan read, "I don't eat my friends," and after asking the vehicle's owner what the sticker meant, Brown further investigated and gained an appreciation for the concept of vegetarianism.

"I had gone four years to Michigan State University. I don't think I was that stupid, but I had never heard that word. I hooked up with some people in Cleveland, found out what these funny v-words meant, and started making changes in my diet. My health improved," Brown said.

Brown, who now works for Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for farm animals in upstate New York, spoke about his personal experience with animals and the benefits of vegetarianism to Dartmouth students on Monday evening in the Rockefeller Center. The lecture, titled "Animal Killer to Animal Advocate" was sponsored by the Dartmouth Animal Welfare Group and the Council on Student Organizations. The animal welfare club also invited a speaker from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to speak on vegeterianism earlier this term.

Brown first began making changes to his diet after learning that his blood pressure and family history dictated a need for an alteration in his lifestyle. Without a change in his diet, doctors predicted that he would need bypass surgery by the time he turned 35. Brown responded by giving up red meat, cutting back on dairy products and increasing his intake of lean, white meats.

Brown's decision to stop eating beef while still working and eating on his grandfather's cattle farm caused a tension between him and his family members. Life became so stressful that Brown and his wife moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he saw the bumper sticker that drastically changed his habits. He became a vegetarian, and after one year, switched to a completely vegan diet. After a few years on this regime, Brown is virtually safe from heart attacks.

"I realized that if I wanted to do what is optimal for this organism that I live in, I needed to be vegan," Brown explained.

During the question and answer session, Brown corrected students' misconceptions about his vegan lifestyle, addressing the overly stressed importance of protein in America.

"In America, it comes down to an argument between the big three — beef, fish or chicken," Brown stated. "We eat 5-10 times more protein in this country than we need to."

He argued that while protein rebuilds tissue, carbohydrates, which are found in abundance in plant products, are what supply humans with energy.

He attributed the high rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer in the United States to excessive consumption of pathogen- and hormone-filled meat.

"Of all the cancers, the ones that have grown the fastest in the last 30 years besides the ones from smoking are hormone cancers," Brown said. "We're eating stuff that has a lot of hormones in it already. They just don't tell you."

A vegan diet has proven to be both beneficial and cost-effective for Brown. His discovery of plant-based ethnic cuisine from countries such as Ethiopia and India and his exploration of different varieties of vegetables has expanded both his spice rack and palette.

Brown also discovered that money can be saved by buying fruits and vegetables instead of meat, reputing the myth that a vegan spends more money on food than a meat-eater.

"On average, steaks start at $2.99 per pound and up, whereas a five pound bag of apples will cost you about four bucks," Brown explained.

Prior to his speech, Brown showed his audience an excerpt from the documentary Peaceable Kingdom, a film that chronicles the stories of farmers who left the agricultural industry to pursue the ethical treatment of animals. The film features numerous interviews with Brown, and the third edition is slated for release this summer.

By Brook Jackling,
Published on Tuesday, March 06, 2007

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