Date: October 2nd, 2006


Gigi Sanchez writes a monthly column for Sunday's Olympian. Her Sunday October 1 column is headed, "Conversation leads to shift in vegetarian's awareness." I will paste it below and urge Washingtonians to respond with supportive letters to the editor. The Olympian takes letters at http://theolympian.com/legacy/services/forms/letter2editor.shtml

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Conversation leads to shift in vegetarian's awareness

Gigi Sanchez

Edge of the Refuge

So I'm talking on the phone with a friend in July about the world's problems - don't ask me why, it was one of those days - and all of a sudden, she says to me, "What about factory farming?" And right there and then, something clicked. A light went on in my head.

You know, "factory farming:" large-scale, industrialized, animal agriculture. Logging rainforests so cows can graze. Big farms gobbling little farms. Treating farm animals like machines.

So we get off the phone, and sure enough, my computer is staring at me. That's because, eight months earlier, I downloaded photos from the Internet and pasted them on my computer screen: a goose, a goat, a cow, two horses, a piglet, a turkey, a chicken and all of her chicks. I've always wanted to be around farm animals, and I figured, if I visualize them, they might wind up in my life.

The funny thing is, since 2001, I've been clipping animal pictures from magazines, not knowing why. Plus, I've been reclaiming my faith. So, it came together: Is factory farming something I'm supposed to do something about? Kind of a tall order.

I've been a vegetarian since 1986, but for years, I've lost sight of the "why." Sometimes, I've cheated. And it wasn't until that day on the phone that I turned myself into a vegan (a vegetarian minus dairy and eggs). And yes, there's plenty to eat. But in that turning, I made the connection between what I was going to eat three times a day and how that was directing my life.

I've been spending time at the library, reserving books and videos. I've been calling organizations, gathering information. I've been reading ingredients, discovering tasty foods and understanding how I've been misled by some labels.

And all the things I read about, years ago, on how our diet affects our health, animals, the Earth and even world hunger - I'm relearning all of that now, plus stuff I never took time to learn. And let me tell you, it reads like a Stephen King novel. I keep scooping my jaw from the floor.

Why would the heir to the Baskin-Robbins fortune - a man who ate ice cream for breakfast - give up his fortune, turn vegan and tell the world about the forces behind the dairy, meat and egg industries? John Robbins' book, "Diet for a New America," was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Last month, I read his book, "The Food Revolution" - laughing, crying and wanting to scream.

Why would a meat-eating, slaughter-watching, fourth-generation Montana cattle rancher with 7,000 cows give up his feedlot, turn vegan and tell the world about what we're really eating and how we're really farming? This cattle rancher, Howard Lyman, just moved to Washington state. On Sept. 16, I drove to Sequim to hear him speak at a gathering. In 1996, he was on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," talking about mad cow disease, and he and Oprah wound up getting sued. Their case was dismissed.

I told this kind and funny man what I've been thinking lately and he gave me a copy of his film, "Mad Cowboy," and said I could show it to people.

This month, at the Timberland Regional Library in Olympia, on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Franklin Street, I've reserved their meeting room to show three documentary films, free to the public. For show times, contact me at edgeoftherefuge@yahoo.com.

Want to hear the other side of the story? Find out how even organic animal foods can threaten or take your life, how an industry is working to make seeds sterile so farmers can't even save and plant their own seeds, and what foods protect you from diseases instead of giving them to you.

Today is World Vegetarian Day, deemed so by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month.

I'm not asking you to change your diet. I'm asking you to ask yourself if our society can withstand rethinking what we're being taught about our food.

There is a space between madness and sanity, a step between danger and safety, a path between real and imagined, a time between birth and death. This is the edge of the refuge. Gigi Sanchez is an Olympia writer and her monthly column appears in Sunday's Olympian. She can be reached at edgeoftherefuge@yahoo.com

Free movies:

"Peaceable Kingdom": 2:15 p.m. Oct. 13; 7:15 p.m. Oct. 18; 3:15 p.m. Oct. 20; 12:45 and 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21; 3:15 p.m. Oct. 22; 3:45 p.m. Oct. 29.

"Diet for a New America": 3:45 p.m. Oct. 13; 4:45 p.m. Oct. 18; 12:45 p.m. Oct. 20; 1:15 p.m. Oct. 29.

"Mad Cowboy": 6 p.m. Oct. 18; 2 p.m. Oct. 20; 2:15 p.m. Oct. 21; 2:30 p.m. Oct. 29.

(END OF OLYMPIAN COLUMN)
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