My name is Annabel Ruffell and I am the founder of Journey for Earth, a global awareness company committed to inspiring change for humanity, the environment and animals, one choice at a time.
I love Robert’s dedication and commitment to protecting all animals and doing all he can to educate people about the truth of factory farming/animal agriculture.
Robert has 20 years of experience in the field of branding, design and communications. He is Free from Harm’s founder and director since 2009. He also acts as editor of the website and contributes regular articles.
1) What Journey are You on?
My journey for the earth is expressed in each moment, in every action, every thought, every encounter. It has no clear beginning or end. It is not a journey with some distant destination or remote goal I hope to reach at some point in the future. It’s right here, right now, right in front of me all the time. It’s concrete and easy. It’s each food choice, each meal. 99.7% of all animals used by humans are farmed animals. So by far the greatest impact we have on animals and our planet is manifested through our food choices. Each time we sit down to eat, we choose to spare a life or take a life, to honor someone’s right to live — and live freely — or to be violated against their will, for no good reason, not because we must, but simply because we can.
2) What has been one of your greatest challenges over the years, either with the work that you do or in another area of your life, and how did you overcome it?
The so-called humane movement. As more people become aware of “factory farming,” the humane movement has emerged as animal agriculture’s key strategy to intercept the conversation away from veganism and retain consumers by using a sophisticated set of marketing fictions and fictional devices we collectively call “humane-washing.” The rhetoric follows a classic tale of good and evil, quite literally “the good shepherd” or renegade anti-establishment farmer against the power-hungry, greedy agribusiness industry.
But if we look at this issue more closely, we discover that a factory model of animal production is as old as civilization itself. An operation that can artificially incubate and hatch 40,000 chicken eggs into chicks per day most certainly qualifies as a “factory farm,” yet, we must travel over 3,000 years back in time to ancient Egypt where some of the first high production artificial incubators were developed. So, use of the term “factory farming” — which refers to the mass commodification of animals in an assembly-line environment (and all the horrors that go along with it) — falsely suggests that some viable alternative exists. The truth is that all commercial farming qualifies as “factory farming” based on an ancient production model of using animals as resource objects with total control over their reproduction, the stealing and trafficking of their offspring, standard bodily mutilations (both physically and psychologically traumatizing), destruction of their families and social order, intensive genetic manipulation, and of course the systematic domination, violence and slaughter in their infancy or adolescence. All the above are necessary in any kind of farming to render their flesh and secretions into products of consumption.
As for overcoming this challenge, I’ve created the information and tools that animal advocates need to challenge humane-washing on several fronts. In my article, Six Challenges to Humane Animal Product Claims, I specifically address many of the movement’s false claims and false dilemmas, but, aside from this, I ask my readers to consider this basic reality: The “humane” farmer claims to foster a caring and trusting relationship with his animals, treating them with kindness and respect, sometimes even naming them. His animals may respond in kind, bonding with and perhaps even becoming affectionate with their caretaker. But all along, the farmer has ulterior motives. All along, his intention is to artificially breed them into this world only to slaughter them in their infancy or adolescence to profit from products procured from their flesh or bodily secretions that are unnecessary for human health. In no way does this constitute a humane intention, let alone a humane act. In the words of author Hope Bohanec, “…the more humanely an animal is treated, the greater is the bond of trust, and the greater the bond of trust, the more severe the crime of betrayal.” What Bohanec refers to as the ultimate betrayal is a betrayal not just to the animal, but also to our most deeply held values of justice, nonviolence, reciprocity and respect for others.
But, in the end, it could very well be that, ironically, the animals we exploit are our best teachers of what is truly “humane.” I like to cite the recent story of the chick who was born blind and whose backyard chickenkeeper / owner thought to “humanely euthanize” by gassing her to death just for being born blind. But then, much to his surprise, another chick came to the aid of the blind chick, helping her to find food and water and comforting her by remaining physically close most of the time. This guardian chick was able and willing to do what his human caretaker couldn’t.
3) What is your greatest vision for our planet at this time?
My vision for the future is one in which humankind once and for all recognizes that we share a fundamental capacity for experiencing pain and pleasure with other animals and that this fact alone grants them the right not to be violated and made to suffer for our various purposes, especially when we derive pleasure from that violation (such as in the case of animals bred, raised and killed for food), especially when we could easily make other choices, especially when it is now abundantly clear from thousands of scientific studies that eating animal products is unnecessary for our health, especially because we now know that by making this simple change to our diet and lifestyle, we can eliminate 99.7% of the exploitation and harm we do to animals.
What Journey are YOU on?