As part of her drive to reduce meat consumption nationwide, Katie Cantrell suggests eating meals that are meat-free during one day of Passover.
The founder and executive director of Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, Katie speaks at colleges, high schools, synagogues and any available venue sharing her holistic message that factory farming is a threat to the environment, social justice, animal welfare and public health.
But rather than persuade the world to become vegetarian or vegan, she proposes small steps that together reduce meat consumption, thereby reducing the need for factory farms.
“We try to meet people where they are,” she says. “If I can get seven people to eat vegetarian one day a week, that’s the same as one person being a vegetarian all week. It is more effective to get a larger number of people to do smaller steps.”
That is the rationale behind FFAC’s Meatless Monday campaign and Katie’s suggestion to go meatless for one day during the weeklong festival of Pesach.
“Compassion for animals is certainly a Jewish value,” says Katie, who grew up attending Jewish summer camp and Hebrew school at the Conservative synagogue her family attended in Los Angeles. “In Hebrew school, I learned about tikkun olam and compassion for people and animals, and that was in keeping with the way my parents raised me.”
Katie considers Passover, when Judaism’s empathy for the oppressed and focus on asking questions is especially evident, a good time to talk to the Jewish community about the impact of factory farming.
“My family’s Haggadah talks about people still enslaved and oppressed,” says Katie. “And that relates to factory farming and the billions of animals who spend their entire life in confinement. It’s nice our actions can have a direct impact. With our daily food choices we can vote with our dollars and have an impact.”
“Factory farming was created so everyone can eat meat every day,” says Katie. “Therefore, meat reduction is a key part of getting rid of that.”
Katie sits on the advisory council of Jewish Veg (jewishveg.org). The organization provides extensive information on the Jewish arguments for a meat-free diet, such as this passage: And God said: “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit – to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29). The Jewish Veg website notes, “In fact, God issued those instructions right after he gave humans “dominion” over the animals. So it is clear that ‘dominion’ does not include killing animals for food.”
While attending the University of California-Berkley, Katie learned that factory farming is the largest cause of suffering for animals in the world. But it wasn’t until she read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals that she realized factory farming was detrimental in so many ways.
“I had never seen it laid out like that before,” Katie says. “I liked the holistic approach.”
After graduation, she looked for an organization that took that holistic approach against factory farming. When she couldn’t find one, she started FFAC “as a hobby. I did not set out to start a national nonprofit. I just felt compelled to share information with people.”
She moved to Portland in 2015 because the social climate is very conducive to her message and after visiting a friend here she thought it was a nice place to live. “Portland is the easiest outreach I’ve ever done,” she says, noting many college instructors invite her to speak to their classes every term.
FFAC now shares information on its website and through eight chapters around the country. They share recipes, suggestions for decreasing meat consumption and information about the negative impact factory farming has on the animals, the environment, workers in factory farms and public health.
Katie will speak at Congregation Neveh Shalom (2900 SW Peaceful Lane, Portland) at 2 pm, May 9.
For more information or to schedule a free talk by Katie, visit ffacoalition.org.