Lenore Braford is the founder and shelter manager of Piedmont Farm Animal Rescue (PFAR, or the Refuge) a sanctuary for farmed animals that was founded in 2012 and is located on 20 acres of pasture and wooded land just 20 minutes from downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Offering more than 100 animals refuge and recently accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, awarded to those providing the highest level of humane and responsible care to animal residents, PFAR not only offers top quality care to the animals, but maintains a commitment to promoting compassionate living through weekly guided tours, vegan cooking classes, summer camps and other educational programs. In a state hit hard by the consequences of animal ag, the Refuge stands as a shining example of a compassionate and sustainable alternative. Please keep up with Piedmont on their Facebook and Instagram. Please also consider contributing to their Bring the Cows Home fundraising campaign, which will help the Refuge rescue cows and go towards building a wonderful habitat for them. I am happy to feature Lenore Braford as this week’s Vegan Rock Star.
1. First of all, we’d love to hear your “vegan evolution” story. How did you start out? Did you have any early influences or experiences as a young person that in retrospect helped to pave your path?
My freshman year of college I immediately became vegetarian. My natural instincts to not eat animals combined with my newfound autonomy made this transition easy and obvious. However, I didn’t begin to think critically about our relationship to animals until my senior year in college when I took an Environmental Philosophy course. During this course we read from Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation among other texts. But the assignment that had the biggest impact on me was a debate where I was supposed to research and present ethical arguments FOR eating animals and animal products. At the end of my research, I was resigned to lose the debate and essentially convinced myself to go vegan. I wish everyone was presented with a similar assignment — it would help us to realize how selfish and shallow it is to continue to eat animals.
2. Imagine that you are pre-vegan again: how could someone have talked to you and what could they have said or shown you that could have been the most effective way to have a positive influence on you moving toward veganism?
My biggest hurdle before going vegan was simply lack of knowledge and exposure to veganism. So something as simple as a pamphlet explaining the realities of animal agriculture and the plentiful options of a vegan lifestyle would really have been all it would have taken.
3. What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate your message as a vegan? For example, humor, passion, images, etc.?
Because I have personal connections with farmed animals, stories about my daily life and about my relationship with the animal residents at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge tend to be the most effective. These stories are relevant, genuine and often come up in everyday conversation without me trying to push any agenda. I am able to speak on a very intimate and authentic level, which I find to be extremely effective.
4. What do you think are the biggest strengths of the vegan movement?
The biggest strength of our movement is that we stand for the truth. Truth cannot be ignored.
5. What do you think are our biggest hindrances to getting the word out effectively?
When we focus on ourselves instead of the animals, we tend to say and do things that are counter-productive. I think that all of us need to continually push back against egocentric messaging and constantly remind ourselves that we’re fighting for the animals. Whether that means attending a vigil or visiting an animal sanctuary — getting the animals back into the forefront of our minds can help us be better advocates and stop us from getting in our own way.
6. All of us need a “why vegan” elevator pitch. We’d love to hear yours.
Going vegan is a simple way to have a profoundly positive effect on the lives of animals, the planet, our fellow human beings, and our own health. It’s a small shift with a tremendous impact.
7. Who are the people and what are the books, films, websites and organizations that have had the greatest influence on your veganism and your continuing evolution?
I believe that films such as Okja have an incredible ability to effect the mainstream population. I hope to see more films like it in the future. Documentaries are wonderful, but human beings love good stories. I believe that there is so much potential in telling the stories of what farmed animals endure and who they really are.
8. Burn-out is so common among vegans: what do you do to unwind, recharge and inspire yourself?
I love to visit other animal sanctuaries! I am inspired to see how others are doing this work and I love to learn and brainstorm new ideas. To unwind, I enjoy hiking and exploring new places with my partner Paul.
9. What is the issue nearest and dearest to your heart that you would like others to know more about?
I would like people to have a better understanding of who farmed animals are as individuals. That they are incredibly diverse in their personalities, likes, dislikes, and ways that they experience the world. When we truly understand one another, we respect and value one another. We realize that although we are all different in some ways, we are all the same in the ways that matter most.
10. Please finish this sentence: “To me, being vegan is…”
To me, being vegan is living in a way that is authentic to my inner heart and soul. When we allow the blinders to come off and we begin to question what society has taught us about animals, we start to make the connection back to how we felt about animals when we were children. We start to remember that ALL animals are individuals whom we should love and protect. And we realize that by being our true selves, we can help to create a beautiful world in which all beings are free.