Robert A. Brown, 82, and Lisa Shapiro, 51, who shared their concern for farm animal welfare but took starkly opposite market-based approaches to expressing it, died recently in Tucson, Arizona, and Boulder, Colorado.
Brown can be credited with initiating the “happy meat” approach, seeking to reform agribusiness by developing competition from farmers committed to rearing animals in more natural conditions than those of factory farms.
Shapiro, a generation younger, dedicated much of her life to promoting plant-based alternatives to animal products and byproducts.
Brown headed Anti-Cruelty Society
Little remembered in recent decades, after the leading edge of animal advocacy embraced first vegetarianism and then veganism, Brown earlier was instrumental in the late 20th century rise of the animal rights movement in counterpoint to the mainstream humane movement, and in putting farmed animals on the animal advocacy agenda.
Brown, previously a biologist and educator for the New York Zoological Society, relocated to Chicago in 1974 to succeed former American Veterinary Medical Association executive J.J. Shaffer as managing director of the Anti-Cruelty Society.
Shaffer, the Anti-Cruelty Society managing director since 1952, had run into trouble over use of a decompression chamber to kill homeless dogs and cats. Introduced by the Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation and the American Humane Association as a purportedly more humane killing method than gassing, drowning, gunshot, or the lethal injection methods then in use, decompression fell rapidly out of favor just 20 years later.
Brown abolished decompression, introduced the Anti-Cruelty Society volunteer program, and in 1976 claimed to have “installed the first in-house computer in the humane field,” a distinction also claimed in 1959 by then-Marin County SPCA director Mel Morse.
Morse, who later headed the Humane Society of the U.S. and was founding director of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe, California, had installed a punch card data tracking system which recorded and stored information, and could produce print-outs, but did not permit reading information on a screen.
Fired over farm animals
Brown at the Anti-Cruelty Society “had his successes,” recalled Grant Pick of the Chicago Reader in 1992, “building up the budget and membership and constructing a new puppy-shaped headquarters with Stanley Tigerman as the architect. But board members complained that Brown had taken action without board approval, had failed to keep the construction on schedule, and was devoting too much time to the movement for the humane treatment of farm animals.”
In that regard Brown had followed his predecessor’s example.
While Shaffer was instrumental in rallying meat industry support for the Humane Slaughter Act, signed into law by then-U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958 after a six-year struggle in Congress, Brown in 1981 organized a conference on farm animal welfare. Soon afterward, inAugust 1981, the Anti-Cruelty Society fired him.
Food Animal Concerns Trust
“The following year,” Pick wrote, “Brown resurfaced as the founder of the Food Animal Concerns Trust. At his opening press conference he pointed out that while activist groups were devoting their energies to the welfare of the millions of animals killed in laboratory research or put to sleep at pounds, no organization was concerned with the country’s 4.7 billion farm animals. Brown bemoaned the crowding of cattle in feedlots–and the caging of hens.”
Recalled longtime FACT executive director Richard Wood, after Brown retired in 2012, “Robert was no stranger to problems associated with the use of animals in research, but in founding FACT he called on the emerging welfare movement to focus on farm animals, specifically to counter federal policies that promoted factory farming.”
Wrote Brown in a 1983 article entitled Promoting Humane Alternatives to Factory Farming, Humane Innovations and Alternatives in Animal Experimentation, “The law’s prejudice against farm animals has come about because the farm lobby has been able to introduce language exempting animals used in food production from humane laws. It has been simply a matter of farm lobby clout….We need to increase our efforts to inform the public that, simply by calling themselves farmers, some citizens can do whatever they want with animals in their care. In doing this we should be careful to point the finger at agribusiness, not farmers in general.”
Continued Wood, “To create this informed public who understood the conditions on factory farms, FACT initially issued monthly FACT Sheets, distributing one to two page newsletters to over 500 humane societies, the media and the public.”
Nest Eggs Inc.
Within another year Brown expanded FACT activities into actual involvement in animal agriculture.
Brown’s conference on farm animal welfare had included “a field trip to Phil Wubbena’s place,” in Forreston, Illinois, Pick recalled in his Chicago Reader profile of Brown, “so participants could see a family farmer doing it right.”
Wubbena, a former dairy farmer, had founded the cage-free firm Phil’s Fresh Eggs in 1959. Brown and the Food Animal Concerns Trust in 1983 began marketing Phil’s Fresh Eggs under the brand name Nest Eggs Inc. Nest Eggs Inc., a subsidiary wholly owned by FACT, continued to sell eggs laid by de-beaked free-range hens until 2002.
“For a while Brown delivered cartons out of the trunk of his car,” Pick remembered, “but he gradually built up his accounts in Chicago. Then he started in the New York City area, entering into production agreements with farms in New Jersey, Maine, and the Amish region of Pennsylvania. In 1989 Brown approached the Jewel chain, and Jewel decided to pilot the brand in select stores. Soon it went to general distribution.”
FACT sold about one million dozen eggs per year over the last decade that it operated, through stores in Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Meanwhile, Brown in May 1985 began marketing grass-fed free range veal under the Rambling Rose brand name, sourced from farmers in New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. This venture was much less successful. The Rambling Rose trademark was last registered in 1993.
FACT since leaving the farmed animal product and byproduct marketing business has mostly addressed food safety issues, including the use of antibiotics and hormones to stimulate the growth of farmed animals.
Lisa Shapiro, “Vegan Saint”
Lisa Shapiro, recalled Tofurky founder and longtime friend Seth Tibbott in a June 12, 2015 online remembrance entitled Lisa Shapiro, Vegan Saint, “grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from the University of Albany in 1985, moving to Boulder, Colorado that same year. A ‘righteous vegetarian’ at the time, Lisa got a job at the Crystal Street Market on Pearl Street working in their deli. She became vegan soon after meeting Jack Norris,” cofounder of Vegan Outreach, “who was handing out ‘Please Don’t Drink My Mama’s Milk’ brochures on the Pearl Street Mall.”
According to Norris, “This was a conflation of two different, though similar events. I met Lisa Shapiro,” Norris told ANIMALS 24-7, “while handing out Why Vegan booklets on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder in 1995. Lisa was already vegan when I met her. She got the pamphlet that made her go vegan from someone else and apparently 10 years earlier.”
Beginning in 1987, Shapiro for 17 years worked in various managerial capacities for Wild Oats Market, based in Boulder.
“In 2001,” continued Tibbott, “Lisa took a job with the African Opportunity Association in Ghana and Cameroon,” helping “to develop sustainable, fair trade small businesses. Though her salary was an astounding $1,000 per day while in Africa,” Tibbott wrote, “she gave most of her funds to the people she was working with to help them with their ventures. Travelling to Africa as a vegan was hard and witnessing the suffering of human and non-human animals was very difficult for Lisa. She quit after two years.”
Returning to Boulder, Shapiro in 2006 started the Boulder Vegan Meet Up, now boasting nearly 1,000 members, “350 of whom attended a Compassionate Vegan Thanksgiving that Lisa organized in 2014,” Tibbott recalled.
Vegan dog food
Shapiro also helped the V-Dog vegan dog food manufacturing company, founded in 2005 by David Middlesworth, who died at age 74 in 2014 while hiking in Glacier National Park, Montana; served on the board of the Veg Fund vegan foundation; and in 2011 founded All Things Vegan, described by Tibbott as “a consulting company designed to promote quality vegan products, while expanding awareness of the positive impact of vegan lifestyles on animals, people, and the planet. In that year,” Tibbott continued, “she began working with the Tofurky company,” initially as social media director and later marketing coordinator.
But also in 2011 Shapiro fell ill with the cancer that on June 11, 2015 killed her.
Paul Shapiro’s memories
Memorialized Humane Society of the U.S. vice president for farm animal protection Paul Shapiro, who is not a close relative, “Fifteen years ago, a woman I’d never met came bounding with joy out of an elevator at an animal conference, shouting ‘Do you know how many people keep asking if I’m your mother?’ While she definitely didn’t look old enough to be my mother, we certainly felt like family. Bound together by far more than a common last name, we were kindred spirits trying to give farm animals a voice in a world that too often ignores them.”
Remembered Paul Shapiro, “Just a few weeks before her death, I was talking with Lisa by phone while she lay on what she very clearly knew was likely to be her deathbed. I listened to her struggles and hopes, and shared my thoughts on where our movement is headed. She told me many things, but what struck me most was that, even in her compromised state, she never stopped advocating for animals. ‘My eyesight’s not good due to my pain meds,’ Lisa would tell her friends who were not part of the animal movement, as a means of getting them to read her articles about vegan eating and animal protection. She casually quipped to me, ‘I’m dying––what are they gonna do, say no?’
“And it worked,” Paul Shapiro continued. “Some of them told her they were already starting to eat less meat because of those readings. We laughed that even cancer couldn’t stop her from spreading the word about compassion for animals, and she joked that maybe death wouldn’t stop her either.”
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