In this episode, Mexie speaks with Connie Spence (aka Vegan Batgirl), founder of the Agriculture Fairness Alliance and Liberation 360, organizations that work to lobby policymakers to change the laws that govern industrial agriculture and educate the public around how Big Ag operates. As Connie aptly points out, laws aren’t changed in the grocery store, and our taxes largely cancel out any good done through consumer-based activism for animal liberation. We cover a lot in this conversation, including novel zoonotic diseases that are a direct result of animal agriculture, and end on a high note with the progress being made by the Agriculture Fairness Alliance in lobbying for institutional change.
Sources and Links
- Agriculture Fairness Alliance: https://www.agriculturefairnessalliance.org/
- Connie on IG (Vegan Batgirl): https://www.instagram.com/vegan_batgirl/
- Agriculture Fairness Alliance on IG: https://www.instagram.com/agfairnessalliance/
- Liberation360 on IG: https://www.instagram.com/liberation_360/
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F1: [MUSIC] How can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet?
F2: There’s an us before the wound, there’s an us before oppression, and to me pleasure is the way that we tap down into that.
F3: We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.
MEXIE: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Total Liberation Podcast. I’m your host Mexie, and today we have on the show someone who I have been talking about wanting to have on the show for a very long time; Connie Spence, AKA, Vegan BatGirl on Instagram, who is a founding member of the Agriculture Fairness Alliance and Liberation 360. We’re gonna talk today about basically the pitfalls of consumer-based activism and where your taxes are going. We talk a lot on this podcast about the systemic nature of human and animal oppression and about how consumer-based activism or consumer-based vegan activism in particular is not enough to save animals within the broader exploitative global capitalist political economy.
We’ve given a few examples over the years as to why that is, but now we’re really gonna dig into the laws that govern the animal agriculture industry, and like I said, where your taxes are going. For people who haven’t really looked that much into it, it’s incredibly, incredibly disturbing and could be a bit disheartening for people who maybe don’t have particularly developed leftist or anti-capitalist critiques of the system that we live in, but I think that this is such an important topic. It’s clearly a passion of Connie’s and it completely makes sense as to why, because we need to face the truth of how the system operates in order to be effective in dismantling it. I hope today that our conversation can shed light on that system and inspire everyone to think bigger with their activism, right?
Take aim at the actual root causes of systemic oppression to make sure that we effectively dismantle it together. So, before we get into the episode, I want to thank dearly our new patron subscribers. Thank you so much to Connor McCauley, Bevibel Harvey, Sydney Dallas-Main, Anna, Aleksndr, Kimberly Villaneda, and Paste. I believe I’ve already shouted out some of you, but I just wanted to double-check and double-down on my thanks. If you would like to become a sustaining member, please go to patreon.com/totalliberation, or you can give us a one-time tip or donation on our website which is totalliberationpodcast.com, or you can rate and review the podcast on iTunes or Google Play or wherever you listen to us on. I absolutely love reading the reviews and it really does go a long way in helping our podcast get more recognition. So, with that said, let’s get into the interview.
CONNIE: My name is Connie Spence. I am known on social media as Vegan BatGirl. I’ll explain the social media handle name in a second. I am the founder of Agriculture Fairness Alliance as well as a new education arm called Liberation 360.
MEXIE: Yeah, amazing. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I’ve been wanting to get you on the show for a while just ‘cause I’ve been following your work, and it’s just so important. I just don’t think that anyone — I guess a few people are speaking on it now, but before I had found your social media, I just hadn’t heard anything about — well, I had heard it, but I didn’t know the details about how our tax system works, the importance of lobbying, any of it. So, it’s just fantastic to have you here. So, the first thing I did want to ask was about your handle. So, where does the name Vegan BatGirl come from? I’m wondering if you could talk about your journey into animal rights activism and the kind of disruptions that you’ve been engaged with.
CONNIE: For sure. So, I think that if I could go back a little bit in time, I became vegan eleven years ago, in 2010. Around 2010 was still during people barely getting onto Facebook and barely having social media. So, it hadn’t really hit full mainstream yet across all age groups and I think that at that time, I didn’t even understand what — that there was vegan activism. I obviously would tell everybody my health benefits from going vegan and the reason I went, but I didn’t really understand how — that there — that I could protest or do something on the street that would basically put more eyeballs on the subject. So, I think around 2013 and ‘14 I started noticing groups of vegans gathering in different cities on Facebook and showing off their protests.
I joined, I think, a fur march in New York City and then I joined — I moved to Los Angeles and then joined several marches around that time. Now, my background is actually in advertising. I went to college for advertising and my career started in advertising. I gotta be honest; while I think that it’s good for us to get together and march and create our signs, I didn’t feel like it fit my personality. I wasn’t having conversations and I felt like I was kinda yelling at people who might have been standing around and they might not even have — could have read my signs, but in my mind I felt like they could. So, I think it’s definitely good for people to protest, but I also think that we also need to diversify and be smarter about the way we protest to make sure that we’re capitalizing off of how to communicate with people better.
So, around that time, I think different protests — I think Trump won his first presidency and — or actually, he won the presidency; I think it was 2016, and I saw a article that had a big, giant light that was shining on an Atlanta hotel, and it basically said F Trump. That light was like, giant size. Think of covering half the side of the hotel, and the article said this brilliant display of activism was actually legal and no one could figure out how to shut the person down because he was shining the light from a sidewalk, which is public property, the light wasn’t vandalism ‘cause it’s a light, and that the police didn’t know how to shut them off. I was like, oh my god, I need to figure out what that is.
Well, I figured out what it was, and I figured out how to do it. I started shining these giant light messages that basically — it’s just a mixture of shadows and lights, right? The letters could be a shadow or they could be a stencil, but they shine like seventy feet in diameter and I would put these all over walls. I would put these on the Los Angeles slaughterhouse. I started putting the light everywhere. The size of it being like seventy diameters — seventy diameters is like — or seventy feet in diameter. That is basically — each letter is almost ten feet tall, like the size of a door.
CONNIE: You could see this from so far away, and the amount of eyeballs that could see it was huge. So, in my mind, I felt like I found a very critical and amazing piece of activism that I could attract a ton of eyeballs. So, it’s like a sign during a protest except when I put it next to a freeway, thousands of people can see it, and they can passively read it. What was happening is actually, many of them would exit off the freeways and they’d come park and they’d come talk to me. I’d put messages on the wall that would say stuff like ‘fact or fiction: 99% of every animal you eat is under six months old.’ Nonetheless, the point was that’s where my handle came from, my social media handle. People called it the vegan Batman light, and then I turned into Vegan BatGirl.
Now I am over forty years old with the social media handle called Vegan BatGirl which I think is hilarious. But I will say that one of the beautiful things about that activism is it fit my personality and it made me want to do it. So, I think the message would be to any of your listeners; if you are doing forms of activism that you feel obligated to do and you want to do but it doesn’t quite fit your personality, I would just say take a step back and find something that really does work for you, because when you’re — when it becomes aligned with your personality and you love doing it, it’s like, it doesn’t become taking time out of your day in the same way that perhaps some of the other forms of activism do. So, yeah, I’m — my social media handle is Vegan BatGirl, my name is actually Connie though, and I moonlight doing a vegan Batman light.
MEXIE: I love that. I absolutely love that. Yeah, I think that’s so spot-on in terms of finding activism that really resonates with you and that you feel really excited about doing. I think that’s so important. Yeah, I think — I also like going to protests. I go to a lot of them in Toronto, but I know what you mean. Sometimes it feels like you go and you have your signs or you have your chants and whatever, and you don’t really know who’s hearing you or who’s seeing or who’s caring, right? There’s no way to actually measure who’s actually internalizing this message, and are we kinda getting anywhere. So, I think that’s why I also kinda gravitated towards YouTube and podcasting, because at least it’s like well, here’s a measure of how many people are listening to this, and here’s people actually responding and sending me messages and things like that.
But again, that’s not to knock protests, ‘cause I obviously think there’s great value in that and I definitely go out to them all the time, but I just think that’s really great that you brought that up. So, in doing all of this work, I’m wondering — we talk a lot on the show about consumer-based activism, about anti-capitalism and all the rest and how that’s connected with animal rights, but what did you learn through doing this work that started to cast out for you on the effectiveness of consumer-based activism?
CONNIE: Well, on the direct activism side, I noticed that there were a lot of behaviors that we weren’t really considering and that one of them was convenience. There’s a huge convenience factor that exists, and there’s just a lot of places that inexpensive vegan food doesn’t exist, and so I know once you’re all-in and once you totally are in it for the animals, you’ll rather starve than eat an animal. But for somebody who’s not emotionally all-in yet, when I’d be talking to people in the streets — ‘cause I didn’t just do it in California. I lived in Oklahoma for a time period too, and I traveled to Texas, Dallas and Houston, and did the Batman light. I noticed a common theme with certain people and I think at first I wasn’t being my most empathetic person and was thinking it was excuses, but now looking back on it, I realize I was wrong.
It’s the fact that inaccessibility is a huge problem, and it does prevent many people, many people, from even attempting to try veganism. So, I’m sure if they had the resources, they could easily try it and even go all-in, but it doesn’t always happen in the same steps. People aren’t always emotionally all-in before they try vegan products. Some people would actually try many vegan products; they just see how much it deducts from their overall expenditures in a month, and they have a hard time with it. So, I think that was one aspect that activism sort of — it’s something that being on the street, I realize that I was just blanket statement — like, using blanket statements on people as though it was always an excuse and it wasn’t — it’s really easy to tell someone well, you see how cheap rice and beans are.
It’s like, come on, a family of four with kids, you’re really gonna have them eating rice and beans every day unless they are literally emotionally all-in, which they’re not, right? The kids aren’t gonna be emotionally all-in right away. So, that’s one aspect. The other is I started realizing how many children wanted to be vegan. Usually the children would be between thirteen and seventeen, and they couldn’t be because their parents either couldn’t afford it or — and I’ll tell you why their parents couldn’t afford it; if their parents had three children and one was like, I want to be vegan, the parent isn’t gonna buy three of each or two of each product, right? If some are drinking regular milk and she or he want plant-based milk, they’re not gonna be able to afford to buy double of everything.
The other part is is that preconceived notion that the parent might think that it’s unhealthy and doesn’t have the education to know that their child can be healthy doing that. So, there were a lot of children that I saw and talked to that were actually really struggling, and many of them would have what seemed like early eating disorders not because they actually didn’t want to eat, but they didn’t want to eat animal products. I really felt that that was probably pretty traumatic for them.
I met people that were newly in college and they were so happy that — they would tell me like, yeah, this week is my first week of school and first week of fully being vegan, and it had everything to do with not living at their parents’ house anymore and having their own allowances to pick what they wanted to eat. So, I definitely think when we do activism, we really need to listen to some of these trends, because these trends can then spawn off some version of education or non-profit that can help people with accessibility as well as children that desire to be vegan.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, and I mean, even beyond that, it’s like, we know at the end of the day that more people choosing more vegan products, that’s good, but it’s not actually putting a dent in these industries, right? You talk a lot about how laws aren’t changed because — at the grocery store, right? So, it’s like, I think we talk on this channel a lot as well about how — we want to define veganism as a political stance and not just a grocery list because of course the grocery list plays into it and plays into these industries, but there’s so much more that we could be doing to actually dismantle the laws in the system at play that just can’t really be done through consumerism alone.
So, as you said, if people are really struggling to access this diet, it’s — I feel like we should tell them well, there’s other activism you can do. There’s other things that you can do to really take aim at the animal agriculture industries whether or not you can necessarily afford to be plant-based with your purchasing habits, right? But yeah, I think those are really, really great points. Sorry, the sirens…
CONNIE: I was just gonna pile on to what you mentioned.
MEXIE: Oh, yeah.
CONNIE: Think about consumerism versus laws in that lens, right? Even accessibility are things that laws can help and change. The accessibility of meat and dairy have everything to do with laws. They have to do with how heavily subsidized meat and dairy is. It makes a burger that is composed of a cow’s life, right? Lettuce and bread cost a dollar and be on a dollar menu is super accessible in every neighborhood across the USA, and a head of lettuce costs double that; $2 or $3 at the grocery store ‘cause it’s not subsidized. So, the inaccessibility is an issue. So, the inaccessibility to families overall, to all communities that aren’t just close to big cities, and to the children that I was mentioning that were wanting to be vegan have — it’s very tied into laws. The opposite side of that is when you’re thinking about activism or you think about protesting or you’re thinking about your consumerism, your consumerism is important but it’s not the only thing that drive equality.
It’s not the only thing that drives change. Imagine if we only bought female-centric products and said that that would give us equality. It doesn’t make sense, right? Imagine if we wanted greater Indigenous rights and we’re just like, let’s just buy these Indigenous products that might not even be made by Indigenous people. We can’t think about the products that we see at these big stores and purchase them as having the same persona as us. Even when we buy vegan products, for example, how do we really know that this is really affecting animals living or dying? It sounds good, but are we really tracking and looking at the numbers? This, I guess, segues into probably the next conversation which is how did I realize that maybe consumerism wasn’t actually affecting the numbers like I thought it was.
MEXIE: Yeah. Well, so yeah, let’s dive into that.
CONNIE: Yeah, so, I was having a lot of success with the vegan Batman light. I really thought I was gonna be — I work full-time, by the way. I’m in the data industry, but I really thought I might have a career in just Batman lighting around the country, you know, because I was having so much success with so many people coming up and changing, and just opening up a conversation in places that I don’t know that it was always opened up. So, a great example is Tulsa, Oklahoma. There wasn’t anybody really doing activism there at the time at all. So, all of a sudden, this city sees this giant Batman light on their buildings. They’re like, what is that? It’s different if I was in New York City ‘cause people are like, we see everything all the time, no big deal. But in a place like Tulsa, that conversation hadn’t really been opened up.
So, I would be supplying these people with cheat sheets that gave them all the restaurants and fast food places. Basically, I gave them a cheat sheet to show anything from super-accessible to high-end places that had vegan options. A lot of the people that I was meting on the streets were absolutely going and starting to adapt to at least a vegan-ish lifestyle if they weren’t going all the way in. I was like — simultaneously, I was looking at how well Beyond Meat was doing. Impossible burgers were also starting to be in all these fast-food chains. I would go in little cities in Oklahoma and I would go to their grocery stores, and 30% of their milk shelves would be plant-based milk. I’m like, we’re so winning right now. We should be — we’re saving a bunch of animals.
I’m like huh, we say we save, I don’t know, a hundred animals a year by going vegan, and I would estimate we’re — we have anywhere from six to fifteen million vegans in the United States. We should really be saving animals. At this point there should be a deficit, you know, at least on the agriculture side. I decided to go and look at the numbers, and I was horrified because specifically with dairy, we had — one of the worst years they had — I think it was 2017 or ‘18, one of the worst years they had, they were dumping milk out. They got one of the biggest bailouts they ever got. The next year, they increased production by like, 3%. I was like holy crap, why would they do that? They just — they lost all this money and they got bailed out. Why would they increase production?
I started looking this over the years and then I started trying to get — I started realizing that there’s been losses, mega stockpiles dumping of milk and dumping — euthanizing animals and bailouts almost every year, and they’re still increasing production which means that they’re manipulating the system using our taxes. So, I was like, wait, this means that supply and demand actually can’t work if their losses are just bailed out all the time. The other thing was — I actually found out, and a lot of people don’t even know this and we should, but the dairy industry in the United States is actually a fixed price system, and it’s been that way I think since the 40s or 60s. There’s like, two different laws. But basically what that means is that supply and demand doesn’t really even dictate the price.
They decide what needs to be produced that year and they set a price. If they get that, great. If they don’t, there’s a ton of insurance policies that operate gap insurance that just pays them anyway. So, if they’re getting paid anyway, then they’re never getting hit by losses. So, if they’re not getting hit by a loss, then they’re never gonna reduce production. So, that to me really was a gut punch. But at the same time, it made sense. Like duh, of course an industry who — that basically has been around since the beginning of the country because basically colonizing is just the livestock industry going to take resources from other people’s land, that duh, of course they’ve made every backup plan known to history to never allow their industry to decline. Not necessarily decline, but lose money, right?
Lose money or power. So, I started educating people and telling people what I found, and I was hoping — I was like, trying to figure out and tie together how can we change this? The system’s rigged. How can we change this? ‘Cause the whole idea of going vegan is to save animals and if the — if my taxes don’t allow it to happen and my taxes undermine what my consumer dollars do, how are we ever going to save animals? I realized the way to change this is to change laws, and the way to change laws in the United States, at least, is through heavy lobbying. I was hoping there already was a lobbying group that existed that was a — more of a consumer public channel, so a regular person who’s vegan that such-and-such was the lobbying group that represented them, and there really wasn’t one at the time.
There was one that represented the vegan companies but not really one that represented vegan people. So, you know what? I was so passionate at the time. I was like, you know what? I’m gonna help create one because I don’t need to be the lobbyist. I just need a quarterback in the right lobbyists, and quarterback in this message so people understand that this is the next level of what we have to do. We have to change the way our taxes are used. So, I founded a lobbying group and yeah, the rest is history. I guess the best thing I would say is when other — when people are listening who are sort of hearing this, is like, the numbers suck. It sucks to hear it, but we can’t be in denial for too long, and we have to move towards a solution, and the solution is to lobby to change these agriculture laws, lobby to change how heavy subsidies are used in favor of the livestock and dairy industry.
MEXIE: Absolutely. Yeah, I felt the same way ‘cause yeah, you first go vegan and you feel so fantastic and you see all these memes and you’re sharing the memes about like, I saved this many animals this year and this much land space and this much water, and then you realize that that’s just not true and the world is consuming more animals now than we ever have been. Of course, our population has grown, but it’s still disproportionate to that. So, yeah, I mean, it definitely is a gut punch. But then I think this is really great that so many people are pointing this out and realizing this, because I know a lot of leftists who don’t take veganism very seriously because they see it as just a grocery list. They see it as an ineffectual kind of trying to consume our way out of crisis.
But if we can show them this kind of activism and just have them see that no, there are so many ways to attack the animal agriculture industry, and that we have to if we care about the livability of our future, if we care about anti-racism, anti-colonialism, disrupting anthropocentrism and all of that that’s really just destroying our planet and exploiting people the world over, then we must take a stand against this industry. There’s a lot of really effective ways to do that that anti-capitalists, I think, would get onboard with, right? So yeah, I just think that’s fantastic. I’m so glad that you were able to found this lobbying organization and really get started on this work. So yeah, I guess you kinda touched on my next question about how we’re all implicated in these industries because like you said, no matter what our consumer choices are, our tax dollars are really undermining any good that that might do. So, I guess I wanted to touch on the government bailouts, but maybe we’ll talk first about the white supremacy that’s laden in this system and how this plays out in big agriculture. I mean, there’s so much to talk about here, but maybe I’ll throw it over to you and then tell you what I’ve been thinking about.
CONNIE: Yeah, so he who controls the food controls the world, in my opinion. If you think about the United — the creation of the United States and a lot of places, actually, but specifically the United States, basically the first Americans, I guess, colonizers that came here, were farmers. So, I know it’s easy to think that oh, it’s been so long that those farmers don’t still control the country, but let me tell you something; the only reason the Electoral College exists in the United States — and I know that you’re in Toronto so you may not know, but the Electoral College is — when you see a popular vote win in the United States but the Electoral vote give presidency to another candidate even though less people voted, that’s caused by the Electoral College. The Electoral College is basically representation votes. It was originally designed so that the majority wouldn’t always win everything, right?
MEXIE: But shouldn’t they?
CONNIE: Well, not if the major — so, it kinda goes back and forth because it — minorities would never get laws passed.
MEXIE: Oh, I see, I see.
CONNIE: Right? So, it’s trying to create some sort of fairness. The thing is is that the Electoral voting system and the Electoral College is — has been gerrymandered. Gerrymandering basically means that you’ve created borders around exactly what you want. Most people don’t realize this, but the entire Republican Party in the United States is basically gerrymandered around farming communities and white farming communities. So, the only reason that Republicans even have power is because the food system has power and the agriculture system has power, and it’s so intertwined.
So, I guess what I mean by that is if you think about a state like Georgia, Georgia has a very populated city, Atlanta. [Inaudible] Savannah is fairly populated. Outside of that, it’s a lot of farming communities, and these farming communities have high Electoral votes, even several of them, and their — and those farming communities are typically very high in a white population, almost homogeneously so. Several of them, strangely enough, have prisons in their cities. I don’t know if you know this, but basically to increase their Electoral votes, they use the populations of the prisons, the people in the prisons, to increase their Electoral votes even though the prisoners can’t vote.
MEXIE: Oh my god.
CONNIE: I mean, it’s so rigged. So, the Electoral College basically gives — the way that things are set up and the way that these farming communities are set up, it really does give the same group of people that basically founded this country power. So, that’s why you see presidents, specifically Trump — I mean, he couldn’t bail out and give more money to the farming community, because by winning the farming community, you win all the Electoral votes that are necessary. So, when the Republicans speak on things that you think sound really antiquated, like when they’re really racist, when they’re really anti-female — so, I wouldn’t just call it sexist because when you’re — start talking about a lot of — bringing up abortion stuff again, dangling these carrots, a lot of the younger generation, even if they’re conservative, aren’t really about that.
So, what these — the language that you’re hearing is actually placating the old-style white cowboy. That’s it. It’s just their personality. You know what I mean? It’s not even the larger population of white conservatives. They’re placating to the white farming community, and I wouldn’t say small farmers, necessarily. I think these are more like the larger farmer co-opts and the giant family farms. So, family farms, when you hear someone say a family farm, in the United States, family farm a lot of times are giant twenty, thirty nieces, nephews, and cousins sort of operation. So, they operate like family — they operate like large farms, but they have sort of the — like, when someone says well, it’s still a family farm, people don’t think it’s as bad as a CAFO. But the truth is, it’s still pretty abusive.
But nonetheless, politically speaking, from the beginning of the United States, white farmers basically took away native population land and then they — and they redistribute it to white farmers. Those white farmers, many times specifically in the south, owned slaves. Those slaves gave them free work to create more land wealth. When slaves were free, slaves — because they were already farming — naturally started their own farms, and many times the USDA which is our United States Department of Agriculture basically would prioritize giving loans and help and assistance using our taxes to help the white farmers, and they wouldn’t give the same to the black farmers. So, at best, white supremacy and farming went hand-in-hand because white farmers were watching the inequalities of that.
At worst, white farmers were actually stealing their neighboring black farmers’ land without any repercussion. So, when you hear about farmers who are fifth, sixth, and seventh generation farmers, their families, lots of times, were completely contributing to the inequality, and the inequality isn’t just oh, there are no more black farmers. The inequality means that black people today have lost millions and millions of acres of land and generational wealth which is what puts — can put them behind in — generational wealth is really important because it puts you in a totally different socioeconomic condition. So, at the end of the day, a lot of the socioeconomic condition that black, brown, and Indigenous people face today is a byproduct of loss of generational wealth from their ancestors.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I mean, industrial agriculture, commercial agriculture was — that’s inextricable from the dawn of capitalism, right? The Enclosure laws were basically the dawn of commercial agriculture and the dawn of capitalism, and then that spread around the world through colonialism and imperialism, and all the while, yeah, it’s just land grabs, displacing Indigenous people, stealing their land, and then building generational wealth upon it and excluding, as you said, black people and the descendants of the slaves who actually enriched these white farmers by doing all the work on their land. So, absolutely. Then in the industry itself, right, it relies on migrant labor for the most part, or racialized labor because the conditions of work in these slaughterhouses are so absolutely horrifying and the turnover rate is so high. So, there’s just…
CONNIE: Also child labor. So…
CONNIE: …our child labor laws in the United States don’t apply to non-citizens, and people don’t realize that. All that agriculture system needs is to bring a migrant family here and get the parent to approve their child to work. So, they’re getting free child labor, too…
CONNIE: …and it’s completely legal.
MEXIE: Wow. Yeah, just absolutely unbelievable.
CONNIE: But mentioning that stuff kinda ties into the lobbying aspect. The big picture of the lobbying stuff that we do is to create fairness so that we can start seeing a plant-based economy. But as we continue to scale, what I’d like to see is legislation that we start pushing for workers’ rights, small farmers’ rights, communities that live next to big ag operations, ‘cause they’re typically communities of color totally getting terrorized by the waste that is — happens at these slaughterhouses and these CAFOs. Child labor laws is a big one. I can’t believe that everybody topically will talk about children and all these conspiracy theories with Biden and Trump and everything, but they don’t care about child labor happening here, which is — which, in my opinion, is trafficking.
I believe that agriculture system is trafficking families into indentured servitude. So, child labor laws is another one, accessibility, food hunger, more legislation to increase accessibility of plant-based foods, and by doing that, you’ll eliminate some of this — issues with food hunger across our country, land wealth; the amount of land that black farmers have lost in the last 150 years, I mean, it’s over twelve million raw acres of land just in the south that black farmers have lost. Then all the way to today, with all the pandemic money and bailouts that were given, black farmers received less than 1% of it. So, I would like to create laws that literally forces that — the USDA to prioritize these farmers instead of just give the lip service about it, because it’s clear that they’re still not getting the same help. Then the other part is the Electoral College and voting. That’s gonna be a long uphill battle to climb, but I just don’t believe that we’ll see a fair country and a fair agriculture system until the Electoral College is eliminated.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Well, that’s how you got Trump, right?
CONNIE: Yeah, that’s exact — Trump catered to the farming community and — with all the different bailouts, and basically he won the Electoral College vote.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a big one. That’s definitely a big one that needs to change. But so, you mentioned the bailouts, so let’s talk about the bailouts. So, how often do they happen? How much money are they spending on these bailouts? I guess yeah, what are the impacts of them?
CONNIE: So, bailouts didn’t actually happen that often in years past. I would say during Obama, there was like, 500-million-dollar bailout. During Trump, it started being in the 30-plus billion per year.
CONNIE: Now through the pandemic — I mean, basically the elite but specifically big ag capitalizes off of any disaster that exists in the United States. If there’s a flood in the northwest, they’re gonna create some sort of bailout for all of the farmers before they create a bailout for the public, before they help the public that actually got flooded out, right? If there’s a hurricane in the south, big ag is gonna get bailouts and money way before they probably even put the electric grid back up. Do you know what I’m saying? Literally, think about Texas with the freeze that they had. Big ag got their take of help and support way before the — like, people did. So, they capitalize off of every disaster. Well, we’ve been in a pandemic for about two, two-and-a-half years, and well, what is it? Two years?
MEXIE: Yeah, I guess two years.
CONNIE: So, there’s been a ton of money that has been given to them. So, during Trump, it was 18 to 30-something billion per year. I think one actually went all the way up to 43 billion. Then in the last year or so, there’s been a lot of — there’s been billions of dollars, but they’ve been attached to specific pandemic money and loan forgiveness stuff. So, I guess the point I would mention is that I believe that from here on out, we’re probably gonna give them multiple billions multiple times a year. They really get used to — any time some form of help comes in as a one-time help, it never ends up being one time. They end up utilizing that and turning it into status quo. So, before Trump, we didn’t see bailouts on a yearly basis. One of the highest that we saw was 500 million during Obama. Before that, I think there was 20 million bailout and now we’re in the multi-billions multiple times a year.
MEXIE: Wow. That’s absolutely unbelievable.
CONNIE: It’s atrocious. It’s disgusting. Especially when they’re dumping milk and they’re euthanizing pigs, because — here’s the thing; this is what disgusts me the most. If I’m giving a pause moment to your listeners; during a pandemic when a lot of people are losing their jobs, a lot of people are needing assistance, during that time, we had — in the beginning we had a surplus of food. When you have a surplus of anything, the price should drop, right, at the grocery store, because you have a surplus. Instead of allowing the price to drop at the store, which would have fed a lot of people, right, if there was such a surplus that all of a sudden the $5 meat item turned into $1.50, they didn’t do that. They dumped it out instead to create artificial demand and kept the prices the same at the grocery store. It’s insane.
It’s like, the food system and who controls it has no intention on feeding us at all. They’re withholding food from us. So, that’s what I was saying about supply and demand. Even if we take away the fact that more of us are not eating animals, and let’s just say there was a surplus because of the pandemic because — right, nobody was in school, so none of those schools were — the contracts of where the meat goes to those schools for everybody to eat, and a bunch of restaurants were closed in the very beginning. With such a huge surplus — like, if you have a huge car surplus, if you have your own clothing line and you have a surplus of shirts or beanies you sell, to get rid of that product, you reduce the price.
But they didn’t do that because they don’t abide by supply and demand. They look at the waste as a bargaining chip for a bigger bailout. So, literally what I’m saying is, is the people who control the food system don’t even care about actually feeding us, ‘cause they watch people suffering during one of the worst world crises of our lifetime and they still kept prices high at the grocery store while just dumping out food in front of everybody. Dumping out food, according to non-vegan to vegan, it’s like they’re dumping out lives that were killed in vain. It was horrific.
MEXIE: Yeah, that’s absolutely horrifying. I mean, yeah, that’s capitalism, baby. I made a video about what was going on during the pandemic, just kind of I guess another aspect of the shortages that were in the grocery stores. So, everyone was freaking out ‘cause we had shortages of meat during the pandemic, because…
CONNIE: It started with the surplus, then it went into shortage, and then it went back to surplus, and now it’s in shortage again.
MEXIE: Yeah. But the shortage happened because all these poor workers who are in these slaughterhouses are just packed in so tightly in these incredibly unsanitary conditions, and so, they were all catching COVID. So, the meat production was slowing down, so there was a shortage. But then, these farmers still had all of this excess — all of these quote, unquote, “excess animals”, like these live, sentient beings that were just considered excess and they needed to move out as quickly as possible because they had other young live, sentient beings who were growing and needed their space.
So, they basically just slaughtered all of these animals for nothing, and their bodies were just dumped out onto these huge fields that they were using as quote, unquote “compost heaps”. Then meanwhile, there were people, as you said, in the pandemic who were struggling, who needed food, who needed assistance, and again, yeah, all of these lives are just taken in vain. Again, none of that was actually getting to the people. So, whether or not we have — whether we have an actual shortage of workers to process the meat or whether we have an absolute surplus, it’s just still not getting to the people who need it.
CONNIE: If we go back — sorry to interrupt. If we go back to the source, those workers had to provide themselves with their own masks and equipment. It came out of their paycheck, or they were supposed to bring it themselves. So, the slaughterhouses didn’t even care in the first place. Those workers were never put in a safe environment anyway and they were basically discarded. I know that they were shutting certain slaughterhouses down because of that, but part of me, because I know so intimately about this industry, I actually believe that they created that fake bottleneck as a way to basically recap on the losses that they originally had when they had a surplus. That’s just how the industry works. It’s like, that’s why it goes back from surplus to surplus to stockpile to dumping to shortage. Those ebbs and flows that happen in an industry that has been around for so long, it’s — and has so many backup plans, it feels artificial every single time to me.
MEXIE: God, yeah, that would be so sinister. Obviously, it’s…
CONNIE: But it is sinister.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah.
CONNIE: An industry that will use eight-year-old children is sinister. It is. The thing is, a lot of it’s disconnected and a lot of people don’t realize it. In the United States, so much of our land is actually brokered off and used to feed other countries’ livestock. If you think about the soy that’s grown here, the sorghum that takes up most of our land, it’s a globalized food system. So, a global investor from China who owns all these farms which essentially is a backdoor way of owning much of our land and is abiding by a loosely-biased policy that the USDA sets that doesn’t even have people come onto their farms or their CAFOs or their slaughterhouses to do any auditing ever, why would that Chinese investor who’s living in a high-rise ever — like, one, ever care about people on the ground here, two, is so tone-deaf and out of touch anyway, right? They don’t live here. They don’t live around the devastation of — from those farms. They don’t see what the workers go through, nor do they care.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just absolutely horrifying all around. It’s just greedy, horrible people doing what is most profitable to them regardless of the consequences for people and for animals and for the planet. It’s just abhorrent. So, you mentioned that the pandemic has led to a lot more bailouts. Has it also led to any changes of laws around animal agriculture?
CONNIE: Yeah. I mean, the pandemic has brought things closer to having conversations about the overall environment and the environmental crisis. The thing is, is like, big mega ag, we need to realize that they only get onboard with stuff like climate change as soon as they figure out a way to get subsidies from it. So, there’s been a lot of action going on in regards to environmental subsidies and environmental monies and big ag basically claiming that they’re going to utilize better practices and reduce their carbon footprint and all of that stuff.
But if you read the fine lines of all of it, I mean, what ends up happening is it’s not that they’re actually reducing the number of animals that they’re raising, they’re not reducing — they’re not changing their practices that much at all. What they’re doing is they’re having us buy with our taxes these million-dollar pieces of equipment that basically convert the animal poop and animal waste into energy. Then they get these energy subsidies as well. So, really, at this point, our taxes is making the cost for them to produce meat almost net positive for them, right? Not only are they not paying for anything, but now with the environmental and energy subsidies, I wouldn’t doubt if they’re making money before they make money. You know what I’m saying?
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah.
CONNIE: Because they’re getting it from so many corners. A lot of laws have changed in that arena. I’ve seen some good proposals for black, Indigenous, and brown farmers coming through, but again, I — it’s so much lip service because again, even through the pandemic, farmers received less than 1% of the — black farmers received less than 1% of that pandemic money.
But again, this happens because politicians are only hearing one side of the story, and that’s a huge example of why lobbying is so important, whether it’s for vegans or whatever else you believe in. You have to create a channel of communication based on how that system operates and receives information. Politicians don’t look outside the window of City Hall or the window of the White House and look at your sign and read it and say, I’m gonna create a law that does just that. They just don’t. They respond to relationships that are backed by money that help them win campaigns and win their seat in whatever level of congress the next time.
MEXIE: Yeah. It’s so true. They also don’t notice what you bought at the grocery store and then decide to make a law based on that. I mean, if anything…
CONNIE: That is very true, but Beyond Meat’s CEO isn’t auditing the farmers to see if they’ve reduced the amount of animals that they’ve killed, either.
CONNIE: Do you know what I’m saying? Like, while politicians aren’t in the grocery stores, Beyond Meat and Impossible and all of them who’ve built their giant earnings off of a promise, whether it was literal or not that we’re saving animals, Beyond Meat isn’t going in and necessarily putting pressure on making sure that animals actually are saved, either. So, as vegans, that’s what I was saying; we’re consuming all this Beyond Meat, we’re consuming all these Impossible burgers for what? To make both of those companies mega-rich, off of a promise that’s romanticized, and yes, I’m sure the founder believed it to be true and wanted it to be true, but it’s not true. So, they’re becoming mega-rich and we’re still not seeing animals saved. So, who in our movement is doing the auditing and saying hey, what the fuck? No animals are being saved. Who? You know what I mean? Nobody.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely.
CONNIE: I get really passionate about it, so it can kinda be off-putting, but it really pisses me off because I’m not a millionaire. I’m not a billionaire, and I see all the ingredients needed for us to get this done, and I just wish the people that have capitalized off the vegan movement had the same passion to actualize and get animals to be saved instead of put into stockpiles, instead of dumping them out. If you dump out animals and put them in the stockpiles, then you shouldn’t get a bailout.
MEXIE: Yeah, it’s just — it’s really disgusting. I think that it’s only recently that anyone — like you and Marine, my co-host, was I think one of the first people to kinda point these things out, that yeah, we’re not making a dent. We do have to look at the numbers and have to take seriously what kind of political economic system we’re operating in. Otherwise we’re just spinning our tails and as you said, just making vegan CEOs rich. For what?
CONNIE: Super rich. Like, it isn’t even — they’re unicorn stocks. They are super rich now. Again, super rich and then start to exploit — I’m not — I don’t want to use them as an example of a bad — saying that they’re a good or bad example. But the point is is that in our movement, we can’t just look at successes based on how well these companies are doing or how many vegans you meet. We really have to do an audit of the inventory, literally act like animals’ lives are inventory that we’re responsible for and figure out why the production isn’t decreasing. We know that vegan consumerism has gone through the roof and even if someone said well, sure in the United States it’s increased, but other countries it’s increased and we export there.
Well, then we’re still chasing our tails if we are not doing activism in Brazil or in China or wherever we’re exporting to. So it’s like, we need to be auditing how many animals exist now and how to — and understanding how to decrease production or we — to your point, we are going to be chasing our tails and we’re gonna go through our entire lifetime having veganized a gazillion people and still seeing an increase in meat production, and we’re gonna write it off as well, you know, the population also increased. It’s BS. Like, why can’t we [inaudible] that into our strategy? Because it’s always gonna increase.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. So, I want to talk about — more about lobbying and that avenue of activism. I just wanted to ask since we’re talking about the pandemic, if you wanted to say anything about the pandemic and its connection with animal agriculture, ‘cause I know you were speaking a bit about that before the podcast.
CONNIE: Yeah, I mean, I don’t know if people realize this, but whether it’s a common cold, the flu, or COVID, common colds are oftentimes multiple types of zoonotic viruses, right? They’re a variation of them. So, the thing about the pandemic and its ties to agriculture are — it’s identifying that we are in a critical situation where we raise way too many animals. Not only do we not have enough resources, but these viruses are basically proving that we raise too many animals in places that they shouldn’t be. So, a zoonotic virus that is hopping from animal to animal happens mostly because too many animals are living in areas that they shouldn’t be next to other animals that they shouldn’t ever be around. So, a great example of that is thinking about Chinese agriculture industry.
They used to be one of the largest pig exporters in the world, and they’re dealing with the African swine fever or swine flu right now. It’s literally in parallel, and a lot of people don’t know this, but one of the worst animal pandemics of our lifetime, African swine flu, is happening in parallel with COVID, which is the worst human virus in our lifetime, and it’s about to hit the Americas. It’s crossed from China all the way and is now in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. So, I guess the thing for me is to understand — if you’re vegan, we need to understand that these pandemics really do happen because of displacement of livestock. One of the things that has bothered me a little bit during this time is people buying into that the virus was made in a lab, because then you take away from really how these zoonotic viruses are created.
So, sure, maybe it was created in a lab to solve a livestock virus, right? At the end of the day, it still points back to livestock. It always points back to livestock. Do you see what I’m saying? Even if a lab was trying to solve and create a vaccine for a zoonotic virus and they created a version of it that hopped to humans, at the end of the day, we still always need to point it back, this pandemic, always point it back to livestock and displacement of animals. China, for example, South and Central China, raises more pigs than anywhere in the world. They raise these pigs in really humid conditions, and a lot of times in these backyard farms, these pigs live right next to bats, next to other animals that they’re not supposed to, and it’s like, it was only a matter of time for these viruses to become powerful and spread amongst a lot of different animals.
I was reading an article today about — in Michigan, the USDA found that a large percent of deer had COVID antibodies and that it was saying that if they have COVID antibodies, then they probably already had COVID. You don’t even hear about this stuff on the news, all the animals getting COVID. So, my point is, is like — to that point of displacing animals and how many diff — a zoonotic virus spreading from — hopping from one to the next to the next, it’s like, we’re — this is terrible. We are living during a time where I believe most of us know that it’s connected to the livestock industry, but even worse, it’s now you have animals like deer and mink and more getting their version of COVID and perhaps dying, and none of us even knowing about it. It’s just wild to me.
MEXIE: Yeah, it is absolutely, absolutely wild. It’s really terrifying thinking about the increase in frequency and severity of these zoonotic diseases and how rapidly they are mutating and spreading. It just seems to be getting — it’s like every year there’s a new outbreak of something.
CONNIE: [Inaudible] stems from livestock. Even the flu and the Spanish Flu started with livestock. So, the way that they come out and they see the new variants and they come out with new flu vaccines is by watching what variant the animal has. They’re just predicting, right? What’s scary about COVID to me is that — and I had COVID in April of 2020, really early on, so I definitely know firsthand how horrible it made me feel and how scared of it I am now to get another variant.
But even if you think about the flu and it’s been around for a hundred years, and they have vaccines every year, and the vaccines usually predict I think from like, 40% to 70% efficacy, which basically means that of all the predicted strains, that it covers 60% of them, right? That’s a hundred years later, and we’re sitting here in a novel virus and I guess my point is is there’s gonna be four to five strains a year for the rest of our lives. That’s how big of a deal it is. You know what I mean? Flu, after a hundred years and with that 60% efficacy still was taking 35,000 to 70,000 lives in the United States, a hundred years later. That’s all from livestock.
CONNIE: Even again, the common cold; I’ve had common colds that are as bad as the flu sometime, and I’m like, but it’s just a common cold and my immune system must not be that strong for some reason. But it’s not true. Those common colds, if you look up what’s in a common cold, you’ll find out all these different multiple viruses that are all zoonotic.
MEXIE: Yeah, it’s infuriating, actually. It’s really, really infuriating because it’s just so normalized for people, right? People are just like oh, well, of course we’re gonna have livestock, right? So, of course it’s just something we have to deal with, is getting these illnesses. But I mean, yeah, it’s just absolutely ridiculous to think how unnatural it is to have so many animals, so many livestock animal bodies just forced together in these completely unnatural and inhumane spaces that are just, yeah, absolute breeding grounds for these things that then as you said, we have to deal with for the rest of our lives and that do take so many of us and that have — I mean, with COVID, have already taken so many lives, right? It’s just…
CONNIE: Then to that point of animal lives, right, ‘cause news isn’t reporting that. So, if all of those deers are showing — deer are showing antibodies, how many died from the illness and how many other animals are dying from the illness? It’s like, I don’t think that we’re hearing the full story when it comes to all of the hops that this virus has actually made, ‘cause that’s the point of the virus. It’s zoonotic; it’s to hop from animal to animal to animal. So, I just think that there’s a bigger picture story that we don’t even realize about how many animals have also been affected by COVID, both perhaps wild animals and our companions.
If you look at zoos, zoos are giving the vaccine to many animals from tigers to gorillas. That, to me, signals that there’s more to it than we realize, or they wouldn’t give them the vaccine. If cats and tigers couldn’t get it, why are they giving the zoo tigers the vaccine? If gorillas and monkeys couldn’t get it, why are they giving them the vaccine? You know what I’m saying? To me, it’s signaling that many, many more animals are affected than we realize.
MEXIE: Yeah, which is again just extremely horrifying in the fact that it’s horrifying to have sentient beings die in that way, but we’re also at a time right now with the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis that we’re experiencing, basically the sixth mass extinction, and then we’re creating through our practices these zoonotic viruses that are then taking out so many more animals. It’s just devastating.
CONNIE: It all is sourced back to terrible agriculture policy that is — has been so corporatized that they just don’t care about all the suffering that happens. This isn’t the first time we’ve had a climate crisis. I mean, we had a dust bowl that was caused by farmers that lasted from 1930 to 1936 that literally looked like an apocalypse for six years, where they depleted all of the nutrients in the earth from over-farming, and essentially it looked like a dust storm. I read a book about how the — I grew up in Oklahoma too, but I didn’t even know this living there. But Oklahoma and the Midwest, the prairies are described as almost a lush flower forest with just tons of biodiversity that if you go there today, it’s like, it’s just dirt and grass. It’s all gone. I guess the climate crisis is also sourced back to the agriculture industry and it’s not — it’s just not the first time they did it to this country.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, just absolutely — I mean it’s just hard to even wrap your mind around the horror of it all. But you know, let’s shift gears and talk about how do we fight this. So, you talked a bit about how you entered the world of lobbying, but talk to us more about the possibilities this opens and what kind of successes and challenges are you facing in doing this kind of work.
CONNIE: Yeah, I mean, going into it, I knew we just needed to get somebody in the conversation, get a seat at the table of being able to have — to either just be listening or to have a say. I didn’t know where it would take us and I didn’t know exactly how many lobbyists we would need to accomplish significant change. We started with one lobbyist who definitely had great ideas, and we then were able to scale to a larger lobbying firm. Through that, the one thing I would say that we learned and that I kinda knew already is to get these laws passed, you have to have bipartisan approval. So, while we have a lot of these left ideas, you have to make — you have to create legislation that everybody agrees on. So, you can’t just come in and get Cory Booker as a sponsor and expect something to pass.
Once it get pigeonholed into the vegan environmental arena, it becomes harder. So, you have to create legislation that everybody agrees on. With that said, we originally created legislation that was an at-risk farmer transition program, and the idea was to start subsidizing and getting money to — instead of just throwing bailout money to farmers that were failing, give them an opportunity to transition to plant-based farming. We quickly realized trying to get a full piece of legislation was gonna be a longer turn than adding language to existing legislation. But the point is is we actually have already been successful of adding language to legislation, and that was just with one lobbyist firm.
That to me is an eye-opener ‘cause what that means is is that a lot of times in a lot of different ways, we get paralyzed and scared because we are not as big as we think we are, and the reality is in the lobbying world, we just need to be in their faces and we need to be talking to them and providing a different narrative and letting them know who their constituents are and what we believe in. Again, that’s what I was saying; there’s just — there’s too much focus, in my opinion, on the street protest. I want people to just diversify and realize you can have those conversations with your legislator. You can have those conversations and convince politicians, right? Again, it’s tough in this community to say don’t focus too much on straight protest.
It’s not that I don’t want someone to do — not do what they love, but the hyper-focus of it is distracting us from other tactics that have a real, great return on investment, and lobbying is one of them. So, we’ve already had a great success. That’s just with one lobbyist. We hope to continue to scale. For me, I want to go past just helping farmers. I really — I had that list I had mentioned about workers’ rights and then small farmer rights specific to farmers of color, and then the child labor laws. Accessibility and food hunger is a big one for me that I really want to continue on that path. The other thing is lobbying taught me and our group is that you can’t just have an offensive strategy.
So, offense would be creating legislation and creating language. We have to have enough lobbyists to also have a defensive strategy. So, as we scale, we need to play defense. All of those different proposed laws that the other side puts into play, we have to be in the mix of that early, right? We can’t just be hearing about it later. So, we need to scale and grow so that we have an army of lobbyists that can both push different themes of legislation that cover both humans, animals, and plant-based economy, and the other side that’s defending more rigged policies and more policies that push out diversity in farming and are negatively impacting animals and workers.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, I wouldn’t — I probably wouldn’t even have thought of that. I mean, obviously if I was doing it I might have, but I hadn’t up to this point thought about oh right, yeah, you do have to play defense as well and that of course it makes sense that you need to have a team of people who can be on the ball, because I’m sure more right-wing — these wealthy white farmers that you’re talking about are constantly pushing for shit that’s just extremely exploitative or that’s gonna make things so much worse.
CONNIE: For sure. I would just pile on white farmers really — it’s the white farm investor. He doesn’t ever step foot on the farm. He is living in Santa Monica or living in New York City and he has a low-paid farmhand that manages his farm and undocumented workers, or sure, maybe they are legal non-citizens working, but the white farmer is really the white farmer investor in this situation.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Well, I mean, that’s great. I’m so thrilled to hear that you’ve been doing so well even with just the one firm that you said you were using, so that’s absolutely amazing. So, I wanted to ask how listeners could get involved. I guess what do you need from us, from listeners? How can we support this work? How can we maybe get involved in it in whatever way possible? Then lastly, I was gonna ask if there are any other forms of activism that you would suggest for people with this kind of more broader total liberation perspective.
CONNIE: Yeah, so, first off, it just depends on what someone’s socioeconomic condition is. If you have the money to support us and become a member, you can become a member on agriculturefairnessalliance.org. That membership goes towards expanding our lobbying efforts, so our hope is to hire — continue hiring more lobbyists so that we can start pushing towards multiple things simultaneously. So, agriculturefairnessalliance.org is where someone can become a member. When it comes to Liberation 360, we’re still in the launch phase of that. I’m gonna give a little personal piece; I lost one of my dogs five months ago and I sort of put a pause on stuff. The only reason I’m saying that is kind of like, I think all of us as animal lovers, we have animals ourselves and then we’re doing activism for animals.
I mean, losing mine shook me for a while, and I’m only — even in this moment right now, you know that I had mentioned that I couldn’t do it for a while. Me talking to you now is me saying I’m finally coming up for air to really go hard at things again, because I had been so emotional from her passing. She was sixteen-and-a-half years old, so she was around my entire adult life. So, Liberation 360 we’re gonna have a website launch for, and there will be a place to donate there as well. It will be a little bit different, so you’ll have the lobbying arm that is like, here is money towards the lobbyist.
Then we have an education arm which is going to be, we need to start educating people about all of these systems so that even if they’re not vegan but perhaps realize the horrific effects of the system, so maybe they’re big on workers’ rights or maybe they’re big on helping communities that live nearby these CAFOs. We have to educate those people. So, that will be a form of activism that I hope to start doing educational series to even other non-profit groups. So, think of Greenpeace, for example, right? It’s like an environmental adjacent group, and perhaps they don’t understand the intertwinings of the politics of the food system. So, I would like to have Liberation 360 start educating those groups so that we can create a bigger movement based on collaboration.
So, those are the two financial ways to get involved. If you have time to volunteer with our groups, we are happy to see if whatever you have time to do fits with what — something that we need, and we’d be happy to work together. I will say we only want volunteers who are anti-oppression in nature, because we’re not animals-only groups. I think you know that; we’re not — it’s not just like, animals only. We’re based on the big picture of all sentient beings and making sure that we create an equitable farm system. So, volunteers are great. Then lastly, if you don’t really know where to start but you do want to perhaps speak at your local city council, the best way to do that is to understand their schedule and perhaps sit in on a few of their meetings and see what the topics are. They do bring up topics.
An example is in my city, they actually do have a school program where they try to equitably provide plant-based options. So, I think that local lobbying, even if you’re just one person, can be huge. So, getting involved to figure out how the school systems are supplied, for example. A lot of these dairy companies make — I heard the number was like 40% to 50% of their earnings come from their contracts with schools. So, it isn’t even that these kids are all drinking it, right? It’s just that there’s a contract that says this is how many students we have, so this is what we need to make available to them. So, I think that would be a unique way to sort of get your — dip your toes into your own personal lobbying. But the truth is, when it comes to federal lobbying, we’re not the right people to be federal lobbyists.
You want to get somebody who lives and breathes it and who’s been doing it for ten, twenty years, and has a Rolodex of relationships. So, when it comes to federal lobbying, being a lobbying member with our group is — would be the way to go to effect the federal change. Then educationally, following me, I’m — like I said, I’m coming up for air now and I’ll probably be posting a lot more about current events based on the farm system. You always want to keep your eye on the farm bill.
That happens every four to five years. You want to keep your eye on a lot of this climate and environmental stuff because you don’t want to be saying things that don’t actualize. So, a lot of this stuff that is being said in the environmental legislation makes it sound like we’re gonna be solving a lot of problems, and it’s just not true. So, I would say start getting a pulse on what’s going on with legislation as it relates to the environment and really digging deep to understand if these things will really solve or help the world or if it’s just another way for big ag to take more subsidies to claim that they are environmentally friendly.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so we’ll link all of these links in our show notes, so people can find those there and get involved if you have the time or the money. That would be absolutely wonderful. So, thank you so much. Yeah, I wanted to say I’m sorry again to hear about your dog, Callie. I saw you post beautiful videos and photos and you look like you had such a wonderful connection. Yeah, I also lost our family pet that was really dear to me last year during the pandemic, and it’s just — it’s so difficult. They really are members of your family. Yeah, it’s so much to get over.
CONNIE: I feel like people, they’re — the people that know me know what happened and are — and know I’ve been kinda missing in action. The people who don’t know me that perhaps just know the organizations are probably like, why are they so quiet? Are they really doing — the lobbyist and the group and co-founder are definitely still working very hard. Just for me and my social media presence, I just took a pause and I just — I’m pointing out the reason I brought that up on the show is that it was a very severe struggle and I had to work my full-time job. Obviously I couldn’t pause that, but anything extracurricular outside of that, my — just my heart was just not capable. So, it took me a while since May, and so now that I’m sort of coming up for air, you’re gonna see a lot more momentum back on the education that I do to the movement. I appreciate you waiting on me and I appreciate your fanbase and listeners to give me a platform to discuss the food system.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’m — great that you are, I guess as you said, coming up for air. Everyone should follow Vegan BatGirl on Instagram. Or, I guess you’re everywhere, right? You’re on TikTok.
CONNIE: I haven’t put a lot on TikTok, but the same thing; it was just the timing thing with Callie. I want to start using it as an educational — on the food system and do videos there. So, we’ll see.
MEXIE: Yeah, wonderful. But yeah, everyone follow Vegan BatGirl. Yeah, you’re just always putting out really, really important educational content that everyone should be checking out. So, thank you so much for coming on. This was such a great conversation. I really appreciate your time, and yeah, I hope that a lot of the listeners get involved and help support your work. So, just thanks again for coming.
CONNIE: Perfect. Thanks so much.
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