As cows and horses paraded to the American Royal downtown Saturday morning, a group of animal rights advocates marched through Country Club Plaza, intent on ensuring more farm critters live out their natural days in bucolic peace, rather than biding their time before the slaughterhouse.
The annual walk, one of dozens across the country held each fall, raises funds for Farm Sanctuary in up-state New York. For the event organizer, that green expanse prompted a moment of conversion.
Name: Devin Listrom (left, holding the banner)
Conversion by cinema: In 2005, Listrom says, he caught a screening of Peaceable Kingdom at a local film festival. The movie, which incorporates underground footage of factory farms, focuses on a handful of producers' emotional connection to their animals and their repudiation of the industry's slaughter-house mentality.
Back to the land: The next year, Listrom says, his activism was solidified by a trip to Farm Sanctuary, a preserve in up-state New York, where hundreds of abused and neglected farm animals are cuddled for their cuteness rather than chopped up for their protein value. Listrom saw the memorial to Hilda, a female sheep that the Sanctuary members rescued from a pile of dead animals in a stockyard. Emaciated and covered in maggots, Hilda was rehabilitated before living another 10 years on the farm. "I went vegan the next day," Listrom says.
Animals have feelings, too: During his stay, Listrom says he saw the impact of factory farms. "You can see the emotional scarring of the animals," he says. "You have to let them come to you." To care for the 800 animals scattered across the green expanse, the Sanctuary has to raise $6 million per year, Listrom says. When he got back to Kansas City, he wanted to find a way to help locally.
From Plaza to pasture: In 2006, Listrom organized the first "Walk for Farm Animals" in the metro, one of nearly six dozen such fund-raising events for the organization throughout the country. Now in its fourth year, Listrom says, the 2009 march raised at least $2,000 for the animals back east. Sure, the vegetarian and vegan participants get some snide comments from carnivorous Plaza visitors. "But we keep the walk positive," he says.
What keeps him marching: Listrom says its not hard to stay motivated as an animal rights' activist. Every minute, chickens are being de-beaked, calves are being torn from their mothers and pigs are spending another filthy day in a crate so small they can't turn around. "I know animals are suffering every single day and they need our help," he says.