By: Sally Thompson, VegFund Volunteer
The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?, a new book by Hope and Cogen Bohanec, provides insight into the secrecy surrounding animal farming and the emergence of products that use misleading buzzwords to deceive customers who are endeavoring to make compassionate choices. Drawing on peer-reviewed research, worker and rescuer testimony, and interactions with the farmed animals themselves, The Ultimate Betrayal explores the recent shift in animal agriculture and the misleading information surrounding it. Are “happy”, “cage-free”, and “humane” products really what they sound like? Do they exist? This book aims to answer these and many other questions.
VegFund recently had the opportunity to interview Hope and learn about the inspiration behind the book, her life as an activist, and much more.
VF: What inspired you to write this book?
HB: I live in Sonoma County, California and for several years now, there has been a trend leaning toward local, slow and “humane” meat, dairy and eggs. This new way of labeling animal products is so pervasive and getting to be more and more available. I know people in our area that had been vegetarian and vegan that are experimenting with buying eggs from the farmer’s market, or getting meat from a local butcher, because they felt the animals were now treated humanely. I felt that this new method of small scale farming needed to be thoroughly researched, reviewed and reported on. That’s what I have done with The Ultimate Betrayal.
VF: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
HB: Finding the time. As the book was coming together, I could see it clearly, and knew what I needed to do, but I just didn’t have the time as I was working as the Campaigns Director for In Defense of Animals. I left IDA so I could focus full-time on the book, and for seven months, that is what I did. It was financially challenging, but I knew it was the only way I could get it finished.
VF: Was there a particular interview or conversation that particularly stood out to you?
HB: I interviewed several people that had worked on farms and in slaughterhouses that sold the meat, dairy and eggs under these alternative labels. The one that still haunts me is the story of the chicken hatchery that provided chickens to a processor that sold to Whole Foods. The descriptions of the little, newborn chicks getting caught in the machinery, having their skin and limbs ripped from their little bodies and being left to suffer all day, was just heart-wrenching. Every worker had horrible stories, but that one for me was somehow so troubling, I still think about it often.
VF: Was there a pivotal moment that helped you make the connection and begin to change your attitude towards nonhuman animals?
HB: I went vegetarian 28 years ago when I was 16 and vegan 4 years later. I had always loved animals and had images of them all over my room. One night my mom cooked a chicken whole. I saw that bird on her side, dead in the middle of the table and it clicked in me that that was an animal! I loved animals! Why was I eating them? Even though we were in Dallas, TX and no one knew what the word meant, I became a vegetarian. Vegan came four years later when I had moved to San Francisco and read a PETA brochure about animal agriculture. Learning about the suffering of dairy cows, I felt that it would be hypocritical if I didn’t take it all the way, even though it was really hard back then. I have a sweet tooth and there was nothing vegan but beans, rice and veggies. If you wanted a cookie, you had to bake it! I got really good at vegan baking and I still enjoy baking, even though it’s not as necessary any more— we have come so far in 20 years. Yay vegan doughnuts!
VF: What outreach techniques do you feel are key to getting those we engage to understand the issues surrounding the ‘Humane Myth’?
HB: One thing I recommend is for activists to read my book. I tell animal advocates that as they are reading my book, when they come across a study or story that affects them, memorize it and have it “on hand” as you are talking to people. In conversations around veganism, more and more we are hearing people say, “But what about organic dairy? Aren’t those cows treated well?” or “I buy my meat from a local butcher who only has happy animals.” As activists, we need to be informed with responses to each of these situations and labels. We are ready with great responses for factory farming, but what’s happening now is that many people think that their meat, dairy or eggs is NOT coming from a factory farm, so it’s ok. We have to shift the conversation to help them to understand that no matter the size of the operation, or the label on the product, those animals are still suffering and we have no right to take their lives.
VF: What’s the main message you want readers to take from this book?
HB: This quote from the book sums it up nicely, “There is an intrinsic element of cruelty in animal agriculture that cannot be eliminated with any small scale operation or organic label. It’s a business making money on the bodies of other sentient beings. This can never be free of fundamental insensitivity and a deep betrayal that runs counter to any humane treatment of another.” – Hope Bohanec, The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There A Happy Meat?
VF: Where can people find out more about your book tour?
HB: They can go to the Speaking Schedule page of my website for a list of events. If someone is interested in having me come and speak about the book in their city, they can contact hope at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VF: Is there anything else that you would like to share with readers?
HB: If you would like to purchase The Ultimate Betrayal: Is There Happy Meat?, you can contact Hope directly at email@example.com. It is also available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. For more information on The Ultimate Betrayal, author Hope Bohanec, and the excellent outreach that she does, please visit www.the-ultimate-betrayal.com.
We would like to thank Hope for taking the time to provide VegFund with insight into her life as an activist and the creation of this book, and we wish her all the best with her upcoming tour!
Hope Bohanec has been an animal and environmental activist for over 20 years. Dedicating herself to these issues, Hope has been involved with public education campaigns, demonstrations, and fundraisers. Hope’s partner, Cogen Bohanec, and co-author of The Ultimate Betrayal has spent over a decade assisting Hope with numerous animal protection and environmental issues, as well as serving as a co-author and co-lecturer on a variety of articles and presentations.