The fall semester is coming to a close and it’s already been a smashing success for our 10 Billion Lives tours! This year we launched our new third tour, covering the East Coast of the United States. Today on the blog, we’re going to hear from the East Coast crew, Blake & Allison. Please cheer them on in the comments and thank them for all of their hard work!
It’s hard to believe we have just one month left on FARM’s inaugural East Coast 10 Billion Lives tour! It’s now been about 11 weeks since Alison (tour associate) and I (Blake, tour operator) trekked out to Portland, Oregon to make sure Bessie, otherwise known as “the van,” had made a safe journey to our starting point in Columbia, Maryland. I don’t think either of us could have imagined that the time would pass by so quickly. From the outside, a four month working road trip will usually seem like either an exciting adventure, or a daunting undertaking. In reality, it’s a little bit of both. But, what some of the those on the outside won’t see is that FARM’s tour comes with the incredible reward of knowing that each day spent on the road is going directly towards saving the billions of animals we lose every single year to animal agribusiness. And the effort that the two of us have put in has been met tenfold by all the wonderful volunteers, hosts, local activists, and FARM staff that have made our lives so much easier while we move from city to city, campus to campus.
Being that this is 10 Billion Lives’s first full East Coast tour, we’ve been venturing into a lot of unknown territory. With so many untested campuses and student bodies, we were hoping for the best, but always preparing for the worst. Thankfully, we have yet to feel as if even a single day has been wasted. At larger campuses like the University of Maryland and the University of Georgia, we have been able to spend several days reaching students, sometimes doing as many as 300 students in a single day, and 700 over a three day stint. At the smaller colleges like Baltimore City Community College and the University of North Georgia, we have found ways to maximize a day in order to make sure we reach as many students as possible. With student populations often less than 1/4 the size of the larger state schools, we try to have longer, more probing conversations with the students. With less pressure to keep the kiosks full and the line moving, we use the extra time to really engage with and challenge each viewer to consider the ramifications of everything they see in the video, and to think long and hard about how their own behavior plays into the cycle of violence and death.
While in Georgia, we’ve also learned and been able to shine quite a bit of light on the state’s own role in global animal slaughter. UGA’s student group Speak Out for Species informed us that Georgia’s chicken slaughter industry is so large that it would qualify as the sixth largest poultry production country in the world, right behind China and Brazil. More than 1.2 billion chickens are killed in this state every year. It’s hard to miss all the slaughter transport trucks while we’re on Georgia’s highways, so we are bombarded with constant reminders of why we do this work for the animals.
The longer discussions also give us an opportunity to really unpack the question we get the most. “So what do you guys eat?” Sometimes it’s not enough to point out how short the list of things that we don’t eat is compared to the list of things that we do eat. Thankfully, we’ve been in lots of cities where there is amazing food to be had. Even those cities that we’ve only passed through on our way to events have provided plenty of opportunities to indulge in the local vegan fare. From Fern in Charlotte to Sunflower in Atlanta, we have been treated to some of the best vegan dining in the country. And it would be hard to count the number of amazing meals we’ve had in the homes of our hosts and volunteers.
We are spending our last week here in Georgia, heading a bit further south towards Macon and Valdosta, before we finish our last month of tour in Florida. Though the the general makeup of our day will be consistent, we’ve learned that no two conversations are ever the same. We’ll keep making the best of every opportunity we’re given, and hoping that the impact we have continues to grow.