“I’m trying to bring it into people’s view,” Merryfield said of the treatment of factory farm animals. “Is this congruent with your values? I don’t think it will be and it isn’t congruent with mine.”
Now as an adult, Merryfield is taking his message to the streets — or, rather, the water. On Friday, the Kings Beach resident will traverse Lake Tahoe for his second annual Stand Up for Farm Animals fundraiser. Merryfield will complete a stand-up paddle around the circumference of the lake to bring awareness to the plight of farm animals and raise money for Farm Sanctuary, a national farm animal protection organization.
A native of Hawaii who grew up on meat and potatoes, Merryfield has been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for the past five. When he realized he could have a healthy diet cutting out even dairy and eggs, Merryfield said, he eliminated all animal products.
While society distinguishes between the feelings of farm animals and those of companion animals like dogs and cats, Merryfield believes there is no difference.
“If we factory-farm produce dogs the way we do cows or pigs, nobody would accept it,” he said.
Merryfield will take approximately two full days to paddle the 72-mile perimeter of the lake, beginning Friday. He will be accompanied by a kayak full of supplies and possibly several other paddlers.
“It doesn’t seem that strenuous nor that long when I think about the farm animals around the country for whom standing up is either torture, as for egg-laying hens in battery cages, or a liberty not afforded to them, like pigs trapped in gestation crates and calves confined in veal crates,” Merryfield said in a press release.
Last year, Merryfield’s unique fundraiser raised $3,050.
“We are grateful and excited that John has decided to complete another lap around the lake for farm animals,” Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur said in the press release. “Last year, the Lake Tahoe event was very successful. It illustrates how making a difference can be as simple as discovering what you are good at and finding a way to transform it into activism. Whether you are an amateur vegan chef or a businessperson, a fashion designer or an outdoors enthusiast, there are many ways you can raise awareness and help create change.”
Merryfield and friends will set off on at 8 a.m. in Kings Beach, Calif., across from Tahoe Paddle and Oar. Other paddlers who want to join Merryfield for all or part of the paddle should call (530) 583-6190. Donations can be made on his web page, www.firstgiving.com/johnmerryfield.
For anyone who prefers to help from dry land, Farm Sanctuary’s annual Walk for Farm Animals will take place in more than 75 cities across the U.S. and Canada this month and in October. The nearest walk to Reno will be in Truckee, Calif. on Sept. 25. To find other walks, visit www.walkforfarmanimals.org.
For more information on Farm Sanctuary, visit farmsanctuary.org, follow Farm Sanctuary on Twitter at twitter.com/FarmSanctuary or call (607) 583-2225.