When Jon Stewart announced that he was stepping down from his post as “The Daily Show” host—an award-winning job he held for more than 16 years—the let down was intense. He’s been a relied upon source for the truth, delivering clarity and prescience through a much-needed jocose lens. And his exit this year stings particularly bad as we’re in the comic-tragic build-up to the 2016 presidential election. He’s led us through so many elections past that without him now, his fans mourn his departure like a pack of lost, hungry puppies looking for their momma.
But Stewart has made perhaps his biggest commentary yet—shifting his focus away from the moribund Republican party so worthy of his Camera Three criticisms, and turning his focus instead to running an animal sanctuary along with his wife and longtime animal rights advocate, Tracey Stewart.
In a partnership with Farm Sanctuary, one of the leading animal rescue and education organizations in the country, the Stewarts are opening up a Farm Sanctuary branch in Middletown, New Jersey.
"We bought a farm in New Jersey, with the intention of starting a farm sanctuary of our own," Tracey Stewart -- author of “Do Unto Animals” said at the Farm Sanctuary gala held last month in New York City, "We're getting married. Farm Sanctuary and us, we're getting married."
The Stewart’s farm, called Bufflehead, is already home to four rescue pigs. Farm Sanctuary currently operates three farms: two in California and one in upstate New York. The farm operations are home to rescued livestock animals—mainly cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, goat, and sheep. The farms offer public educational tours that address the egregious issues surrounding factory farming—from animal suffering to climate change and human health—and specifically the benefits of adopting a vegan diet.
"I do feel like what Farm Sanctuary does is they do rescue and sanctuary of animals. And then without realizing it, they also do rescue and sanctuary for people," Mrs. Stewart said—acknowledging the volunteers and members who make Farm Sanctuary’s work possible and the life-changing impact of a vegan diet.
"I've spent the last 20 years immersed in the world of Washington politics and the media landscape, so I don't know how to deal necessarily with people who have empathy," Stewart said, according to Agence France-Presse.
But despite his claim that he's lacked a proximity to empathy, Stewart has actually been leading his fans in that direction for some time.
Last year on “The Daily Show” Stewart took aim at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for not passing legislation that would have given more space to pregnant and nursing pigs in factory farms. And he’s routinely poked fun at the absurdity of Big Food, as well as politicians and industries in denial about climate change. The overlap between livestock production and climate change is critical—and an issue that many animal rights organizations, including Farm Sanctuary, continue to address.
The timing for the Stewarts and Farm Sanctuary couldn’t be better. The World Health Organization recently warned that red and processed meats increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer, and the state of California is considering adding meat including bacon and sausage to its Prop 65 cancer warning label. The warning is bound to send more people toward the vegan diet and resources like Farm Sanctuary.
The vegan diet has been championed by a growing number of celebrities of late including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who are behind a vegan meal delivery service called 22 Days. Former New York Times columnist, author, and chef Mark Bittman also recently joined up with a vegan meal delivery service called Purple Carrot aimed at helping families cook up healthy plant-based meals (the company delivers the meal ingredients in easy-to-mix state so that you prepare the food at home but without the prep).
Stewart has long been known for distilling hope out of the darkness, helping people to look past the minutia and vitriol common in our political and corporate landscapes. His move toward animal welfare is a hopeful sign. And even though he won’t be in front of the camera to explain why and how it’s happening, Stewart’s bound to have an impact on his devoted fans, happy rescued farm animals among them.
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image: david shankbone