Tahoe paddle and potluck to raise awareness of farm animal conditions | SierraSun.com

Tahoe paddle and potluck to raise awareness of farm animal conditions

Special to the Bonanza

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — On Aug. 21, on the evening of the full moon, Lake Tahoe resident John Merryfield and a group of extreme stand-up paddlers plan to complete a 72-mile, non-stop circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe in one day, paddling all day and all night to promote the Vegan 1 Day project, a challenge for the public to adopt a vegan diet (no meat, dairy or eggs) for at least one day of the year.

Merryfield will undertake his exploit for the fifth year in a row to bring attention to the plight of factory farmed animals, while extolling the excellent health benefits of eating a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Similar feats of athletic prowess will be performed throughout the day, including a group who will run 23 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail, a group who will cycle 50 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail, another who will cycle 72 miles around Lake Tahoe, and yet another group in San Francisco, who will run 50 miles from the Marina District, across the Golden Gate Bridge, up Mt. Tamalpais, and back in one day. All participants adhere to a vegan diet, hoping to inspire others by their physical strength and determination.

When asked why people are paddling, running and cycling such long distances in one day, Merryfield said, "We believe in a better world, a world with less violence, a more sustainable environment, and better human health. We can get all of our protein and nutrition without animal products, and we paddle, run and cycle hundreds of miles in one day to demonstrate that by eating plants instead of animals, you can be healthy, strong and compassionate."

Merryfield seems comfortable taking things to the extreme. He has surfed big waves in Hawaii and Northern California, swam 12 miles across Lake Tahoe, and paraglided up to 16,000 feet. He said stand-up paddling the entirety of Lake Tahoe in less than 24 hours pales in comparison to what farm animals endure on factory farms, and in slaughterhouses.

"Last year, it took me 18 hours, paddling non-stop, all day and all night, but many animals on factory farms, like chickens in battery cages, or pigs in metal crates, are crammed in so tight, they're not even afforded the luxury of laying down for most of their lives," said Merryfield.

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The Vegan 1 Day project was inspired five years ago when he and his step-daughter stand-up paddled the 72 miles around Lake Tahoe for the first time to raise awareness about the work of Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization.

Public interest in a vegan diet has gained enormous momentum in recent years. Merryfield, who has adhered to a plant-based diet for more than 30 years, supports those who want to move, even if gradually, toward a healthier diet. "If you go vegan one day, maybe one day you'll go vegan. Try a leafy green fruit smoothie instead of eggs and bacon," he said. "A part-time job (going vegan for one day) could land you a full-time position … with benefits. Challenge yourself; we're challenging ourselves in solidarity with you."

Vegan 1 Day will end with the athletes celebrating their amazing accomplishments with a community, vegan potluck on Aug. 21, 6 p.m. at Adrift Tahoe in Kings Beach.

To learn more about the Vegan One Day project, visit http://www.vegan1day.org. For more information about Farm Sanctuary, visit http://www.farmsanctuary.org.