Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Sunday, March 27, 2011

Braden advocates cruelty-free diet

Pete Braden


Pete Braden is spending the summer of 2011 working at Canticle Farm, a non-profit community-supported agriculture farm in Allegany, New York. In the fall Braden will have a project assistantship with professor Greg Nemet.

Prospective Students

MPA student Pete Braden ate lunch with prospective students at the La Follette School's visit day on March 28, 2011. Read more ...

Pete Braden's life work is to bring an end to factory farming.

"Industrial farms torture animals, destroy the land, spread disease and cause unnecessary human hunger," says the first-year La Follette School student. "Because of my concerns about human hunger, animal welfare, and the natural environment, I am an outspoken (and friendly!) vegan."

The means to this end is running an urban farm — and earning master's degrees in public affairs and horticulture. "Many people of goodwill are simply not aware of the grim effects of factory farming," Braden says. "Even those who are aware may not know how to build and enjoy a cruelty-free diet. My farm will show healthy alternatives for food production and preparation."

Braden intends for his farm to serve as a base for outreach campaigns, public speeches and other forms of peaceful advocacy. "I am dedicated to the peaceful principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.," he says. "I believe that social change requires awareness, alternatives and action. Discussions with classmates and professors at La Follette, as well as taking part in the recent peaceful protests at the Capitol, have all been priceless learning experiences."

The five years Braden spent in China as a translator and interpreter shaped his perceptions about food. Home to ancient and successful methods of sustainable farming, China in the 1950s started a catastrophic attempt to "modernize" farming and industry. "Thirty-six million or more people died as a result of the Communist Party's policies," Braden says. "Even today, China's population and limited resources make farm policy very important."

Animal cruelty in China is less hidden than in the United States. "I saw firsthand some instances of animal cruelty, and I realized that the cruelty still goes on in America, it's just hidden from us," Braden says. "I also learned about human hunger and that too much of our grain goes to feeding livestock rather than feeding humans. As a result I became a vegetarian and then a vegan."

Braden is a La Follette School fellow this year, and he hopes to secure a project assistantship for his second year. He expects his two degrees to take about three years to complete. He chose La Follette because the University of Wisconsin–Madison "allowed me to simultaneously enroll in both highly regarded programs."

The choice has been a good one. "I am learning valuable skills in the La Follette program — everything from experiment design to outcome evaluation," Braden says. "My public affairs classmates are intelligent and passionate, with a broad range of backgrounds and interests. My professors include a good mix of practitioners and scholars. They are accessible and helpful. The coursework is engaging."

This summer Braden hopes to return to an urban farm in Braddock, Pennsylvania, as a volunteer. He spent the summer of 2010 there and got valuable experience in farming and in coordinating and motivating volunteers. He also learned some sustainable farming techniques while living at the Fo Kuang Shan monastery in Taiwan.

"While I may never be a master farmer," he says, "I believe that a grasp of the techniques and challenges of sustainable farming will be helpful in my future leadership of a sustainable nonprofit urban farm."

— article last updated June 7, 2011