Save Bill and Lou Tour: First Stop, Texas

"The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." - Albert Einstein.

They were wearing cowboy hats and leather boots and they stared at the Save Bill and Lou poster on the side of our Prius. We had just crossed into West Texas on Insterstate 10 and had stopped for a bite of lunch. We had started from Phoenix at 5:45 am and our navigation was estimating that we will reach our destination, Austin, Texas, around 10:15pm.

We arrived in Austin at 10pm on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 after a 15 hour journey.  Because Jaine and I shared the driving, and because we were working towards a purpose that is so much larger than us, we ware not even tired at the end of our journey. Our host was DG, a big-hearted bear of a man and he was waiting with hot dinner for us. We enjoyed it and crashed for the night. DG was undergoing dialysis the next day and had to get up at 4am for it. He has diabetes with acute renal failure and is waiting for a kidney transplant. The dialysis, performed thrice a week, functions as his artificial kidney.

DG is primarily a lacto-vegetarian. Of course, we had long discussions about the connection between dairy consumption and diabetes, but it is hard to overcome centuries of cultural practices with logic and reasoning. DG's grandparents ran a small dairy farm in rural India and he related the story of how he actually helped deliver a calf at the farm when he was 7 years old. And then he moved to the big city, Chennai, and didn't go back to the farm until he was 21 years old. But as he was approaching the village, he heard a cow stomping and bellowing and he first stopped to greet the 14 year old cow, Lakshmi, before he saw the people in the village. She recognized him 14 years later, presumably based on smell.

It stands to reason that the large, wet noses of cows are powerful sense organs. But DG's story showed that cows also have great memories!

On Thursday, we went to Madras Pavilion, an Indian restaurant for lunch on Research Boulevard. After our lunch, I stood near the cash counter and approached customers as they were waiting for their bill to be processed. All except one signed the Save Bill and Lou petition. The lone exception was a lady with an Eastern European accent and I could see that she was troubled as I related the story. I asked her if there was a problem. She said, "Yes, I want to check the web to see if this story is true, before I sign." It occurred to me then that someone could run a scam to collect names and email addresses by creating such petitions with fake stories.

Next, we went to the Whole Foods on Research Boulevard. Whole Foods is headquartered in Austin, and it is the market leader in the sale of "humane" animal products. Humane meat is marketed as "cruelty-free" to guilt-ridden upscale customers and they pay a huge premium for eating guilt-free. But what these customers aren't told is that humane meat requires a much larger ecological footprint than factory-farmed meat. Meat is an encapsulation of solar energy captured through photosynthesis by plants and then processed by animals into muscle mass. Humanely raised animals waste this energy by frolicking around instead of just standing in one place, putting on the pounds. And it must be really inconvenient for Whole Foods that the Bill and Lou saga is focusing our lens on the sustainability of humane meat. Apart from the extra years that Bill and Lou have lived, humane meat is really an anonymous version of Bill and Lou meat.

At first, I approached customers eating their late lunch on the sidewalk outside the store at the picnic tables. The first person, an elderly lady, gruffly refused. At the second table, there was a teenager and her mother. When I related the story of Bill and Lou and asked if they would sign the petition, the mother said, "No," while the teenager said, "Aw Mom! Then I will sign for the both of us," and she did. Then it occurred to me that if this was really Whole Foods property, then I better get the manager's permission before approaching any more of the customers. So DG and I went inside to find the manager.

At the information counter, the employee called the manager and she came over. She said that she was late for a meeting and would get back to me in the evening about the petition. She asked me to leave my business card at the information desk.

She never called.