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Vegan hiker hits the 2,655-mile Pacific Crest Trail to promote vegan diets and Mercy for Animals

JoshHiking1Josh Garrett is carrying more than a backpack as he hits the grueling Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,655-mile trek from Mexico to Canada – he’s carrying a message about the benefits of a vegan diet and the plight of animals on factory farms.

Garrett, 30, a college track coach and exercise physiology instructor, first hiked the trail in 2009 and called that trek the greatest experience of his life. Now, a vegan for 18 months who feels stronger than ever, he wants to get back out there, this time to promote the benefits of a plant-based diet and raise money for the group Mercy for Animals.

Garrett hikes fast. In 2009 he thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 88 days, a comfortable pace for him but about half the time taken by most hikers. He is confident that fueled by plants and compassion he can trounce his previous speed – barring fires, snowstorms, or snake bites. In fact he has to cut his time down, at least to 76 days, just to make it back in time for the exercise physiology class he’ll be teaching at Santa Monica College in Southern California this fall.

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey thinks Garrett can do better than that – Mackey thinks Garrett can break the current 64-day Pacific Crest Trail speed record and is sponsoring Garrett by providing hiking gear, support, food and water. Mackey, who shares a passion for plant-based eating, hiked with Garrett on a portion of the Continental Divide Trail last summer.

“Josh is not only a very nice person, but is also the strongest hiker I have ever had the privilege to hike with,” Mackey said.

To break the record Garrett will have to average 42 miles per day across terrain such as the blazing Mojave Desert and the steep Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, often carrying a 30-pound pack. He’s happy to give it a go as long as he can get the word out about the animals as he walks.

“When it comes to helping animals, Josh doesn’t just talk the talk, he literally walks the walk,” said Mercy For Animals executive director Nathan Runkle. “We hope that Josh’s selfless journey inspires others to take steps in their own lives to help prevent the horrible suffering of animals on factory farms by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.”

JoshMFAShirtAn investigation done by Mercy for Animals, which Garret saw 18 months ago, helped inspire Josh to change his diet.

“I was a big meat eater, wild about dogs but not letting myself think much about other animals,” he said. “Over Thanksgiving 2011, I met two turkeys rescued by a friend. They were friendly and fun, and clearly conscious. Then I saw a Mercy For Animals undercover video where a slaughterhouse worker was using live turkeys, suspended upside down on a conveyor belt, as punching bags. I was sickened. And my own consciousness started to change.”

After seeing the movie Forks Over Knives, he realized a plant-based diet would not only ease his conscience but also benefit his athletic performance, overall health, energy, and endurance. “There was just no half-decent reason not to go vegan,” he said.

Today Garrett feels great, and wants to help Mercy For Animals conduct undercover investigations like the one that had such an impact on him.

“I was deeply disturbed to learn that many animals confined on factory farms are locked in cages and stalls so small they can’t even walk, lie down comfortably, or turn around,” says Garrett. “I want to use my freedom to advocate for theirs. I’m walking because animals can’t.”

Garrett has never been a tweeter but is picking up the habit just for this cause and was delighted to find the handle @VeganHiker available. Follow him there and visit http://MercyForAnimals.org/VeganHikerto learn more about his quest and sponsor his hike.

By Karen Dawn

Karen Dawn is the author of “Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals,” Harper Collins 2008.

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