Inspiring Lives  > Profile of a Crusader: Howard F. Lyman


The Director of Humane Society's "Eating With Conscience Campaign", who travels the country speaking about the humanity, health and environmental benefits of plant-based organic diets.


As a fourth-generation family farmer in Montana for almost 40 years, he speaks from a background personal experience, when he says that chemically based agri-cultural production methods today are unsustainable, and therefore ecologically disastrous. His experiences range from working in a large organic dairy to raising registered beef cattle to owning a large factory feedlot. He has farmed thousands of acres of grain and reprodu-ced a herd of over one thousand commercial beef cows. In addition to raising cows, he has raised chickens, pigs, and turkeys. He has also grown crops such as wheat, barley, oats, alfalfa, and grass. But after all that, finally he has turned vegetarian, and now a vegan.


He was involved in agriculture at a time when the call dictated getting bigger and better or getting out. He was educated in modern agriculture. He followed all the modern advice and turned a small organic family farm into a large corporate chemical farm. But that is when he saw the organic soil go from a living, productive base to a sterile, chemical-saturated, mono-cultural ground produced by the so-called modern methods.


In 1979, a tumor on his spinal cord caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. That changed his life forever. He promised himself that, whatever the outcome of the surgery, he would dedicate the rest of his life to doing what he believed to be right -- no matter what changes that necessitated.


The period before and after surgery gave him much time to think about the changes resulting from his methods of farming. Convinced that we were going the wrong way, he saw a need to become a voice for the family farmer and the land. In 1983, he sold most of his farm and started working for farmers in financial trouble. This led to his working for the Montana Farmers Union and from there to Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist for the National Farmers Union.


For five years he worked on Capitol Hill. In that time they had some small successes, such as passing the National Organic Standards Act. But even after the act became a law, it took the administration several years to allow funds for its implementation. He became convinced that the changes needed had to come from the producers and the consumers at the grassroot level. Until that alliance is put into play, the big money interest will continue to control public policy in the Congress.


His goal is to see a producer-consumer alliance controlling public policy decisions in North America. To that end he has joined The Humane Society of the United States as Director of the Eating With Conscience Campaign. This campaign has been designed to educate people about organic sustainable agriculture and the dangers of current methods of food production. He believes that informed producers and consumers will help by making humane choices in their personal lives.


His progress in achieving sustainable agriculture has been marked by some very interesting events. He ran for Congress in Montana in 1982 and was able to carry the message through the political campaign. Although he lost, he was able to focus the voters' attention on who was producing our food and how they were doing it. Later on he took on as the executive director of the international Beyond Beef Campaign (in favor of strictly vegetarian diet), which was able to organize over 2,400 teams consisting of over 10,000 people who handed out over 1,000,000 pieces of information in one day at over 3,000 separate locations around the world. This effort was to educate consumers about their food choices.


He has appeared on over one thousand radio stations and hundreds of television stations. Recently he talked on Oprah Winfrey's show about the 'Mad Cow Disease'. He has spoken to thousands of groups. The message is always the same: If there is to be a bright future for our children and grand-children, it will come only from consumer support of producers who work in concert with nature -- organically, sustainably, and humanely.