The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Photos: A Man Took His Alpaca For A Walk Around The Loop Monday

By Chicagoist_Guest in News on May 24, 2016 7:18PM

By Tyler LaRiviere

Chicagoans got a wooly taste of the countryside Monday afternoon, when a man walked around Chicago’s Loop with an alpaca trailing after him. The man is Ethan Abbott, also known as “Ethan the Farmer,” and founder of Just Us Riders. Abbott is walking his alpaca, named Shay, on a leash around various cities to bring awareness to the corporatization of the American government and the loss of the family farm system.

Shay, who is highly-trained, was unperturbed in her sightseeing around the Windy City, even as onlookers gawked and incorrectly shouted “Look, a llama!”

Despite the fun and whimsy of bringing alpacas to the big city, Abbott has a more serious reason for traveling with farm animals: what he describes as the “corporate corruption” in government that is damaging the family farm system.

“We are rapidly being victims of hostile take over by large agricultural and chemical corporations,” Abbott told Chicagoist, “These corporations often use their close ties with the government to manipulate the law and the other officials to force small family farmers out of business, in many cases using the guise that they are ‘there to help.’”

Abbott’s work started back in October of 2015 when he wanted to ride horseback across America, starting in Seattle, Washington and end his journey on the Lincoln Mall in front of the capitol before the 2016 presidential election. However, due to varying open horseback state laws, Abbott had to modify the plan. He converted his 36-foot box truck into a mobile home with livestock accommodations and a mobile activism unit so that he could bring llamas, alpacas and his dog on the road.

Abbott and his furry companions spend around 10 to 12 hours a day walking around each city, and he also hosts rallies and gives lectures. The unexpected sight of farm animals in an urban setting prompts onlookers’ curiosity and brings attention to Abbott and his cause. Abbott, originally from Lititz, Pennsylvania, was in St. Louis, Missouri before Chicago, and is on his way to Flint and Detroit, Michigan next.