My One Must-Have for the Holidays

By Qin Sun Stubis

It’s December again. The end of yet another year is drawing near. Like determined, migrating flocks heading for their winter destinations, we drive and fly across cities, states, and even continents, bound for the places we can be with our loved ones to celebrate another holiday season.

It’s the time of the year when families and friends gather together to reconnect, share a meal, and enjoy some meaningful conversation. And of course, our holiday celebrations would not be complete without gift-giving. By the time this holiday season will be over, it is estimated that the average shopper will have spent seven hundred dollars for these precious packages.

How to spend my money meaningfully during the holiday season is a question I ask every year. Growing up poor in China, I was taught never to waste our precious financial resources. By habit, I try hard to come up with a shopping list with some amazing gift ideas before I embark on my mission. Ideally, I want all my presents to be extra meaningful, special, and sensible.

Reality, however, sets in the moment I enter a store or go online. My shopping list is often no match for the glorious, glamorous holiday displays, each glittering and gleaming to get my attention, and making me feel dubious about whether my carefully contrived list is faulty at best.

Temptation is hard to resist when I feel loving and generous. After all, I’m an American now and, this is the holiday season. And, being an impossible sentimentalist, I could easily forgo my list and follow my emotions. I want to find that most meaningful present for each and every one of my family members and friends.

Often as I wander around a store or click on different items online, staring at everything coming my way, I feel overwhelmed and aimless. Anything and everything out there could be that very special present I need….and whom am I buying for now?

At these critical moments, I try to remember one important thing: My list! It is my holiday shopping compass. I realize why I’ve spent time working on that important piece of paper. It can guide me and be a map to help me reach my joyous giving goals without getting lost in the dazzling maze of today’s holiday season.

You can always reach me at qstubis@gmail.com.

(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)

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East-West Security Starts With Warm Relations

By Qin Sun Stubis

Every year, as autumn a approached, our mother would give each of of us four sisters a boshimoka to wear at night. We were little then and often kicked off our quilt in the middle of the night. It was her loving way to guard us even when she was asleep.

Boshimoka means “security vest” in the Shanghai dialect. My mother would spend her summer hours diligently knitting them in anticipation of the cruel wintry days ahead. She had big wishes for these small vests, hoping to keep us warm all night long and protect us children from getting sick. Soon enough, getting a vest became a change-of-season ritual we so enjoyed, a loving gift in the days when we had very little of everything,

Although a boshimoka was no longer needed when I grew old enough not to kick off my covers at night, it has stayed on within me as a piece of precious memory. When I became a mother in the ’90s, I started to knit my own children boshimokas even though our house on Long Island was temperature-regulated. I was well aware of the fact that my children wouldn’t freeze in the cold had they kicked off their quilts, but still, I wanted to share with them an important part of my childhood. I wanted to give them a mother’s love.

As I knitted boshimokas, I came to realize that those little vests did more than just keep me warm and make me feel loved when I was little. More importantly, they instilled within me a sense of security and self-confidence, a part of my upbringing that has made me who I am today.

Now to think of it, many kids, no matter where they live in the world, have some special object to hold onto while growing up, whether a blanket, a stuffed animal, or a doll made of dried corn husks. American children, for instance, often get attached to their first blanky given to them in the crib and suitably called a “security blanket.” Its importance is perfectly illustrated by the Peanuts cartoon character, Linus. He always carries his blue security blanket over his shoulder. With it, he is wise, happy, and confident; without it, he is sad, lost, and depressed. Many wonderful and dramatic stories are woven around his blanket.

Though a comic strip character, Linus represents generations of little boys and girls who have grown up inseparable from their little cotton, woolen, or even rayon friends. Whether in the East with my boshimoka, or in the West with Linus’ blanket, there is something heartwarming and magical about how a seemingly insignificant thin piece of cloth can bring so much warmth and security to so many during their childhood.

(Originally published in The Santa Monica Star)

 

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Congressional Briefing: Set a Humane Table for the Holidays….and All Year Round

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday – one that celebrates American traditions, family togetherness and gratitude for the unparalleled bounty of our great nation. As families across the country prepare for their Thanksgiving feasts, American Humane went to Capitol Hill with farmers and leaders in the food industry who have committed to humane practices to take part in a Congressional briefing on “The Humane Table.” Hosted by the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, the briefing outlined advances in humane agriculture, called on the American public to support humane farming practices, and celebrated the farmers and ranchers who work to feed the world and raise their animals right.

More people than ever before are concerned about how their food is raised and want to make choices that are in line with their values,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “This Thanksgiving, we urge all Americans to set a humane table and give thanks to American farmers and ranchers who provide food that is safe, abundant, affordable, and humanely raised under ethical, commonsense, and scientifically demonstrated standards.”

At the briefing, congressional leaders, top figures in farm animal welfare, individual farmers, and leaders of major organizations in food production outlined the importance of demonstrably humane agriculture.

American Humane research shows overwhelming popular support for the humane treatment of farm animals and humanely raised foods. Its last poll of 5,900 Americans revealed that more than nine in ten (94.9%) said they were “very concerned” about farm animal welfare. More than three-quarters (75.7%) stated that they were very willing to pay more for humanely raised eggs, meat, and dairy products. And in a ranking of the importance of food labels, “humanely raised” scored highest over other labels including “antibiotic-free,” “organic,” and “natural.” Impediments to people’s choosing humane products was also explored: While one-third of those surveyed (35.3%) said they did purchase humanely raised foods, more than half (54.6%) said they were either not available (35.6%) or too expensive (19%). Nearly one in ten (9%) said they did not know the difference.

Speakers at the briefing stressed the importance of verifiably humane agriculture.

“Animals play a huge role in our lives, and it’s so important that we treat them humanely and with respect for all they do for us,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), co-founder of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus. “This Thanksgiving we want to give thanks to those who have made the humane choice for their animals, and we thank them for their dedication to animal welfare.”
“As the holidays approach us, it is important that we celebrate our farmers and ranchers who strengthen the bond between humans and animals and work tirelessly to put food on our tables in a safe, ethical and humanely raised manner,” said Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX), co-founder of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus.

Dr. Alice Johnson, Senior Vice President for Animal Well-Being at Butterball LLC, the iconic turkey brand that has been an American Humane Certified producer since 2013 underscored the importance of humane farming using verifiable standards and practices.

“Animal care and well-being is central to who Butterball is as a company, and we are committed to maintaining the health and well-being of our turkeys,” said Dr. Johnson. “It’s easy for a company to say they are doing something and to promote it in a way that makes it seem like it’s a priority, but it’s entirely different for a company to commit to something and invite a third party in to review and validate that commitment. We strongly believe that third-party audits are important and that criteria used for these audits be scientifically based.” Earlier in the day, Butterball worked to demonstrate its commitment to both people and animals by working with American Humane to deliver 3,000 pounds of humanely raised turkey to the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C. “We hope this donation will brighten the holidays for many in the Washington area,” said Dr. Johnson. “Our goal is to inspire joyful experiences and bring people together over nutritious, healthy, and ethically raised food.”

Bart Vittori, Vice President and General Manager of Coleman Natural Foods spoke with great fervor about the value humane farming has for his organization.

“Coleman has been around since 1875 – one year before Colorado was a state,” he said. “It is important that we carry on the family heritage of high animal welfare practices from the 1800s. Coleman Natural has earned American Humane Certification to provide further assurance of third-party audits and greater transparency of pork production, and Coleman is the first national retail pork producer to fully implement a crate-free hog environment – both gestation and farrow crate-free, verified by a third party and with USDA approval.”

“In less than three generations, the United States has gone from a predominantly agrarian society to one where the family farm is the exception rather than the rule,” said Byron Shaffer, Food Safety and Quality Manager for Kreider Farms, a third-generation family owned company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that has become the largest egg producer in the state. “Today, there are many with differing opinions on what farming and particularly what animal agriculture should look like,” said Shaffer. “The Kreider Farms’ team made the decision to begin to build cage-free layer houses in 2015 and after careful research and evaluation of the best available housing and equipment started construction. We are happy to be associated with a group that not only recognizes the need for the farmers of today but provides invaluable resources in making the practices transparent and based on what is best for all of the stakeholders. Like American Humane, Kreider Farms, and Americas’ family farmers know that animal welfare is truly in everyone’s best interest.”

“I have a lifetime of expertise caring for animals and I take the responsibility of providing a comfortable environment for my pigs everyday very seriously,” said Pat Bane, an Illinois pig farmer who was recently named America’s Pig Farmer of the Year. “I work closely with my employees to guarantee the best care for our pigs and I am excited to serve as an ambassador for humane practices. The public needs to know how we farm and, that every day, we are doing what is right to care for our animals.”

American Humane was founded around the issue of farm animal welfare in 1877 and has been at the forefront of improvements and protections for children, pets and farm animals for 141 years (see historic timeline). With a history of working positively and collaboratively with farmers, ranchers, animal advocates and the American public to create moderate, mainstream and commonsense solutions that work for both animals and people, in 2000 American Humane created the nation’s first third-party farm animal welfare certification and auditing program with more than 200 science-based standards covering everything from adequate space to air quality, heat and lighting, humane treatment, and the ability for animals to be animals and express the natural behaviors of their kind. These standards for the resulting American Humane Certified™ program were built upon the internationally accepted values of the Five Freedoms, created by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as input from animal science experts, veterinarians and other animal husbandry specialists. These evidence-based standards are reviewed regularly by a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of some of the world’s leading experts and animal advocates. Today the American Humane Certified program is the nation’s largest third-party farm animal welfare certification program.

More information about the American Humane Certified program can be found at http://www.AmericanHumane.org.

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Humane Food Delivery Makes World Better for People and Animals

American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, and Butterball LLC., the iconic brand of turkey that has become synonymous with Thanksgiving, worked to make the holidays a little brighter – and more humane – this year by delivering a truckload of delicious, humanely raised American Humane Certified Thanksgiving turkeys to the Capital Area Food Bank, where they will be distributed to local churches, day care centers, and homeless shelters.

The donation of 6,000 meals’ worth of turkey, came in connection with a major congressional briefing later in the day on Capitol Hill, called the “Humane Table.” Hosted by the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, the briefing outlined advances in humane agriculture, encouraged everyone to set a humane table during the holidays – and all year round – and spotlighted American farmers, ranchers and leading producers including Butterball, who not only put food on our families’ tables, but who do it right by providing food that is safe, abundant, affordable and humanely raised under ethical and verifiable science-based standards.

“We hope this donation will brighten the holidays for many in the Washington area,” said Dr. Alice Johnson, SVP for Animal Well-Being at Butterball. “Our goal is to inspire joyful experiences and bring people together over nutritious, healthy, and ethically raised food.”

“We want to thank our friends at Butterball for committing to verifiably humane practices and for working to make a better world for both people and animals,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President & CEO of American Humane.

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On Veterans Day, Let’s Give Help as Well as Thanks to Those Who Fought for Our Freedom

They fight, make extraordinary sacrifices, and die to protect our freedom. So once a year, when Veterans Day arrives, let’s remember not only to display our flags and give America’s veterans our humble thanks, but also to give real, tangible aid to those who served and who may now need our help.

To provide veterans with the assistance they have more than earned, American Humane, this country’s first national humane organization which has also been supporting the U.S. military, veterans, and military animals for more than 100 years, provides a wide range of programs and services including free, lifesaving help for those who continue to battle the invisible wounds of war – deadly Post-Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Here are just some of American Humane’s free programs and initiatives to help our nation’s veterans and military animals:

• Pups4Patriots Service Dog Program: American Humane rescues abandoned dogs in need of forever homes and trains them to become lifesaving service dogs for veterans with PTS and TBI – at no cost to the veterans. The Pups4Patriots program saves lives at both ends of the leash, seeking to stem the tide of veteran suicide, which takes 20 lives each day, and rescue more of the hundreds of thousands of adoptable dogs euthanized each year.

• Wags4Patriots Service Dog Grants: In addition to its Pups4Patriots program, American Humane offers a number of Wags4Patriots grants to help veterans secure service dogs on their own.

• Battle Buddies Program: American Humane brings home retired war dogs from overseas, arranges for lifetime medical care, and reunites them with their former handlers at no charge so these heroes can enjoy a happy, healthy, well-deserved retirement together.

• Operation Service Dog Access: To prevent discrimination against veterans with service dogs, American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) created “Operation Service Dog Access,” the first assessment and credentialing program for veterans and their service dogs. American Humane partnered with NAVSO, The Schultz Family Foundation, and other experts to create national standards for service dogs of veterans suffering from PTS and TBI, in addition to a thorough application and hands-on assessment process for service dogs and their handlers. This independent, rigorous credentialing program evaluates the legitimacy of each veteran and service dog pair through an assessment and public performance evaluation, monitored by unbiased experts. Veterans can apply to become credentialed and each veteran and service dog pair that successfully completes the assessment is entered into a nationwide, publicly-accessible database found at http://www.servicedogaccess.org.

• Pups for Patriots Act of 2017: American Humane invites support for H.R. 3335, the “Pups for Patriots Act of 2017,” sponsored by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and co-sponsored by Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), both chairs of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus. The bill is intended to increase the quantity and quality of lifesaving, highly trained service dogs for veterans with PTS and TBI by calling for a pilot program administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that will provide service dogs and mandate an adherence to national standards for the selection, training, and assessment of the service dogs.

“Our nation’s veterans served our country and it is now time to serve them,” says American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert. “We want to thank our brave veterans, invite the public to support them in every way possible, and remind all our veterans, their families, and friends that tools to help them win their battles at home are available, including highly trained service dogs who can save lives. Please visit http://www.AmericanHumane.org to learn more about these critical services and to support America’s veterans. And thank you for your service!”

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. American Humane began its work in supporting the U.S. military in 1916 when it began rescuing 68,000 war horses wounded each month on the battlefields of World War I Europe. Since then, the organization has been involved in pioneering animal therapy for returning warriors, providing support for veterans and military families, and repatriating retired military dogs and reuniting them with their former handlers. For more information, please visit http://www.americanhumane.org.

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Miami Seaquarium Earns Coveted American Humane Conservation Certification

American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization and the world’s largest certifier of animal welfare and well-being, announced the certification of Miami Seaquarium through the American Humane Conservation program. The facility passed rigorous, independent third-party audits to earn the certification.

The American Humane Conservation program is the first certification program solely devoted to helping verify the welfare, well-being and demonstrably humane treatment of animals living in zoos, aquariums, and conservation centers across the globe. The program enforces rigorous, science-based and comprehensive criteria for animal welfare, developed by an independent Scientific Advisory Committee comprised of world-renowned leaders in the fields of animal science, animal behavior, and animal ethics.

“The public is rightly demanding that animals in human care are receiving objectively and verifiably good treatment in conditions that meet scientifically based welfare criteria,” said Dr. Kwane Stewart, chief veterinary officer for the American Humane Conservation program. “We commend Miami Seaquarium for voluntarily opening their doors and undergoing exhaustive examinations including in-depth comprehensive assessments of actual welfare conditions and practices for nearly 1,000 animals and intensive on-site assessments by a team of independent auditors, including a marine mammal expert, a professor and animal psychology and development expert specializing in marine mammals, and a fish and life support systems expert.”

As a result of meeting the many outcomes-based welfare requirements involved by the program, the facility is joining a select group of fewer than two dozen leading zoos and aquariums in the United States and fewer than one-half of one percent of all zoological institutions in the world to have earned this certification.

“We are honored to receive this conservation certification from American Humane,” said Eric Eimstad, General Manager at Miami Seaquarium. “It is gratifying to receive the acknowledgment of such an esteemed organization as American Humane for the treatment and care provided to our animals by our team of animal care professionals and veterinarians.”

The American Humane Conservation program’s extensive criteria exhaustively verify the many dimensions of animal welfare and well-being, with areas of evaluation including: excellent health, positive social interactions within groups of animals, as well as between animals and handlers; safe environments, appropriate air and water quality, lighting, sound levels, thermoregulation, and evidence of thorough preparation and protocols established to prevent and manage medical or operational emergencies.

“We believe all animals, including those being cared for in zoological facilities and conservation parks, are entitled to humane treatment,” said Dr. Stewart. “This program helps ensure the welfare of amazing, threatened and disappearing species around the globe and we think that it is a good thing that more and more zoological institutions are allowing independent humane groups to scrutinize their operations and verify with objective measures the level of care their animals are provided. This is good for the public, necessary for the organization being audited so they can demonstrate their commitment to proper welfare or raise their standards if they fall short, and most of all, good for the remarkable and endangered creatures we all want to preserve.”

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American Humane rescuing animals in path of Hurricane Florence

As Hurricane Florence barrels toward the United States, bringing with it torrential rains, dangerous winds, and potential flooding, the famed American Humane Rescue team, which has been saving animals in disasters for more than 100 years, is rushing to evacuate shelter pets directly in the path of the deadly storm. American Humane Rescue team members are already beginning their work, preparing to remove and transport animals from coastal South Carolina shelters and taking them to safe haven inland.

With millions in the storm path, American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert, who had to evacuate with her own dog Daisy from her South Carolina home, is working to prepare the public to keep themselves and their pets safe. Dr. Ganzert offers this expert advice on what to do before, during and after the storm:

BEFORE THE STORM

• Microchip pets or put a tag on their collar with your name, address and cell phone number so they may be returned quickly in case you are separated from your pets. Be sure that any microchip information is up-to-date.
• Tie down or anchor outside objects that might fly about and injure someone.
• Know a safe place where your pets can go if you need to evacuate or seek shelter. Evacuation destinations may include a friend or family member’s home, going to a pet-friendly hotel, or temporarily housing your pet(s) at a boarding facility. Plan multiple routes to your safe destination. Review your evacuation plan and double-check emergency supplies – including bowls, water and food.
• Evacuate your family and pets as early as you can and remember to take your disaster preparedness kit for your pets (i.e. First Aid kit, leashes, and pets’ carrying cases, bowls, sanitation materials, chew toy, minimum 3 days, ideally 7-10 days of food, meds, water, your veterinarian’s contact information, a photo of your pet).
• Bring pets inside; bring outdoor animals inside with a carrier ready large enough to turn around and lie down comfortably.
• Have a carrier at the ready. The portable carriers(s) should be large enough for your pets to stand-up and turn around in ready to go at a moment’s notice. Practice loading cats and dogs in pet carriers before you have to.
• If your family must evacuate, take your pets with you.

DURING THE STORM…IF YOU CANNOT EVACUATE

• Choose a safe room for riding out the storm—an interior room without windows – and take your entire family there, including your pets.
• Stay with pets. If crated, they depend on you for food and water. Don’t leave pets in vehicles.
• Keep your emergency kit in that room with you (food, water, litter, meds, etc).
• Know your pet’s hiding places. That’s where they may run; keep them with you.
• Secure exits and cat doors so pets can’t escape into the storm.
• Do not tranquilize your pets. They’ll need their survival instincts should the storm require that.

AFTER THE STORM

• Make sure the storm has fully passed before going outside and assess damages before allowing children or animals out.
• Keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier, and children close at hand. Displaced objects and fallen trees can disorient pets and sharp debris could harm them.
• Give pets time to become re-oriented. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered and cause a pet to become confused or lost.
• Keep animals away from downed power lines and water that may be contaminated.
• Uncertainty and change in the environment affect animals, too, presenting new stresses and dangers. Your pet’s behavior may change after a crisis, becoming more aggressive or self-protective. Be sensitive to these changes and keep more room between them, other animals, children or strangers. Animals need comforting, too. Comfort your pet with kind words and lots of pats or hugs. If possible, provide a safe and quiet environment, even if it is not their own home.

To make a donation towards our disaster relief efforts, please visit http://www.AmericanHumane.org.

About the American Humane Rescue program
American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. The American Humane Rescue program has been involved in nearly every major relief effort over the past 100 years, including World War I when we rescued wounded horses on the battlefields of Europe, the Great Ohio Flood of 1937, Pearl Harbor, Hurricane Katrina, the terror attacks on 9/11, the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Superstorm Sandy, the killer tornadoes in Joplin and Oklahoma, the Louisiana and West Virginia floods, the Tennessee wildfires, and most recently, Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida.

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