(originally published in the Santa Monica Star)
Quite a few decades have passed since my childhood days in Shanghai, China. Yet, I still have a vivid memory of the chickens in my backyard, their yellow beaks and red combs, and their many feathery shades of brown. To me, they were friends. I petted them and fed them.
They had names and personalities, and some queer habits. To my parents, however, they were merely food, a desperate measure to feed us children in hard times.
Our home-grown food didn’t end up helping as much as my parents planned. My three sisters and I grew fond of these fluffy creatures and refused to eat them, no matter how hungry we got. Many long years went by before I was able to take a bite of chicken, this time, in America. After all, American birds were not my friends and I knew them only as neatly-cut and packaged meat.
Everything has a flip-side. While I enjoy the abundance of poultry, beef, and pork here in the United States and am thankful for the efficiency of modern farming, I couldn’t help but notice that we’ve grown very distant from our livestock. We now call them steaks, cutlets, and chops, and never have to think where they come from and how they’ve lived. We often forget, or choose not to know, that they actually had a life before they ended up on our table.
So here comes the challenging question: How can we truly be humane, ensuring all farm animals, big and small, feathered or furry, have a good life? This is the least we can do for them after sacrificing their lives so we can live ours.
In 2000, the American Humane Association took action by launching America’s first third-party audited farm animal welfare certification effort, the “American Humane Certified” program. It consists of over 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 their natural behaviors.
The American Humane Association has been the protector of farm animals since 1877. They work with farmers, ranchers, animal advocates, and the American public to safeguard our domesticated animals.
As the old saying goes, we are what we eat. When we choose humanely-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products, we not only choose healthy, tasty food, but food that is in line with our values.
A longtime columnist of ours, Qin lives in Bethesda, MD.