Angela Huffman, Washington, D.C.

Seeing a humane farm reveals new possibilities for eating

I learned about factory farming many years ago when a vegetarian friend showed me an undercover video of the inside of a CAFO. I was horrified and realized I could no longer support this industry that treats sentient beings as mere machines. I quickly decided to become a vegetarian, and later a vegan. For the next decade, I fought factory farming and ate with conscience by following a plant-based diet.

Then I had the opportunity to tour a humane and sustainable operation for the first time. At Mike Callicrate’s ranch in Colorado Springs, I learned about pasture-based farming of cattle, pigs, hens, and broiler chickens, and watched as the animals engaged in their natural behaviors; I toured the farm’s mobile slaughter unit and appreciated that the animals on the farm were never under the stress of transport; and I toured the meat-cutting facility and the farm-to-consumer direct retail store that sold the finished products. What struck me most was the sustainability of a diversified crop and livestock operation that benefited the environment, the rural community, and of course, the animals.

After this experience, I slowly began adding dairy, eggs, and meat back into my diet and now consider myself a humaneitarian. I realized that just as reducing or removing animal products from one’s diet is a significant way to fight factory farming, eating humanely-produced animal products is another important way to eat consciously and reject industrialized animal agriculture. In my ideal world, we would have more farmers practicing true animal husbandry, and all farm animals would be back on the land. It seems to me the best way to drive the shift to that type of agriculture is to support the farmers currently practicing it.

My go-to methods for sourcing high animal welfare products are to buy directly from farmers and to seek out humane certification labels in grocery stores. I buy directly from farmers either at their farm or at my local farmers’ market. This way, I can either ask how the animals were raised or see for myself. When I can’t see or ask about animal welfare for myself, I rely on humane certification labels such as the Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Program, Animal Welfare Approved, Humane Certified, and American Grassfed Association. Finally, when I dine out at a restaurant, I research the restaurant’s approach to farm animal welfare by visiting their webpage, phoning in advance, or asking the server in person.

Fortunately, due to consumer demand, animal-friendly products are becoming more widely available. My hope is that whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, animal advocates’ collective efforts to vote with our dollars will continue to shift the marketplace to a more humane one and soon make factory farms a thing of the past.

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