Is Animal Slaughter on Urban Farms Becoming a Problem? One Group Thinks So

Categories: Controversy
NOSlaugher_logo.jpg
NO Slaughter
If you go to farmers' markets in the East Bay, you may have seen them: A group of activists from Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter handing out flyers raising concerns about Oakland's new Urban Agriculture Policy. "The last thing I want my daughter to see or hear are the sounds of an animal being killed next door by a DIY slaughter hobbyist," says a cartoon of a ponytailed man.

NO Slaughter's latest action, according to its website, was to appear at the El Cerrito City Council earlier this week, protesting the fact that the city's Animals Ordinance didn't include any provision regarding animal slaughter. "By not addressing slaughter specifically, El Cerrito left the interests of animals to the whims of the farmer, which as we know from observing industrial agriculture is never a good idea," spokesperson Ian Elwood wrote in an email to SFoodie. "We have seen too many instances of cruelty by urban homesteaders to recount, and there is no reason to believe that without regulation, anyone will do anything differently than what is being done already."

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nickstereo/Flickr
Seemed like a good idea at the time.
San Francisco, like Oakland and El Cerrito, doesn't have strict controls around what residents do with any animals they raise for food. Article 1, section 37, of San Francisco's Health Code states that people can keep up to four small animals such as rabbits, chicken, and ducks on their property. According to SF Health Department spokesperson Colleen Chawla, there are regulations around the slaughter of animals for retail sale, but "there's nothing in the health code that addresses the slaughter of these animals for personal use," she says, adding, "At the Health Department, we primarily get complaints if the animals are too noisy."

Are backyard butchers that much of a problem in the Bay Area? Last week, Mother Jones editor Kiera Butler, who has written about raising and killing her Thanksgiving turkey, wrote a rebuttal to NO Slaughter's flyer, addressing it point by point. For instance, the animal-rights group claimed that local animal shelters would be overwhelmed by backyard chickens and goats that urban farmers had tired of (but couldn't slaughter?), and Butler quotes an Oakland Animal Shelter rep who says there has been an uptick in chickens that the shelter has taken in -- due to a cockfighting ring that police had busted.

When asked about the problem of urban farmers besieging their neighbors with the death screams of dying bunnies, Novella Carpenter, author of the new Essential Urban Farmer, told SFoodie, "If you think you'll be sitting in your kitchen, drinking your coffee, when you hear the blood-curdling call of a chicken being slaughtered, you have never even seen an animal being slaughtered."

"There is no noise," she continued, "and [NO Slaughter] makes it sound like there's blood splattered everywhere and maniacal laughter. You wouldn't even know if it was happening next door. It's not a slaughterhouse, and that's the whole point. One animal has been loved by by the farmer, who kills it humanely and quickly. Why aren't they protesting at Tyson instead?"

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21 comments
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Jason Kim
Jason Kim

I just don't know why you love an animal and still find it necessary to kill him/her. Do you?

Anne
Anne

Oakland's municipal code explicitly prohibits slaughtering and slaughterhouses - while the City Planning office claimed for some time that the law was ambiguous, City staff now acknowledges that the law is not ambiguous and slaughter is prohibited.  As the City is in the process of revising the code around urban agriculture, they are not currently enforcing this part of the law.

Oakland Municipal Code

8.40.080 - Offensive places andoccupations.

It is unlawful for any person to establish or maintainany slaughterhouse, to keep any hog, to cure or keep hides, skins orpeltry, to slaughter cattle, sheep or any other kind of animal, topursue, maintain or carry on any other business or occupationoffensive to the senses or prejudicial to the public health orcomfort, within the limits of the city.

Marji
Marji

Here is an email we recently received regarding the slaughter of a lamb in a neighbor's backyard in northern California. Since the neighbor's did not raise the lamb themselves, what they did is technically illegal, but no one is willing or interested in enforcing ordinances. As to noise, anyone who has witnessed the slaughter knows there is stress and fear and screams. It would be irrational to claim otherwise.

But really - is this what you want to hear and see in your neighborhood?

"On Saturday eveningmy neighbors brought a lamb to his backyard and slaughtered it. They grabbedthe hind legs, tied the front legs, slit the throat, and then pumped it up tomake it easier to shave it.  I heard the screaming and thought it was onlytheir kids being there are 3 families living in one house with few kids. I contacted the County Animal Shelter to report this and would you believe theysaid it was not against the law to take a lamb, goat, chickens into onesbackyard and slaughter it.

There is something wrong with this picture.  What about the health andsafety issues or/and  the stress of the neighbors having to hear theanimal scream and/or kids hearing it and looking through the fence?  Theofficer or employer I spoke to said this information I am getting now is comingfrom the director there."

909Jeff
909Jeff

"or/and  the stress of the neighbors having to hear the animal scream and/or kids hearing it and looking through the fence?"And who cares about my stress when I watch you deforest your back yard? 

Wait a minute... I dont because I MIND MY OWN DAMN BUSINESS! 

Marji
Marji

Well, that is certainly a very isolationist, individualistic position!

I care about the welfare of others (I imagine you do too...or I hope so) and when others suffer, that matters. It is important to those who suffer and it should be important to everyone else. There is something inherently tragic about standing idly by and watching.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Hi Marji, 

I can certainly appreciate your point of view and thanks for the back and forth! 

Marji
Marji

 @909Jeff:disqus Witnessing an animal or human be harmed can be traumatic. If you see another creature be needlessly hurt, I would find it impossible not to react emotionally.

I remember vividly the screams and cries of a doe who had been struck by a car and left alone in the middle of the road. And I stayed to watch as she was shot and killed by police, as her suffering - as in her pain - was far too great. The doe suffered most, but watching her struggle on dangling limbs touched an emotional pain in myself and, I hope, in others. I don't think anyone who watched her would claim she experienced "false" suffering.

Being compassionate is not a first world "problem" - there are plenty of humans throughout the world who express kindness towards animals. There are plenty of humans throughout the world who are callous towards humans, on the flip side.

At the end of the day, I care about both. And IF I can avoid being the cause of pain or discomfort to another living being, I do so. I do not find it burdensome, personally.

909Jeff
909Jeff

Well Marji, We have divergent opinions on the meaning of suffering.  When I think of suffering I think of poor little African children, starving, hiding from soldiers who steal from them and rape their mothers and sisters... You know REAL suffering.  Which of course I care deeply about. 

It seems to me that your idea of suffering includes someones feelings being hurt because their neighbor enjoys the tasty grilled flesh of an animal... 

Your's is a very first world problem, and yes if we were friends I would be cognizant and respectful of your feelings out of interest of preserving out friendship... Other than that there are bigger issues in this world to worry about other than is my neighbor squeamish about me killing a chicken in my back yard.

MichiganUrbanChickens
MichiganUrbanChickens

The chickens in my backyard make more noise when they are startled by a squirrel or a low flying plane then they do when I take them into my shed and slaughter them.

Sarah
Sarah

Thanks for another reason not to keep urban chickens.

Jason Kim
Jason Kim

And you feel good about it??

Dennis
Dennis

One animal has been loved by the farmer, who kills it humanely and quickly. Why aren't they protesting at Tyson instead?"

Exactly.

Sspengem
Sspengem

How about fighting animal cruelty everywhere?

laura!
laura!

"One guy makes a racist comment amongst friends and you feel the need to stand up to him? Go after the Klan instead!"

There's a need to stand up to animal abuse at all levels, killing is killing. 

Also, I'd wager that most of the people slaughtering in their back yards have no clue what they're doing. Just leave the animals alone and make a delicious seitan roast instead! Seriously, check out VegWeb and the PPK for recipes, that shiz is TASTY.

Jason Kim
Jason Kim

Couldn't have said it better myself!!!

Dennis
Dennis

This reply just proves a point. This has nothing to do with how urban farmers treat their animals. This is an agenda by anti-meat extremist activists. Nothing is as black and white as "killing is killing"

Jason Kim
Jason Kim

I have a feeling you would have called anti-slavery people 'extremist activists' back in those days.

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