02/15/2012 06:30 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2012

Animal Slaughter On Urban Farms A Growing Concern Among Local Activists

This article comes to us courtesy of SF Weekly's SFoodie.

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."

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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