backyard slaughter

Encouraging residents to raise animals from infants, get to know the them, and then kill them is risky business because – although many people eat meat – most people have not killed an animal. Why? Because most people would rather not see, hear or participate in killing an animal, for good reason.

" /> backyard slaughter Encouraging residents to raise animals from infants, get to know the them, and then kill them is risky business because – although many people eat meat – most people have not killed an animal. Why? Because most people would rather not see, hear or participate in killing an animal, for good reason.">
 
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Backyard Slaughter: Localizing Violence and Suffering

backyard slaughter

People in cities everywhere are rethinking how we produce and consume food. People are questioning how their food is grown and how it is distributed – who has access to healthful food and who doesn’t[i]. The goal is food justice: making sure all people have equal access to food that is healthful, ethically produced and environmentally sustainable[ii].

Oakland, California recently made significant changes to its food system through a food policy that permits all residents to grow crops for personal consumption, or sell them as a home-based business. The policy was created specifically to address the lack of access people in food deserts[iii] have to healthful fruits and vegetables.

As ethical food advocates we should celebrate this victory. Oakland now has the means to grow the types of food that those in need are lacking, and is working out details about how to distribute the food justly.

But for some people that is not enough. The three most vocal farmers of animals in Oakland claim that raising and slaughtering animals is their right, despite the fact that Oakland law prohibits slaughter[iv], similar to many other cities.[v] In addition, each farm is located one mile or less from a full service grocery store such as Trader Joe’s, a smaller mom & pop grocery store, or a farmer’s market. What does this mean?

The people advocating for deregulating animal farms do not live in food deserts.[vi] They can buy any food they choose from a local business. So why do they they want to raise animals for slaughter?

backyard slaughter

As an animal advocate, I am opposed to factory farming, as is almost every other person I know. I am against anything that institutionalizes harming animals. One common refrain by Oakland animal farmers in news articles, at public meetings, and in letters to city officials is that urban animal farming is “better than factory farming.” Factory farming involves things such as commercial hatcheries, large-scale inhumane housing of animals, and a brutal death at a slaughterhouse.

Enough urban animal farmers already support commercial hatcheries[vii], keep animals in inhumane housing[viii], and kill animals in brutal ways[ix] that we should be concerned with the prospect of creating more animal farms. The only consistent difference in many existing urban animal farms seems to be one of scale.

But there are no factory farms in Oakland. More animal farms of any scale in Oakland means more animals killed, more animals dumped at the shelter,[x] and opening the floodgates for slaughter hobbyists to practice their craft,[xi] make mistakes, kill animals and cause needless suffering. But to what end?

The CDC, USDA, The Lancet, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition[xii] and countless other authorities on public health recommend eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat. The carbon footprint of plant-based agriculture is lower per-pound than the equivalent production of meat. In addition, meat is a less efficient form of producing protein and other vital nutrients than foods as ubiquitous in all cultures as beans, rice, lentils and whole grains.[xiii] All signs point to eating less or no meat. But if we don’t reduce meat production as a society, how can we reduce our meat consumption overall?[xiv]

backyard slaughter

Oakland already has a high violent crime rate.[xv] Encouraging residents to raise animals from infants, get to know the them, and then kill them is risky business because – although many people eat meat – most people have not killed an animal. Why? Because most people would rather not see, hear or participate in killing an animal, for good reason. Killing anyone is a violent act.

Encouraging people to kill animals as a way to “know where their food comes from” by deregulating slaughter is a dangerous gamble. Studies show a strong correlation between violent crime and the presence of slaughterhouses in communities. People become desensitized, not from performing industrial labor, but from killing animals. In commercial slaughter facilities, normal worker turnover is among the highest in any industry.[xvi]

So what can Oakland  – or any other city – do to become a place where everyone has access to healthful, ethically produced and environmentally sustainable food? We can continue to strengthen and refine the city’s horticulture-based policies, and begin to phase out animal agriculture. We have the capacity to produce enough food for everyone with our existing laws, the next hurdle is distributing this food justly.

Instead of  producing more meat by creating an additional smaller-scale meat industry, we should focus on converting existing distribution channels to become more healthful, ethical, and sustainable. The mom and pop grocery store, the local bodega, the supermarket, and the farmers market are all potential agents of change. And don’t underestimate the power of the veggie-mobile![xvii]

All of these local businesses would benefit from public incentives to provide healthful, ethical, sustainable – and yes, vegan – offerings to Oakland residents in traditionally under-served communities.

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22 comments on “Backyard Slaughter: Localizing Violence and Suffering”

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Artur Sowinski
5 Years Ago

I dont really see the problem with meat eaters who kill their own meat. What pisses me off is people trying to meddle into other's life by force... And yes, I'm vegan, and I really hate the militant vegans in the community who would like to restrict anything to anyone. I think its awesome that govt for one takes side of the ordinary people instead of corporations. Although such laws are not perfect, they are far better than what i.e. New Zealand government is trying to push, by passing a law that KILLS ALL FARMER-MARKETS and BACKYARD GROWING


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Jan Steinman
5 Years Ago

Why does everyone who wants to ban something use the worst-case arguments in order to do so? How about legalizing and regulating it? How about requiring classes in humane slaughter? Surely, a sharp knife to the neck is more humane to a chicken than being mauled by the neighbour's dog or cat. So why not ban dogs and cats, while we're at it? I guess that would be too rational for someone who prefers absolutists arguments.


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@LisaDee
10 Nov 2011

I, for one, would NOT want to live next to someone who decides they want to become a backyard slaughterer, whether it was "legal and regulated" or not. I would not want to hear the screams & cries of the animals being killed when I'm in my own home, and I would not want my children hearing the animals screaming either, and thinking it's "okay" to do that. I would not want my children becoming desensitized to the suffereing of animals. This issue is a slippery slope indeed. There are many things to consider. It could pave the way for more animal abusers to get away with crimes against innocent animals; it would desensitize entire communities; and where will the animals be consumed: just by the one who killed it, or will they be selling to others as well? If they will sell it, what steps are taken to ensure it is safe to eat...etc. People can already go out & kill dear & other game to eat - they can go hunting. I do NOT think it is a good idea, nor is it necessary, to bring the killing into communities & allow it to be done in one's back yard, particularly when you consider how close one's back yard may be to someone else's. There already is not enough consideration or compassion for others in this world. Backyard slaughter would only lead to a further deficit of both.

Jane
5 Years Ago

I respect people's decision to not eat meat and to educate people about the health and environmental benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet. But this discussion keeps making me think of the abortion debate. I wonder how many of people opposed to backyard slaughter are also Pro-Choice? Does anyone else think that there should be a bright line between holding your own beliefs and being vocal about it, but not interfering with other people's right to choose what they eat and how they eat it? I'm honestly curious about this and I would love to hear people's thoughts.


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Keith Akers
28 Oct 2011

Jane, Thanks for your interest in this topic. Backyard chicken slaughter is not an issue of what people have a right to eat it or how. It is rather a question of where and how the animal to be eaten is raised and slaughtered. Secondly, a lot of people care about the suffering of animals. Certainly we should listen to people who argue that the suffering of animals isn't real, doesn't matter, or is overridden by other issues, so I would suggest that those who feel this way should straightforwardly, and politely, make their case, rather than asking for permission. Personally, though, it is clear to me that the suffering of animals in backyard slaughter is real, and that it does matter both for ethical reasons relating to animals, and other reasons as well (contributing to the overall violence of society, for example). There may be overriding reasons in some parts of the world to eat animals anyway (e. g., if you're starving in Africa), but in the U. S., anyone who isn't homeless isn't really faced with that alternative. To answer your other question, there are quite a few opposed to the slaughter of animals and backyard slaughter who are pro-choice (probably most, actually), but that there are also "pro-life" people as well. Check out Matthew Scully's book "Dominion." Keith

Anonymous
29 Oct 2011

Animals have the right not to be farmed for their flesh or bodily excretions.

emily
5 Years Ago

Thanks Ian. I love a well researched article! A well researched article that promotes compassion and encourages our better instincts as members of a community is a big treat. And thanks to One Green Planet -- the homebrew-meat crowd are often given a pass at using words like "environmental." There is nothing environmental about raising meat, which is precisely why this article belongs on this website!


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nancy
5 Years Ago

P.S. Of course there is the sanitation and human health risk issue with backyard slaughter. However, I have doubt that not allowing it is going to promote animal rights. I know people who became vegan after witnessing backyard slaughter. I'm starting to doubt why a line is being drawn between the abuse animals endure behind closed doors on farms and the abuse/killing they will experience out in the open.


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Anonymous
27 Oct 2011

That strikes me as a dangerous game, especially when one can watch an educational documentary about the suffering of animals, which doesn't require an animal to be killed and can have the same positive impact on the person.

nancy
28 Oct 2011

I just want to say that after I posted my comments I was blocked from following 'Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter' on Twitter. (I was a follower before I was blocked.) I raised a question I was having in my mind but I wasn't saying animals should be slaughtered in yards. I don't think any animals should be killed at all. I think this should be about animals and not egos.

nancy
5 Years Ago

The reason people are thinking killing animals in their backyards is improvement is partly because so many people saying they are animal rights activists are simply recommending reducing meat consumption and promoting more humane methods of slaughter than factory farms - just like this article does. I don't support backyard slaughter but I also don't support any exploitation of animals.


Reply
rick
5 Years Ago

Excellent and nuanced article on a troubling trend. Thank you!


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