Slaughtering for food: The complicated clash between urban homesteaders and animal rights activists

If you’re one of those urban homesteaders who raise livestock, you might have had the experience of having an angry mob with pitchforks (or smartphones for that matter) at your front door.

Animal rights activists fight for the proper care of animals. But rallying up in front of urban farmers’ homes might be a bit too much, especially since these self-sufficient folks only want to reap the benefits of their hard day’s work. Not everyone is a vegetarian, and not everyone can manage living off of plants alone.

The fallout started in a city farm called Urban Adamah in Berkeley, run by Adam Berman. Animal rights activists caught wind of a public chicken slaughter workshop, called shechita. Thirty people signed up for the event, but it was later canceled due to the landlord’s fear of having an out-of-hand protest. The city farm still continued with the slaughter, and animal rights activists were enraged.

This urban farm follows Jewish traditions, such as the aforementioned shechita. It is a Jewish religious and humane method of slaughtering poultry for food by a shochet, a Jewish person who has years of training in humane slaughtering. A guide on shechita explains that this process is utterly religious and humane, using extra-sharp knives so pain won’t be felt by the animal. Workshops conducted by the shochet had been performed in the past, where the participants are asked to pluck and clean the chickens, salt them, and cook them as well. None of the participants are asked to wield the knife, since it takes a qualified and trained person to execute a clean and painless butchering.

Another upside to this is that the food created by this farm serves the underprivileged. Urban Adamah practices proper animal care, and teaches its students and staff the farm’s core values of kindness and compassion to all living things. The chickens raised here provides compost for the 18,000 pounds of fresh greens the farm produces. Aside from providing a source of food for the unfortunate, it also provides a sense of community through education on food and nutrition.

For most animal rights activists, like the United Poultry Concerns, In Defense of Animals, and Jewish Vegetarians of North America, any kind of animal slaughter for food is considered highly unethical. They declare that farms should switch to “veganic farming practices” and eliminate the need for slaughtering livestock. Some people believe that these animal rights activists should be focusing more on the giant companies and corporate cartels that mass-produce meat. More often than not, these “big meat” groups practice unethical animal husbandry and vile livestock-raising methods that would turn a meat-eater against them. Urban farmers who slaughter a less than a handful of chickens simply wish to eat what they grow.

However, not everyone in the city wishes to live beside a noisy farm. Old MacDonald had a city farm and all his animals made everyone stay up late at night. While the image of pigs snorting and chickens cock-a-doodling early in the morning may haunt you, it isn’t as bad as it seems. Most urban farmers keep their animals at bay by providing them sufficient space to roam and move freely, and have proper housing for these animals that keep them safe and quiet at night. There is a nice benefit to growing your own food – you get to see what it is you are really eating.

Compared to factory meat, which sounds really awful, fresh meat matters a lot when it comes to taste. The transportation time between slaughter and market/grocery sale lowers down the quality of the meat, and makes it grounds for dangerous bacteria. Besides, you really never know what goes on in a meat factory, and you probably won’t want to know. Like freshly plucked ripe fruit, time also matters when it comes to the freshness and overall quality of any kind of meat.

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