Backyard Slaughter Reality Check

Not the actual rooster, Lord Byron was adopted!
She wrung their necks. I found two of them alive in the garbage.

We have a board in our office with a log of animals needing homes, requests from the public to rehome unwanted farm animals. It used to be the list for the month would fill 1/2 of the white board.

Now we need twice the space to keep up. The majority of them are about roosters, victims of the backyard chicken movement.

Two weeks ago, we received a  disturbing phone call. A man had found four of his roommates roosters in the garbage. Two of them were still alive. The woman had bought day-old chicks from a hatchery, four ended up roosters. When neighbors complained, instead of contacting the animal shelter or trying to find a home for them, the woman tried to break the animals' necks. She failed on two of them.

We rarely take roosters. Last year we rescued 140 chickens from a hoarder and 70 were roosters. It took a year to place the healthy ones. The rest remained with us, putting our rooster count in the double digits. Balancing the desire to help as many animals as possible with the welfare of our current chicken population is tricky, but it does mean we cannot take in even a small percentage of the roosters we get calls about. This month, we were asked to take in 25 unwanted roosters, almost all of whom were bought from hatcheries and incorrectly sexed.

But we said yes to these two roosters. Despite that, our calls were never returned and the fate of these roosters is unknown. The man refused to give any personal information - he refused to contact animal control or the police. Even if he had, even if there was incontrovertible proof of this woman's crime, very few prosecutors would choose to charge someone who inadequately slaughtered four roosters. Our hearts ache for these birds - they deserve so much better.

At the heart of this story is a very real, growing problem. Cities around the country are considering permitting the slaughter of sentient beings in backyards. They are considering allowing the raising of "livestock" in heavily populated, urbanized areas. And they are doing it with zero consideration of the animals themselves.

Caring for farm animals is no easy task, despite what "homesteaders" want you to believe. All species of farmed animals require specialized care, appropriate feed, medical/veterinary care, proper housing, and appropriate space to keep them healthy and happy. Anyone with a dog knows they need more than just a bowl of food and water a day to thrive. A pig's ability to enjoy life is no different than a cat's. A chicken's ability to emote is no different than a dog's. In an already cruel world, it seems society should focus on compassionate choices, ones that nurture joy and kindness.

Backyard slaughter does none of that. It does not "connect" anyone to "food" anymore than a pre-packaged slab of animal carcass does. It does not emulate the real conditions of farm animals in this industrial world. And it completely dismisses that when we are given a choice to cause less harm, we shouldn't bring out the knife. Killing a sentient, feeling being simply to "experience" the act of killing or to be "closer" to one's "food" source is outlandish and ludicrous. Especially in a country where most of us (and nearly all of the people who seem heck bent on wanting to kill animals) can either a) grow fresh organic produce or b) purchase fresh organic produce that is cheaper than raising an animal for slaughter.

If you live in the United States, chances are you have better access to healthy food than other regions of the world. If you are already living in an urban area, you have better access to healthy food than areas that are more rural. If you are living in a middle-class or wealthier region, you have access to healthful foods more so than impoverished areas. You enjoy a privilege not everyone does. To sully that by spilling blood is offensive and ignores that wonderful access to fresh, organic produce and grains and legumes that can easily supplant animal products.

And if you don't have easy access to healthy foods, contact organizations like the Food Empowerment Project to start changing that. We need more fresh foods that are sustainable and healthy, and that don't - by necessity - require the unnecessary taking of a life.

If you don't want to see blood in your neighbor's backyard, speak up and out for yourself and the animals. Write to your elected officials and attend city council meetings. Write letters to the editors of your local paper. If you live in Oakland, join Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter and stop the relaxation of zoning laws to allow urban slaughter.

We already live in a country that slaughters 10,000,000,000 land animals each year. Let's not add to that cruelty by allowing more.


Karen Diane Knowles said...

Wonderful piece, Marji!
Backyard animal slaughter is a destructive trend that purports to be eco-friendly but is cruel to nature's sentient beings! Disturbing as well as hypocritical.
I just wrote an article about this topic too, about urban farms that expand beyond fruit & veggies to flesh farming.
TY for this wonderful article and for your respect and compassion for our animal kin!

Lori said...

This is a huge and growing problem. Thank you for writing about it.

Mike Drummond said...

When we moved out to the country 25 years ago we were still meat eaters. We planted a huge vegetable garden and were considering livestock.

Then a neighbor who raised rabbits for meat and fur described how the bunnies screamed when they were slaughtered.

We stuck to vegetables, and became vegetarians soon thereafter.