On the chopping block in Oakland

Deregulating urban animal farming would create problems that multiply as livestock increases

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news@sfbg.com

What exactly is on the chopping block in Oakland these days? If one proposal goes through, it could be a live animal's neck.

Oakland recently called for public input to clarify the urban agriculture language in its planning code. There are questions about the legality of activities such as growing and selling veggies from your urban farm, which could serve our community with nutritious, local, sustainable food. The current code is unclear on the legality of many of these things, so clarifying it to allow people to grow healthy, sustainable food is a positive step forward for the city's fight against food insecurity.

One small catch.

Among other things in a 73-page report titled "Transforming the Oakland Food System" is a proposal to deregulate raising and slaughtering animals. No distinction is made between urban plant farming and urban animal farming — but the difference between the two is as blatant as the sound each respective product makes when you chop its head off.

Deregulating urban animal farming would create problems that multiply as the population of animals being farmed increases. Consider the most popular animal kept among the new wave of backyard egg farmers: the laying hen.

A backyard chicken spends its first days in a factory farm hatchery, where it is packed up with other chickens and shipped to the buyer in a box with no food or water. About half the chicks are male, and thus worthless to a backyard chicken hobbyist. Many end up at Oakland Animal Services, where they are euthanized.

New chicken hobbyists are often surprised that veterinary bills for a single chicken can average $300 a year if ailments are treated properly rather than ignored. These "free" eggs now are very expensive. Chicken food and poop attracts rodents, which causes complaints to the Health Department. After two years, the hen is "spent" and no longer gives eggs. And what to do with Chicken Little when she stops laying?

Picture a warm Saturday afternoon in mid-May. You are sitting on a lawn chair unwinding from a long week at work. Then you are jolted out of your chair — your lemonade spilling down the front of your shirt.

It's the sound of a hen on the other side of the fence suffering a botched hatchet job. "Squaaaawwwkkk!" Welcome to Oakland — the slaughterhouse with glass walls.

According to according to a 2006 Oakland Food System Assessment by the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, approximately 9,000 acres are needed to feed 30 percent of Oakland's population using vegetable-based farming. But once you include urban meat with your veggie garden, the land needed to feed that same 30 percent of Oakland residents explodes to 19,000 acres. So if all our potential land can only provide 30 percent of our food, do we really need to create more meat, eggs and dairy?

Chickens, goats and rabbits make great companions. But for growing sustainable, local and organic food, let's tell Oakland loud and clear: think about chard instead. 

Ian Elwood is an animal rescuer and volunteers with Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, the Central Valley Chapter of House Rabbit Society and is a former volunteer at Oakland Animal Services. He also works a day job as web producer at International Rivers.

 

Comments

Read more about the proposed deregulation of backyard livestock and animal slaughter, and sign the petition to stop it:

http://www.change.org/petitions/prevent-the-proliferation-of-backyard-li...

Posted by Ian Elwood on May. 24, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

Increasing food security and community self-sufficiency? That would be awesome. But adopting this proposal or anything like it would be a huge mistake. I'm not sure what constituency supports these kinds of recommendations exactly, but no one I know here in the East Bay would be excited at the prospect of animals being killed in their neighbors' yards.

Posted by rick on May. 25, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

isn't that the point of this op\ed? that people are not excited about killing? i would imagine there is little controversy in people learning to feed themselves via a healthy plant-based diet using urban gardens.

Posted by Guest, Christopher on May. 26, 2011 @ 8:36 am

Just by the level of controversy on this comment thread it is clear there is a wide spectrum of entrenched positions on the issue. But no one is against plant-based urban farming.

1. People concerned with property values being damaged by animal husbandry
2. People who don't want animals to be mistreated
3. People concerned with the public health impacts of adding more animal products to an already unhealthy foodshed

And so on...

There is a danger that this could be a poison pill. If the animals section of the recommendation is removed, no one would take a second look at the otherwise excellent recommendations of the Oakland Food Policy Council.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:17 am

There are three people, including the original writer, out of the entire population of Oakland who want to control what their neighbors eat.
You don't want anyone to ever eat any meat.
That is clearly all this is about.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:27 am

Everyone I know in Oakland, and the East Bay more generally, is opposed to widening the circle of allowable animal cruelty and slaughter. Assuming *you* live in Oakland (funny that you haven't already said that you do), you'd be the first pro-slaughter resident I've come across.

Posted by rick on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:48 am

If you want to know who wants to control what you eat. It's the government. The government uses 63% of its food subsidies on meat and dairy and less than 1% on fruits AND vegetables.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 14, 2011 @ 2:56 am

There are also religious groups such as Hindus, Jains (look it up), and many Buddhists who are spiritually offended by the practice of slaughter, as it is being proposed.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:33 am

gay marriage because some religious kooks are?

Posted by matlock on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:18 am

Calling Hindus, Buddhists and Jains religious kooks is not acceptable in a public forum.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:47 am

pfffffffft

Posted by matlock on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

I think he was calling Christians kooks, they're the most vocally oppossed to gay marriage in this country. On that note, should women cover up so they don't offend conservative Jews and Muslims? :)

Posted by chelsea on Jun. 09, 2011 @ 11:31 am

what does that have to do with the proposal? If people are offended, they don't have to butcher their own food. I'd think in real life that backyard raised live stock would have a much better life compared to commercial raised.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

You are so right. Animals raised by the people who are going to eat them are more likely to be appreciated, treated well their entire lives and killed humanely. I raise my own goats and chickens, and I do care very much for them. I kill them myself and it is always a spiritual experience. I am careful to not let the animal know, he just gets some really great treats (usually grain, they all seem to love that) and then they're killed with their mouths full and their minds empty. I do not enjoy the 'spice' attributed to adrenaline. I also do not kill or butcher an animal in front of the others. They might know what's going on anyway, but animals are much more realistic about life and death than are humans. Animals killed in the wild are often torn apart while still alive; hunted animals are often not quite killed with the first shot; my animals have a good life for the duration and then a quick and painless end. We should all be so lucky!

Posted by Guest Laurita Walters on Jun. 24, 2011 @ 10:16 am

Marry yourself someone less controversial
Just by the level of controversy on gay marriage it is clear there is a wide spectrum of entrenched positions on the issue. But no one is against same sex marriage.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:34 am

Drawing false analogies to another issue shows your lack of confidence in arguing the current issue.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:28 am

Not even remotely related to the topic being discussed.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

You wrote that people should feed themselves something other than meat because "there is a wide spectrum of entrenched positions on the issue."

I simply showed you how ridiculous your line of reasoning looks when applied to other "controversial" issues.

Your strong disapproval of eating meat is not a reason for your neighbors, who far outnumber you by the way, to no longer be allowed to decide for themselves what they eat.

Find a new argument because this one makes you look like an ass.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 2:45 pm
wow

not even trying to hide your hatred there fellah?

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

Oh, wait! So by NOT adopting a proposal to START allowing everyone to kill animals in their yards, we would actually be somehow BANNING meat consumption entirely. I guess I can see why you're so upset. Thanks for clearing that up!

Posted by rick on May. 26, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

the article cited as "evidence" that San Francisco is pioneering the raising of animals for meat is bogus. the article talks about pigs, goat and rabbits as PETS just like SF city code does. and i quote:

"When you hear a chicken cluck in the middle of the city, it's just a breath of fresh air," she says. "It's not just about the fresh eggs, it's more than that. They eat the weeds, they eat the bugs, they're really cool pets."

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2011 @ 10:05 am

"the article cited as "evidence" that San Francisco is pioneering the raising of animals for meat"

Where is that "cited"?

Here is the entire post:
People are excited about understanding where food comes from.
And learning to feed themselves.
Not killing.
http://www.sfbg.com/2011/05/24/chopping-block-oakland#comment-33238
http://www.cityfarmer.info/
reply
Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 12:30 am

Posted by Arthur Evuns on Jun. 03, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

Let's bring something else completely unrelated into the discussion.

Posted by Tod on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 10:09 am

City planning has a purpose, to zone specific land uses. A city isn't zoned for animal husbandry or slaughter for a reason.

Posted by Tod on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 10:07 am

It is ridiculous to think that people need to kill animals in their backyard to feed themselves when there are thousands of other ways to ensure access to healthy food.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 10:05 am

"We, the city, are being used as a blunt tool, a hammer, in another debate - whether or not rabbits are food,"
Eric Angstadt, Oakland planning director.

Emily Wood of North Oakland... complained about Carpenter's farm to the Oakland City Council. "I would like to stop animal suffering in factory farms and in my neighbor's backyard.
But I have a lot more power over my neighbor's backyard."
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/BA7O1J74O5.DTL

Your petition seems to have very few signatures from people living in Oakland.
Rather, it appears to have captured the attention of vegans and extremist animal rights activists from other places, some not even in the U.S.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 12:40 am

a warning, it is really easy to put a fake identity into this website and pretend to be anybody. take all comments with a grain of salt.

signed,

not Novella Carpenter

Posted by Novella Carpenter on May. 29, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

What really seems extreme is major municipal code changes to allow trendy urbanites to jump on the latest fad and kill animals in their backyard. There was a reason cities made it difficult to farm in the cities way back when - public health. But maybe, thanks to all of the antibiotics consumed over the past several decades, people have some super immunity now and public health isn't so much of a concern?

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:08 am

A new study just came out about the "good cholesterol" found in meat.

"Study: Boosting Good Cholesterol With Niacin Did Not Cut Heart Risks"

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/05/26/136678665/study-boosting-good...

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:19 am

The separation of agriculture from the city was a class issue. It was a separation from the "lowly" reality of growing food. Which is why it was pushed out as far as possible, why farm workers are treated like dirt, and factory farms are possible. Keeping it out where urbanites cannot see it just promotes more abuses- to animals and to your fellow humans.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2011 @ 6:55 am

Agriculture isn't pushed out of the city. Grow all the corn and tomatoes you want for personal use.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2011 @ 11:12 am

It is a fair point, but keep following the logic. Allowing animal slaughter in cities does nothing to stop it in the countryside. It just creates additional sites of potential abuse and neglect toward animals. Also, people need more fruits and veggies in their diet in Oakland, it isn't a preference, it is a fact.

Every first year public health student recognizes that inner city neighborhoods have a lack of access to healthy foods. More meat, dairy and eggs isn't going to help my people in Oakland get healthy, and it isn't good for animals either.

Posted by Guest on May. 27, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

Am I the only one wondering why these people don't just move to the country?

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:26 am

Plenty of good cheap land out in Tracy.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 10:20 am

If raising animals food is such an essential part of your life, move to the country. My grandparents had "free range" chickens (not many of them) on their property. Free to go wander all over the place (not even in a confined Oakland sized backyard), and when it rained the stench was unbearable.

Oh, by they way I actually LIVE in Oakland, and I don't want this BS going on in my neighborhood. I moved from SF to Oakland hoping there would be less PC left-wing nonsense. If this bill passes, guess I will be moving again, because I can only imagine the ignorant masses that will be buying up property, appreciating the fine smell of animal crap because they are so liberal and enlightened.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

Well said!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 03, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

Done and done. Thanks for doing this!

Posted by Tod on Jun. 06, 2011 @ 10:06 am

Sorry 'bout posting this twice!

Posted by Ian Elwood on May. 25, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

"We, the city, are being used as a blunt tool, a hammer, in another debate - whether or not rabbits are food,"
Eric Angstadt, Oakland planning director.

Emily Wood of North Oakland... complained about Carpenter's farm to the Oakland City Council. "I would like to stop animal suffering in factory farms and in my neighbor's backyard.
But I have a lot more power over my neighbor's backyard."
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/08/BA7O1J74O5.DTL

Your petition seems to have very few signatures from people living in Oakland.
Rather, it appears to have captured the attention of vegans and extremist animal rights activists from other places, some not even in the U.S.

Posted by Guest on May. 26, 2011 @ 12:41 am

This is a transparent and totally opportunistic attempt to use a debate about city planning code as a weapon for an ideological cause.

The author of this article is a PETA-type animal rights activist. His purpose in raising concerns about costs and about noise and other issues is to advance a radical vegan agenda.

Basically, the plan seems to be to use code enforcement in order to harass people who want to raise animals for food and animal products, with the perverse goal that this will somehow help reduce society's interest in eating animals and animal products.

That's not what will happen. Basically all they'll do is annoy people.

There actually are a lot of county health codes that will apply, even if Oakland makes raising animals legal on a reasonable scale within the city. Nobody's going to get sick, and nobody's going to have an easy time slaughtering animals on-site, because the health codes still apply.

And also, nobody's going to stop eating rabbits. Rabbits are delicious. There is a huge renewed interest in eating all sorts of non-standard animals. I had kangaroo at a barbecue last year. Not endangered. Farm raised, free range and delicious.

Understand that vegetarians are a tiny minority of the population and vegans are an insignificant statistical blip. I respect their right to practice their diet of choice, but if they can't respect my right to do the same, I'll gladly ignore them, and I'll tell the Oakland City Council to do the same.

Posted by Max Allstadt on May. 24, 2011 @ 5:40 pm

Let's hope the Northern Italian cuisine featuring cats or traditional Korean dishes that use dog meat be the next big thing for trendy chefs.

Posted by chelsea on May. 25, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

Your critique consists of name calling, an immature attempt to emotionally upset people by talking about eating rabbits, and... a kangaroo? Nice work. See you at the City Council meeting.

Posted by Ian Elwood on May. 25, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

You've accurately described your own writing style along with his.

"suffering a botched hatchet job."
"the slaughterhouse with glass walls"

These verbose descriptions of a chicken being killed are obviously chosen to emotionally upset the reader in order to gain her sympathy, so you should probably hold off on objecting when others do it in return.

And as far as "name calling" - what name were you called?
It's easy to see why you thanked him, though.
You seem to think it gives you license to not respond with any thought or facts to his statements.

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2011 @ 6:57 pm

Ian, I don't actually see any name-calling in the message you're referring to. Is there some confusion?

Posted by Jon Blade on May. 30, 2011 @ 8:27 am
tl;

dr

Posted by rick on May. 26, 2011 @ 9:16 am

There is a large population of house rabbit pets in the Bay Area and many in the Oakland area. Most people and particularly people with rabbits as pets would be apalled at the slaughter of rabbits taking place next door. It's a gruesome task. There is a "twist and crunch" method which is fairly straight forward, but requires skill and some brawn. Many backyard rabbit raisers just hit the rabbit on the back of the head with a bat or pipe. Another method is decapitation. Never lacking imagination the list goes on including something called the “broomstick” method” and even one entry online described “swinging the rabbit at a telephone pole.” The worst of it is rabbits have their throats slit to bleed out afterwards and they are not always deceased if the chosen method is ineffective. Rabbits scream when they are stressed or dying. It is a woeful, high pitched scream that is piercing to anyone with an ounce of compassion.
Most bunny butchering is recommended at a young age. Domesticated rabbits should not be weaned until they are about 8 weeks old and are slaughtered anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks old for meat. Their short lives are spent in small cages that don't allow for expression of natural or social behaviors.
People who raise backyard rabbits for meat, some trendy chefs, and large producers sometimes equate an aversion to rabbit meat as a “Thumper syndrome” or a “Bugs Bunny Complex” or in some way related to an over sentimental attachment to cartoon rabbits transferred to live animals. Well, it’s no laughing matter what happens to rabbits raised for meat. All of the so called “meat rabbits,” i.e., Californians, New Zealands, Harlequins and others are ironically routinely sold as pets and they make great pets. They can be litter box trained, learn their name and other words, purr when petted (slight grinding of their teeth) and even be clicker trained like dogs. People who have them as companions know rabbits bond for life to people, other rabbits or even other pets. They are affectionate, fun and unique. There is nothing cartoonish about slaughtering rabbits for food. Humans are omnivores so we have a choice. That choice includes Not raising rabbits in Bay Area backyards for food. Plant some carrots instead.

Posted by Andy Moen on May. 24, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

Poor bunnies, Hazel-rah lives!

Posted by chelsea on May. 25, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

There is a large population of house rabbit pets in the Bay Area and many in the Oakland area. Most people wouldn’t want the slaughter of rabbits taking place next door. It's a gruesome task. There is a "twist and crunch" method which is fairly straight forward, but requires skill and some brawn. Many backyard rabbit raisers just hit the rabbit on the back of the head with a bat or pipe. Another method is decapitation. Never lacking imagination the list goes on including something called the “broomstick” method” and even one entry online described “swinging the rabbit at a telephone pole.” The worst of it is rabbits have their throats slit to bleed out afterwards and they are not always deceased if the chosen method is ineffective. Rabbits scream when they are stressed or dying. It is a woeful, high pitched screech that is piercing to anyone with an ounce of compassion.
Domesticated rabbits should not be weaned until they are about 8 weeks old and are slaughtered anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks old for meat. Their short lives are spent in small cages that don't allow for expression of natural or social behaviors.
This is not a “Thumper syndrome” or a “Bugs Bunny Complex” or an over sentimental attachment to cartoon rabbits It’s no laughing matter what happens to rabbits raised for meat. All of the so called “meat rabbits,” i.e., Californians, New Zealands, Harlequins and others are ironically sold as pets. They can be litter box trained, learn their name and other words, purr when petted (slight grinding of their teeth) and even be clicker trained like dogs. People who have them as companions know rabbits bond for life to people, other rabbits or even other pets. They are affectionate, fun and unique. There is nothing cartoonish about slaughtering rabbits for food. Humans are omnivores so we have a choice. That choice includes Not raising rabbits in Bay Area backyards for food.

Posted by Andy Moen on May. 24, 2011 @ 6:25 pm