In August of 2012, I ran one of my first kosher slaughter workshops at the Urban Adamah educational farm in Berkeley. I explained the kosher process and demonstrated live slaughter and processing on a few of their spent laying hens. Several participants cried during the slaughter and while some were inspired to eat better meat, others said they wanted to become vegetarians or vegans as a result of the experience. The class not only facilitated a tremendous amount of dialogue, growth and learning for all involved, it also provided a highly nutritious and tasty heritage chicken soup for farm visitors.
This past Sunday, Urban Adamah had once again set up a workshop where they were slated to slaughter the remaining 15 hens of their laying flock. Things were going very smoothly until animal rights activists found out about the event and began to organize a mass protest. Their aggressive tactics and serious threats eventually caused the farm’s landlord to request a cancellation and despite holding strong until that point, farm founder Adam Berman was forced to scrub the workshop in the face of the large and disruptive demonstration.
The protestor’s main demand was that Urban Adamah send the animals to spend the rest of their lives in peace and chicken happiness at an animal sanctuary. Considering that the groups also offered to facilitate the transfer at no cost to Urban Adamah itself, this demand actually seems to be a pretty sweet deal for the organization. But if one looks more closely it becomes clear that such a move would have misled the farm’s students and gone against their mission of educating the public about where their food comes from.
The truth is that egg producers kill their hens once they’re no longer able to lay. It would be both environmentally and financially unsustainable for these chickens to be sent to sanctuaries. To put it simply, when someone eats an egg they are, in some senses, choosing to kill a chicken. If Urban Adamah had sent their animals to a sanctuary this would have perpetuated the commonly held misconception that egg-laying hens are never killed. Slaughtering their flock is the only way to force Adamah’s farm community to deal with the true reality of egg eating. That is what an educational farm is all about, teaching people about every part of the system and not just leaving all the unpleasant things out. A more holistic tactic for animal rights activists to try would be to convince Urban Adamah to utilize vegan permaculture practices, which do not utilize animals at all. But as long as Urban Adamah is raising animals I think it preferable that people face all the consequence of this choice rather than live in a dream world.
I am frustrated by the lack of pragmatism, respect and tolerance the protesters showed when organizing the demonstration but more than anything else I am saddened by how much they missed the point. I have seen time and again that witnessing live slaughter is a great way to engage people and get them asking questions. No matter how much I might want someone to eat more ethical meat, or how much a vegan might want someone to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle in the end people will make their own choices. But at least when one sees an educational live slaughter they can base these choices on more than just hearsay and grainy YouTube footage, they can base their decisions on real life experience.
Yadidya Greenberg is a Colorado based blogger, shochet and animal welfare educator. You can find his blog at www.thekosheromnivoresquest.com.