Editorial | Urban Adamah is a torchbearer for responsible farming

Guess which recent J. article has triggered the most passionate online comments. Not Israel. Not Ukraine. It’s the one about the chickens.

When Berkeley’s Urban Adamah announced it would be holding an early May public kosher slaughter workshop, at which 15 hens were to be killed, animal rights activists from across the country peppered the nonprofit with angry calls and emails.

That is their right, protected by our constitution. And their cause — the humane treatment of animals — is indeed a noble one. But they went too far, and ultimately their strategy backfired.

The activists, many affiliated with Jewish Vegetarians of North America, threatened to protest during the workshop. Saying he did not wish to put the chickens or the human participants through such a stressful experience, and agreeing to a request from the farm’s landlord, Urban Adamah’s executive director, Adam Berman, canceled the event.

Was it a victory for the JVNA? No. The chickens were still slaughtered, just privately. Their meat was made into chicken soup, which was given away at Urban Adamah’s public food stand.

Once this was publicized, the online comments grew more hostile. Many were directed against Berman himself, questioning his commitment to Judaism and to humane animal husbandry. Some called him a murderer.

That is outrageous.

Adam Berman is a visionary leader of the Jewish food movement, one of the pioneers in the effort to marry Jewish values to those of sustainable farming and responsible stewardship of the Earth. While the Jewish food movement does not champion vegetarianism, one of its key actions has been to expose the evils of commercial meat production.

At field shechtings (ritual slaughters) conducted by Jewish food movement proponents, there is no celebration of the animals’ deaths. These are somber affairs, as is proper. Afterward, some people cut back on their meat eating. Others become vegetarians. All, ideally, will never look at cellophane-wrapped supermarket meat the same way again.

So what the anti–Urban Adamah protest accomplished, sadly, was preventing some 30 local Jews from going through this experience. That is a shame.

However devoutly the protesters might wish everyone would go vegetarian, that is not reality. And as long as people consume meat, they should know where it comes from. In contrast to the suffering endured by animals in commercial feedlots and slaughterhouses, the 15 chickens in question enjoyed happy lives in Berkeley, as do all the animals cared for by the good people at Urban Adamah.

They are an example to us all.