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After canceling kosher slaughter workshop, Urban Adamah mum on fate of 15 hens

by dan pine

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As of midweek, the 15 hens at Urban Adamah were alive and clucking. Officials at the urban farm and education center in Berkeley decided last week to cancel an on-site kosher slaughter demonstration following pressure from animal rights activists.

So what happens to the birds now?

Adam Berman
Adam Berman
“We don’t know,” Urban Adamah founder and executive director Adam Berman said on May 6. “And we don’t know when we will make a decision. Right now, the chickens are happy.”

The events of last week took a sharp turn only hours after J. went to press on April 30 with the headline: “Urban Adamah won’t chicken out; kosher slaughter workshop to go on.”

Officials had initially stood firm that their long-planned, three-hour event — at which a trained shochet (kosher slaughterer) was to kill the birds and educate the 30 adult attendees about kosher slaughter — would go on as scheduled Sunday, May 4, even in the face of protesters who had threatened to picket outside the event.

But on May 1, Berman sent out an email explaining the cancellation.

“We regret to inform you that we are canceling our shechita (ritual slaughter) workshop planned for this Sunday,” the email began. “Our landlord has asked us to cancel the event. We do not have explicit permission in our lease for this activity.

“It has also become clear that there is a significant protest being organized outside the farm during the workshop. The noise and disruption expected from the protesters would very likely have caused undue stress to the chickens and the program participants, and prevent us from holding a safe, educational and compassionate workshop.”

Though the protest was called off, activists said they will not let up the pressure until Urban Adamah declares that the birds will not be killed.

“A number of sanctuaries and homes have offered to take them,” said Fairfax resident Patti Breitman, a member of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. “We encourage everyone to stay in touch to see what’s going to happen with the birds. We are ready to protest the day we find out the killing will take place.”

Jewish Vegetarians of North America posted this on its Facebook page.
Jewish Vegetarians of North America posted this on its Facebook page.
Added Hope Bocanec of United Poultry Concerns: “We’re thrilled that the chickens are still alive and safe for now. But unfortunately they’re still in danger daily [at Urban Adamah] because at any time they could change their minds and, under the radar, decide to hold the class or go ahead and slaughter them.”

Berman told J. it was “very unfortunate” that the event was canceled because it would have been a good learning experience for Jewish community members interested in the processes of kosher slaughter.

“The landlord asked us to cancel it because it wasn’t in our lease, and we have a good relationship with them, so it wasn’t a battle we felt like having,” Berman said.

Kosher slaughter demonstrations have taken place at Urban Adamah in the past, and Berman would not confirm that his landlord has forbidden any such events in the future.

Berman said the Urban Adamah staff had wanted to go ahead with the event, even after opposition began mounting last week in the form of phone calls and emails to Urban Adamah, email blasts from animal-rights activists around the country and several groups calling for protests.

On the other hand, Berman also heard from dozens of Urban Adamah alumni and former program participants, virtually all of them supportive of the organization’s decision to hold the workshop.

“When it became something of an issue, the [Urban Adamah] board was informed, and they were completely supportive” of going forward with the event, Berman said.

The story of the planned workshop and the fate of the hens went viral, eliciting hundreds of comments on various animal rights Facebook pages, and dozens more on sites such as the Forward blog “The Jew and the Carrot” (which ran J.’s updated online version of the story) and the online news source Berkeleyside (which ran its own story). Jewish Vegetarians of North America posted an image with the word “Victory!” on its Facebook page, adding in accompanying text that the victory was only temporary if the birds are not allowed to live.

Some online comments compared the killing of the birds to the Holocaust, a level of rhetoric that Bocanec decried.

“There are extreme voices on all sides,” she said. “Sometimes those people come out of the woodwork, and I apologize to Urban Adamah for that. We don’t need that disrespectful language, but what’s really disrespectful is killing the hens.”

Though Berman would not say what would happen to the hens — he did say that, as of May 7, they were “thriving” — he does expect further protests should the birds be slaughtered. He acknowledged the activists’ right to protest, but questioned their priorities.

“It seems strange to me,” he said, “given the level of and type of suffering caused to animals in a more widespread way in other places in the world, that [protesters] would choose to picket a sustainable farm.”


Posted by Veggie18
05/08/2014  at  11:23 PM
Not strange, nothing sustainable

about a farm which raises animals for food.  And, nothing compassionate, just, or Jewish about it, either. It’s offensive to Jews who care about animal welfare and the environment to have a quasi Jewish organization claiming they operate with Jewish values and principles guiding them.  Adam and the board just don’t get it.

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Posted by Veggie18
05/08/2014  at  11:35 PM
Watch why Urban Adamah isn't sustainable

Watch this to learn why raising animals for food is not sustainable:

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Posted by chickenadvocate
05/09/2014  at  04:14 AM
Don't Degrade Words, Birds

Words like “respect,” “compassion,” even “reverence” have been invoked by Urban Adamah to cloak the intention, and the act, of killing birds and other animals in pious euphemisms. But there is nothing respectful, compassionate or (ugh) reverential about killing healthy living creatures merely to enjoy the taste of their corpses. There is no shortage of nourishing and delicious animal-free foods in the Bay Area or in the U.S. There is veganic gardening. Therefore the killing of these young hens is gratuitous, and cloaking the desire to shed their blood is obnoxious and deeply depressing. So please let’s choose true compassion, true respect, and true reverence for Life and for our fellow creatures instead of using words that beg to be surrounded by quotation marks, to try and justify needless killing. Doing so cheapens and degrades both language and animals, including the human animal.

Thank you.

Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

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Posted by SFMichele
05/10/2014  at  11:21 AM
About all of Berkeley's chickens

So what do you think happens to all of the chickens living in the yards of many Berkeley residents? Do you think they’re living cush lives and simply keel over in old age and are respectfully buried over near El Cerrito? Better to teach and share ostensibly more humane kosher practices, yes? It’ll be a long time before the entire world goes vegan, even if you want it to happen tomorrow.

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Posted by dorothy
05/10/2014  at  02:27 PM

Slaughter is slaughter. Having it as part of a ritual is obscene.  May be community members can find a less cruel and less voyeuristic learning experience.

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Posted by Veggie18
05/12/2014  at  06:06 PM
Isn't there enough violence in the area?

As a religious Jew, I’m especially pained and offended by Urban Adamah’s claim that they are following Jewish values of ” love compassion, and justice” by killing
God’s helpless, trusting creatures in their care.

Oakland and Richmond are both in the top 5 US cities with the highest murder rates, so I think there is more than enough violence and bloodshed in the area. Time for Urban Adamah to step up to model and teach peaceful, healthy vegetable farming to the community.

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Posted by IsaacG
05/15/2014  at  05:02 AM
So much for democracy and liberty

I don’t disagree with those who wish to eat only vegetables.  But, your soapbox moralizing does little persuade me of the correctness of your position.  What the folks who forced the closing down of a class in shechita did was shut down the Constitutionally protected rights of fellow citizens to engage in a legal activity.  Disagree with whether that activity should be legal?  Take the matter to the legislature and get a law passed banning the eating of meat. 

It may be that you disagree with those of us who indeed like the taste of meat, or enjoy a piping hot bowl of chicken soup on a cold winter’s day.  Judging by the vehemence of the talkbacks here, and the totalitarian actions of the demonstrators, I should hoard my baloney, salami and t-bone for the long meatless siege the veganauts would raise on the rest of us.

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Posted by CultureLife
05/20/2014  at  04:22 PM
G-d's name connotes evolution; all things including eating reflect G-d's name

YHWH, with one the sacred Name’s meanings understood to be “That was Was, Is, and Will Be,” has a teaching in this Name itself: G-d Was, Is, and Will Be the same, and since G-d is Kedusha - separate and holy - that means everything else changes, transforms, and evolves over time. Particularly, evolves, because G-d through Torah urges us to learn from and add to what every generation has done before.

I’ve been following and involved in the Jewish food situation through some changes over about 12 years myself, and the evolutionary principle (not me claiming to be evolved or that my view is evolved, but a principle) is the most important thing to be remembered is to be a Jewish people aspiring to align with the divine blueprint of diet for them - whatever that may be for their own neshamah, soul. One of the things we are instructed to do with our soul is to listen to it.

In my view there are both supernatural and natural laws we can study to know better. On both levels, there are strong, evolutionary forces moving humanity into the lifestyle of only eating vegetables, not blooded animals. On the supernatural level, Torah’s instruction to not eat blood has us dripping kosher animals dry in order to follow that instruction, when we could just eat kosher plants (probably was the instruction’s meaning in the first place, but G-d appears to give people the choice to evolve the hard or easy way). Likewise, with the veritable vegan superfood “manna” falling upon the Israelite’s head, the day they chose a meal of quail was the day a plague began “while the flesh was still rotting in their teeth.” So that’s the supernatural law level.

On the natural law level, we’ll evolve past eating animals either voluntarily, because if the plant-sourced diet done in a way personalized to the individual’s constitution, then most people feel good, stay healthier and sharper, and live longer. Or the turn will become involuntarily, because there won’t be enough clean water for the demand for animal farming. So loving and healing yourself is really loving and healing the planet, creation. With G-d living in all life, loving yourself and the planet is loving G-d with all your heart and might.

How do we align ourselves with the evolutionary force, the Shekhinah, which G-d impels us towards? I believe by:

“Be Still, and Know I Am.”

If there is a way to sense truth, such a slippery thing that truth is, it is to contemplate “what Was, Is, and Will Be” in which the mind might realize a human being’s entire life is the evolution of the stream of consciousness that G-d has created. What would an evolving stream of holy consciousness, personified, eat?

There are many people awakening to this; there are few rabbis and leaders daring to delve completely into it. Here in the Bay Area, Rabbi Cousens who hardly comes once every two years, will be here offering, on May 23-24, a Shabbaton (a Shabbat evening gathering and more). It’s in the main event room of a venue known for its organic food.

I’m not one to come back to a thread for debate on posts which people speed read. I am one to open a door and let people spend time, 3 hours at a time, “being still and knowing” in Jewish prayer and meditation with the gentle exploration of the evolutionary diet for Hashem’s divine and natural laws.

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