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editorial |  Urban Adamah is a torchbearer for responsible farming

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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.


Posted by Veggie18
06/03/2014  at  11:24 PM
Who beyond age 2 doesn't know where meat comes from?

Strange and insulting to our intelligence to claim we need to know how animals die to eat meat. Besides, if UA only kills every couple of years, most meat eaten but their own people isn’t killed that way, isn’t even kosher, and, the people who ate the soup didn’t even view the killing so they are still clueless to where their food came from.  I’ve never met anyone who eats goats so why do people need to experience the killing of adorable goats the way Adamah and Hazon love to kill them.  It’s not Jewish to describe the taking of a life as “peaceful and beautiful”, yet that’s exactly the quite by a female UA fellow who witnessed the death if the chickens she personally knew and cared for. Now horrifying to think this is what the millions of dollars our Jewish community is giving and supporting is to UA.  Teaching and supporting and promoting people to witness and participate in the taking of lives and learning to be not only not be horrified and freaked out by the suffering, needless death and blood, but to actually think it is a beautiful and peaceful sight.  Never thought I’d see the formal Jewish community support such a thing. Every
one of us should be outraged and terrified at what this shows for things to come and the atrocities to which you will be numb.  It’s the exact opposite of Jewish.

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Posted by Veggie18
06/03/2014  at  11:54 PM
j Editors need t watch this rather than perverse Adam Berman as the Messiah of Sustainable Food

It takes millions of dollars to run UA. How many people really eat from it & of those people, what % of their food is really from it? How is that a sustainable or realistic model in any way for feeding all the people in Berkeley, let alone the world?

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Posted by Veggie18
06/04/2014  at  12:02 AM
Typed Revere Adam but perverse autocorrected.


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Posted by Veggie18
06/04/2014  at  12:34 AM
Shavuot but the Jewisjh community has lost our moral compass

In such disturbing times when Jews have lost their moral compass, and confuse needless killing with justice and compassion, feels strange to say chag same’ach.  Not what God intended for the Jewish people to be when the Torah was given to the Israelites.  Let’s remember manna was vegan and injustice can’t last forever! For the animals sake, we can’t afford another 400 years like in Egypt.

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Posted by chickenadvocate
06/04/2014  at  03:43 AM
Neither "Visionary" Nor Sustainable

Urban Adamah’s leader is the opposite of visionary in any positive or progressive sense. Instead: just another foodie with a hunger for killing cloaked in a phony lexicon of “compassion.” Moreover, this model of raising animals is NOT realistic outside a niche market for the upscale consumer - And, oh yes, “charity” for the “poor.” Animal-Free food production, by contrast, is completely doable and sustainable, not only in Berkeley-style enclaves, but globally. Shame on all of you not only for your sordid taste for cruelty and violence (easy to indulge when it’s “just chickens”) but for your pretense of nobility, i.e., your moral cowardice and hypocrisy. Don’t ask for mercy when you don’t give any to those you could have saved.

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Posted by robertgrillo
06/04/2014  at  05:05 AM
And as long as people consume meat, they should know where it comes from.

“And as long as people consume meat, they should know where it comes from.”

The logic here insists that we must perform and/or witness firsthand rituals of violence and killing for people to understand why violence and killing is bad. Of course, this not true in the case of atrocities and violations committed against human beings. We witness grainy video footage of past atrocities and from this comprehend the horror and suffering and appropriately conclude that such acts are categorically wrong. So why do we need a live demonstration of animals crying out and thrashing in agony as their necks are cut and bodies draining of blood to convince people of the reality of their suffering? And to carry this idea to its logical conclusion, how many animals would need to be “sacrificed” to educate a desensitized human population into recognizing just how awful slaughter is? Would it not in fact become a “factory” model in order to reach enough of us, and isn’t that factory mentality precisely what the so called locavore, sustainable food movement so strongly claims to oppose?

Here’s a novel idea: Why not harness the power of animal sanctuaries in teaching people why animals have intrinsic value and lives worth enough not to destroy for our momentary taste sensations? Does it not make sense to teach nonviolence if in fact compassion and living consciously and sustainably are our goal? This slaughter ceremony seems to me like a bad faith attempt to defend gratuitous suffering, cloaked in feel-good euphemisms, not to mention the perpetuation of an absurd Orwellian notion that it’s okay to dominate animals against their will as long as we get their “blessing” to violate them.

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Posted by robertgrillo
06/04/2014  at  05:10 AM
from. In contrast to the suffering endured by animals in commercial feedlots and slaughterhouses, th

“In contrast to the suffering endured by animals in commercial feedlots and slaughterhouses, the 15 chickens in question enjoyed happy lives…”

A few points on this:

1. Humane slaughter uses the practices of factory farming and industrial slaughterhouses as a moral baseline, that is, the most egregious forms of animal exploitation imaginable.
By measuring against the “worst case scenario,” anything looks better. In this case better does not necessarily mean “humane.” Far from it. Why measure against the worst case scenario? If those in the business of humane animal agriculture had a genuine interest in understanding what is “humane,” they would be measuring the Webster dictionary definition of “humane” against what we know about animal consciousness as a means to better determine the circumstances that would truly constitute a humane animal-human relationship. But such an analysis would render the very commodification of animals itself as “inhumane” since commercial farming requires that even the most basic animal interests must be denied.

2. The Intention Itself is not humane. The intention of artificially breeding an animal into existence for the sole purpose of raising him to market weight to then slaughter him in his infancy or adolescence and profit from products procured from his flesh or bodily secretions (that we do not require for health) (2), in no way constitutes a humane intention, let alone a humane act.

3. It could be argued that humane slaughter and its advocates represent an even greater betrayal to animals than industrial animal agriculture. The former takes the time to develop a caring and trusting relationship with the animal, treating that animal with kindness and respect, sometimes even naming the animal (an acknowledgment of his individual identity). The animal often responds in kind, bonding with his human owner and even perhaps becoming affectionate. Subjecting that animal to a violent end for nothing more than a cheaply-priced commodity is the ultimate betrayal — a betrayal not just to the animal but also to our sense of fairness and respect for others.

4. Humane slaughter is an oxymoron that can only be explained by the dominant culture’s belief in what social psychologist Melanie Joy calls carnism. Joy maintains that when we see the world through the lens of carnism, we view eating animals as a “given” and when confronted with a view critical of carnism, we seek to justify eating animals as normal, natural and necessary. (3) Humane slaughter therefore fails to question our most basic assumptions about animals and food — assumptions we inherited from previous generations rather than beliefs based on an evaluation of the true and current consequences of our food choices. Food choices based on these assumptions are not “free” According to Joy,”There is no free choice without awareness.”

- See more at:

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Posted by robertgrillo
06/04/2014  at  05:47 AM
"they went too far"

By focusing attention on the protesters, the author here uses a red herring to avoid the hypocrisy of Urban Adamah in promoting itself as a progressive Jewish community organization that gratuitously slashes the throats of chickens and goats in an ancient ritual slaughter ceremony while claiming this ritual is actually consistent with their mission of “compassion.” Using chickens as “teaching tools” to help people block their empathy as they violently take the lives of animals is cynically pitched as “a powerful way for people to get to know where their food comes from.” Can one form of Might Makes Right be portrayed as “visionary” while other forms of Might Makes Right are not? Of course not. You cannot logically claim that one form of gratuitous killing is wrong and another is right. If you oppose dog fighting on the grounds that some derive pleasure from it, then harming animals because you derive some pleasure from chicken soup is equally wrong. Morality is based on consistently applying a moral principle, and the taking of a life is the most serious moral transgression from which the victim will never recover.

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Posted by Veggie18
06/04/2014  at  01:42 PM
Not visionary, just a camp counselor gone astray

There’s nothing visionary about leading Jewish songs with a guitar. It’s what most Reform temples and Jewish camps see every day.  A garden isn’t visionary, either.  The addition of slaughtering animals is not visionary. It’s a Jewish organization gone astray. Needless killling is inhumane,  Using power to take just because you can.  No moral compass, which is the exact opposite of the Jewish way.

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Posted by Veggie18
06/04/2014  at  01:47 PM
Judaism doesn't have "ritual" slaughter

Kosher simply means correct. A kosher way to slaughter and all slaughter is frowned upon not glorified.  There is no ritual, no prayers in Judaism for taking a life.  It’s not a holy or beautiful act.  I’m tired of all this misuse of kosher slaughter being represented as a special Jewish ritual.  The days of the sacrifices are long behind us and not permitted, today, & never to be again, which is why the lion and wolf will lay with the lamb, peacefully, when the Messiah comes.  So, UA & Hazon need to stop pretending they’re participating in some Jewish ritual by killing God’s creatures.  Judaism values life, not taking it.

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Posted by Veggie18
06/04/2014  at  02:07 PM
Blessing doesn't make it holy ritual

Saying a bracha doesn’t make something a ceremony or ritual.  Kosher slaughter is being presented as a spiritual service and ceremony like the Native Americans or something and it isn’t. And, a bracha certainly isn’t being done at kosher slaughterhouses, where most kosher meat comes from.  We are commanded to say a blessing/bracha after every bowel movement but that doesn’t make going to the bathroom a ritual act.

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Posted by AnimalFriend
06/05/2014  at  09:45 AM

Berman’s original response keeps being repeated as to why the original slaughter workshop was canceled.  Has anyone asked—

If the protesters would have created such a “stressful experience” for the chickens during the slaughter workshop, wasn’t it more “stressful” to be killed?

Animal shelters now regularly offer chickens for adoption.  Three sanctuaries offered lifetime homes.  There is growing awareness that chickens are sentient beings, not just chicken wings for the next meal.

And, really, if the main thrust of killing the chickens is providing food for the public—it’s a simple fact that animal food production simply is not sustainable.  Even Bill Gates is behind creating plant-based alternatives.

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Posted by Veggie18
06/05/2014  at  06:53 PM
Stop being such hypocrites!

People who run and support organizations like Urban Adamah & Hazon need to admit they’re total hypocrites or change they ways.  If you are going to claim to care about feeding healthy food to the poor and the Jewish community, or caring about the environment and sustainability, or being compassionate, then the only kind of food to grow and give out is from plants.  Vegan is the only truly sustainable and healthy food, both for people and the planet!

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Posted by Veggie18
06/06/2014  at  01:17 PM
Urban Adamah's an inefficient use of money

Millions of dollars & people hours to grow some vegetables and provide some cancer-causing, high cholesterol, hormone-laden animal secretions in the form of eggs & milk, is not a good use of money. Indulging wealthy hippies in feel-good activities.  Better to donate to the food bank, support CSAs from local, organic farms and plant in a community garden.  For Jewish services and events, we have plenty of synagogues, JCCs, and parks to be in a nature setting.  Urban Adamah is a wasteful and inefficient model that makes no sense for the Jewish community to support.

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