I work to make sustainable life choices both to protect my descendants and because the Torah calls on Jews to care for humanity and the world as a whole.
To that end, my family lives in a small home with a large yard that we have turned into a micro farm. We have fruit trees, vegetable bins and chickens. Our chickens are livestock: they provide eggs, pest control, fertilizer, entertainment and, eventually, meat.
We provide them with housing, food and a safe space for recreation. When their egg production decreases, we will be responsible for providing them with a humane death before they become food for our table.
I want to butcher them according to Jewish tradition, but thanks to animal rights extremists like those who protested at Urban Adamah’s Purim party on March 11, it is now as difficult to learn how to schecht a chicken in the Bay Area as it is to get an abortion in Texas.
Obviously, the question of whether or not to end a pregnancy is much more consequential to an individual than the question of whether or not to eat meat, but the comparison is still apt. Women are prevented from exercising their legal right to have a safe and timely abortion by extremists who impose their beliefs on others. Similarly, I have been prevented from exercising my food choices by protesters at Urban Adamah who, like the “right to life” extremists, base their actions on emotional beliefs rather than fact.
Humans are omnivores, not herbivores. This fact can most easily be seen by comparing sets of teeth. Human teeth don’t look like horse or cow teeth, which have huge chewing surfaces; nor do they look like dog or cat teeth, which have sharp points for ripping and tearing. Our teeth evolved along with our diet, one composed largely of plants with a healthy side of meat.
That our teeth reflect that reality is a biological argument, but it leads to an ethical conclusion: If it is wrong to remove a living thing from its natural state, then it is wrong to insist that all humans eat an unnatural, vegetarian diet.
Humans are omnivores, not herbivores.
Humans have also evolved to be adaptable, and I respect those who choose not to eat animals. In fact, I ensure that guests who are vegetarian, gluten-free or keep kosher are able to eat in my home. I expect vegetarians, the gluten-free and kosher-observant Jews to reciprocate by not interfering with my food choices.
But the protesters at Urban Adamah have prevented me from enacting my choices and limited my ability to live a Jewish life. If Urban Adamah cannot serve as a place to learn kosher ritual slaughter, my only option is trial and error through books and the internet, which will lead to my birds having a poorer death and diminishes my ability to practice Judaism.
Oddly enough, I agree with these extremists about the need to reform industrial factory farms and hatcheries. Jews are bound by mitzvot that command us to care for animals well, treat workers fairly, maintain the land and care for the poor. Factory farms do none of these.
As a micro farmer, I work to find sustainable ways to produce food. I am also keenly aware that, as a middle-class suburban mom, I have the privilege of choosing where my food comes from, how it is killed and how prepared. While I do not approve of Big Agra, I know that if they ceased production overnight, hunger problems in the United States and the world would escalate, with the poor suffering the most.
The chickens killed at Urban Adamah earlier this month were intended for the community — as is all the food produced there. Those chickens could have made a difference to someone who was not so privileged as to choose a vegan diet; in limiting the community’s food options, the protesters’ actions were, at best, wasteful, might have been harmful to people and were certainly harmful to the Jewish community’s backyard chickens.
And that is the real problem. Extremists like these protesters distract from and discredit the real work of changing our unsustainable food infrastructure and making the world a better place.
These protests neither increase people’s access to sustainable food nor improve the lives or deaths of any animals. They only limit the choices of people who are interested in eating responsibly.
If these protesters truly wanted to make a difference, they would respect others’ food choices, encourage knowledge about food and food sources and work to increase sustainable food choices, particularly for those in need. At the very least, they could let Urban Adamah get on with that job.