I just found out that the Lawrence Planning Commission Staff have recommended revising the current city code to legalize back yard slaughter of small animals as part of their plan to enable and embrace "urban agriculture" and I'd like to explain why I find this so incredibly disturbing.
I first began educating people about the health and environmental benefits of eating plant based nearly twenty-five years ago and pointing out, especially to young adults, the horrific and completely unnecessary violence required to turn feeling, thinking beings into meat. Overwhelmingly, people would say to me, "If I had to kill an animal myself, I would never eat meat," demonstrating humanity and the natural aversion to violence against animals that most people have. When I asked people to consider what was the moral difference that enabled them to support killing some animals (cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, fish) for the frivolous reason of taste or habit, while opposing killing other animals (cats and dogs) whom they would sometimes welcome as part of their family, this would at the very least, cause most people to pause and consider the cognitive dissonance of this double standard.
In the past ten years however, with the growth of the small local farm movement, I have witnessed a change in many young adults in our area in terms of how they react to my raising concerns about the violence required for producing meat. Increasingly I am running into well-meaning college-aged men and women, who have developed relationships with small local farms. These idealistic young people may have been motivated initially by their opposition to the violence of factory farms. But after connecting with and volunteering on local farms they came to embrace certain types of violence. While at first many found killing animals distasteful, after forming meaningful relationships with mentors (the farmers) who had already become desensitized to specific types of violence, these young people learned to accept it as well. As evidence that this represents a spreading of "desensitization to violence," when I ask those who are volunteering on these farms what moral difference justifies killing a pig for food, but not killing a dog for the same reason -- they are very quick to assure me that there IS NO DIFFERENCE -- and in fact, they would now just as soon kill and eat a dog -- if that was our culture.
Now you may argue that the current regulations being considered would NOT legalize killing cats or dogs in our city neighborhoods -- only traditionally eaten farm animals -- so my concern is misguided. However keep in mind -- increasingly our communities are multicultural -- and other cultures eat cats and dogs the way ours eat chickens and pigs. Not only is there absolutely no morally relevant criteria by which you can justify killing one and not the other, but to allow the killing of chickens for food, while disallowing killing cats, is a type of racism -- favoring one culture's practices over another. At some point, likely such codes would be challenged on these grounds -- and if the legal killing of some animals had come to be accepted in our urban neighborhoods, it is more likely the resolution of this disparity would legalize killing cats and dogs -- rather than the abolishment of killing. So if this disturbs you, the time to speak up is NOW.
From a public health/safety standpoint, what the Lawrence City Commission is considering is also problematic. The majority of infectious diseases plaguing humanity have come from our domestication and use of animals. Bringing more animals into urban areas, only increases the chances that we will have animal diseases adapting to human populations -- this is in fact THE cause of newly emerging strains of flu -- all flus were originally "bird flu."
I fully support urban agriculture using plants and allowing people to turn their lawns into food gardens, but I think making it easier for people to raise animals for food in urban areas is a dangerous backwards step. I urge you to contact the Lawrence City Commission and our mayor and city manager (see contact info in red below) and do all that you can to keep this from happening.
Tom Markus (City Manager) 785-832-3400 tmarkus@LawrenceKs.org
Mike Amyx (Mayor) 785- 842-9425 firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart Boley email@example.com
Lisa Larsen firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Herbert email@example.com