Warning: This post contains graphic language. Viewer discretion is advised.

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Saturday, July 23, 2011 3:33 PM

Before you read this post, please bop over to Rachel's blog and read this post.  I started writing a comment and decided I needed to post it to my blog instead.  So unless you read Rachel's blog post, you might not follow everything I'm saying below.  Go on...  It'll only take a minute.

*** Intermission***  (Cheesy theatre music)

"We now bring you back to your regularly scheduled blog update."

RE:  The City of Oakland Planning Department 1st Public Meeting on Urban Agriculture.

Actually, the meeting was not extremely confrontational.  Everyone was quite civil except for a very few.  I reached out and spoke to several folks who were against livestock in the city and I feel that an open dialog can now begin.  At least that's my hope.

But honestly, I left the meeting pissed.  REALLY PISSED.  And I find it funny that the one thing Rachel found to write about in her post meeting blog post is exactly what had me so damn pissed.  Trust me.  I'm curbing my tongue here.

I only have one thing to say about that insane woman...

C U Next Tuesday!!!!

This is a woman who is the president of a non-profit specifically formed to rescue rabbits.  The rabbit she brought was a small black & white lop.  And she was holding it sort of like a football, her hand under it's chest and it's body tucked next to hers.

Now I'm not an EXPERT on rabbits, but I do raise them and consider myself far from a novice.  None of the rabbits I own or have ever had contact with would ever stand to be held that way.  Most either like to sit in your lap, or be on your shoulder like you would burp a baby, close and snugly, right in your neck.  But held by the chest with the bulk of it's weight hanging down?  Hell no!

She was standing right next to me.  I assumed, since she WAS holding it that way, perhaps it was her pet and it was used to being out in public.  A therapy rabbit perhaps?  I reached over and gave it a little scratch on the head and said "Hello Bunny".  She looked at me and said in a very unfriendly voice: "Don't eat it".

Er... okay.  I wasn't planning on it...

She raised her hand and waited patiently for her turn to speak, and then went off like a lunatic!  She stretched out her arm and held up the rabbit for all to see and said "This is one of the 21 rabbits that were recently rescued in Oakland."  She went on to reference the Fatal Attraction movie and boiling bunnies, at which point I whispered to Rachel "That was a MOVIE.  It's FICTION." 

Someone in the audience called out to Rachel to let the woman speak.  Er.. okay.

She finished her rant and then turned and walked away, not interested in what anyone might have to say in response.  And all I could think of was this:  "You fucking BITCH!  How DARE you!!!"

This is a woman who is supposedly concerned about the welfare of rabbits.  And yet she brings this poor little malnourished, abused, and neglected tramatized bunny to a meeting in a room with 300+ people, all standing shoulder to shoulder in little groups of, oh.. 50?... and has the gaul to hold it up for everyone to see. 

I know exactly why that rabbit was letting her hold it that way.  IT WAS TERRIFIED!!!!  This woman who was professing to care so much about rabbits was EXPLOITING THIS POOR TERRORIZED ANIMAL TO PROMOTE HER OWN AGENDA.

Okay.  I'm going to say it.  Plug your ears...

YOU FUCKING LOUSY CUNT!  HOW DARE YOU???

Now mind you, I RARELY use that highly offensive word.  And I mean VERY RARELY.  But this woman totally floored me with her action.  I was so taken aback by her actions that it was hard to stay focused on the meeting.

It took some very VERY serious concentration to not wring her neck right there on the spot, but rather to put her in the back of my mind while I tried to have some decent conversations with a wide spectrum of people.  It was only once I was out of the place and back into my car that I was ready to vent to Gail, my next door neighbor who had come with me to the meeting.

But Gail had said she was part of an interesting conversation.  So I held back my frustration in order to let her talk.  I knew once I started I wouldn't stop.  Be considerate Kitty.  Let your guest go first.

Gail proceeds to tell me she happened upon a converstion with this same woman.  There were 3 of them:  Gail, the crazy insane bitch with the terrified bunny, and another woman.  Apparently neither of the 2 ladies could get a word in edgewise because this woman kept saying "Don't interupt me, let me finish" and then ranted and raved on and on and on.  It was when she was FINALLY finished and was turning to leave that she reached out and touched Gail on the arm and said:  "You really need to loose some weight, Honey.  Lay off the rabbit."

Now mind you, Gail is my next door neighbor.  I raise rabbits for meat.  She knows this.  But she doesn't eat rabbit meat.  In fact, she doesn't want to eat any animal she knows.  She grew up on a farm and just doesn't want to.  But she DOES buy sustainably farmed and humanely harvested meat from places like Farmer Joe's in Oakland.  The point is, she doesn't eat rabbit.  Ever.

So she followed the insane woman to tell her that her comments were offensive.  And the woman turned to her and yelled at Gail to stop harrasing her or she was going to call the cops.  What the...?????

I was pissed.  No.  I was infuriated!

I seriously think I'm going to contact Animal Services to see if she can be cited.  I'm also going to talk to Health Services to see if they might cite her because she brought it into a venue where they were serving food.  And finally, I'm going to research the non-profit to find out who is on the board of directors and see if I can get them to give her a formal reprimand for causing this rescued rabbit additional unnecessary trama when the purpose of the organization is to rescue these rabbits from abuse.  At the very least, I have contact with several local reporters and I'm going to see if I can get something written up in the newspapers.

And I'm also going to reach out to a few of the folks on the other side of the isle who want to prevent livestock raising in Oakland to see what their thoughts are.  Did they have any issue with this crazy bitch bringing the rabbit to the meeting?  Because if they didn't, they are seriously hypocrital and there is something very wrong here.  Critically wrong!

21 Response to "Warning: This post contains graphic language. Viewer discretion is advised."

Carla Says:

You know Kitty, when the meeting broke up into all those little chaotic groups clustered around tables that one could not get close enough to hear, much less communicate in a civilized manner, I left. There is a lot of work to be done. In my comments I said there needed to be a simplified method of soil testing. As for the USDA getting involved in things, that is the same USDA that has allowed GMO, bovine growth hormones, contaminated with melamine products and all sorts of horrible unimaginable so far stuff....my faith and trust goes down a lot....but I have hope together we can bring about a positive change.

Erin Says:

You go girl. Nothing makes me madder than people who profess to love animals...omg, I actually don't know what to say. I see why you are so pissed.

Anonymous Says:

The meeting was not set up for any meaningful dialogue. It was a free for all so why bother giving an opinion. It would be a waste of my time.
The question and answer period was a farce. It turned into a pro urban agriculture rally with no room for discourse.
Have you ever considered that what you are doing is wonderful but that just maybe your neighbors bought their properties with the intention of not living next door to a barnyard? that there are agreed upon community standards and that many of you are walking over agreed upon community expectations to have what you want which ultimately ends with uncomfortable conflicts. What you are doing is a break from past president in Oakland residential neighborhoods. bees, chickens, vegetables, fruit-OK but livestock?really? without considering your neighbors?

Anonymous Says:

The meeting was not set up for any meaningful dialogue.
The question and answer period was a farce. Instead of asking a question and having the city planners address the question, it turned into a pro urban rally with even a lecture on what to plant in my garden to attract bees. So why voice my opinion in this chaotic forum?
I applaud you for your work and what you have accomplished. Have any of you ever considered that when you bought your property it came with agreed upon community standards, which did not include living next to a barnyard? Bees, chickens, vegetables and fruits, Yes. Livestock in Oakland's residential neighborhoods? really? This is a total break from past president. By buying property and going ahead with all your plans which are not part of the agreed upon community zoning is a set up for escalating conflict. When you buy into a community one needs to consider their neighbors. No wonder there is hostility. Your use of words describing a woman you don't agree with is an example of your intolerance and wanting things your way. I'm not saying that the other woman was right. Why not take the livestock discussion to a vote by all the property owners in Oakland. Now that would be democratic. Why should all of us be subjected to living with your trend when we haven't been included in the process. I hope you can understand what I am trying to put across here. What you are doing is inspirational but it isn't for everyone. My opinion is to keep livestock out of Oakland. Can you imagine the problems this can/will create?

Rachel Says:

What "Anonymous" fails to realize is that livestock has always been legal in Oakland, so it IS past "president [sic]" for Oakland to have livestock within it's City limits. It makes me wonder if "Anonymous" has ever visited one of these urban farms that have livestock? And don't get me started on that woman at that meeting. She's lucky someone didn't deck her for the remarks she said disparaging people she didn't even know and didn't know whose side they were on. She was looking for a fight. Fortunately for her, she didn't get one.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

Dear Anonymous -

Thank you for your response. I will try to address your concerns below. Sorry, but do to character limitations this will take a few responses to post.

First off, this post was not about the meeting. It wasn't even about the debate over livestock in Oakland. It was about a woman who was exploiting an already abused rabbit to promote her own personal agenda. Unless they are trained service, therapy, or show animals who are used to being in large noisy crowds, an animal should not be subjected to this kind of stress. In my opinion, it's cruel and abusive.

Whether or not I agree with the woman's viewpoint doesn't matter here. I'm not discussing her viewpoint. I'm discussing her actions. I find the fact that she brought an already abused and traumatized animal (by her own admission) to a public meeting with 300+ people packed into a small auditorium appalling. And every other urban homesteader that I spoke with in the room felt the same way.

Two of us, Rachel and I, found it so disturbing that we had to vent our anger publicly in our writings. Neither one of us wrote much about the meeting. We only focused on this one woman’s actions. And my question, to all the animal activists in the room, whether they be omnivores, vegetarian, or vegan, was did they also find her actions offensive? I’m not talking about her commentary. I’m specifically focusing on the act of bringing a terrorized rabbit to the venue and exposing it to undue stress. If an animal activist, especially someone who focuses on rescuing rabbits thinks her actions were okay, then I feel there is something seriously wrong.

The fact that she insulted my neighbor Gail without any prompting just added insult to injury. I questioned Gail as to whether or not she had made any comments contrary to this woman’s viewpoint while she was standing there listening to her. Again, she explained that she couldn’t get a word in edgewise if she wanted to. So no, she hadn’t. And yet this woman saw fit to tell Gail she needed to lose weight and to lay off the rabbit? I’m sorry… WTF???

So my question to you Anonymous is this: Disregarding the meeting, the question of urban livestock, backyard slaughter, and everything else that was going on that evening, do YOU find what she did to that poor creature offensive? Or do you feel she was justified in causing it more trauma in order to promote her own agenda?

Kitty Sharkey Says:

Now then, I will address your other concern about my neighbors. Forgive me if I get long winded here, but I’m going to detail my experience. Others in the Urban Homesteading/Farming community have related similar stories to me. But they’ll have to tell you about their experiences themselves. I’m only going to talk about my situation.

Did I take my neighbors into consideration before bringing a barnyard into my backyard? Yes. As a matter of fact, I did. And I also did a great deal of research into the Oakland Municipal Code to insure that nothing I was planning on doing here was illegal. As the code stands today, keeping livestock in one’s backyard is legal. Slaughtering livestock for one’s own personal consumption is legal. Certain conditions apply such as vector control, but it is legal. The sale of meat and dairy products is not. That is controlled by the USDA and the FDA.

When I moved here, I had two indoor cats. No problem. No reason to consult the neighbors. My neighbor Gail has three dachsunds. Antonio, next door to Gail has two pit bulls. The neighbor on the other side of me, Lydia, didn’t have any pets. But Deborah, Huey, Denise, and the whole family (too many to count) next door to them have two small yappy mixed breed dogs. The woman directly behind me had a pit bull as well. So obviously pets weren’t a problem.

I can assure you, it was quite noisy here. My animals make nary a peep compared to the constant background noise around here. Every time Gail lets her dogs out into her backyard they run over to Antonio’s fence and get into a barking match with his pit bulls. I laugh because she always goes to her back door and yells at them to knock it off. I tell her that she is louder than her dogs.

The pit bull behind me would bark for hours on end, so much so that I ended up calling Animal Control to file a complaint. In 8 months I had seen them in the backyard a total of 5 times. And I know for a fact that there were times that the dog did not have water. I could easily see into the yard from the roof of my garage. I ended up going over to her place and talking to her. She said that he was just too much for her to handle with two small children, but she hadn’t been able to locate a home for him. I gave her the contact information for several pit bull rescue organizations. He was gone in about a week. She made a point to thank me for helping her find someone to take him, someone that assured her that they would place him in a loving and appropriate home (i.e. with an experienced pit bull owner).

The two yappy dogs belonging to Denise are constantly barking with barred teeth at anyone that walks by. And now Katrina has a little dog that barks and barks and barks, so much so that I don’t know how they can live with it and manage to ignore it. Add in the cars driving down the street with the bass so strong that I can feel it while sitting in my living room, and well…

My point is that I live on a main thoroughfare surrounded by dogs. It’s not exactly quiet here. But part of what attracted me to this neighborhood was the diversity. The neighbors on my side of the street listed above are Hispanic, White, White (me), Hispanic, and Black. Directly opposite on the other side of the street, the neighbors are Black, Hispanic, Black, Vacant House, and Black. We’ve recently had a Middle Eastern family move in across the street and a few doors down. And there is an Asian couple who live behind Huey that I often trade with over the fence even though neither of us can understand the others language. We don’t need language when I hand them a bunch of tomatoes or summer squash and they give me a large bunch of lemongrass or hot peppers. It just works with lots of smiles, nodding, and thanks.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

When I decided I was ready to move forward with obtaining livestock, I made a point to talk to all of these neighbors. I explained that I wanted to start an urban homestead to provide most of my own food. I already had a garden and was generously sharing the excess with them. I explained that I wanted to get started with chickens for eggs and meat and that eventually I wanted to have dwarf goats for dairy, and possibly rabbits for meat as well. Honestly? They were all very excited and supportive. None of them expressed concerns about noise, flies, rats, or odors. But I did. I made sure that they knew I planned to stay on top of it and if they ever had any issues that they shouldn’t hesitate to come knocking on my door.

Shortly after I got my first chickens, Lydia’s house was foreclosed upon. She and her two children moved to another neighborhood nearby. They have stopped by several times since to see the animals. The house went up for sale, and a number of people put in bids on it. It went to a Hispanic couple, Naomi and Jose (2nd generation), and their then 9 year old daughter Karina. After getting to know them, they explained that part of what attracted them to the house was my barnyard. They had grown up with livestock. Their parents had moved back to Mexico when they retired and Karina enjoys visiting them and their small farm every summer. So having a barnyard next door made them feel right at home. When I explained that I planned on getting goats and expanding into rabbits, they were thrilled. We’ve since exchanged lots of stories about the animals and their antics.

I know I know… this sounds like sunshine and lollipops. But it’s the truth. I am a very considerate neighbor. I don’t want the lifestyle I’ve embraced to negatively affect my neighbors. And it hasn’t. When I moved here, everyone pretty much stayed indoors. I would sit out on my porch with a glass of wine at night and watch the cars drive by. Neighbors would come and go, and perhaps wave. But that was about it. Well, other than Gail. She and I hit it off right away. So I made it a point to engage all of these people and try to get to know them.

What I’ve discovered along this journey is that my chosen lifestyle HAS indeed affected their lives, but in a very positive way. Katrina and her best friends think I’m the coolest person ever. When her family has parties (VERY large affairs) all the cousins come over and play with my animals. I lend them my ladder and tools. They give me lemons off their tree. Gail loves it when I have to go away for a day or two because she gets to come over and take care of the critters. She is especially fond of my goats. The teenager across the street brings his friends over, particularly when he is trying to impress a new (potential?) girlfriend. I walk my goats around the neighborhood, and folks come down from their porches to pet them and talk to me. I’ve made friends with folks 1, 2, even 3 blocks away because I walk my goats. I’ve even discovered other Urban Homesteaders within 2 or 3 blocks of me who also have gardens and/or livestock.

Positive connections have been made. Now, instead of sitting on my porch alone with a glass of wine in the evening, I can often be found sitting in the swing in my front yard with my neighbor Gail, talking and sharing a glass of wine. Huey has become an invaluable asset to me when it comes to physical labor. The neighborhood kids play in their front yard while their parents sit on their porches. People walking down the street often stop to say hello. It has become a true neighborhood, with people interacting, helping each other out, and having fun together. Is this all because of me and my barnyard? No. Not necessarily. But both Gail and Huey have told me that it’s an entirely different place since I’ve moved in, and that I’ve had a very positive influence on the neighborhood.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

I agree with you that what I’m doing isn’t for everyone. If it were, more people would already be doing it. The Urban Homesteading community here in Oakland is small, but it’s also growing. By changing the Municipal Code so that it provides enforceable guidelines for adequate housing, livestock density, vector control, etc, Oakland will not see a sudden explosion of folks buying up chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits, and honey bees. There won’t be piles of manure and major infestations of flies in every neighborhood. And there most likely won’t be very many more people raising and slaughtering their own meat.

This isn’t a fad and I don’t expect to see a ton of folks jumping on the bandwagon. Those of us that are already living this way will continue. And those that are truly interested will join us. But as a community as well a city, we’ll be able to weed out those few who aren’t so responsible. And we’ll be able to address issues that may already exist or that come up with reasonable and enforceable laws.

Personally, I consider it a basic human right to be able to control what I eat. But I also believe that it’s my responsibility to be a good neighbor. I don’t want to put hormones, pesticides, and GMO’s into my body. And I don’t want to support CAFOs. I honestly believe we are just one genetic mutation away from a super virus that has the potential of causing the complete collapse of our entire industrialized food system. No, I’m not one of those doomsday types. But I know that I have the skills and knowledge to feed myself healthy unadulterated foods, and that I can teach others to do so as well if they are interested.

I’m not trying to push my lifestyle onto you or anyone else. I’m trying to help put in enforceable guidelines to insure that I am allowed to live my lifestyle and that it doesn’t adversely affect yours. I wish I could say the same about some vegan activists on the other side of the argument. One statement I saw posted recently said "...we urge the city to keep our reasonable system of growing food free of all forms of animal agriculture. We just don't need it to feed the people of Oakland." I’m not trying to feed the people of Oakland. I’m trying to feed myself. My interpretation of this statement is that this person is trying to force their lifestyle choices on me, to deny me the right to eat healthy unadulterated animal proteins, or to be in control of what I put into my own body.

This isn’t about us versus them. It’s about respecting personal choices. It’s about my rights, AND your rights. It’s about figuring out how we can all work together to improve our community, even though each of us goes about it in an entirely different way. We all make different choices. I respect your right to your own beliefs, choices, and personal values. I only ask that you also respect my right to my own.

This isn’t about starting a movement. The movement is already here.

Anonymous Says:

thanks for your reply. My concerns about the hostility at the meeting were that the City Planners did not take the bull by the horns and take control of the discussion. If the meeting had not been a free for all, then those negative, offensive comments would not have been given the space to fly. I actually was standing there and observed the situation but was so turned off by my inability to pay attention or give feedback due to the noise and all the people crammed together trying to hear what was being said, that I turned my back and left. I did have something to say but I refuse to share my thoughts when I know they will fall on deaf ears. That is what the situation lended itself to.
I was born and raised in Oakland, and I disagree with you that it has "always been legal to have livestock in Oakland."
There is an ordinance about horses etc on less than one acre of property. Also Larry Reid put forth a proposal for an ordinance in 2004 to exclude pigs, sheep, and goats on any property to ensure the quiet enjoyment of ones property and for health and safety reasons. Somehow, when the ordinance that included other measures such as limiting each home to 3 dogs and no roosters, went through, the part about the livestock was dropped and no one can give me an explaination as to why. When I contacted Larry Reid about this, he was sure that it had passed and livestock was illegal. So go figure.
Unfortunately, not all urban "farmers" are as considerate as you with their neighbors.
Oakland is now taking a vote to raise our parcel taxes because the city does not have enough money to pay for police and infrastructure such as repairing all the pot holes and street lights. Now Oakland is proposing that we all be allowed to have livestock in an already overcrowded city. Where will the funds come to enforce the regulations. Complaints take up to two years to resolve.
If you are concerned about the quality of meat, why not put all your organically grown pets(until you slaughter them) on a common piece of land to ensure the quiet enjoyment and the health and safety of the majority.
If the urban farmer crusade people took the time to inform ALL the residents of Oakland about your trend and your plans, I think you would find that the majority are not in agreement that every person has a right to have as many livestock as they want on their property and to slaughter them at will. As things are going now, the City Planners have said that they "don't have the funds" to notify the property owners who ultimately will be affected by this ill conceived plan.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

I agree with you that the format of the meeting was not conductive to constructive conversations and/or addressing concerns. I would have preferred to see a panel discussion and/or moderated debate where each side could state their concerns and have them addressed by the other. With a controlled atmosphere, audience questions and concerns could be expressed and addressed in an orderly manner. It would have been a lot more productive. Live and learn. Perhaps next time the Planning Department will select a different format.

Yes, there are regulations concerning horses, dogs, and roosters. But right now I could have a cow in my backyard if I wanted to. When I had an animal control officer visit my homestead, we discussed the current laws and she confirmed that it would indeed be legal as long as I practiced proper vector control and manure management so that I didn’t become a nuisance to my neighbors. Do I want a cow in my backyard? Uh, no, definitely not. Even if I had an acre, I would prefer to keep goats over cattle.

“If you are concerned about the quality of meat, why not put all your organically grown pets (until you slaughter them) on a common piece of land to ensure the quiet enjoyment and the health and safety of the majority.”

You’re making a big assumption that I’m raising all my livestock for meat. I’m not. Yes, I do raise 95% of my own meat, but most of my animals are not destined for the dinner table. The truth is, once I started raising my own meat I started eating substantially less of it. But not because of any feelings of guilt associated with taking a life. Rather I have limited space and therefore have to plan my meat consumption months in advance.

Think of it like crop rotation. Each quarter, I have to think about my needs for the following quarter and raise the appropriate number of animals to meet that need. It takes a little under a month for rabbit gestation or egg hatching. Add to that the 4 months it takes to raise a chicken or rabbit to slaughter weight and you might start to get the picture. If I think I’m going to have a BBQ and roast a couple of chickens over my fire pit in mid-August, I have to start raising them in late March or early April. Each year I go camping (with my goats and a few chickens) for a couple of weeks. I take all my own food, so I have to start thinking about what I want to eat a good 5 or 6 months in advance. Contrast that with the average consumer that runs to the nearest grocery store to buy a huge tray of chicken legs or a rack of ribs for their spontaneous weekend BBQ. My lifestyle requires a lot of forethought.

I tend to raise 3 or 4 meat birds a quarter. I also have laying hens, quail, and ducks. I love duck eggs, and pickled quail eggs are amazingly delicious! With rabbits, the number of kits varies with each birth. I only breed to my need, so my two does are only bred a couple of times each year at most. Melissa had 9 kits in her last litter. That means I probably won’t breed Delilah for 5 or 6 months. And I refuse to breed my rabbits in the mid-summer because I do not want them to be stressed with kits during any heat waves that tend to come a month or so after. FYI – concerning heat waves, my rabbitry is built under a huge shade tree. I’ve measured the temperature during one of those super-hot days. It’s a full 15 degrees cooler under the tree than out in the rest of the yard. I watch my rabbits very closely throughout the summer and have never seen any signs of heat stress. Still, on super-hot days I like to fill mason jars full of ice and put them in their cages so they can lay next to them if they so choose. Some do, some don’t. It’s their choice.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

My goats are strictly for dairy. They are also therapy animals that work with elderly and disabled. We participate in community events, various fairs and festivals, and occasionally visit schools. I’ll take a goat over a dog any day. As I’ve said before, they offer the same kind of companionship and love that a dog does, but they make MUCH less noise, their manure doesn’t smell nearly as bad and can be composted on site to increase my crop yields rather than entering our municipal waste stream like dog and cat manure, and they produce milk. I not only drink the milk, but I make my own yogurt, hard and soft cheeses, and ice cream. And unlike a dog, I can do the bulk of my own routine veterinary care like vaccinations and worming along with blood and fecal lab testing. Yes, I’ll take a goat over a dog any day.

Moving my animals off site to some “common piece of land” isn’t an option. How would I monitor their health on a daily basis? It takes time. And with them in my backyard, I can easily do so at least twice a day at feeding time. Milk has to be cooled quickly. Adding commute time would add an excessive amount of time to that cooling process. And I wouldn’t be able to go out first thing in the morning and collect my breakfast. If I had to travel to some other place to perform my daily chores, how would I still be able to keep my 9 to 5 job? Yes, I do work full time. I have a mortgage, car payments, and bills just like everyone else.

The truth is my animals are in no way affecting “the quiet enjoyment and the health and safety of the majority”. Right this minute, I can hear a dog barking on the next block over. It’s been at it for well over half an hour now. My chickens and quail are busy scratching looking for worms or taking dust baths. My ducks are resting near their bathtub pond. One of my rabbits is grazing grass in my side yard while my other rabbits are resting quietly in their cages. Since I’m working from home today, each will have an hour or so of free range time. My goats are quietly sitting on their stumps chewing their cud. It’s peaceful and quiet in my barnyard. Is my neighbors’ safety in jeopardy because of my animals? I don’t think so. And their health is probably better because they have an opportunity to interact with my animals which can increases their enjoyment of life, lower their blood pressure, reduces stress, and connect the neighborhood in a positive way.

Oh, and by the way, Katrina’s dog has just joined in the conversation. As usual, I’ll be listening to barking most of the day.

I invite you to not be anonymous, but rather to e-mail me directly and arrange a visit to see for yourself how my animals are cared for as well as the level of noise, odor, and flies associated with their keeping. From what I have seen, no one on the other side of the argument has bothered to visit any of our local Urban Homesteads and see for themselves how we are living this lifestyle in a safe, healthy, and responsible manner.

You can reach me via the following e-mail address: havenscourthomestead@gmail.com

Again, thank you for taking the time to engage in this thoughtful and considerate civilized conversation. I find it very encouraging. I wish I had more interactions like this one rather than the sensationalist journalism and commentary from people who don’t reside in Oakland or even in the SF Bay area.

And in the time it has taken to spell check, cut and paste this response, yet another dog has raised his voice. I swear they are singing! Or maybe they are having their own debate about the other animals in the neighborhood. Somehow I doubt it. More likely, they are barking because they have been left alone without a friend to play with or snuggle up to. I only hope their owners have insured they have an adequate supply of fresh water and somewhere to go to get out of the mid-day heat. I doubt they have automatic watering systems like my animals do, or specialized housing designed specifically for their needs.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

Oh, and whereas I've attempted to address your concerns, I have yet to see a response to mine.

Do you find what the woman at the meeting with the rabbit did to that poor creature, bringing it into a very crowded loud room offensive? Or do you feel she was justified in causing it more trauma in order to promote her own agenda?

I am completely willing to admit that my lifestyle isn't for everyone. I also know that a small subset of individuals who have started raising livestock don't necessarily raise them the way that I would personally think is appropriate. Myself, as well as others in the homesteading community have been working with some of these folks to educate them and help improve their animal husbandry practices. But I have yet to see an animal activist raise any concerns about the actions and activities of a small subset of individuals in their own community.

Anonymous Says:

Thanks for your invitation. I will think about it. As far as your interaction with "that woman" I really have no opinion as I was not a witness to what you observed and I am not an expert on rabbit behavior/needs.
What I find most offensive about this livestock and home slaughtering plan is that the City Planners have NOT informed all the residents of Oakland thereby leaving us out of the process. If no one knows what is going on, then how can they enter the discussion. When all is said and done, if this plan passes, the residents of Oakland could find themselves living next door to 15-20 goats, home breeding/births by people who know nothing about how this works, maybe 50 rabbits, etc while the newly ascribed "urban farmer" tries to get all the problems ironed out. In the meantime we live with the barnyard smells, the increase of flies and rodents and the neighbors are put in a position to police the operation. Many people are adversely affected by confrontation and find it very uncomfortable to be put in this situation. Most don't even know where to start in reporting a problem, and if they do report a problem live with the fear of retaliation. Every resident of Oakland is entitled to have a voice/vote in this plan. It seems to me that the only people who are being fully informed are the pro urban livestock people. This is very irresponsible on the part of Aaron Angstadt. He has a responsibility to ALL of us.
You seem to know what you are doing and have been very responsible. Unfortunately, I do not trust that this will be the case throughout the city of Oakland.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

I’m going to attempt to calm some of your fears here. Not sure if it will help, but I’m going to try.

“the City Planners have NOT informed all the residents of Oakland thereby leaving us out of the process.”

The Planning Department has informed residents. The meeting this blog post was originally a response to was a public meeting. The opening statements and slides outlined the process moving forward. This issue has also been covered extensively in the local news. The rewriting of the municipal code is a public process. Members of the public are not barred from attending their Technical Advisory Group meetings to observe the process. However they are not allowed to interfere with the meetings or make comments during it. There is one animal activist that has been attending, and she has discussed her concerns and reactions with Heather afterward the meetings end.

“if this plan passes, the residents of Oakland could find themselves living next door to 15-20 goats, home breeding/births by people who know nothing about how this works, maybe 50 rabbits”

Here are some of the issues being discussed at the TAG meetings.
• Creation of a permitting process - There would be a reasonable fee for this permit, and it would involve certain requirements such as a site plan, sealed bin requirements for all feeds, etc.
• Stocking densities – There would be a calculated limit on the amount of space a resident could devote to livestock as determined by a set percentage of a resident’s property. So a person with 1/2 an acre could have a larger area devoted to livestock than someone with a standard 4,000 sq. ft. lot like I have.
• Reasonable limits on the number of animals allowed as determined by specified space need requirements for each species. This will prevent overcrowding as expressed in the scenario you present above. Note that the animals’ actual needs are being discussed, so hopefully we won’t end up with a random number like we currently have on dogs. We have a three dog limit. Would that be St Bernard’s (140 – 264 lbs.) or Dachshund's (8 – 15 lbs.)? Not exactly logical in my opinion. Different breeds require different amounts of space. You can house three Nigerian Dwarf goats in the space required for one La Mancha goat. Size matters. So if a goat requires X amount of space and a chicken requires Y amount, then a person would be able to have Z number of each based upon the amount of space (percentage of lot size) they are allowed to have devoted to livestock.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

Now, on a less technical note, I want to personally comment on your scenario. Again, as I’ve stated before, this lifestyle is not for everyone. Chickens are super easy to raise and are inexpensive. The number of people raising chickens is growing. Rabbits are relatively easy and inexpensive to get started with. That is if you are going with the garden variety New Zealand or Californian rabbits that are the most common breeds raised commercially for meat and are easily obtainable.

However, a lot of us in the homesteading community are raising rare and endangered breeds. Note: Breeds, NOT species. The reason they are endangered is because they have fallen out of fashion and people aren’t raising them any longer because the New Zealand and Californian breeds have a much better feed to finished weight and time required to get to processing weight. For them, it’s all about economics. But for some of us, it’s like growing heirloom tomatoes and saving seed. By raising them, we are helping to preserve a part of our heritage. I have American Chinchilla rabbits. There are only 88 breeders in the USA, and three here in California. I had to drive all the way to Oroville to get my breeding stock. And they didn’t come cheap either. Others raise Vienna/American Blue rabbits and Silver Fox rabbits. All three of these breeds are listed on the Slow Food US Ark of Taste. Yes, they take a little more time and money to raise to processing weight, and breeding stock costs a substantial amount more to obtain, but I personally think it’s completely worth it.

Goats, on the other hand, require a lot more commitment. If I could afford to have 15 – 20 goats, I’d most likely be able to afford buying a nice piece of property out in the country to retire upon. Goats are expensive. I can’t speak to the cost of other breeds because I only have Nigerian Dwarf goats. Doelings cost anywhere from about $325 on up depending upon their pedigree. I paid $425 for Lulu. And you can’t just have one. Goats are herd animals, so you need at least two but preferably three. So we’re talking about a major investment for the animals alone, not to mention the cost of their shelter, feed, stud service, and maintenance requirements.

Goats need to be raised to at least nine months of age before breeding. Most of us wait until they are at least on year old. Then there is a five month gestation period and at least 2 weeks before any milk can be obtained from the mother because the babies need it all. Weaning can’t begin until 8 weeks. So all told, if I bought a doeling in the spring, I’d have to wait about a year and a half before I would see any milk return. Meanwhile, she would have to be fed, housed, and cared for without returning a drop of milk. And considering she can’t be raised alone, that means I’d be caring for and feeding at least two goats for a year and a half. All this for a 305 day (10 months) lactation cycle. And don’t forget the time commitment required for caring for them and milking every day.

Goats aren’t easy. Goats require a serious commitment of time and money. Goat owners in Oakland represent only a small percentage of the Urban Homesteading community. And urban goat owners here in the Bay Area are a pretty tight knit group. If a new person starts raising goats, it usually doesn’t take us very long to find out. In fact, we usually know in advance because these folks seek us out for advice before getting started. I’m not saying that 100% of any new goat owners would do this. But it takes a certain kind of person to raise goats. And those folks are usually pretty responsible.

If you’re interested in seeing firsthand how we work with folks considering goat ownership, I would recommend you sign up for the class I will be teaching at BioFuel Oasis in Berkeley on October 30th. Here’s the link:

http://www.biofueloasis.com/?page_id=7

And the invitation for a one on one visit remains open.

Anonymous Says:

No, the planning dept did not notify the residents of Oakland. ASK them yourself. The meeting was noticed by the planning dept to "interested parties", which included the pro livestock "trend" people" and whoever else happened to get wind of this.Getting the urban ag with animals in the newspaper was a hit or miss. A newspaper article is NOT a notification. The planning dept. is purposefully keeping their plan under wraps, using the excuse that they"don't have the funds to notify." Really?! I'm sure they realize that they will have more conflict than they want to deal with. Having farms, with livestock in Oakland, is a HUGE change. I come in contact with at least 400 people a week and whenever I have asked an Oakland resident if they are aware of this ingenious plan, the answer is NO and the respondent is absolutely shocked that the idea is being entertained.The residents of Oakland are being sold out by the planning dept. and I am sure that it will come back to haunt them. It is not ones "god given" right to have this in our already overcrowded cities. You all can complain all you want about the problems that already exist with regulating our food production but who will be checking you all on a regular basis? And believe me, I am highly aware of the problems with our food production in our country. Health and safety of the general population is of paramount concern. If I had wanted to live next door to a farm, I would have bought property where farms are legal. To clarify your thinking, I do not "fear" farms. I don't want a farm next door to me, with livestock and slaughtering, nor do I want farms with livestock/slaughtering in Oakland. Livestock need space to roam. They don't need to be cooped up on a small piece of property to meet the selfish needs of the owner. Processing milk/meat has government regulations for a reason. I seriously doubt that this plan will be voted on by the Oakland City Council.
Enough said.

Rachel Says:

I have neighbors that allow their dogs to bark at all hours, nonstop. They allow their dogs to poop and urinate in my yard and they don't pick it up - possibly spreading disease and parasites to my own dogs, my stepson and ourselves. I have another neighbor who has cats that she allows out to go defecate and urinate where ever they want (ever heard of toxoplasmosis?). Another neighbor, who stores his really nice boat in his backyard has to triple cover it to keep the cats out of it. Since you are wanting to regulate based on the lowest common denominator maybe we should look into banning dogs and cats since so many people can't seem to care for them properly.

Here's the deal anonymous, there are currently NO regulations on livestock in Oakland. You really need to understand that because it's important. With no regulations it means people can keep any number of goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, etc on their lot and the only recourse the City has is to rely on complaints. What the city is trying to do is actually REGULATE livestock that are already allowed in the city. If you would prefer we could just not discuss it at all and allow it to go on as business as usual.

But you want to ban it. What do you suppose will happen to all the chickens, goats and rabbits in the city? There won't be enough homes for them, so they will be destined for the dinner table or end up at the shelter, thus sucking up more resources because the city wouldn't be able to place them because there's a ban on them.

I'd also like to ask you to draw the line for me between livestock and pets. Many people consider their chickens, goats and rabbits as pets. They care for them as if they were family. They teach their children responsibility and also where their food comes from. They snuggle with them, they coddle them, I've even seen chicken diapers for sale for those that let their chickens into their homes. You will probably suggest these people to get a dog or cat, but some people are scared of dogs and some are allergic to cats, but they still have the desire for animal companionship.

How many urban farmers do you know? How many urban farms have you visited? I know a LOT of urban farmers and I've visited most of their farms. I can tell you that I haven't once seen any issues with smell, flies, noise, etc. Urban farmers aren't a stupid lot. They know that the key to become accepted is to have as little impact as possible on their surrounding neighbors. I wish my neighbors with dogs and cats were as responsible.

Kitty Sharkey Says:

Minor clarification, Rachel - There ARE a few regulations on livestock. Horses, for example, have a set space requirement. Roosters are illegal. Goats are mentioned in the current Municipal Code 5 times. I’ve decided to post this information in a separate blog post. See the link below

http://www.havenscourthomestead.com/2011/10/clarification-current-oakland-municipal.html

Anonymous Says:

You fail to realize that you are one person. Oakland can't even get a handle on the dog and cat issues in our city even though Oakland limits 3 dogs for one home. So now you want to add livestock to the mix. Get real!
You also fail to realize that there are zoning laws in place right now. Have you heard of a CUP? Check in with the Oakland zoning dept. The city only relies on complaints. That is a major problem which will lead to health and safety issue affecting the good of the whole when it comes to having livestock and home slaughtering. We do not have the funds to safely monitor this. Neighbors should not have to monitor all of this. All of you seem to think that you can go ahead and do whatever you want and just hope no one complains.
At this point, we all will just have to keep an eye on the process. It's just unfortunate that concerned property owners in residential areas all over Oakland will have to do the job of getting the word out. And we will get the word out.
If this ever goes to the City Council, you all may just be hearing from people from all parts of Oakland who do not want to add to the complex problems Oakland is already attempting to deal with. If you want iivestock and home slaughter, buy a farm. Don't buy into a densely populated residential neighborhood with small lots and expect that you can have as many animals as you want. And, personally, I don't know anyone who would have animals that they consider pets and then one day slaughter them and put them on their table and eat them. Real farmers put their animals in barns and they graze in a pasture far away from their living quarters. There are GOOD reasons for this.
There is a reason that this is not allowed in San Francisco and Berkeley. Do the research.
If Larry Reid, head of the Oakland City Council, believed that livestock was illegal in residential neighborhoods, then that fact shows that Oakland dropped the ball and the urban"farmers" are taking full advantage.
If I had this going on next door to me, I would vote for myself, and sue my neighbors. Livestock do not belong in our residential backyards.

PS: whoever is putting diapers on chickens needs to see a therapist.

Rachel Says:

You do realize you just made a case to ban all animals in Oakland.

All of our neighbors love us and we talk to them all the time about what we're doing to make sure everyone is OK with it AND, get this, we share the fruits and vegetables we produce. We do not, however, share any milk or meat as we barely produce enough for ourselves.

To be honest I don't even know why the hell I bother responding to you. I don't even live in Oakland...and you're obviously one of THOSE neighbors that everyone in the neighborhood hates because you'd rather call the authorities or sue rather than build community by talking to neighbors directly in a non confrontational manner. If you want to live somewhere with stricter rules and want to control everything your neighbors do, maybe you should have bought a house in an HOA.