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Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

With access to healthful fruits and vegetables lacking in many areas of Oakland, the city is modifying its zoning regulations to make it easier for people to grow and sell edible plants.

As an urban gardener in Oakland, I support these changes 110 percent. The problem is that some are also pushing the city to allow for animal farming and slaughter, and some people have already begun killing animals illegally.

As the national movement towards urban agriculture gains traction, many city administrators find themselves in favor of backyard plant-based agriculture but against its animal-based counterpart because of concerns about public health, animal welfare and the financial burden it places on already overtaxed city budgets.

To keep costs down, many people keep animals in unsanitary conditions and provide minimal to no veterinary care, which increases suffering, odors, predators and disease — making it an issue not only of animal welfare but also of public nuisance and public health.

Oakland’s underfunded shelter, animal control officers, shelter staff and volunteers are already overburdened with cases of abuse, neglect, abandonment and overpopulation of dogs, cats and pet rabbits. More animals means more neglect, abuse and abandonment — and no funds for enforcement, investigation, rescue and treatment. Because of this urban livestock trend, animal rescue organizations and shelters have already seen an increase in the number of abandoned animals, including hens, roosters, rabbits and goats. Complaints from neighbors almost certainly will rise, particularly as homeowners have to endure the squeals of an animal being killed just a few feet from their home by do-it-yourself slaughter hobbyists.

With many Oakland citizens already struggling with health problems that even the Alameda County Public Health Department recognizes as being diet-related, the city has a responsibility to advocate the consumption of healthful plant foods, not more animal products.

Together we can create an equitable, sustainable food system in our beloved Oakland — but one based on life-giving rather than life-threatening foods.

With a Perspective, I’m Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Originally aired on KQED radio.

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