In his take-down of urban butchery, "The Butcher Next Door," published June 6, Slate contributor and vegan animal rights activist James McWilliams tackles the so-called "hipsters" who think D.I.Y. slaughter is the next step in responsible animal husbandry. McWilliams worries that the cool kids -- the same ones who might launch Kickstarter campaigns to fund wardrobe revitalizations -- have gotten carried away with this urban farming thing. In McWilliams' mind, the decentralization of the system, nice in theory and often in action, turns into an unethical, unhygienic mess when teachers, artists and insurance agents start hacking off chicken heads on their cramped back patios.
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While he spends a lot of time pecking away at the more bird-brained outliers of the urban farming movement (something hideous-sounding called "A Hipster's Guide to Farm Animals") and famous pro-slaughter-at-home types with other areas of expertise (Mark Zuckerberg), McWilliams does present some hard points: D.I.Y. slaughter by inexperienced layfolk raises the risk of animal cruelty; urban animal slaughter brings animal shrieks, unneighborly odors and potentially unwanted disease.
It's a decent read, but given the author's stance on meat in general, the piece should be taken with a big fat grain of kosher salt. A single chicken could be raised alone on 50 acres of manicured, clover-rich pasture and then delicately slaughtered with a puff of angel breath, and McWilliams probably still would take issue. Despite the author's veganista paper trail, however, we don't want to leap to any conclusions.
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