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Pursuits

Kill-It-and-Eat-It Locavores Give Cities Indigestion

Cities grapple with urban farmers who slaughter their own meat
Amid complaints, Carpenter has temporarily stopped slaughtering animals
Amid complaints, Carpenter has temporarily stopped slaughtering animalsPhotograph by Jake Stangel for Bloomberg Businessweek

Nine years ago, Novella Carpenter took over a small vacant lot next to her duplex in a tough neighborhood in Oakland, Calif., and started … a farm. She planted fruits and vegetables and brought in livestock. At one time or another over the years she’s had chickens, geese, turkeys, and rabbits, some of which she slaughters for meat. Or she did until last year, when the city received complaints about her operation and she agreed to stop while officials decide whether she’s eligible for a special permit. (A bit of a provocateur, she might not have helped her cause by selling rabbit pot pie at a fundraiser.)

Carpenter, who wrote a book about city farming, is now a celebrity among hundreds of urban locavores who shun factory farms and insist on raising and killing what they eat—often to the dismay of the people next door. She understands why people might not be thrilled with her avocation. “Even to me, backyard slaughter sounds awful,” she says. “I imagine blood everywhere and screaming animals. In reality, it’s nothing like that. We don’t want to open up a slaughterhouse in the backyard, we just want to kill a chicken.”