On Aug. 27, a post went out to the Kingman Hall internal website stating grimly, “Bunnies: They are all dead.” On Aug. 30, another message went out, reading, “Okay, since we killed some rabbits we might as well…” together with a Web link to a video of a toad being slaughtered with a meat cleaver.
Residents of Kingman Hall slaughtered domesticated rabbits as an experiment in what is now viewed by locavores as the ultimate expression of ecological sustainability — killing animals in your backyard.
While most people think of bunnies as pets and chickens as food, the Kingman fall welcome letter encouraged new house members to introduce themselves to three animal residents — pet chickens Gabe, Bagel, and America.
The birds were allowed to live in the co-op on a trial basis as an “exclusion” to the Berkeley Student Cooperative pets policy, which previously stated, “A BSC Unit (in this case, Kingman Hall) may maintain chickens exclusively for egg production…” All reference to the Kingman chickens has since been removed from BSC policy.
The backyard chickens at Kingman Hall live in a ramshackle outdoor pen built with cinder blocks and a few metal stakes driven into the ground and wrapped with flimsy chicken wire not buried deep enough to prevent raccoons (or other mesopredators) from squeezing under it. The Kingman chickens are lacking in humane care, compared with guidelines established by Chicken Run Rescue, a leading authority on backyard chickens.
What about wildlife? A resident “whacked” a squirrel with a rock after he saw it “bothering the chickens,” according to another post on the Kingman website. Squirrels are herbivores and not a threat to chickens.
In the case of bunnies, keeping live rabbits at a co-op is against BSA rules. And you can’t slaughter pet chickens at any co-op. Given the rules and regulations, why would Kingman residents think it was okay to kill bunnies?
A member of the student group Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy raised the issue of the Kingman rabbit slaughter at the first meeting of the semester.
Anne Martin, BOAA member and Ph.D. candidate in city and regional planning, said, “I was shocked to find out that a student … slaughtered rabbits at Kingman and that no one spoke up to defend the animals and prevent this from happening. At BOAA, we encourage our fellow students to discover the joys of a plant-based, vegan diet as a way to reduce environmental impacts, cut carbon emissions, improve health and reduce animal suffering. There is simply no need for us to kill animals in our homes to further these goals.”
Kingman residents do not have the capacity to treat animals humanely. To prevent Berkeley Student Co-Op residents from causing further harm to animals, BSC policies should be updated to explicitly prohibit slaughtering or otherwise harming animals and should prohibit keeping any animal that could be misconstrued as “livestock.”
In addition, Kingman Hall should issue a collective public apology for the conduct of its residents.
Students, teachers and members of the community — join me in telling the BSC that slaughtering animals is not acceptable in the co-op system, at UC Berkeley or in the city.
I urge you to email Ruby Lee ([email protected]), the Student Conduct Committee Chair at BSC, responsible for student conduct in all the member co-operatives; and Jan Stokley ([email protected]), the Executive Director of BSC, responsible for maintaining relationships with staff, UC Berkeley, neighbors and the board.
Ian Elwood is a founding member of Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter.