Joe Carlson’s co-op on Hillsborough Road slaughters chickens three or four times a year. They place the bird in a cone so the head sticks out. One person slices the neck. The other holds the body until it bleeds to death in about a minute.
"It certainly is a gruesome thing,” Carlson told two dozen people at the second annual Urban Farm Tour on Saturday. “But I certainly believe life and death are huge facts of life.”
Carrboro Greenspace, organizers of the tour, canceled a “skillshare” scheduled to show people how to slaughter chickens after resident Gina Burns e-mailed town leaders. They held a discussion instead.
A group sat in a circle on the grass beside a garden with sweet potatoes. People picked up a small rock in the middle of the circle when they wanted to speak.
Burns said the town hasn’t thought through the consequences of people raising backyard chickens. Several participants were vegetarian or vegan, meaning they eat no animal products at all, not even eggs.
“I’m shocked in the town of Carrboro home slaughter goes completely unregulated,” said Carrie Monette.
"If we can be healthy on a plant-based diet, why are we taking the life of an animal?” said Loren Hart. “They feel. and they think, and I think we should respect them.”
Carlson said his cooperative does respect the birds it slaughters, usually after they’ve stopped laying eggs. The co-op members make it a ritual and sit in a sweat lodge to purify themselves before eating the bird.
"No matter what, the animal gave its life for you,” Carlson said.
Skip Polson, a founder of the American Pastured Poultry Association, said done correctly, backyard slaughter is better than how birds are killed in poultry plants, where they’re hung by their feet on conveyor belts.
“I can understand the vegetarians’ point of view,” he said. “But I think it’s important for people who want to be able to do this to learn how to do it the right way, because there is a right way.”