Backyard slaughter may be coming to the Queen City. The board of health is drafting an ordinance that would let you kill what you keep.
Dan Goossen lives in the Queen City -- but you may not know it from his backyard.
"Knowing our food I think is the main reason we like to have them around," Goossen said. He raises chickens for eggs, but soon the chickens could provide even more. The Burlington Board of Health is drafting an ordinance allowing backyard slaughter -- though currently banned -- David Casey of the board of health says it happens anyway.
"Instead of having this going on under the radar, it would be better to control it and to allow it and to be able to have some sort of law enforcement mechanism that we can point to," Casey explained.
Goossen thinks the idea might make some of his neighbors uncomfortable, but if it's allowed, he'd consider slaughtering his chickens.
"I think we probably would. Our main purpose for having them is for the eggs but after a certain amount of time they don't lay eggs anymore and so we would definitely consider consuming them as a meat."
But the Humane Society of Chittenden County thinks it's too much too soon. This ordinance was written at almost the same time as another one allowing residents to own large livestock like goats or alpacas which could also be slaughtered under this rule. The organization says the idea raises serious health concerns given how close houses in the city are to one another.
"There's the noise and the visibility, removing the waste, bloodletting, things getting into the lake, flies," says Megan Stearns of the Humane Society about the public health concerns associated with backyard slaughter.
Casey says the ordinance would make homeowners follow the same state and federal laws as commercial slaughterhouses, and the slaughter would have to take place out of sight or earshot of neighbors. But, he admits enforcement would not be easy.
"At the level of very small backyard either processed or personal use, there isn't a whole lot of oversight and it would sort of fall on neighbors to file complaints or so forth or notify the city," Casey explained.
"Who is going to be teaching people the best practices for slaughter so that people are safe, the meat is safe, the animals die humanely," Stearns said.
But for Goossen, knowing where his food comes from would give him peace of mind.
"If you consider all the problems that come with processed foods and the stuff that we buy in the grocery store and the amount of stuff that goes in there that people have no idea," Goossen said, "I have much more faith in the backyard gardener or farmer being able to process their own stuff."
Slaughter is just one of the topics being reviewed as part of a City Council ordered Urban Agriculture Task force, but the ordinance has a ways to go. The final draft will first go before a committee and then will eventually be passed on to the City Council.