Commentary: Local urban agriculture has underlying issues that need to be addressed

By Deborah Turner, Humane educator

This is targeted at the residents of Long Beach and Signal Hill, California. Many of you reading this may reside outside of our area, but this may pertain to you in the future as a new urban-farming movement is gaining momentum. I only mean to inform you, not to influence you, so you are not an uninformed victim. Many of my friends are surprised that these things are happening in our neighborhoods. This is a movement toward achieving independence and security of our food supply by producing much of the food ourselves. Gardens, both personal and communal, are springing up everywhere. Now, some people are encouraging the personal raising of animals for food production, commonly referred to as “urban animal agriculture,” thus defining any back yard, large or small, as usable for animal husbandry.
The proposal being brought forth before the Long Beach City Council will modify the City Municipal Code to allow up to 20 chickens, two goats and five beehives per residence, relaxing the current separation requirements. The purpose of the separation requirements is to distance neighbors from the negative impacts that occur.
Although at the surface, urban animal agriculture seems to be a benign activity, when one scrutinizes the subject, there are serious underlying issues that need to be addressed: health-related issues such as avian borne diseases and parasites, airborne diseases such as aspergillosis in areas that are not properly cleaned, and vector control.
The city is already plagued with irresponsible pet ownership, due often to lack of education in proper pet care. If the proposed changes to the Municipal Code take place, the same irresponsible pet owners will now enter the realm of urban animal farming with no background education or experience. The ensuing result will be animal cruelty, neglect, improper care, overpopulation, more homeless animals and more euthanasia.
The city lacks the proper infrastructure to deal with an increased number of farm animals confined in their cages, or loose in the neighborhoods. A back yard in an urban setting with neighbors in close proximity can hardly be called a farm. If the stated goal of the City is to become the safest large city for people and animals, how can placing animals and people at risk be meeting that goal?
The proposed changes to the Municipal Code will be presented to the City Council on July 16. The City Council meetings are at 5pm in the City Hall Council Chambers on the first floor of the City Hall and the Civic Center, 333 W. Ocean Blvd. The parking structure for City Hall and the Civic Center is located on Broadway, between Chestnut Avenue and Cedar Avenue. Broadway is a one-way street located on the north boundary of the Civic Center and is north of Ocean Boulevard. Parking for the first 30 minutes is free.
What can you do? Please attend the City Council meeting and rally in opposition to the proposed changes. Your presence will carry a lot of weight in demonstrating to the Council the strength of the opposition to the proposed changes. You need not take the podium to express your opinions; however, if you are so inclined, you will have the opportunity to do so. This will be our only chance to have a voice in this decision. We encourage all Long Beach residents to contact your respective City Council member to voice your opposition.
They can be called or emailed at:
Office of the Mayor– Bob Foster
1st Council District– Robert Garcia (562) 570-6919
2nd Council District– Suja Lowenthal (562) 570-6884
3rd Council District– Gary DeLong (562) 570-6310
4th Council District– Patrick O’Donnell (562) 570-6918
5th Council District– Gerrie Schipske (562) 570-6932
6th Council District– Dee Andrews (562) 570-6816
7th Council District– James Johnson (562) 570-6139
8th Council District– Al Austin (562) 570-6685
9th Council District– Steven Neal (562) 570-6137

It is a good idea to check the city council agenda at City Council agendas or call the city clerk at (562) 570-6101 on the day of the meeting to make sure the item is still on that day’s agenda.
Thank you for your caring about our city and neighborhoods.

In 2001, Deborah Turner founded the nonprofit Samuel Turner Foundation, whose mission is to promote the well-being of people in need and proper treatment of animals through education and active participation.

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