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City residents balk at backyard livestock, animal killings
August 5, 2002
The Associated Press
As the state becomes more urban and its immigrant population swells, officials say they're hearing more complaints about goats and chickens being killed in suburban neighborhoods.
At least two cities -- Monroe and Sanford -- have recently banned the slaughter of goats after getting too many complaints.
Charlotte officials are considering rewriting city code to make it illegal to slaughter an animal in plain view "of any public area or adjacent property." Slaughtering is currently legal as long as it's done humanely.
"There was a time in Charlotte when everyone slaughtered their own livestock," said John Joye, a police attorney who is working on the code change.
"As we become more urban, you have to take a little bit more care than if you're on a farm in the middle of nowhere."
Charlotte animal control officials say many complaints are the result of a culture clash between the immigrant community and other city residents. The debate is reaching into surrounding counties as the countryside becomes more urban.
This year, Charlotte officials have received at least one complaint a month, compared to two or three annually five years ago.
For some immigrants, slaughtering animals for food is a way of life. Killing chickens and eating them immediately is part of the culture for the Hmong, who began immigrating here from Laos after the Vietnam War.
Pregnant women and new mothers, especially, are encouraged to eat fresh chicken to purify themselves, according to a statewide Hmong cultural group.
"We like it fresh," said Nao Vang, who keeps chickens, ducks and geese behind his home in northeast Charlotte. "It tastes much better than if you get it frozen in the store."
Over the past decade, the region's Hmong population has increased by 872 percent, from 433 in 1990 to 4,207 in 2000.
In Huntersville, police recently found more than 100 chickens roosting in a mobile home, which a group of Hispanic families was using as a coop. In Monroe, two children witnessed a goat being killed in a neighbor's back yard.
In Charlotte, city folks who aren't used to country life are often dismayed when they see chickens or other livestock in a neighbor's yard.
Jessica Lavardi said she was working in her garden last spring when she heard the cry of a goat next door. Her neighbors, who are from Zaire, told her they were planning to slaughter it for a wedding celebration.
"I'm not against anybody's religion or culture," said Lavardi, who lives in a southeast Charlotte subdivision. "But you should not be allowed to (slaughter) an animal in city limits where people and children can see it. It's offensive and disgusting."
Recently, Charlotte animal control officials asked officers from the police department's international unit to work with neighborhoods, explaining to immigrants why neighbors were angry and informing the neighbors about the immigrants' customs.
"We have a diverse community, and we want to be as tolerant as possible to all possible viewpoints," Joye said. "It's still legal to eat meat and if we're going to eat meat, we have to slaughter animals at some point."
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