After half a dozen speakers urged the El Cerrito City Council Monday night to include a ban on backyard slaughter of animals, the council agreed to revisit the issue.
When the council two weeks ago passed a new law making it easier for residents to keep chickens, bees, goats and pigs, the panel declined to include a ban on the slaughter of animals at home.
Although the council had earlier indicated an interest in banning the slaughter of animals, City Attorney Sky Woodruff said a ban would be difficult to craft because it cannot interfere with freedom of speech and religious expression by banning religious conduct that includes animal sacrifice.
So the council incorporated Woodruff's recommendation that the council adopt regulations on health, sanitation and nuisances that would "address the potential impacts of animal slaughter without creating potential constitutional issues or inadvertently banning commonplace activties," in the wording of the staff report for the council's Nov. 7 meeting.
But before the new ordinance's second reading Monday night, several people spoke during the public comment period urging the council to adopt the ban, saying home slaughter of animals is often inhumane and cruel, in large part because many urban animal keepers aren't trained or skilled in animal slaughter.
A chilling moment came when one speaker played a recording of what he said was a goat in death throes, dying of poison. The speaker, Oakland resident Ian Elwood, said he's a member of Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter.
Mayor Ann Cheng said that her initial "gut reaction" was against home slaughter of animals, but she said she didn't want the city to "get in a position of limiting freedom of religion, freedom of speech."
The council proceeded to approve the second reading of the animals ordinance that was passed two weeks ago, with the understanding that it does not limit the council's ability to add a ban on home animal slaughter at any future date.
Without taking a vote, the council asked the staff to report back with more information on how the city might adopt a ban if it chooses to, including potential legal liability and enforcement options.