University of Pennsylvania
Catherine Brinkley is a veterinary (VMD) student at the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD candidate in City and Regional Planning at the School of Design. Her dissertation focuses on land use and environmental planning for agriculture. Her veterinary studies focus on public health, food animal medicine, and animal welfare. She specializes in peri-urban agriculture and its integration into metropolitan regions for food supply, formation of local foodsheds and food waste management. She has an M.S. in virology from the University of Gothensburg, Sweden and a B.A. in biology and Russian from Wellesley College.
City ordinances pertaining to animal agriculture go back to about 1700. There were large concentrations of animals in city streets in those days not least because animals were slaughtered in the cities. This led to early nuisance laws designed to push animal agriculture out of the cities. Baltimore, Boston, New York and Philadelphia were designed with animal agriculture in mind. Of course, animals were used for transport and there wasn’t trash collection so pigs cleaned up the garbage. If you wanted milk, you rented a cow in the city. Animals inhabited areas known as commons. Boston commons is well-known but Philadelphia also had commons.
The first laws concerning animals in the cities pertained to stray pigs. Philadelphia was the first to have such a law. The Philadelphia commons were in the areas of Franklin Square and Washington Square. In 1818 an article in the Philadelphia Evening Post said “it is not uncommon to find in our shortest streets 20 or 30 hogs. We recently had one mad dog. Is it possible to imagine how many hogs he has bitten? How long before our streets may be full of mad dogs and hogs?” The pigs were not confined to the poorest sections of town but were also in the wealthy sections. These pigs were not there just to clean up garbage but also to feed the poorest citizens.
The city fathers of Philadelphia recognized that if they took away the pigs they would be taking away the food supply for the poor. They said that if the stray pigs were to be removed from the streets there would have to be compensation for the poor. The next ordinances dealt with cattle driving. In those days, cattle would often arrive in rail cars and be driven into the city where the slaughter houses were located. There were many of these slaughter houses, often belonging to small scale butchers. In dealing with this problem, the boards of health developed the first land use regulations in the country. In 1887 Philadelphia decided that cattle could not be driven on Sundays. A petition signed by 250 residents and published in the Philadelphia Inquirer describing the unpleasantness and filth associated cattle being driven down the streetsis typical of the outrage expressed by the citizenry. In New York City there were 2,000 hogs driven daily down 5th Avenue.
The cities decided that slaughter houses should be centralized in one district. This spelled the end of the small slaughtering operations. Meanwhile, the prohibition of pigs wandering in the streets had led to garbage being collected by the citizens and delivered to piggeries that had been established. These piggeries became a nuisance as the cities grew. In New York, there was a large piggery in Central Park. As the cities expanded, the piggeries depressed real estate values. Citizens objected to this but some residents said piggeries, where the garbage was cooked and fed to the pigs, were a healthy development. The defenders of the piggeries charged the complainers with “gentrification” — a word we often hear these days in describing the development of neighborhoods.
But the largest driver of the movement against piggeries was cholera. While it wasn’t the piggeries themselves that brought cholera to Philadelphia, it was the proprietors of them. The piggeries were run by Irish immigrants who brought cholera with them. Cholera caused 3,000 people to die in Philadelphia in July and August of 1830. At the same time, there was an outbreak of disease in pigs. People saw pigs dropping dead and pigs dropping dead and said we have to get the pigs out of the city. The Irish fought hard to keep their pigs because this was their livelihood. This was a politically charged issue and it took a long time to slowly root out the piggeries.
There were also dairies in the city located near breweries and distilleries because the mash from their brewing and distilling activities was fed to the cows. The United States Department of Agriculture eventually issued recommendations regarding keeping cows in cities, saying dairies should be banned from within city limits due to health concerns. Rampant alcoholism also played a role in the movement to ban dairies from cities because distilleries and breweries needed dairies to utilize the mash and ensure profitability. However, it wasn’t until Prohibition came into effect that dairies left the cities.
When we think about the separation of commercial, residential and industrial districts that we have today, we can thank the evolution of regulations pertaining to animal agriculture for establishing the precedents for them. Many societies throughout the world still struggle with these same issues regarding animal agriculture. Even in the U.S. questions still arise as to how to integrate animal agriculture into the cities. In recessionary times, these issues tend to arise whether it pertains to backyard chickens or other species. Philadelphia, for instance, currently allows bee hives in the city but not chickens. Seattle pioneered these so-called “honey and egg” ordinances.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.