CONWAY – The Local Grocer has taken a no-trespass order on animal rights activist Laura Slitt after Slitt caused two animal rights organizations to protest the Local Grocer's backyard poultry series which includes information on how to slaughter chickens.
The class is to be held on June 28 at the Local Grocer's Mountain Flower Farm, and is part of a nine-week program on permaculture, which Local Grocer owner Heather Chase described as farming that's "beyond organic." Chase said one class is about how to ethically raise and process chickens but other classes are about gardening. Chase said the chicken class is consistent with her business' core beliefs.
Slitt said she received the no-trespass order from Bartlett police after sending one "respectful email" asking the Local Grocer to cancel the event. Slitt said she didn't get a response so she contacted animal rights organizations United Poultry Concerns and Free from Harm. Both organizations created a change.org petition which has since been signed by about 3,500 people.
Slitt, of Bartlett, said her care for the birds led her to take action.
"This is not about me, it's not about Heather and it's not about all these people who have all these different views," said Slitt. "It's about some baby birds that right now are probably sitting in a pen somewhere, or pecking at the grass, if they can move, who have no idea that in four days somebody is going to grab them, stuff them in a cone, extend their heads and slice their necks."
Chase said she had to block Slitt from her email and the Local Grocer's Facebook account because Slitt was sending so many messages and their content. Slitt uses the pen name Beth Aaron out of concern about NSA spying.
Slitt thought she had a good relationship with the Local Grocer. Slitt said some of the conflict is her fault but not all of it.
Chase said she had let Slitt shop at the store and post things on the store's Facebook page for about four and a half years even though a former owner had banned Slitt.
Chase said she recently got an intimidating email from Robert Grillo of Free From Harm who demanded the class be canceled.
"It's somebody making demands like in a hostage situation," said Chase.
Grillo's email was sent on June 19. Grillo's email concluded: "We ask you to please cancel your chicken killing class and make a formal announcement to that effect. If we don't hear from you affirmatively on this issue in the next 48 hours, we will proceed with our plans to protest. We have several local media sources who are interested in covering this story on alert."
After that, Chase decided to contact police and have them serve Slitt the no-trespass order. The no trespass order is dated June 20.
Chase said animal rights activists have been harassing her. Others have been writing bad online reviews of the Local Grocer. Chase said the silver lining is that real customers have been sticking up for the business.
According to Chase, protesters latch on to the fact that she also operates a Yoga studio, which the protesters say should preclude her from also having a class involving chicken processing.
"It's basically turned into this social media terrorist campaign of people who have never gone into my store going to my social media and giving me one star and saying these things," said Chase.
Slitt "feels sick to her stomach" that the conflict has risen to this level. Slitt said a number of people are mad at her because of this situation.
"There are a handful of people who are chopping my head off too," said Slitt. "I feel like the proverbial chicken."
Chase added some people need to eat meat for heath reasons.
"Why not do it the best way we possibly can?" said Chase.
But Slitt says she wants to challenge the idea that there can be "humane meat" and "sustainable animal agriculture."