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COVID Cases Surge in Brooklyn’s Hasidic Hot Spots After Large, Mask-free Kaporos Events; Mayor and DOH Ignored Warnings

October 10, 2020 by 34 comments


The News

Weeks before the City shut down Brooklyn’s Hasidic neighborhoods due to a surge in COVID cases, animal rights and public health advocates flooded city officials and journalists with letters warning them of the spike if Mayor and Dept. of Health allowed large, crowded, semi-enclosed, mask-free Kaporos slaughter events to take place. They ignored the warnings, and the number of COVID cases jumped dramatically in these neighborhoods in the weeks that followed. In the extensive media coverage about the surge, neither elected officials nor journalists are addressing the fact that it was caused, at least in part, by the Kaporos wet markets.

Advocates warned the governor, mayor, city health officials and media that Kaporos events in COVID hot spots would lead to a surge in cases

The surge of COVID cases left New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, staunch allies of the Hasidic community, with no choice but to designate some of their neighborhoods as “red zones” and publicly state they were instituting partial shut downs. In spite of the fact that COVID safety guidelines had not been enforced in their communities before, they took to the streets of Borough Park, Brooklyn, to protest. Many of the protesters burned their masks in a show of defiance.

“The Hasidim will not change their behavior due to the pandemic unless they want to because, in New York, their actions don’t have consequences,” said Donny Moss of TheirTurn.net, an animal rights news magazine that documents Kaporos events each year. “Because of their voting power, elected officials move mountains to curry favor with them, even if that means helping them break the law and jeopardize the public health.”

Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice that takes place in the week leading up to Yom Kippur, is a perfect example. Each year before Yom Kippur, the Hasidim in Brooklyn erect approximately 30 makeshift slaughterhouses without permits on public streets and kill over 100,000 chickens (a conservative estimate) in violation of 15 city and state health and cruelty laws. Invariably, Kaporos practitioners and advocates who rescue chickens contract e. Coli and campylobacter. Nevertheless, the city provides the Hasidic community with police officers, floodlights, barricades and traffic cones which are used to bleed the animals out onto the streets.

In 2020, the animal rights community thought that Kaporos would be canceled for two reasons. First, elected officials and health authorities knew in advance that social distancing and mask wearing guidelines would not be practiced during Kaporos events, which, incidentally, would be taking place in areas already designated as Kaporos hot spots. Second, the Kaporos sites are wet markets where tens of thousands of customers physically handle the live animals before they are slaughtered. In light of the fact that COVID19 is a zoonotic disease that is widely believed to have jumped from animal to human in a wet market, the advocacy community thought that the City would cancel Kaporos to prevent the potential outbreak of another zoonotic disease.

In the weeks leading up to Yom Kippur, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos plastered hundreds of posters throughout NYC sounding the alarm about the health risks posed by Kaporos.

To the dismay of the advocates, the COVID pandemic, the risk of another zoonotic disease outbreak, and the health and cruelty violations didn’t compel the City to stop Kaporos from happening.

“One day, however, the victims of Kaporos will fight back in the only way they can – by unleashing a zoonotic disease on us that will rapidly spread through the Hasidic communities and lead to another global pandemic,” said Moss.

Before Yom Kippur, hundreds of thousands of Hasidim in the NYC tri-state area practice Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice (photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)

Animal rights and public health advocates have pledged to continue to educate the public about the health and cruelty violations and to hold past and present NYC health officials like Drs. Mary Bassett, Demetre Daskalakis, Oxiris Barbot and Dave Chokshi accountable for their decision to prioritize politics ahead of public health.


Progress For Science Protests HSUS Over Animal Mistreatment at Project Chimps

September 30, 2020 by 7 comments


The News

Over 20 activists with Progress For Science, a Los Angeles-based animal rights group, staged a protest at the Santa Monica home of Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) board member Steven White over the mistreatment of animals at Project Chimps, HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia.

White and his colleagues on the boards of HSUS and Project Chimps have refused to acknowledge and rectify animal welfare issues raised by 22 former sanctuary employees and volunteers who sent a letter to Project Chimps board to voice their concerns about poor veterinary care, infrequent access to the outdoors (10 hours/week), overcrowding, rushed chimpanzee introductions, a lack of sufficient enrichment in their concrete enclosures and other forms of neglect and deprivation. Two of these individuals, Crystal Alba and Lindsay Vanderhoogt, posted photos, videos and reports documenting the abuse on HelpTheChimps.org after they attempted to effect change from within Project Chimps.

Animal rights activists are demanding that HSUS’s Project Chimps provide the animals in their care with daily access to the outdoors

“The chimps are living in woefully substandard conditions at Project Chimps after being subjected to a lifetime of laboratory experiments,” said Cory Mac, an organizer with Progress For Science. “Instead of attempting to silence credible whistleblowers, Steven White and his colleagues at HSUS should be focused on improving animal care and providing the chimps with a humane retirement.”  In August, Project Chimps dropped a federal lawsuit it filed against Alba and Vanderhoogt, who continue to speak out on behalf of the chimps.

Animal rights activists with Progress for Science protest the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over the mistreatment of animals at its Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia

On July 9th, National Geographic published an in depth, investigative story about the animal cruelty allegations and the lawsuit against the whistleblowers. While it includes statements from both sides, the story paints a grim and disturbing picture of animal welfare that corroborates the allegations of the whistleblowers.

National Georgraphic investigative story about animal mistreatment at HSUS’s chimpanzee sanctuary, Project Chimps

Steven White is the third HSUS board member to be targeted with protests. In San Francisco, primatologist Bob Ingersoll and local activists protested at the Nob Hill home of Susan Atherton, the co-chair of HSUS’s Board of Directors. In New York, animal rights activists with TheirTurn staged two protests at an upscale clothing store owned by HSUS board member Brad Jakeman.

Animal rights activists demand the Steven White and his colleagues on HSUS’s Board of Directors improve animal welfare at Project Chimps

Animal rights activists vow to continue holding HSUS’s board members accountable until they improve the welfare standards at Project Chimps. Among their demands are providing the chimps with daily access to the outdoors; not taking in additional chimps until they can be accommodated humanely and hiring an Executive Director with chimpanzee experience.

Board members of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have been targeted with protests animal rights activists in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York who are demanding improved welfare conditions at its Project Chimps sanctuary in Georgia

In its public statements, HSUS asserts that third party inspections have exonerated Project Chimps of the animal cruelty allegations. However, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS), a sanctuary accrediting organization, made several animal welfare recommendations after conducting an investigation, in spite of its close financial ties to HSUS. Another inspection that HSUS references in an effort to discredit the welfare allegations was conducted by a veterinarian who HSUS paid $20,000 in “consulting” fees, in spite of the fact that she lives in a different state.

The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) made some of the same animal welfare recommendations as the whistleblowers

Among the protesters at Steven White’s home was Carole Raphaelle Davis, a Hollywood actress who recently starred in Madam Secretary. During her Facebook livestream, Davis encapsulated the feelings of many of the activists who participated ‘The Humane Society is the largest animal welfare organization in the country and is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars; it can easily afford to give these animals the life they deserve, but they don’t and that’s why we won’t back down until they fix this wrong. The mistreatment of these chimps in their care is just not right. It’s not fair.”


Kaporos, Largest Live Animal Wet Market in the United States, Opens Ahead of Yom Kippur

September 19, 2020 by 21 comments


The News

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, tens of thousands of Hasidim in Brooklyn will purchase and physically handle live chickens in a wet market setting. Wearing little to no PPE, they will swing the chickens around their heads as part of an annual atonement ritual called Kaporos. The chickens will be killed in approximately 30 makeshift slaughterhouses erected without permits on public streets in residential neighborhoods in violation of eight New York City health codes. The body parts, blood and feces of thousands of animals will contaminate the streets of South Williamsburg, Crown Heights and Borough Park for several days.

Kaporos is, in effect, the largest live animal wet market in the country and the only one in which the customers handle the animals before the animals are killed. Many of the animals have compromised immune systems and show signs of respiratory disease. The chickens make each other sick, and they also infect some of the people who handle them with e. Coli and campylobacter. If the viruses that these animals carry commingle and mutate into a more dangerous strain that could be spread among humans, then these Kaporos wet markets could be the source of the another zoonotic disease outbreak. According to a toxicologist who studied fecal and blood samples taken during Kaporos, the ritual “constitutes a dangerous condition” and “poses a significant public health hazard.”

During Kaporos, tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews purchase and physically handle live animals, without PPE, putting themselves and the public at risk of zoonotic disease

In addition to putting all of us at risk of another zoonotic disease pandemic, Kaporos, which attracts hordes of people in small areas, could be a COVID “super spreader” event because Hasidic communities have been observed not wearing masks or engaging in social distancing.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; his Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi; and his Deputy Commissioner of Disease Control, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, allow this mass ritual slaughter to take place, in spite of the health code violations and risks to public health, because NYC’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities represent a powerful voting bloc that can make or break elections in NYC and NY State. In fact, taxpayers help to underwrite the cost because the NYPD provides barricades, floodlights and a large police presence at many of the Kaporos sites. Given the risks and the disruption and death we have already endured already with pandemic, how can the Mayor and his health deputies allow Kaporos to take place?

The Kaporos wet market contaminates the public streets and sidewalks of several NYC neighborhoods with the blood, feces and body parts of thousands of animals killed in pop up slaughterhouses erected without permits in violation of 8 NYC health laws

During Kaporos, some of the live and dead chickens are discarded onto the streets. Rescuers bring the survivors who they find to veterinarians and sanctuaries to live out their lives in peace

For the past several years, animal rights and public health advocates have pled with Mayor de Blasio and his revolving door of health commissioners (Dr. Mary Bassett, Dr. Oxiris Barbot and now Dr. Dave Chokshi) to shut down Kaporos, given the health code violations and the risks to the public health. Both in court and in the media, city attorneys and spokespeople for the NYC Department of Health have defended Kaporos and argued that the City has discretion over which laws to enforce. Throughout the month of September, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos plastered 300 posters around New York City to sound the alarm about Kaporos.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, a project of United Poultry Concerns, plastered billboards around NYC to educate the public about the risk to public health created by Kaporos


Animal Rights Group Plasters Anti-Kaporos Posters Throughout NYC

September 15, 2020 by 29 comments


The News

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos has plastered 300 large posters throughout New York City in an effort to call attention to the risk of zoonotic disease transmission during Kaporos, an animal slaughter ritual that takes place each year in the week leading up to Yom Kippur. During Kaporos, practitioners swing live chickens around their heads without PPE and kill them in makeshift slaughterhouses erected without permits on public streets in violation of eight NYC health codes.

Each year, factory farms in New Jersey and Pennsylvania deliver over 100,000 live chickens to Kaporos vendors in Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights and several other neighborhoods in New York City. The chickens are typically held in crates on public streets for up to several days with no food, water or protection from weather extremes, conditions that weaken the animals’ immune systems and make them vulnerable to disease.

Over 100,000 chickens are intensively confined in crates for up to several days leading up to the Kaporos ritual. Chickens who died from hunger, thirst, exposure or illness are often found in crates with the live chickens (photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)

During Kaporos, public streets and sidewalks are contaminated with the body parts and blood of thousands of chickens who are killed in makeshift slaughterhouses erected without permits in violation of eight NYC health codes. (photo: Suzanne Stein Photography)

Thousands of chickens die in their crates each year from hunger, thirst, exposure and disease before they are used in the ritual, and many of the chickens who practitioners physically handle during the ritual show signs of respiratory disease. Of the tens of thousands of people who partake in the ritual, only a small fraction wear protective gear, such as gloves. It’s this kind of interaction between humans and sick animals that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to putting the public at risk of another zoonotic disease outbreak, the large Kaporos gatherings throughout Brooklyn could be “super-spreader” events for COVID-19 because the Hasidic Jewish communities do not practice social distancing or wear masks.

During Kaporos, over 100,000 chickens are slaughtered and bled out onto public streets in violation of 8 city health codes

The Kaporos poster campaign targets NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio because he has ignored the pleas of animal rights and public health advocates to stop Kaporos from taking place due to the fact that it violates city and state health and cruelty laws and jeopardizes the public health.

Mayor de Blasio’s Health Commissioners have refused to address a toxicology report that outlines the risk posed by the mass slaughter of over 100,000 animals on public streets during Kaporos.

According to a toxicologist who studied fecal and blood samples taken during Kaporos, the ritual “constitutes a dangerous condition” and “poses a significant public health hazard.” In recent years, several New Yorkers who did not partake in the ritual contracted E. coli and campylobacter after coming into contact with these contaminants. Advocates believe that many Kaporos practitioners have also gotten sick but that the insular Hasidic communities would not report the illnesses to the Department of Health.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos plastered 300 posters around NYC to draw attention to the risk of zoonotic disease transmission that could lead to another pandemic

“The Police and Health Commissioners are political appointees, and their boss, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, has clearly instructed them to assist in Kaporos because the practitioners represent a powerful voting bloc,” said Donny Moss, an organizer in the effort to compel the city to enforce the laws. “Not only does the City provides police barricades, floodlights and an army of police officers and sanitation workers, but it also provides the traffic cones where tens of thousands of chickens are bled out onto public streets.”

City health codes that are violated during Kaporos


A Stand-Up Comedian’s Chilling Diagnosis Leads to a Dramatic Transformation

August 28, 2020 by 1 comment


The News

Frank Liotti, a stand-up comedian from New York City, thought he had food poisoning one night when he got off the stage at a club in Ohio. When his symptoms didn’t improve after a week in bed, he went to the emergency room where he received chilling diagnosis. During an interview with TheirTurn, Liotti describes a dramatic life-saving change and explains the surprising reason he has been able to maintain it.

Stand-up comedian Frank Liotti makes the switch to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.