Chanting “Mary Bassett: Do Your Job,” approximately 25 activists raced into the headquarters of the NYC Department of Health (DOH) and staged a protest in the lobby to demand that DOH Commissioner Mary Bassett enforce the seven public health codes violated during Kaporos, a ritual sacrifice during which an estimated 60,000 chickens are illegally slaughtered on public streets. Hundreds of DOH employees witnessed the disruption, which took place during the afternoon rush hour.
“We want DOH employees to know that, by turning a blind eye to the health code violations, Mary Bassett is endangering the health of New Yorkers, who are needlessly exposed to the many pathogens and toxins that are spread when farm animals are slaughtered in the streets,” said Nathan Semmel, an advocate working to end the use of chickens during Kaporos.
The protest in the lobby of the DOH was the third specifically targeting Dr. Bassett, who, during a meeting with advocates and in a subsequent letter, rejected an independent toxicology report outlining the public health risks associated with the massacre: “There remains no evidence that the use of chickens for Kaporos poses a significant risk to human health.” In the letter, Dr. Bassett made no mention of seven public health codes that are violated.
During the first protest, activists disrupted Dr. Bassett while she made a presentation at Columbia University.
The second protest was staged at her home in Upper Manhattan and at the nearby farmer’s market. “We want Dr. Bassett’s colleagues and neighbors to know not only that she is not doing her job but also that she is misrepresenting herself as an advocate for social justice,” said Jessica Hollander, an animal rights activist in NYC. “If she really cared about justice, Dr. Bassett would use her power to shut down – not defend – this illegal and horrific massacre.”
Activists speculate that Dr. Bassett and other city officials allow Kaporos to continue, in spite of the fact that it is illegal, because ultra-Orthodox Jews represent a powerful voting bloc.