As part of an ongoing campaign to compel New York City to shut down a religious animal sacrifice called Kaporos that takes the lives of 60,000 animals each year, activists staged an evening protest at the home the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Health (DOH), Dr. Mary Bassett, who has refused to enforce the seven public health codes that are violated during the ritual.
This was the third protest targeting Dr. Bassett, who has publicly defended the ritual, saying “there is no evidence that the use of chickens for Kaporos poses a significant risk to human health.” Her assertion contradicts the findings of an 24-page toxicology report which states that Kaporos with chickens exposes NYC residents to bacteria and viral disease. In her limited communications with activists, Dr. Bassett has not addressed the fact that health codes are broken.
“Mary Bassett knows that sacrificing animals on a mass scale on public streets endangers the health of New Yorkers,” said Nathan Semmel, an organizer in the campaign to shut down Kaporos. “We can only speculate that she is prioritizing politics over public health because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who commit these atrocities represent one of NYC’s most powerful voting blocs.”
During Kaporos, ultra-Orthodox Jews swing live chickens around their heads in a symbolic transfer of their sins to the animals prior to the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur. After the ritual, the chickens are killed in pop-up slaughterhouses and stuffed into garbage bags which are hauled away by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation.
Among the many reasons why activists are working to shut down the ritual is the fact that tens of thousands of chickens are intensively confined in crates for up to several days with no food, water or protection from weather extremes. In 2017, activists found garbage bags stuffed with thousands of chickens who died from exposure before they were even used in the ritual.
The evening protest at Dr. Bassett’s home came on the heels of three other protests –– one during the day at her home and around her neighborhood; one during a presentation she made at Columbia University; and one in the lobby of the headquarters of the DOH. Activists have vowed to continue disrupting business as usual until the DOH enforces the public health codes.