NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett didn’t show up to deliver the opening remarks at a Women’s Health Summit in Brooklyn, but that didn’t stop 20 activists from disrupting her stand-in after Bassett’s pre-recorded video greeting was played for attendees.
The activists disrupted the summit over Commissioner Bassett’s ongoing refusal to enforce the seven public health codes violated during an annual ritual animal sacrifice called Kaporos during which 60,000 chickens are swung in the air by their fragile wings and killed in illegal pop-up slaughterhouses on public streets. The blood, body parts and feces of thousands of dead and dying chickens contaminate the streets in several Brooklyn neighborhoods for up to a week each year.
“We are so desperate for Commissioner Bassett to shut down this illegal and barbaric massacre that we are willing to protest any event sponsored by NYC Department of Health, even if Bassett doesn’t show up for fear of protests,” said Nicole Fernandez, a Brooklyn-based health care provider who participated in the disruption at the Women’s Health Summit.
In 2015, The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and 19 NYC residents sued the NYC Department of Health and the NYPD for failing to enforce the 15 public health, sanitation and anti-cruelty laws and regulations that are violated during Kaporos. The case centers on whether or not courts can mandate that the police enforce the laws that are violated during Kaporos. The case is pending at the Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in the state of New York.
While many New Yorkers working on this effort are motivated by the public health risks, others are motivated by the animal cruelty. “I joined the fight because, in 2017, I watched helplessly as thousands of chickens in cramped crates died a slow and agonizing death from starvation and thirst,” said Jaylene Lopez, a Brooklyn native. “I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to stop this atrocity from happening again.”