Slaughter Free NYC, a grassroots animal rights group advocating to shut down the nearly 100 slaughterhouses in the five boroughs of New York City, staged a protest at a “live market” in Inwood, a largely Hispanic neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. Live markets are storefront slaughterhouses where consumers can pick out animals in cages and have them slaughtered on site.
The protesters were joined by local area residents who assert that the slaughterhouse compromises their quality of life by polluting their sidewalk with contaminants and exposing them to infectious disease. “You never saw that in a good avenue,” said a local Dominican American man of the slaughterhouse. “This is Hispanic neighborhood. Poor people. They don’t know the infections this could bring to you.”
Mariolis Espinal, a woman in her 20s who lives on the same street as the slaughterhouse, joined the protest to speak out against both the public health risks and the animal cruelty. “I walk my dog through here every morning, and they leave a lot of dead animals on the floor. It’s wrong, so why is it still happening?”
Slaughter Free NYC launched in January 2020, when local activists learned of a New York City mandate that prohibits issuing new slaughterhouse licenses to any location within 1,500 feet of a residence, which is most of NYC. “The language of this mandate, passed unanimously, illustrates the very reason why all slaughterhouse operations should cease within city limits, not only new businesses,” said Jill Carnegie, a co-organizer of Slaughter Free NYC. “These slaughterhouses not only pose a health threat, but they also jeopardize property values, exploit workers who are mostly undocumented immigrants, and dramatically impact quality of life for neighborhood residents with horrible odors and sounds of animals fighting for their lives.”
Before the vigil began, several activists entered the live market to document the conditions in which the chickens are held prior to slaughter. “You can hear them screaming. They’re intensively confined. They cannibalize each other. They’re dead in the cages,” said Slaughter Free NYC co-organizer Maureen Medina.
The group is flooding the city reporting mechanism, 311, and New York State’s Agriculture and Markets agency with violation complaints. “Live Markets operate in a grey area between multiple city, state, and federal agencies. According to Jill Carnegie, these agencies consistently pass responsibility to each other, leaving these slaughterhouses free to violate the laws and with little to no oversight.
“Slaughterhouses are bad for everyone – animals, workers, communities, and the planet,” added Carnegie, “They have a devastating impact on public health and even undermine our struggles against prejudice, inequality, injustice, and violence.”