On Good Friday, 15 animal rights activists occupied a slaughterhouse in Brooklyn in an effort to draw public attention to the lambs who are killed for Easter dinner. They remained inside until the police arrived 20 minutes later. While they were unable to rescue any animals, they did capture footage of lambs and goats in their final moments.
“We wanted to appeal to the conscience of the management during the holiday weekend by giving them the chance to spare two lives,” said Jill Carnegie, one of the protest organizers. “Even with the theme of “new life” spanning multiple belief systems, they refused. As a result, we felt compelled to occupy their place of business.”
Animal rights activists ask slaughterhouse owner to show mercy during the Easter holiday by giving them two lambs.
During the Easter holiday weekend, animal rights activists around the world took to social media to address the inconsistency of eating animals during Easter, a holiday that celebrates life. Almost 1,000 people shared words of wisdom posted by vegan spokesperson Ed Winters, also known as Earthling Ed.
“The cultural tradition of butchering lambs for Easter is so brutally contradictory with our cultural fondness of lambs. Lambs are found in so many things related to human children – books, toys, clothes, decor, nursery rhymes and fairytales. We connect them with our own children as they are full of innocence and life.
Sheep have a deep bond with their young, and lambs are known to form very close relationships with their mothers. Sheep, like all maternal parents (human and non-human), get distressed when they can’t find their children. So the sheep whose children are used for lamb ‘production’ suffer huge amounts of grief and turmoil when their babies are taken from them year after year. We eat babies in the name of tradition, and we destroy families in the name of peace. This isn’t in our nature, as we would never take a child to a slaughterhouse to witness how a ‘leg of lamb’ arrived at the family dinner table.
Easter is a celebration of life, so why must so many suffer and die? Blood does not need to be shed in order for us to celebrate. The foundations of so many of our traditions come from the idea of unity and togetherness, so indeed today and everyday let us live by those values and pledge to not only live in unity with our own species, but all species.”
During a public health forum held at the City University of New York on April 1st, 2019, NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot stated that she would continue to allow a mass animal sacrifice that takes place in Hasidic Jewish communities before Yom Kippur. Dr. Barbot delivered the remarks in response to an audience member who asked if the Department of Health would begin to enforce the health codes violated during the sacrifice, called Kaporos, in light of the reports of E. coli infection and a measles outbreak in the same community.
“In our work addressing public health issues in a number of different communities, we take an approach that matches the intervention to the degree that people are getting sick,” said Dr. Barbot. “I don’t see us making any change in our current practice in that area.”
Advocates say that Dr. Barbot’s response, which did not acknowledge the health code violations or the reports of E. coli, affirmed their fears that the Health Department will continue to wait for a disease outbreak to occur before enforcing the seven health codes that are violated.
During Kaporos, the blood, feces and body parts of thousands of chickens contaminate the streets of the same Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods that are now experiencing a measles outbreak. The Kaporos ritual violates 7 city health codes.
In response to Dr. Barbot’s remarks and her announcement that the City was declaring a public health emergency due to the measles outbreak, numerous public health and animal welfare advocates staged an impromptu rally at City Hall to draw attention to the City’s ongoing refusal to take measures to prevent the outbreak of another potentially lethal disease in the same community – an outbreak that would likely spread outside of the Hasidic communities where the public slaughter takes place. ABC News reported on the advocates’ rally as part of its coverage of the measles outbreak. Following is an excerpt:
For the past 1.5 years, public health and animal welfare advocates have protested Dr. Barbot and other city health officials over their refusal to enforce the multiple health codes violated during Kaporos. During the ritual, an estimated 60,000 chickens are trucked into Brooklyn, held outdoors in crates for up to a week and killed in approximately 30 open air slaughterhouses erected without permits on residential streets. The blood, feces and body parts of the chickens contaminate the sidewalks and streets during the ritual and in the days that follow, exposing New Yorkers to E. coli, coliform and other pathogens and toxins, according to a renowned toxicologist who collected samples on behalf of area residents suing the DOH and NYPD over their failure to enforce the health codes.
In spite of the toxicology report outlining the public health risks associated with Kaporos, ultra-Orthodox Jewish children work in makeshift slaughterhouses erected for the annual ritual sacrifice without any protection against disease.
In his report, the toxicologist, Dr. Michael McCabe, concluded, “The first-hand observations that I made during my September 21st 2015 Kaporos inspection as well as the photographs that I took and test results confirming high bacterial contamination and unsanitary conditions confirm and strengthen my opinion that within a reasonable degree of professional certainty the Kaporos activities taking place in the subject locations constitute a dangerous condition and pose a significant public health hazard.”
Mayor de Blasio’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, has refused to address or acknowledge the toxicology report that outlines the public health risks posed by the mass slaughter of 60,000 animals on residential streets during Kaporos.
“Mayor de Blasio instructs the Department of Health to defend Kaporos and the health code violations because the Hasidic practitioners of the ritual comprise a powerful voting bloc,” said Donny Moss, an organizer of the Kaporos protests. “But the gravity of the current measles outbreak begs the question — Is the de Blasio administration going to wait for the outbreak of another disease in the Hasidic community before it enforces the City’s own health codes?”
During the past two years, several non-Orthodox people who were exposed to the chickens contracted E. coli. Two of them spoke out during a press conference at City Hall.
Advocates speculate that many Kaporos practitioners also become sick each year due to their exposure to sick and dying chickens, but do not report it.
“Apart from the extraordinary risk at which the Mayor and Health Commissioner are placing New York’s residents, the City faces enormous liability should someone become sick or even die as a result of Kaporos,” said Bonnie Klapper, an attorney advising the advocates. “The financial cost, which would be borne by all New Yorkers in the advent of a money judgement, should certainly compel the City to enforce its own health laws.”
During the 2019 Climate Strike in NYC, hundreds of students took to the streets to demand that world leaders reverse climate change, but the absence of posters and remarks about the impact of animal agriculture suggested that these students were largely unaware of one of leading causes. During the rally and the march, TheirTurn asked several student participants if they knew about the connection between eating animal products and climate change:
“The student activists aren’t addressing the leading cause of climate change, animal agriculture, and perhaps that is because the advocacy groups for the environment haven’t made it a priority,” said Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of the animal advocacy group NYCLASS. “If climate activists aren’t taking the most obvious step to curb climate change, which is adopting a plant-based diet, then how can they expect the mainstream public to take action?”
Climate Strike in NYC, March 15th, 2019
During the rally before the march, Birnkrant asked Jay Inslee, the presidential candidate running on a climate change platform, if he would promote the consumption of less meat. Inslee would not make that commitment. “I’m willing to promote making sure everybody understands this connection,” he said.
Edita Birnkrant asks Jay Inslee, the 2020 presidential candidate running on a climate change platform, if he will encourage Americans to consume less meat.
While most of the Climate Strike attendees were NYC students “on strike” to demand climate action, many adults participated, some of whom were eager to help the students make the connection between animal agriculture and climate change. Among them was Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, who spoke to TheirTurn the impact of animal agriculture on the oceans:
“We’re overfishing the oceans. Forty percent of all the fish caught in the ocean is fed to pigs, chicken and domestic salmon. If we put an end to industrialized fishing, that would go a long way in allowing the ocean to repair itself. If the ocean repairs itself, we can solve this [climate change] problem because the oceans is the regulator of climate – single greatest absorption of CO2. Seventy percent of the production of the oxygen we breathe comes from phytoplankton, and we’ve diminished phytoplankton populations by about 40% since 1950. All of these issues should be addressed, but they’re not getting the attention they deserve.”
The New York Chapter of the Climate Save Movement, which advocates for an end to animal agriculture, participated in the Climate Strike
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year old climate change activist whose activism inspired the global Climate Strikes on March 15th, is vegan. Ms. Birnkrant is hopeful that she will use her global platform to promote climate-friendly plant-based eating.
While cooking and sampling vegan comfort food, four friends spoke honestly about why they haven’t stopped eating animals, in spite of their best intentions. Shecky Beagleman, Danny Cohen, Jodie Wasserman and Rena Zager met in New York City almost 20 years ago when they started doing stand up comedy. Over the years, as they have learned about the impact of eating animals on their health, the planet and the animals, they talked many times about making the transition to a plant-based diet. But all of them have struggled. Will a frank discussion about the challenges coupled with “tuna” sushi, a vegan Caesar Salad and rigatoni with an “unreal” ricotta cheese move them further along?