Jabari Brisport, a 32-year old Brooklyn native, has spent his entire life in New York City, but now he’s setting his sights on Albany, the state capital. The Caribbean American public school teacher, who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, is running for State Senate to help make New York City a more humane home for all of its residents – human and non-human.
During an interview with TheirTurn, Brisport describes his progressive platform, which includes reforming New York City’s housing, education, health care and criminal justice systems. He has an equally ambitious agenda for the animals, including a statewide ban on the sale of fur and ending dairy subsidies.
Jabari Brisport’s campaign is featured in the New York Post
As a college freshman at NYU, Brisport was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack while walking in Greenwich Village with his black boyfriend. During the interview, he explains why this traumatic experience compelled him to become an advocate not only for minorities but also for animals.
Jabari Brisport, candidate for New York State Senate in 2020, protests at the opening of the Canada Goose store in 2019.
Brisport is running in the 25th State Senate district, which includes Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Red Hook, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The primary election takes place on June 23, 2020.
During the 2019 Kaporos, an annual ritual slaughter that takes place in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, several teams of animal rights activists in New York City rescued 211 chickens who were hours away from being killed in makeshift slaughterhouses erected in Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The rescues were organized by the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION).
The activists brought the chickens to a triage center where they provided them with food, water and, in some cases, acute medical care, before transporting them to farm animal sanctuaries around the country. Eight chickens were taken to veterinarians for emergency surgery due to broken wings and other life-threatening injuries.
Jill Carnegie with the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos transports a rescue to the triage site.
Jill Carnegie, the Campaign Strategist for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and an organizer of the rescues, said that the number of chickens who activists rescued was determined by the space available in farm animal sanctuaries: “We spent several months securing quality homes for the chickens. Since Cornish Cross birds are some of the most genetically-altered animals, they require specialized care. Each year, we can only rescue the number of chickens we can confirm homes for to avoid a potentially catastrophic scenario; we put in many hours of placement work so that we can save as many lives as possible. We wish we could have saved more.”
Activists estimate that over 100,000 chickens are trucked into the city and stored in crates on the street for up to several days with no food or water
With an estimated 300,000 Hasidic Jews in New York City, activists believe that well over 100,000 chickens are used and killed each year. During Kaporos in 2019, thousands of chickens died of hunger, thirst, sickness and heat exhaustion in the crates where they were being stored before the ritual even began.
During Kaporos, hundreds of activists provide watermelon and water to thousands of chickens stacked in crates on the streets of Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York
During Kaporos, practitioners swing six-week old chickens around their heads while reciting a prayer to symbolically transfer their sins to the animal. The vast majority of the chickens are then killed in open-air slaughterhouses, leaving the streets contaminated with their blood, body parts, feces and feathers. In 2015, an attorney suing the City on behalf of area residents hired a toxicologist to test the contaminants. In his report, Dr. Michael McCabe concluded that Kaporos “constitutes a dangerous condition and poses a significant public health hazard.”
Mayor de Blasio’s Health Commissioners have refused to address a toxicology report that outlines the risk posed by the mass slaughter of over 100,000 animals on public streets during Kaporos.
Advocates have, on multiple occasions, sent the toxicology report to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the head of Infectious Disease Control at the NYC Department of Health, and to Drs. Oxiris Barbot and Mary Bassett, the City’s current and former health commissioners. Activists speculate that they have refused to acknowledge the correspondence because they could be liable if and when a disease outbreak does occur. Nora Constance Marino Esq., the attorney, argued the case to the State’s highest court — Court of Appeals. In their ruling in 2018, the six judges wrote that city agencies have discretion with respect to the laws they choose to enforce.
During Kaporos, over 100,000 chickens are slaughtered on public streets in residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, exposing area residents to E. coli, campylobacter and many other pathogens and toxins
In recent years, resistance to the use of live chickens has been building in the Hasidic Jewish communities. In discussions with animal protection advocates, many Kaporos practitioners have acknowledged that the mass commercialization of the ritual has led to systemic abuses that violate “Tza’ar ba’alei chayim,” a Jewish commandment that bans causing animals unnecessary suffering.
“As long as this cruel ritual slaughter takes place, we will continue rescuing as many of the victims as we can before they are slaughtered,” said Jill Carnegie. “One day, the use of live animals for the ritual will come to an end, either because the Department of Health decides to enforce its own laws in order to prevent the spread of an infectious disease or, more likely, because a disease outbreak occurs.”
Natasha Brenner, an animal rights activist in NYC, celebrated her 98th birthday with friends. While homemade vegan lasagna for her birthday party was cooking in the oven, Natasha spoke to TheirTurn about why she went vegan and became an animal rights activist in her mid-70s.
After a press conference announcing a resolution calling on the New York City government to stop buying meat and other products from companies deforesting the Amazon, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told TheirTurn that NYC schools should serve children plant-based meals to improve their health and to protect the planet.
“I think it’s so important that we engage in a real conversation about climate change and not not try to sugarcoat the issue. To talk about fossil fuel burning, to talk about tailpipes in cars and vehicles – yes, that’s fine. But the real culprit is the overconsumption of meat, the overconsumption of beef. We were successful in NYC where we got processed meats out of our schools and a 50% beef reduction, but we need to go further. We need to get all meat out of our schools. All cheese. All dairy products . . . out of the schools.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is using his platform to reduce meat and dairy consumption in schools while promoting plant-based alternatives.
While Borough President Adams has, for the past several years, used his position to promote a plant-based diet for better health, the Amazon fires have provided him with a platform to promote the benefits to the planet of eliminating meat, dairy and other animal products from schools. “Everyone is being saved when we start feeding our children the right food.”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams holds a press conference at City Hall calling for the City to stop buying meat from companies that are burning down the Amazon in order to graze cattle and grow crops to feed them.
Borough President Adams is expected to run for Mayor of New York City in 2020.
In spite of being heralded as one of the most progressive cities in the United States, New York has lagged behind several other major cities in advancing the rights of animals. In fact, from 2006 to 2013, at a time when animal rights was beginning to be embraced by the mainstream public, the most powerful lawmaker in New York City, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, blocked every meaningful legislative effort to improve even the basic welfare of animals. In recent years, however, a new crop of lawmakers in New York City has championed both animal welfare and animal rights legislation.
The City Council passed its first signature animal rights bill, a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, in 2017. To the delight of animal rights activists and many City Council members, that historic moment was upstaged on October 30th, 2019, when the Council passed a package of 11 bills and resolutions to help companion animals, wild animals and animals killed for food. During the vote, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the most animal-friendly Speaker in the Council’s history, gleefully stated, “The Council will be voting on a lot of bills – a lot of bills and resolutions that will strengthen our existing animal welfare laws in New York City.”
PETA president Ingrid Newkirk is force fed during a foie gras protest at Fortnum & Mason, a gourmet food store in London
The most controversial of the bills was a ban on sale of foie gras in restaurants and stores. According to the New York Times, an estimated 1,000 restaurants sell foie gras in New York City, which is arguably the gastronomic capital of the country. In spite of the risk of criticism from the prominent chefs and the media, City Council Member Carlina Rivera introduced and championed the legislation.
In addition to being force fed until their livers swell to ten times their normal size, ducks and geese killed for foie gras are raised in factories where these aquatic animals have no access to water.
In 2006, Council Member Alan Gerson attempted to introduce a foie gras ban, but Speaker Christine Quinn, who notoriously controlled the city’s legislative agenda, blocked it before other Council Members could even weigh in. A 2007 New York Times story about foie gras protests at Fairway made reference to this incident. In stark contrast to Speaker Quinn, the current Speaker, Corey Johnson, supported Council Member Rivera’s bill to ban foie gras sales.
Matt Dominguez and Allie Feldman Taylor from Voters for Animal Rights flank Carlina Rivera, the NYC Council Member who introduced the bill to ban the sale of foie gras.
While the animal rights community credits the current City Council for passing laws to protect animals, the historic foie gras bill would not have been introduced, much less passed, by the City Council, were it not for a two year campaign waged by Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR), a group that advocates for animal rights legislation in NYC. With the support of hundreds of grass roots animal rights activists, VFAR organizers Allie Feldman Taylor and Matt Dominguez partnered with animal rights groups, veterinarians, and restaurants to create a coalition of supporters who lobbied City Council members and educated the public about the cruelty associated with the production of foie gras.
David Chang, the founder of the Momofuku restaurant group, criticizes the City Council for passing the bill to ban the sale of foie gras.
After working with Council Member Rivera to get the bill introduced, VFAR supporters, led by Taylor and Dominguez, lobbied the members of the City Council’s Health Committee, which is where the bill was assigned for review. On the day of the Committee vote, the Chair, Council Member Mark Levine, made an impassioned speech suggesting that lawmakers have an ethical mandate to protect animals: “As society evolves, we have a right to expect business practices evolve as well. I am incredibly proud that this City Council has begun to put empathy for the suffering of animals front and center on our agenda, and, more importantly, that we are translating that empathy into tangible policy, smart policy for the animals in this city and beyond. And that does mean changing the food we consume and changing the food production system.”
After the votes for the foie gras ban were counted, the animal rights activists in the City Council chambers rejoiced, not only because hundreds of thousands of birds will be spared from force feeding, but also because the City Council sent a strong message to the public that lawmakers are now recognizing the plight of animals and the need for laws to protect them. “We’ve seen a tremendous shift in the compassionate consciousness of our City Council Members,” said Taylor. “It’s a new day for animal rights in New York City.”