As New York City began to shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, approximately twenty public health and animal rights activists staged a rally at City Hall to demand that city and state health authorities shut down the 85 live animal markets and slaughterhouses in NYC. COVID-19, also known as the corona virus, is believed to have jumped to humans from animals being sold in a live animal market in Wuhan, China.
“Live markets, which are storefront slaughterhouses open to the public, are a petri dish of infectious diseases that jeopardize the health of all New Yorkers,” said Jill Carnegie, an organizer with Slaughter Free NYC.
Amid COVID-19 outbreak, public health and animal rights activists are asking New York City and State health officials, including NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot and Assistant Commission Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, to shut down the 85 live animal markets and slaughterhouses in NYC
After the corona virus outbreak was traced back to a “wet market” in Wuhan which sold wild and domesticated animals for meat, the Chinese government is reported to have shuttered live animal markets across the country.
“The pandemic didn’t happen to us; we brought it upon ourselves because we didn’t learn our lesson from bird flu, swine flu, mad cow, SARS and the many other infectious diseases that jumped to humans from the animals who we eat,” said Maureen Medina, an organizer with Slaughter Free NYC. “Mother Nature has sent us so many warnings, and we’ve put bandaids on all of them instead of taking the most obvious measure to prevent them, which is to switch to a plant-base diet.”
An estimated 85 live animal markets in NYC sell cows, chickens, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, rabbits and others animals who they slaughter on site
Slaughter Free NYC and The Save Movement have been staging vigils and conducting educational outreach at live markets in NYC. Organizers hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a wake-up call for elected officials and for the New York City Department of Health and NY State Ag & Markets who have, until now, ignored their pleas to shutter the city’s live markets. Slaughter Free NYC has launched a petition.
Slaughter Free NYC Petition to Shut Down Live Animal Markets and Slaughterhouses in heavily populated five boroughs of New York
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.”
Activists with Slaughter Free NYC stage a protest and conduct educational outreach at a slaughterhouse in upper Manhattan
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?”
At live markets in NYC, customers choose the live animals who the want to buy, and workers slaughter them on site.
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.
Chickens are stored in feces covered cages until they are purchased and slaughtered
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.
After customers select the live chickens who they want to purchase, slaughterhouse workers grab them from their cages and bring them into the back room to be killed
“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.”
On Valentine’s Day, dozens of animal rights activists in New York City staged a silent demonstration in the center of Grand Central Station. Displaying posters with messages of peace, love and nonviolence, activists captured the attention of thousands of commuters and tourists during the afternoon rush hour.
According to the March of Silence, the organization behind the silent demonstrations, participants promote “human rights, animal liberation and environmental conservation.” while silently demonstrating “in solidarity with all who suffer from violence.” The organization’s goal is to “generate peace in the world by bringing awareness to the exploitation of all beings, as well as environmental devastation.” The March of Silence has 19 chapters in five countries, including the United States, France, Mexico, Switzerland and Columbia.
Animal Rights Activists Stage “March of Silence” in Grand Central Station, NYC
“Veganism is not about being angry,” said Kiirstin Marilyn, an organizer with the NYC chapter of the March of Silence. “It really is a love-based movement, so we thought it would be a great thing to come out here on Valentine’s Day.”
Animal Rights activists in New York City participate in a Valentine’s Day March of Silence in solidarity with the human and non-human victims of violence
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.”