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Absence of NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Didn’t Stop Activists From Protesting Her Event

April 3, 2018 by 4 comments


The News

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.

Public health and animal rights activists join forces to protest NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett over her refusal to shut down an illegal animal sacrifice called Kaporos

“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.

Two dozen women protest NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett at a Women’s Health Summit, demanding that she enforce public health codes around ritual animal sacrifice

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.

Dr. Mary Bassett refuses to enforce the seven health codes that are violated when ultra-Orthodox Jews slaughter 60,000 chickens in pop-up slaughterhouses on NYC streets.

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.”

The NY Daily News reports on a protest targeting NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett in the lobby of the Department of Health headquarters in Queens


Animal Rights Activists Disrupt U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s Fundraiser

April 2, 2018 by 2 comments


The News

Animal rights activists staged a protest both inside and outside of U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s campaign fundraiser over her ongoing refusal to call off her $50 million plan to lease pandas from China and put them on display in New York City.

“Pandas are wild animals who exist for their own purposes,” said Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of the animal rights group NYCLASS. “They should live freely in the bamboo forests of China, not in a display case in Manhattan.”

Animal rights activists protest U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney over her $50M plan to display pandas in Manhattan

In addition to opposing animal captivity for human entertainment, the activists argue that the Chinese breeding facility from which the pandas will be leased are merely money-making panda mills and that renting pandas fuels the market for captive pandas while doing nothing to conserve pandas in their natural habitat. 

Caretakers at the Chengdu panda breeding facility, the panda mill from which Carolyn Maloney plans to lease pandas, were caught on camera physically abusing panda cubs.

In February 2017, Congresswomen Maloney and her two billionaire backers, John Catsimatidis and Maurice Greenberg, held a “Black & White Panda Ball” at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel to raise money for the project, which is estimated to cost $50 million.  The gala raised approximately $500,000. Her charity, The Pandas are Coming to NYC, continues to raise money.

Animal rights activists in NYC say that displaying wild pandas in an enclosure in Manhattan would be inhumane

In June, 2017, the NYC Council voted to pass a bill to ban the use of exotic animals in performances following an 11 year campaign waged by animal rights activists and supportive lawmakers.  Lawyers are reviewing the language in this bill to see if and how it would affect the display of pandas in an exhibit akin to a roadside zoo.

Your Turn

Please sign the Care2 petition asking U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to call off her plan to import pandas into NYC for display.

Follow No Panda Prison NYC on Facebook.


NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Abandons Presentation During Animal Sacrifice Protest

March 29, 2018 by 2 comments


The News

As 25 activists stormed into the New York Academy of Medicine to disrupt a presentation she was making, NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett collected her coat and exited the building, leaving event organizers and attendees visibly stunned.  This was the third time in recent months that activists have shut down one of Mary Bassett’s presentations.

The activists are protesting Commissioner Bassett over her refusal to enforce the seven or more public health codes that are broken during a ritual animal sacrifice called Kaporos. During Kaporos, ultra-Orthodox Jews recite a prayer to transfer their sins to live chickens before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. While reciting the prayer, practitioners swing the chickens around their heads three times by their fragile wings and then bring them to a slaughterer who slices their throats in illegal pop-up slaughterhouses. Each year, practitioners sacrifice an estimated 60,000 chickens, the majority of whom are bled out into the streets before being thrown in the garbage.

Activists shut down NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett’s presentation at the NY Academy of Medicine

Some of the activists who participate in the disruptions are motivated by the public health risks because the  streets and sidewalks near their homes are contaminated with the blood, body parts and feces of thousands of dead and dying chickens.

Mary Bassett, the Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Health, refuses to enforce the the health codes that are violated during a ritual animal sacrifice called Kaporos. (photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)

Other activists who are participating in this campaign are motivated by animal cruelty. Before being swung in the air and slaughtered, the chickens are held in crates for up to several days with no food, water or protection from weather extremes. In 2017, activists documented thousands of chickens who died in their crates from starvation, thirst and exposure before the ritual sacrifice took place.

The blood, body parts and feces of thousands of chickens contaminate the streets for several days, which, according to a toxicology report, jeopardizes the health of people who live in the neighborhoods where the ritual sacrifice takes place.

Activists speculate that Commissioner Bassett condones the practice, in spite of the health code violations and a toxicology report outlining the public health risks, because ultra-Orthodox Jews represent one of the most powerful voting blocs in NYC.

Kaporos practitioners swing live chickens in the air by their fragile wings and then slaughter them on public streets

In response to media inquiries, Dr. Bassett’s office puts out the following statement:  “We have not found Kaporos to be a significant public health threat — our surveillance has shown no increase in illness — and this ritual is an important practice for some Orthodox Jews.”

Activists protest Mary Bassett in front of her home over her refusal to enforce the seven health codes violated during the annual Kaporos massacre of 60,000 chickens in NYC.

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. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the police are not only ignoring the violations, but they are also “aiding and abetting” in the crimes by providing the ritual practitioners with flood lights, barricades, security and the orange cones in which the chickens are bled out. 

Activists have vowed to escalate the campaign targeting Commissioner Bassett and her staff if she doesn’t enforce her own agency’s regulations.


Activists Shut Down NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett’s Presentation

March 19, 2018 by 4 comments


The News

During the opening session of a global health disparities conference at the New York Hilton, 20 activists stormed the stage and shut down the presentation of NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett over her ongoing refusal to enforce the multiple health codes violated during a mass animal sacrifice that takes place for one week each year on public streets.

As the activists unfurled a banner behind her, Dr. Bassett apologized to the audience and forfeited her presentation. The disruption, which continued for about seven minutes after Dr. Bassett exited the ballroom, took place just 15 hours after many of the same activists shut down another presentation she was making at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Mary Bassett exits the stage at a global public health conference as activists unfurl “Do Your Job” banner behind her.

While some of the protesters are participating in the disruptions because they live in neighborhoods that are contaminated with the blood, body parts and feces of dead and dying animals, the majority are animal rights activists.

“The tens of thousands of animals who are mercilessly tortured each year during the Kaporos ritual sacrifice owe a debt of gratitude to their allies at the Department of Health and in law enforcement who helped us orchestrate this complicated disruption at the Hilton,” said organizer Donny Moss. “Once caring people see the footage of six-week old chickens crying in crates where they slowly die of starvation and thirst, they want to help.”

Kaporos practitioners in Brooklyn swing and slaughter an estimated 60,000 chickens (Photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)

During Kaporos, ultra-Orthodox Jews swing live chickens around their heads in a symbolic transfer of their sins to the animals prior to the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur. After the ritual, the chickens are killed in pop-up slaughterhouses. While most of the dead and dying chickens are stuffed into garbage bags and hauled away by the NYC Dept. of Sanitation, many end up in the streets, on the sidewalks and in the sewers.

In a statement provided to the media in early March, the DOH defended the practice. “We have not found Kaporos to be a significant public health threat — our surveillance has shown no increase in illness — and this ritual is an important practice for some Orthodox Jews.”  The DOH did not address the health code violations or the toxicology report which explicitly warns the city of the risks that Kaporos poses to the public.

Mary Bassett is turning a blind eye to Kaporos, an annual ritual massacre during which 60,000 chickens are slaughtered in Brooklyn alone.

In a 25 page affidavit submitted to the court in connection with an ongoing lawsuit about Kaporos, toxicologist Dr. Michael McCabe provided the following expert opinion:  “The high levels of total coliform bacteria and E. coli present confirm that the Kaporos activities produce unsanitary conditions in . . . public spaces . . ..  It is my opinion with a reasonable degree of toxicology, immunology and environmental health sciences certainty, that based on the evidence set forth . . . that the Kaporos activities taking place in the subject locations as described constitute a dangerous condition and thereby pose a significant public health hazard and could be catastrophic.” 

The NY Daily News reports on a protest targeting Commissioner Mary Bassett

During the week of Kaporos in 2017, a group of activists discovered garbage bags filled with hundreds of chickens who died of starvation and thirst before being used in the ritual sacrifice.  Many vowed in that moment to hold Commissioner Bassett accountable for failing to enforce the many laws that would prohibit such extreme cruelty.

Ironically, the activists disrupted Dr. Bassett’s presentation at the health disparities conference just as she was making remarks about the need to fight for justice.

“Dr. Bassett publicly critiques disparities in health systems, yet she sends her lawyers to court to defend health code violations that jeopardize some of New York’s poorer residents,” said activist Nathan Semmel. “I doubt she would defend these violations if they occurred on her own block.”


Activist Group in New York Targets Mayor Bill de Blasio over Failure to Help Carriage Horses

March 15, 2018 by 1 comment


The News

NYCLASS, the animal rights group leading the fight to help the carriage horses in NYC, staged a protest at City Hall to demand that Mayor de Blasio provide some relief to the horses if he is not going to fulfill his campaign promise to take horse-drawn carriages off of the streets of midtown.

According to Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of NYCLASS, “Mayor de Blasio can act now on his own to help the carriage horses, yet he hasn’t lifted a finger.  We desperately need stepped up enforcement on the streets; an update of the antiquated, inadequate laws on the books to improve the welfare and safety of the horses; and a change in the way the carriage horses operate. Too many crashes occur because horse-drawn carriages operate in heavily trafficked areas, such as Central Park South and Times Square. Just last month, three tourists from Texas were sent to the hospital after the horse pulling their carriage spooked, threw the driver from the carriage, and bolted down Central Park South before crashing into parked cars. Carriage horses also still have no protection from being sent to slaughter. This is all taking place under the Mayor’s watch. It’s a disgrace.”

Advocates argue that horses should not be pulling carriages anywhere in the congested streets of NYC, much less Times Square

When running for Mayor, Bill de Blasio made an explicit campaign pledge to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan on the grounds that they are inhumane and unsafe. He also publicly declared that, in his administration, animal rights would move into the mainstream. As a result of his promises, the animal advocacy community in NYC rallied behind him, helping him get elected.

The animal rights group NYCLASS stages a rally at City Hall to demand that the Mayor help NYC’s beleaguered carriage horses.

“We feel betrayed,” said Jill Carnegie, campaigns director at NYCLASS. “We moved mountains to help Mayor de Blasio get elected, but the animals who he promised to help are in worse shape now than before he took office.”

Horse-drawn carriage operators are prohibited from working in inclement weather, but the city does not enforce the laws.

Your Turn

Join NYCLASS on Facebook and sign up for action alerts on NYCLASS.org to stay apprised of and participate in the group’s effort to help NYC’s carriage horses