As NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett began delivering remarks at a forum about charitable giving on July 21st, activists angered by her refusal to enforce health codes violated during an animal sacrifice shut down her talk. This was the fifth time that activists have disrupted Commissioner Bassett over her support of Kaporos, a religious ritual during which ultra-Orthodox Jews in New York City swing an estimated 60,000 six-week old chickens around their heads and slaughter them, contaminating the streets and sewers with their blood, body parts, feathers and feces. "How can Commissioner Bassett make a presentation in good conscience about taking care of the less fortunate when she's endangering the health of some of NYC's most vulnerable residents?" asked Nathan Semmel, one of the organizers of the disruption. "We know we can't ask Dr. Bassett to align her behavior with the values she publicly espouses, but we can demand that she enforce the law." [caption id="attachment_12306" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A dozen animal rights and public health advocates disrupt NYC Health Commissioner over her refusal to enforce health codes violated during a mass animal sacrifice on public streets.[/caption] The most recent protest comes on the heels of news about the spread of bird flu. On June 15th, Newsweek reported that The Centers for Disease Control said the current strain of avian influenza has "the greatest potential to cause a pandemic of all human viruses." If the flu spreads to the United States, New Yorkers will be particularly vulnerable because tens of thousands of city residents come into contact with the sick and dying chickens who are stacked in crates on the streets for several days leading up to the Kaporos ritual. [caption id="attachment_12300" align="alignnone" width="1024"] NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which includes avian flu as one of many health risks associated with the ritual sacrifice Kaporos (center photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)[/caption] Sources inside the administration say that Commissioner Bassett is refusing to enforce the health laws because the ultra-Orthodox Jews who violate them represent a powerful voting bloc that helped to elect her boss, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. [caption id="attachment_12308" align="alignnone" width="1024"] NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett refuses to acknowledge the multiple health codes are violated during a mass sacrifice of 60,000 six week old chickens on public streets.[/caption] "Not only does Dr. Bassett refuse to enforce the health codes, but she also refuses to acknowledge a toxicology report which unequivocally states that the violations jeopardize the public health by exposing New Yorkers to e-coli, salmonella, avian flu and many other pathogens and toxins," said Jessica Hollander, who participated in the protest. "Her decision to put politics ahead of public health will come back to haunt her if a disease outbreak occurs because she has been warned by experts that the illegal animal sacrifice poses serious health risks." [caption id="attachment_12311" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Multiple health codes are violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice, but NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett turns a blind eye because the practitioners represent a powerful voting bloc.[/caption]
As part of an ongoing campaign to shut down a ritual animal sacrifice that violates multiple health codes, dozens of activists with The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos held a press conference at the headquarters of the NYC Department of Health (DOH) on June 6th to demand that Commissioner Mary Bassett enforce the law. NY1 News covered the story. The press conference, which was held during the lunchtime rush, attracted the attention of hundreds of city employees. While many expressed their support with a “thumbs up,” others averted their eyes. According to supporters at the DOH, city employees refer to the protesters as “the chicken people." [caption id="attachment_12276" align="alignnone" width="1024"] During Kaporos in NYC, an estimated 60,000 chickens are slaughtered, and their blood and body parts contaminate the streets, jeopardizing the public health.[/caption] In October 2017, animal rights and public health advocates launched a campaign targeting the Commissioner Bassett after she defended the use of live chickens based on the absence of "disease signals" without acknowledging the health code violations or the warnings outlined in a toxicology report that was submitted into evidence as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Dept. of Health. Activists say that, to date, Commissioner Bassett has neither refuted the findings of the toxicology report nor challenged the activists' assertion that multiple health codes are violated. [caption id="attachment_11511" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The lawsuit filed by attorney Nora Marino on behalf of residents in the neighborhoods most affected by the animal slaughter is pending in the Court of Appeals, which is NY State's highest court.[/caption] The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos has been attempting to engage with Commissioner Bassett for the past several years. Her refusal to meet with this organization or address the Kaporos controversy triggered grass roots animal rights activists to begin disrupting Commissioner Bassett at her public speaking engagements. Since October, 2017, they have disrupted four of her presentations. In three cases, she left the venue. Sources inside the administration say that Commissioner Bassett is refusing to enforce the health laws because the ultra-orthodox Jews who violate them represent a powerful voting bloc that helped to elect her boss, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio. In fact, Commissioner Bassett publicly addressed her need to prioritize politics ahead over public health in an interview with the Boston University School of Public Health. [caption id="attachment_12277" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Commissioner Bassett admits that she must sometimes prioritize politics ahead of public health.[/caption] During the ritual, called 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 erected without permits on public streets. https://youtu.be/dgDwR9y_18Y 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. [caption id="attachment_12281" align="alignnone" width="1024"] NYC Health Commissioner ignores the multiple health code violations that take place during Kaporos.[/caption]
Wearing fur made Susan Adriensen feel glamorous, but a 2005 trip to Holland, where she received unwanted stares for wearing fur, changed that. When she returned home, Adriensen tucked her two furs in her closet and forgot about them — until she saw a video about fur industry on social media. "I knew my coats were made out of animals, but I never thought about how the fur got from the animal onto my coat," said Adriensen. “When I finally learned about the violence, I felt I decided to say ‘furwell’ to my coats and to make amends.” Over the course of several months in 2017 and 2018, Adriensen, who became an animal rights activist, decided to put her fur coats to good use. In Hoboken, a suburb of NYC, Adriensen and her fellow activists with the group E.A.R.T.H. (Environmentalist Animal Rights Team of Hoboken), laid the fur coats on top of makeshift tombstones and used peoples' interest in the provocative display to educate them about the horrors of the fur industry."
[caption id="attachment_12257" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Susan Adriensen prepares to deliver her fur coats to a wild animal rescue facility in New Jersey.[/caption] “We saw very few full length fur coats, but we encountered hundreds of people wearing fur trim,” said Michal Klein, an activist with E.A.R.T.H. “While we can't change the hearts and minds of everyone who saw us, we do feel like our advocacy compelled some people to remove the trim and to consider animals when buying clothes in the future." When winter ended, Adriensen, Klein and other E.A.R.T.H. activists, delivered the fur coats to a wildlife rehabilitation facility for orphaned animals. Within minutes of their arrival, baby squirrels and opossums were nuzzling in the fur.
[caption id="attachment_12253" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Orphaned wild animals find comfort in fur coats donated to rescue centers and sanctuaries[/caption] "I wish their mothers were alive so that these babies didn’t need to seek comfort in discarded fur, but I’m happy that my furs have been repurposed to give them some comfort,” said Adriensen.
An estimated 1,200 animal rights activists took to the streets of San Francisco to participate in a dramatic march for animal liberation. Organizers made planned stops at Sephora, Uggs and Burger King to draw attention to the cruelty of animals in the cosmetics, clothing and food industries. They also staged a mass die-in to draw attention to the plight of elephants and other animals exploited in the entertainment industry. TheirTurn spoke to onlookers along the parade route to get their reactions: Organized by the global animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), the march was one of several high profile actions staged during the organization's one-week Animal Liberation Conference, which was held in the nearby city of Berkeley. After the march, DxE staged a rally in Union Square featuring renowned activists James Aspey; Natasha from That Vegan Couple and Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of Direct Action Everywhere. [caption id="attachment_12239" align="alignnone" width="1024"] 2018 Animal Liberation March hosted by the animal liberation network, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE)[/caption] The march was organized by the global animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and was one of several high profile actions staged during the organization's one-week Animal Liberation Conference, which was held in the nearby city of Berkeley.
In New York City, hundreds of animal rights activists took to the streets to participate in the global March to Close Down All Slaughterhouses. The 1.5 mile march began with a rally on the steps of the NYC Public Library and ended with a mass die-in in Union Square. New York is one of 37 cities in 16 countries that are participating in the annual march. TheirTurn spoke to onlookers along the parade route to get their reaction to the march and the message. At the rally, Carla Athena Tejada, an animal rights activist who organized the NYC march, told participants: "It is our goal to have others see what we see and know what we know -- that this violence is unnecessary and that we demand the abolition of this exploitation." Kathy Stevens, founder of Catskill Animal Sanctuary, which rescues and advocates for farm animals, said, "If I've learned anything in 17 years of running an animal sanctuary, it is that animals want their lives just as much as we want ours. In the ways that truly matter, we are all the same." [caption id="attachment_12235" align="alignnone" width="1024"] NYC organizer Carla Athena Tejada delivers opening remarks at the rally before the March to Close Down All Slaughterhouses[/caption] According to StopAbattoirs, the organization that coordinates the global marches, 60 billion land animals and more than 1,000 billion aquatic animals are killed each year. That translates to 164 million land animals and almost 3 billion aquatic animals being slaughtered each day. [caption id="attachment_12227" align="alignnone" width="1024"] The 2017 March to Close Down All Slaughterhouses in Paris. The 2018 March takes place on June 23rd (photo: stopabattoirs.org)[/caption]