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Protest Triggers NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett To Forfeit Presentation at Cornell

May 9, 2018 by 1 comment


The News

Animal rights and public health advocates from several cities in New York state traveled to Ithaca to shut down a presentation being delivered by NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett at Cornell University. The activists have staged four similar disruptions demanding that Dr. Bassett enforce the multiple health codes violated during an annual ritual sacrifice that takes the lives of 60,000 animals; contaminates public streets with their blood and body parts; and jeopardizes the health of the people who live in the neighborhoods where the mass slaughter takes place.

The Cornell Sun wrote an extensive story about the disruption:

The Cornell Sun reports on protest targeting NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett

“Dr. Bassett turns a blind eye to the egregious health code violations because the practitioners of the ritual  represent a powerful voting bloc that helped elect her boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio,” said Jessica Hollander, a NYC activist who participated in the protest. “We can’t stand by silently while politics needlessly compromises public health and subjects tens of thousands of animals to starvation, thirst, physical violence and death.”  The chickens are held in small crates with no food or water for several days before they are swung in the air and slaughtered on the street as part of the Kaporos ritual.

Photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography

In an interview with Boston University’s School of Public Health, Dr. Bassett acknowledged the dilemma that she faces as a public health official operating in a political environment: “Those of us who work in government face the reality of the fact that the people who appoint us have to go back . . . to the ballot box to be reappointed, so there’s always going to be a need for advocacy from people outside of government. For someone who is passionately committed to many issues embraced by advocates, it can be difficult to acknowledge the role that I play as a political appointee.”

Activists shut down NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett’s presentation at Cornell University over her refusal to enforce health codes violated during Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice.

Unsatisfied with Dr. Bassett’s refusal to enforce the health codes, activists have begun targeting her deputy commissioners, arguing that their silence makes them complicit in the illegal mass slaughter. In March and April, they disrupted the public speaking engagements of Assistant Commissioner Oni Blackstock and First Deputy Commissioner Oxiris Barbot.

Activist shut down presentation of Oxiris Barbot, First Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Dept. of Health.

The activists are also targeting the decision makers at institutions that invite Commissioner Bassett to speak. After Sandro Galea, the Dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, failed to respond to two letters asking that he rescind Dr. Bassett’s invitation to speak at a public health forum, the activists accused him of being complicit.

Sandro Galea, Dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, ignored letters from public health and animal rights advocates

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 erected without permits on public streets. 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.

NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett banned yoga with baby goats but allows mass slaughter of baby animals on public streets

In a 25-page affidavit submitted to the court in connection with an ongoing lawsuit about Kaporos, toxicologist Dr. Michael McCabe stated that the risks of the mass slaughter to public health are potentially catastrophic: “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.”

Your Turn

Please sign the Care2 petition demanding that NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett enforces the health codes.


Activists Disrupt NYC Deputy Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot Over Animal Sacrifice

April 26, 2018 by Leave a Comment


The News

As NYC’s First Deputy Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot was delivering the opening remarks at a public health conference in Manhattan, over twenty animal rights and public health advocates disrupted the event until she forfeited her presentation and left the building. The protest was staged as part of an ongoing campaign to compel the NYC’s Department of Health (DOH) to enforce the multiple health codes violated during an annual religious animal sacrifice.

“Dr. Barbot and her boss, Commissioner Mary Bassett, routinely describe themselves as social justice advocates, yet they ignore an atrocity that they have the power to stop,” said Rachel Levy, an activist who has participated in many of the protests. “As far as the community is concerned, Dr. Barbot and all of the other deputy health commissioners are complicit in this illegal massacre of six week old animals.”

Some of the health codes violated during the ritual animal sacrifice Kaporos

Before Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, certain sects of Orthodox Jews recite a prayer to transfer their sins to a live chicken. While reciting the prayer, practitioners of the ritual, which is called Kaporos, swing a chicken around their heads three times and then bring it to a shochet, or religious slaughterer, who slices her throat and bleeds her out into the street in an upside down traffic cone.

“These chickens know nothing but pain, neglect and deprivation during their six weeks of life on a factory farm, but their last few days are probably the worst, as they are intensively confined in crates on the streets of Brooklyn with no food or water,” said Roberto Bonelli from the animal rights group Animals Battalion.

During Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, certain sects of ultra-Orthodox Jews swing chickens around their heads while saying a prayer to transfer their sins to the animal.

In response to the protests and media inquiries, the DOH issued the following public statement about Kaporos: “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 statement does not address the health code violations or a toxicology report commissioned by the affected communities which explicitly warns the city of the risks that Kaporos poses to the public.

After Kaporos practitioners swing the chickens in the air by their wings, they slice their throats in pop-up slaughterhouses erected on public streets

“The city ignores the violations and aids and abets in the mass killing because the communities that partake in this ritual represent a powerful voting bloc,” said Donny Moss, a grass roots animal rights organizer in NYC. “Oxiris Barbot and Mary Bassett are putting politics ahead of public health, leaving activists no choice but to protest on behalf of the human and animal victims of their dereliction of duty.”


Neighbors Lash Out as New Yorkers Protest at Home of Health Commissioner Mary Bassett Over Mass Animal Sacrifice

April 17, 2018 by 6 comments


The News

After months of being stonewalled by NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett, New Yorkers advocating for a ban on a ritual animal sacrifice that violates seven public health codes have taken their plea to her front doorstep. While many of Commissioner Bassett’s neighbors have expressed their support for the protests, others are lashing out:

“We’re surprised by the rage expressed of some of Commissioner Bassett’s neighbors because we are protesting for just 1.5 hours every few weeks without any sound amplification,” said Linda Mann, an activist who participated in the protest.

NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett watches from her window as New Yorkers protest her ongoing refusal to enforce the health codes violated during a mass animal sacrifice called Kaporos

During the animal sacrifice, which is called Kaporos, ultra-Orthodox Jews swing live chickens around their heads while saying a prayer to transfer their sins to the chicken. After the ritual, the chickens’ throats are sliced in one of the approximately 30 pop-up slaughterhouses erected for the ritual on public streets.

“The chickens, who are just six weeks old, are held in crates for several days with no food or water,” said Rina Deych, a Brooklyn resident who lives in a neighborhood where chickens are killed and bled out into the streets. “In 2017, thousands of these babies slowly died from starvation, thirst and heat exhaustion before they were even used in the ritual, and their bodies were stuffed into garbage bags and dumped onto the sidewalk.”

In 2015, The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and 19 NYC residents sued the 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 plaintiffs are asking the judges to mandate that the city agencies enforce the laws. The case is pending at the Court of Appeals, which is the highest court in the state of New York.

Public health and animal rights activists protest at the home of NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett who defends a mass animal sacrifice that violates multiple public health codes.

In response to the activists pleas, Commissioner Bassett issued a two sentence statement defending the practice. The statement makes no reference to health code violations or the toxicology report submitted to the court that states that Kaporos jeopardizes public health by exposing New Yorkers to e-coli, salmonella and many other toxins and pathogens.

In a letter to advocates, NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett dismisses the toxicology report that states that killing 60,000 animals on public sidewalks poses a public health risk to New Yorkers.


See How Onlookers React to 2018 Veggie Pride Parade in NYC

April 11, 2018 by 2 comments


The News

As hundreds of New Yorkers took to the streets to march in the 2018 Veggie Pride Parade, many onlookers spoke on camera, giving their honest feedback about the parade and its message.


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