On June 8th, approximately 150 animal rights activists staged a protest at the Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the American Triple Crown. According to the advocacy group Horseracing Wrongs, the protest, which attracted activists from as far as 150 miles away, was the largest ever at a race track.
During the protest, Patrick Batuello, the director of Horseracing Wrongs, spoke to TheirTurn about why the organization is working to abolish the horse racing industry.
“From the moment race horses are born, they are abused creatures. They are torn from their mothers as mere babes. Their bodies are pounded years before they are done forming. They’re intensively confined. They’re socially isolated. They’re drugged, doped and beaten with whips. They’re bought, sold, traded and dumped like common Ebay products and, of course, they’re killed routinely.”
While not unusual, the death of 35 horses since December at California’s Santa Anita racetrack has, for the first time, triggered mainstream public discourse about the ethics and future of horse racing in the United States. In a June 11th editorial (“We are Running Out of Ways to Tell Santa Anita to Stop Racing”), the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Over time, Americans have to decide how much death they are willing to tolerate in this ancient sport.”
According to Horseracing Wrongs, an estimated 2,000 horses die on the tracks or during training each year.
Horseracing Wrongs will be staging protests throughout July and August during the upcoming races at the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York. In addition, the organization is, in the coming months, sponsoring protests in 16 states at 22 tracks.
On June 1st, over 1,000 activists took to the streets of San Francisco to participate in the second annual Animal Liberation March. Viewed by thousands of people around the world on Facebook livestreams, the march sent onlookers a message that animals exist for their own purposes and should not be exploited for food, clothing, entertainment or experimentation.
Over 1,000 animal liberation activists took to the streets of San Francisco to participate in Direct Action Everywhere’s Second Annual Animal Liberation March
Along the parade route, TheirTurn spoke to onlookers to get their reactions:
The Animal Liberation March was one of several mass demonstrations organized by the grassroots animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) as part of its annual Animal Liberation Conference in Berkeley, California.
Vegan ultra runner Robbie Balenger ran from Los Angeles to New York City in 75 days, stopping along the way to educate mesmerized onlookers about the health and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. At the finish line in Central Park, Balenger spoke to TheirTurn about his epic journey and the impact he and his team had on the people they met along the way.
Runner’s World, one of the media outlets that reported on Balenger’s expedition, published an in-depth story:
Public health and animal welfare advocates staged a protest in the lobby of the New York City Department of Health, pleading with City health officials to shut down Kaporos, an illegal mass animal sacrifice that takes place in the same Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods stricken by the measles outbreak.
During Kaporos, an annual atonement ritual, practitioners kill an estimated 60,000 chickens in open-air slaughterhouses erected without permits and contaminate the streets of Williamsburg and other Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods with blood, feces and body parts. Seven health codes are violated during the ritual.
According to a toxicologist who studied fecal and blood samples taken during Kaporos, the ritual “constitutes a dangerous condition” and “poses a significant public health hazard.” In recent years, several New Yorkers who did not partake in the ritual contracted E. coli and campylobacter after coming into contact with these contaminants. Advocates believe that many Kaporos practitioners have also gotten sick but that the insular Hasidic communities would not report the illnesses to the Department of Health.
During the protest, which took place on May 23rd, advocates distributed hundreds of handouts to DOH employees, drawing their attention to the measles outbreak and asking them to enforce the laws violated during Kaporos in order to prevent the outbreak of other infectious diseases, such as avian flu. While many DOH employees were dismissive of the advocates, dozens expressed their support with a discreet thumbs up or a brief remark in passing. Several employees said that they could not express their support of the advocates’ concerns with their supervisors for fear of retribution.
On April 9th, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the Health Commissioner, held a press conference to announce a public health emergency due to the measles outbreak. Many advocates campaigning against the mass animal sacrifice believed that the measles emergency would serve as a “wake up call,” compelling her to take measures to prevent the potential outbreak of other diseases in the same Hasidic Jewish communities affected by measles. However, during a public health forum held at the City University of New York on April 1st, 2019, Dr. Barbot stated that she would continue to allow the sacrifice to take place. “In our work addressing public health issues in a number of different communities, we take an approach that matches the intervention to the degree that people are getting sick,” said Dr. Barbot. “I don’t see us making any change in our current practice in that area.”
Tens of thousands of chickens used in the ritual sacrifice Kaporos are bled out into traffic cones after their throats are sliced in open air slaughterhouses erected without permits on public streets. (photo: Unparalleled Suffering Photography)
An attorney advising the advocates believes that Dr. Barbot’s decision to ignore the health code violations exposes the city to liability. “Apart from the extraordinary risk at which the Mayor and Health Commissioner are placing New York’s residents, the City faces enormous liability should someone become sick or even die as a result of Kaporos,” said Bonnie Klapper, a former federal prosecutor. “The financial cost, which would be borne by all New Yorkers in the event of a money judgement, should certainly compel the City to enforce its own health laws.”
Public health and animal welfare advocates protest NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot over her refusal to enforce the 7 health codes violated during the mass ritual animal sacrifice Kaporos
Advocates say that the Health Commissioner turns a blind eye to the health code violations because the Hasidic Jewish practitioners of Kaporos comprise a powerful voting bloc for her boss, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for president.