Slaughterhouses aren’t supposed to be in cities. We expect them to hide in remote, rural areas where the majority of Americans, urban-dwellers that we are, don’t have to think about how living animals became hamburgers and pork loins. Ralph Waldo Emerson admonished, “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” But what if there are no miles, no concealment — what if the slaughterhouse is right next door?
Many city residents could tell you all about it. According to the Humane Society, there are about 80 storefront slaughterhouses, also known as live slaughter markets, in New York City, and they sell 12 to 17 million birds a year. Living near one is unpleasant, to say the least. There is, of course, the potential for spreading avian influenza (see video), but there are more immediate irritants as well. The New York Times described a facility in Brooklyn as emitting “blood, and entrails, and putrid odors,” in addition to the carcasses of birds who arrived very much alive.
Patrick Kwan, New York State Director of The Humane Society of the United States, remembers having to “jump over puddles of blood” when passing the storefront slaughterhouses between his home and his elementary school. He also recalls “garbage bags full of animal guts and entrails on sidewalks, and not to mention the awful smells and cries of the animals.”
Putrid odors and entrails tend to drive down real estate prices and increase constituent complaints, so both houses of the New York legislature passed bipartisan bills (A.9158 and S.6383) that would implement a four-year ban on licensing new live animal slaughter markets within 1,500 feet of a residence in New York City, and Governor Cuomo signed it into law on April 30. The law did not wreak any radical change; it just renewed a 2008 law that is expiring.
The legislation will spare some suffering for both New York City residents and the unfortunate birds who would have ended up in these markets, which are extremely cruel, incredibly gross and without oversight. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “New York City’s live bird markets are infamous for neglecting to adhere to even the most basic animal welfare standards. From the time they arrive from out-of-state producers to the moment of slaughter, these animals receive very little care. Worse, no federal, state or city agency monitors these facilities for potential cruelty, meaning that routine acts of animal cruelty go unreported and undetected.”
The next step is to shut down the live slaughter markets that were grandfathered in and remain open for business in New York City.
Photo Credit: pjah43