NYC Renews Ban on New Storefront Slaughterhouses

Originally published on Care2.

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 become 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: brandi666

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I’m on Fox TV Defending Lawsuit Against Zoo

Recently I appeared on the Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co. to defend a lawsuit against a Los Angeles zoo that neglects its elephants and cages them in conditions that harm their health.

An L.A. Times article about the suit notes that Billy, the elephant at issue in court, has been at the zoo for “much of his 27 years.” While elephants roam for up to 18 hours a day in the wild, the elephants at the L.A. Zoo have only three acres to walk in. As a result of this and other inadequate conditions in the “exhibit,” including hard ground, Billy suffers from overweight, cracked toes, and weary joints. Perhaps most disturbing, the Times reports that “Billy bobs his head for hours,” a clear sign of significant distress.

The L.A. Zoo is not alone. An article in Scientific American, titled “How Zoos Kill Elephants,” reports on a study published in Science providing “the strongest evidence to date that zoo life is harmful to an elephant’s health.” The study found that African elephants’ life expectancy is 36 years in a Kenyan national park, but just 17 years in zoos. The numbers are similar for Asian elephants.

Baby elephants are in as much danger as the adults. “Infant mortality in Asian elephants is as much as three times higher in zoos than in native protected areas,” the Scientific American article notes.

Elephants commonly suffer from obesity and stress in zoos, both of which “are likely factors” in their “early demise in captivity,” according to a study described in National Geographic News. (The same article reports that female African elephants’ life expectancy is 56 years in the wild, 20 years longer than the study summarized in Scientific American.)

Check out the video to see what Fox personalities asked and said about the topic of closing zoos generally and specifically removing elephants from zoos.

Photo Credit: clio1789

An Open Letter to the Women Sitting Behind Me at “The Avengers”

Filmmaker Joss Whedon is among the greatest feminist talents of our time, “Dollhouse” notwithstanding. I don’t usually go for action flicks but this was Joss, on the big screen – so I had to see “The Avengers.” I paid double for the 3-D.

My husband and I arrived early and got plum seats towards the back. The theater filled up. Once the movie started there was no chance of switching seats had we wanted to. And the time came when we really, really wanted to.  

I never saw their faces, the women who spoiled Joss’s big-budget extravaganza for me. There was no need to see them to know that they were cinematic barbarians, seemingly convinced that the movie would benefit from a Greek chorus and inaudible dialogue. They took it upon themselves to remedy these omissions.

But you just don’t mess with the master. You shut up and revel in the brilliance and humor of his art. And for goodness’ sake, you never, ever add a Greek chorus to a movie featuring the Nordic gods Thor and Loki. Let’s get our mythology straight, people.

Their confusion didn’t end there. “What does she mean, she has red in her ledger?” one of them demanded. Oh Lord, who graduated this crew out of the G rating?

Then there was the seat-kicking. There was narrating. There was actual giggling. They were screaming, they were howling, they were gabbing inanely.

Now, Joss knows how to get a reaction. There were moments when the whole theater laughed, or screamed just a little – strictly involuntarily, you understand. But these women shrieked and hooted at every excuse of an opportunity, as though public movie viewing were a competitive vocalizing sport or a platform for personal self-expression. They kibitzed like they were in Starbucks doing the post-mortem. And they did it louder than the movie, no mean feat in these days of ear-bleeding surround sound. I longed for closed captions so they wouldn’t be able to steal another word from me.

Don’t tell me that watching violence doesn’t make people want to wreak some. Awash in nearly non-stop CGI-assisted glorified mayhem, I longed for Thor’s hammer and the guts to turn around and take every one of the cretins down. Or even for the guts to say “shhh.” But that would only lead to more and louder vocalizing, probably directed at me, which would make me miss more of Joss’s brilliance. Muscles tensed for battle, I fumed silently.

I never saw their faces. They left while I stayed for the credits. As I walked out minutes later, in the din of the theater, I let out one primal scream to answer the noise they had inflicted on me (my apologies to the startled usher sweeping the aisle nearby). They were gone but they will always be a part of that screenplay for me, as will a rise in my blood pressure and an unattractive sneer.

Joss, save me from your novice followers.

Photo credit: world of andrew woodyatt

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