Machipongo, Va. – “Inside a Live Poultry Market” is a new video by United Poultry Concerns (UPC) that shows the horrible conditions at the Ely Live Poultry market on Ely Street in the Bronx, New York. Armed with a video camera on December 22, 2003, a New York State resident taped events at the market including grossly inhumane slaughter of chickens in the back room (slicing jugular veins and missing the carotid arteries).
The 10-minute video shows filth, squalor, and callous indifference to animal suffering, including a customer with a little girl telling a slaughterer weighing a rabbit to “kill the fucker.” Another man comments on the stench as meanwhile the camera reveals chickens, pigeons, and other birds, many of them obviously sick and half dead (at least one bird is shown dead and bloody in a transport crate), packed in cages and crates without food or water awaiting their death. In the slaughter room, two pitiful hens stand in a sink while men slice the throats of other chickens and shove them into bleedout holes. The dying birds’ legs pedal and thrash violently in the air, and one slaughtered hen leaps out of the hole alive onto the floor.
New York live bird markets are the endpoint for millions of “spent” (sick and older) birds each year. Markets in New York and New Jersey sell 80 million chickens a year. Many so-called free-range birds end up in these places. According to New York State Veterinarian Dr. John Huntley, a “root source” of birds for these markets is poultry auctions. In a phone interview with UPC President Karen Davis on May 24, 1995, Dr. Huntley said the “immediate origin” of the birds includes other live poultry markets, flocks being depopulated, and backyard operations. The markets sell “all types of fully grown birds, a lot of spent fowl.” Many, he said, come from Gingrich in Pennsylvania,” and Gingrich’s birds “come from many sources.” He said “the biggest factor not under control” is the origin of the birds arriving via Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets: “We don’t know the state of origin,” Dr. Huntley told UPC.
Live markets spread avian influenza (AI), strains of which can be passed to humans. The virus passes among birds via droppings and breathing of sick birds. New York’s live bird markets are linked to frequent US AI outbreaks, and “Inside a Live Poultry Market” offers a glimpse of why. Sick, stressed, malnourished and dehydrated birds, having traveled through various assembling locations for hours and days, arrive at these hellholes to die. Federal and state inspections, to the extent they occur, merely “monitor the status of the birds” (whatever that means), according to New York Department of Agriculture & Marketing officials who told UPC that no one traces what happens to birds who are not sold, while market “refuse” is “handled as typical garbage.”
The investigator said that on the day she filmed, two days before Christmas, “no questions were asked about the camera,” indicating that no one expected anyone to care how the animals at the market are treated. “In this closed warehouse,” she said,” with no windows or ventilation, there is a gruesome smell of death and an overall forlorn atmosphere amongst the waiting birds, interrupted only by screams of panic, as each victim meets his or her final fate.”
At the end of the video, we see two ducks and two pigeons from the market at the investigator’s home. One duck dies almost immediately, and the other duck makes distressful efforts to rouse or help the dead companion. The two pigeons died almost immediately as well. Accordingly to the investigator, who rescues and rehabilitates wildlife, when birds are as stressed as these birds, and their internal organs have become dehydrated, they cannot be rehabilitated.
Karen Davis (Karen@upc-online.org)
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
12325 Seaside Road, P.O. Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405