“Inside a Live Poultry Market” Investigation in the Bronx Shows Misery, Sickness, Filth
Photo by Ann Cottrell Free
“In this closed warehouse, 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.” – Ely Live Poultry Market Investigator
UPC’s new video, “Inside a Live Poultry Market,” 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 (slicing jugular veins and missing the carotid arteries).
The 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.” A man comments on the stench while the camera shows chickens, pigeons, and other birds, many of them sick and half dead (at least one bird is shown dead and bloody in a transport crate), crated 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’s 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. 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. “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,” according to New York Department of Agriculture & Marketing officials who told UPC that no one traces what happens to birds who are not sold. 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.
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’ internal organs have become dehydrated, they cannot be rehabilitated.
Order Inside a Live Poultry Market. Produced by UPC, this 11-minute video shows where thousands of spent “free-range” chickens and other sick and unwanted birds end up. Available from UPC in VHS and DVD format. $10 (includes shipping).
UPC is researching possible New York legislation that would ensure more humane and sanitary conditions in New York’s small animal slaughterhouses. We will keep you posted and tell you who to write to as this effort gets underway.