United Poultry Concerns February 21 , 2005

Veterinarian Condemns Conditions at Ely Street Live Market in the Bronx

"The filth, the overcrowded crates, the screams of the birds . . . are all evidence of a brutal method of holding and slaughtering the animals brought to this market." – Holly Cheever, DVM

In the letter below veterinarian Dr. Holly Cheever of Voorheesville, New York offers her professional opinion of the conditions at the Ely Street Market in the Bronx (NYC), as shown in "Inside a Live Poultry Market." This 11-Minute Video is derived from an open investigation conducted at the market on December 22, 2003 by a New York State resident. The video was produced by United Poultry Concerns and is available in DVD and VHS format for $10 including shipping.

February 21, 2005

To whom it may concern:

I have been asked to give my professional opinion, as a private veterinary practitioner who cares for gallinaceous birds (chickens) among other species, as to the condition of the birds and the degree of humaneness (or lack thereof) in the slaughter process as revealed in a video tape sent to me by Dr. Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns. The video tape is identified as being filmed on December 22, 2003 at the Live Animal market on Ely St. in the Bronx.

To introduce myself, I have degrees from Harvard University (A.B. ’71, summa cum laude) and Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. ’80, class rank #1). I am licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the states of New York and Vermont. In my practice I care for avian species as well as companion animals, and I have worked as a food animal veterinarian (primarily dairy cattle) in the early part of my career (1980-82). I currently care for a small backyard chicken flock of my own.

The video is very disturbing in its depiction of the condition of the animals, their degree of crowding in filthy crates, their method of being handled by the slaughter personnel, and in the method of slaughter itself. The video starts by showing the crated animals. The chickens are dirty, have tattered plumage, and many are very depressed (evinced by their lying on their sides and sitting sternal with their eyes closed—very abnormal behavior in such a stressful environment. The crates are filthy with manure, and the birds’ plumage shows filth in addition to the tattered condition which is very abnormal for chickens who, under normal circumstances, are fastidious about their plumage. At least one of these crated birds is clearly dead. No food or water sources are available for these crated animals.

The human handlers seize the birds roughly by one or two legs and then hang them upside down; one scene shows the birds hung upside down from the weight scales which is painful for the birds and very frightening. The scene shifts to the slaughtering area, and the sounds of the terrified birds squawking in fear is loud and is heard by all the birds awaiting their turn, adding to their stress. Each bird in turn is grabbed roughly out of a bin, is held painfully with its neck twisted back over its back (belly side up) while the slaughterer slices the mid-neck region quickly and obviously insufficiently to produce instant death. The cuts appear to be disturbingly superficial, nor is there the projectile spurt of blood expected from the severed paired carotid arteries in a highly stressed and terrified bird; in other words, it appears that the knife only cuts superficially through the flesh and the jugular vein, which means that the birds do not die instantly. After the slice through the neck, the birds are dumped roughly head first into small pots. Every bird I witnessed in this video exhibits movement after being stuffed into their pots, and one even is able to flip itself out of its pot and, flapping wildly, hits the ground. The others’ movements produce leg kicks and some postural adjustments. In two instances, birds appear to be alive for at least 70 seconds before the camera pans away; this is too long an interval to attribute the movements to random unconscious postmortem activity.

The video shows one more scene at the Market in which 2 rabbits are placed on a scale to weigh; one falls to the ground and is scooped up to be reweighed, while an onlooker (evidently the customer buying the rabbit) tells the slaughterer to “kill the fucker” in the presence of a small girl of approximately 2 or 3 years old. The video then shifts to depict a few rescued animals. The accompanying text explains that the 2 white pigeons died after rescue, as did one of the 2 ducks who appear to be the Moulard crosses seen primarily in foie gras production. It is particularly sad to observe the one duck making the soft vocalizations and performing the gentle nudges seen between ducks who are bonded to one another.

In conclusion, it is my professional opinion that this video shows many aspects of this Market’s modus operandi which constitute inhumane treatment of the birds and mammals therein. The filth, the overcrowded crates, the screams of the birds heard by the next victims, and the insufficient cuts which fail to produce immediate death are all evidence of a brutal method of holding and slaughtering the animals brought to this Market. I fully support any legislative attempts to render this procedure more humane. Please contact me if I can be of any further service.


Holly Cheever, DVM

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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