April 19, 2022
Mayor Eric Adams
New York, NY 10007
The Honorable Kathy Hochul
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Dear Mayor Adams and Governor Hochul,
We are writing to you on behalf of parents of New York City school students to seek your help in protecting children in New York City.
Given the current spread of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu throughout New York State and which has recently infected a Colorado poultry worker, we believe that the operation of New York City’s 70+ live animal slaughter markets, especially those located in close proximity to schools, should be suspended until a risk assessment is conducted.
In New York City, over 100 schools and playgrounds are located near live animal markets. These retail slaughter markets have been described as “breeding grounds for the spread of diseases” by health experts and physicians. As this new video shows, children and their guardians walk past these markets on their way to and from school. Sometimes, the public sidewalks in front of these neighborhood slaughterhouses are contaminated with bird feces, blood, and other biohazards. These conditions would never be tolerated in wealthy neighborhoods, yet they are unfairly forced upon marginalized communities.
Dozens of crates, filled with hundreds of birds and their waste, are often left out on public streets for hours at a time outside the markets. Children can step in and track these hazardous materials into their schools, onto playgrounds, onto the subways, into their homes, and all over the city, potentially exposing their communities and all New Yorkers to many different infectious diseases. Despite hundreds of reports and complaints that have been filed with city and state agencies, hazardous conditions have not improved, even during a global pandemic caused by unsanitary conditions at an animal slaughter market.
New York City’s 70+ storefront slaughterhouses are open to the public, operate in densely populated neighborhoods, and are located next to or near homes, businesses, public transportation, schools, and playgrounds. Anyone can enter these live animal markets to purchase birds without protective gear and walk among the tightly confined animals of different species.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that H5N1 flu, the virus that is spreading among chickens and other birds in New York, can infect the respiratory tract of humans, causing severe illnesses, such as pneumonia and respiratory failure, and death. The CDC also warns of the possibility of bird flu viruses mutating into a strain that could spread among humans. Now that the United States has the first case of a human in Colorado becoming infected with H5N1, the urgency is even greater.
Even the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets (DAM) recognizes the risk of this avian flu outbreak, at least to birds, because they have banned all fowl exhibitions in the state. We find it concerning that DAM is concerned about the health of the birds, but no government agency seems concerned about the potential human health risks.
Every chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and other live bird sold and slaughtered in these live markets is a potential source of infection, which can spread among the birds and potentially to humans, including those who are most vulnerable.
We are calling for the immediate suspension of the operation of the 70+ live animal markets in New York City until public health experts and scientists can determine whether they can operate safely in a densely populated city. Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul have the authority to issue an Emergency Executive Order to suspend their operation in order to avert a zoonotic disease outbreak that could lead to another global pandemic.
The children of this city deserve safe and wholesome environments where they can learn, play, and thrive. They should not be exposed to the dangerous and unhealthy conditions these animal slaughter markets present simply by attending school or enjoying playgrounds.
Irma Labiosa, parent of a NYC public-school child
Sabina Makhdomi, parent of a NYC school child
Jillian Marie Mariscal, parent of a NYC school child
Stewart Mitchell, parent of a NYC public-school child
Coalition for Healthy School Food
United Poultry Concerns
New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets
New York City Department of Education
New York City Department of Health
New York City Council Education Committee
New York City Council Health Committee
Commissioner Richard Ball, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets