On September 30, approximately 20 demonstrators gathered in front of the back-to-back slaughterhouses, P&M Live Poultry and Twelve Baskets Inc., holding signs with photos of farm animals. Some were condemning the butchers and customers.
The demonstration, also known as a Save Vigil, was organized by Miriam Chisholm from NY Farm Animal Save and Katerina Trabazo from Queens Save NYC, the former’s local chapter.
As a sister organization of Toronto Pig Save, whose founder Anita Krajnc stood trial for giving water to pigs on their way to slaughterhouses, NY Farm Animal Save document animals on their way to be slaughtered in livestock markets around the city.
The Save Vigil on Saturday marked NY Farm Animal Save’s fourth anniversary.
“The first time, [the owners] were very upset with us, pointing out that Western Beef across the street killed thousands of animals, [telling us to] leave them alone and they’re not doing anything illegal,” said Chisholm. “They are the face of the agriculture industry, and that’s why we always go in front of the livestock markets.”
If you Google “live poultry markets NYC,” about 90 shops will appear throughout the five boroughs, most of which are located in Queens.
A New York Times article from 2009 indicated that the increasing demand of immigrants from countries where purchasing livestock directly from slaughterhouses is the norm, spiked the number of live-poultry markets since the mid-1990s.
Both of the livestock markets in Flushing have poultry, while Twelve Baskets Inc. also carries large animals like cows and goats.
The groups also promote a vegan lifestyle. Like many people, Trabazo thought veganism was extreme and ridiculous at first. It was introduced to her when she started teaching Spanish at a high school, where a colleague mentioned that milk is cruel. She didn’t believe it back then.
“I remembered rolling my eyes and thinking cows need to be milked, not knowing [how they’re milked in the food industry],” she said.
Having been vegan for five years, she said the transition was easier than she expected because it was for ethical reasons.
“I remember my mom served me a piece of chicken breast, and I started having these images of chicken, farm factories, and how they urinate on top of each other,” said Trabazo. “Not just disgust, but it’s pure sadness.”
Miriam Galan was holding a sign that read, “One meal soon forgotten, in exchange for a whole life.” She used to eat meat, but when her dog passed away, she decided to go Vegan.
“There was no difference between her, a cow, a pig, and all the animals that are killed for my food,” said Galan. “We’re definitely causing so much trauma to our planet, to each other, and especially to these innocent beings. And that’s why I’m here.”
The vigil in front of P&M Live Poultry got heated as the demonstrators started condemning customers.
“Why don’t you slit their throats? Why do you pay other people to do it? They’re someone, not something!” a protester named Allison shouted at two middle-aged men walking out with multiple white plastic bags. Others yelled, “You’re eating cancer! You’re eating disease!”
Allison has been Vegan for two and a half years. She said that she cannot hold her tongue when people walk in the markets. “Everyday I fight for them,” she said. “Empathy is putting yourself in that cage. What they’re feeling, I feel it too, strongly.”
A man standing in line at the cashier, who wished to remain unnamed, expressed that although he is affected by the demonstration and feels bad, he still needs to purchase the chicken.
“I just had a newborn baby, I’m cooking it for my wife,” he said. “Fresh chickens are more nutrient I think.”
Most customers walked away quickly, some shook their heads, and some told the protesters to be quiet. One older woman bought several chicken and had to re-bag them in front of the shop.
A few protesters circled her, told her that she bought disease and just killed someone. The shop owner, Mike, quickly stepped outside to help her.
“You can do whatever you want to do, please, just keep away,” he told protesters. “We already called the police, just keep a distance.” The protesters chanted “Murder! Murder!” as he walked back into the shop. He declined to comment after the incident.
Although NY Farm Animal Save and Queens Save NYC acquired the permit to protest, Trabazo did not approve of some of the protesters’ methods. “[They] started bawling, then proceeded to yell at the workers,” she said. “That’s not the behavior we want.”
The demonstration remained mostly peaceful. In the late afternoon, three chickens made an escape and were rescued by the protesters.
“They are all going to a farm sanctuary,” said Chisholm. “[We named them] Ruby, Virginia, and Freedom.”