We should have learned after the COVID-19 pandemic struck and claimed millions of lives that live slaughter markets are breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases; however, this week, Long Island and New York City finds itself in the midst of another major health scare ahead of Thanksgiving. (An official holiday in the USA celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November to give thanks for the bounty of harvest nature provided, also celebrated in half a dozen other nations for the same reason but on different dates,) While 46 million turkeys will be killed for Thanksgiving this week, nearly 8 million turkeys did not even make it to slaughter, being killed due to an avian influenza outbreak. 170 birds were killed following an outbreak at a live slaughter market in Queens just last week and 38 other live slaughter markets in New York City and Long Island that were linked to this outbreak were ordered to “sell down” the stock of their birds before closing for three days. This means that unwitting consumers may have purchased birds for consumption that may be infected with avian flu.
My organization Humane Long Island has not only joined the call for the New York Department of Agriculture & Markets to shut down these markets, but is also making it easy for New Yorkers to help animals and their health by distributing 1,000 plant-based meals to Long Island and New York City communities this week. Additionally, we’re partnering with live slaughter markets to rescue birds ahead of the holiday. We’ve so far rescued two turkeys from a live slaughter market in Queens in exchange for Tofurky (tofu turkey) roasts and reached an agreement to receive a third from another live slaughter market the day before the holiday. We also rescued two other turkeys who were found injured on the streets, one down the block from a slaughterhouse and another who presumably fell off a slaughterhouse-bound truck in the Hamptons.
Even though they’re only babies – 3 to 5 months old – these gentle and intelligent turkeys have already had a rough life. Originating on factory farms without any federal protections, they’ve had the sensitive ends of their beaks and the first digit of each of their toes severed – to limit the effects of cannibalism and self-harm in crowded and filthy sheds where diseases proliferate. One is suffering from a broken leg, another has a painful sore, and another has staph infection. Despite all this, they are the lucky ones, destined to live out their lives on vegan animal sanctuaries where they will, like dogs, enjoy having their bellies rubbed and singing along to music.
For this week’s Anuvrat, please practice Ahimsa by leaving turkeys off your plate. If you’d like a Tofurky to get you started, you can pick one up courtesy of Humane Long Island and PETA at Community Solidarity’s Huntington Food Share this Tuesday at 8 pm at the intersection of Fairground Ave & E. 6th St in Huntington on Long Island or this Wednesday at 12pm at Restoration Plaza in the Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn ahead of the holiday. You can also sponsor a turkey or a tofurky by donating at www.humanelongisland.org.
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].