Playing chicken - Page 4

Activists use protests and a lawsuit to push for better regulation of live poultry sales

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Unlike this chicken, most of the live chickens sold at Heart of the City farmers market have had their beaks cut off

Gonzalez disagrees, and his office referenced similar cases in the state in which poultry was protected from cruelty. "Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing that they are taking the position they are taking," Gonzalez told us. "They are trying to avoid a topic that would compel them to do what they need to do. Many in the Asian community and Mexican community see this as an attack on their cultural traditions, and that's not the issue. We see it as a straight matter of misinterpretation."

 

DAILY OPERATIONS

On a recent visit to the market, the stall appeared clean and the chickens were out of view. The stall features prominent signage in English and in Chinese languages of the ban on bringing live animals into the market, with additional signs throughout the plaza, but customers routinely step directly into the market after buying their chickens.

"This is not easy," security guard Diana Ybarra said while trying to point a man carrying a bag with two chickens in the right direction. "Nobody wants to listen — most of them don't speak English. Everyone wants to take a shortcut right back through the market."

Ybarra and her coworker, Washington (who chose to be identified only by his last name), said that their entire day is consumed trying to get customers to abide by this rule. Prior to the November meeting, no signage was posted and customers just "walked all over the place as if it didn't matter at all," Ybarra said.

"Chinese New Year was bad," Washington added.

The guards see enforcing the rule as an unnecessary waste of time that takes their focus off tasks such as preventing theft. Both said shoving birds in sacks was "messed up," but they were also quick to criticize the protestors.

"Why are they bothering this man? This is a family business and people have to make money," Washington said. "Those protestors came in and fucked everything up, if you ask me."

Young said he resents getting caught up in this controversy. "We are so loyal to this city and to this market," he said. "We have put up with drug dealers and crime just so we can serve the people. Maybe these protesters think differently."

For now the activists are more focused on the lawsuit than remaining vigilant in their protests, hoping it will accomplish their goal.

"I wasn't always so adamant about getting rid of them, it was having people notice something that is animal cruelty," Felsinger said. "It had been good in some ways to have people exposed to this cruelty in San Francisco because it gave us a platform to speak on animal rights. These are egregious offenses and it's hard to ignore when it is right in your back yard."

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