No more live birds sold at San Francisco farmers’ markets
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:
SAN FRANCISCO–Live bird sales ended at the Heart of the City
Farmers’ Market on May 27, 2011–the only one of the three San
Francisco farmers’ markets at which live birds were sold.
Two vendors, Raymond Young Poultry and Bullfeathers Quail,
were notified on May 3 that live bird sales would no longer be
allowed. “The market has announced that it plans to expand 25% and
is seeking new vendor applications, so we can look forward to the
area that was previously filled with abused animals and filth to be
used for something better!” exulted Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender
Compassion founder Andrew Zollman, 43, who with fellow live market
protester Alex Felsinger, 25, had picketed the twice-weekly market
for about two years.
Raymond Young Poultry and Bullfeathers Quail reportedly began
selling live birds at Heart of the City, in United Nations Plaza,
about 10 years after the market debuted as a Quaker community
development project in 1981.
Live birds, frogs, snakes, and other animals continue to
be sold for human consumption from storefronts in San Francisco’s
Chinatown, but Heart of the City was the only live market in the
city outside of Chinatown. Live birds have not been sold at the
Alemany Farmer’s Market, founded in 1947, since 2009, when an
LGBT Compas-sion campaign closed New Long’s Live Poultry, which had
operated from a nearby parking lot. Live birds have reportedly never
been sold at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, begun several years
after Heart of the City.
LGBT Compassion also influenced the Old Oakland Farmers’
Market, across the San Francisco Bay Bridge, to discontinue live
The San Francisco humane community has often conflicted with
the owners and customers of live markets, who today are mostly
ethnic Asian. In earlier times San Francisco also featured live
markets serving mainly Italian and Hispanic customers.
Before the LGBT Compassion campaign, however, the live
markets had usually withstood humane pressure, beginning in 1868,
when banker James Sloan Hutchinson became so upset at the abuse of a
pig he saw dragged to slaughter that he founded the San Francisco
SPCA. The San Francisco SPCA grew into one of the largest and most
influential in the world, yet never succeeded in closing a live
market or in passing local legislation to restrict their activity.
The LGBT Compassion campaign uniquely morphed into a clash
between San Francisco’s two most prominent minority cultures,
especially after alleged assaults and anti-gay remarks by some of the
live marketers led to Zollman and Felsinger filing a complaint with
the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
About 45% of the San Francisco population are of Asian
descent, according to recent polling; 14.5% declare themselves to
be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Zollman and Felsinger subsequently contended in a pending
three-part lawsuit that live poultry seller Raymond Young, his
employees, and Heart of the City violated their right to free
speech; that the City of San Francisco failed to enforce applicable
health laws against the live marketers; and that the city has also
improperly excluded poultry from the scope of humane law enforcement.
Food writer Brock Keeling of SFist.com may have inflamed
matters–after the end of live bird sales at Heart of the City had
already been announced–with a column referring to LGBT Compassion as
a “kooky animal rights advocacy group.”
According to an LGBT Compassion press release, the
organization “was founded by Andrew Zollman and Warren Jones, who
have long suffered oppression and threats of violence because of
their minority status, and continue to fight for their own rights.
Zollman and Jones work to inform the community of the parallels
between oppression and abuse of animals and certain groups of humans,
as well as promote the animal welfare, health and environmental
benefits of a vegan lifestyle.” The LGBT Compassion campaigns
against live markets have always emphasized animal issues first, but
have not backed away from the lifestyle issues in response to
name-calling and violent incidents.
LGBT Compassion thanked many other animal advocacy
organizations for supporting the Heart of the City campaign,
including United Poultry Concerns, In Defense of Animals, Bay Area
Vegetarians, Farm Sanctuary, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary,
MickaCoo Pigeon & Dove Rescue, Palo Alto Animal Services, and the
San Francisco Department of Animal Care & Control. “Animal Care &
Control had some concerns about the treatment of chickens at the
market,” recalled San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Jessica
Kwong, “but the district attorney said live poultry is exempt from
California’s animal cruelty laws. After the last SF/DACC check,
made in mid-March 2011, agency director Rebecca Katz said Young,”
the chicken vendor, “met the permit guidelines. Late last year, the
Department of Public Health made some cleanliness recommendations,”
Kwong continued, “and Young complied. He renewed his license with
no complaints from the city.”
Heart of the City manager Christine Adams “declined to give a
reason” for banning the sale of live birds, Kwong said, but she
acknowledged that the pending Zollman and Felinger lawsuit was
involved in the decision by the market board of directors.
“The poultry stall remained popular with its largely Chinese
clientele in spite of an ever-present throng of protesters,”
reported Heather Mack for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. But the
Department of Animal Care & Control, “which had cited Young hundreds
of times for practices such as unsanitary conditions, lack of water,
and improper handling of the chickens, viewed the decision by the
market to ban sales as good news,” Mack wrote.
“Animals are food for a lot of people,” SF/DACC director
Katz acknowledged, “but people do care about the treatment of them.
If the vendors had been able to treat the animals appropriately, I
don’t think the live sales would have become an issue.”
After the LGBT Compassion campaign and lawsuit attracted
major media notice in early 2011, Kwong reported, “Raymond Young
Poultry’s sales dropped 40%, said Christina Ly, Young’s daughter.
The Modesto-based operation sold chickens every Wednesday and Sunday
in San Francisco. With the ban, they will be left with one market
day–Friday, at the Certified Farmers Market in the city of
Young has reportedly sold about 100 chickens per week in
Richmond for about five years. “The Richmond City Council is the
bottleneck on banning live chickens at the Certified Farmers Market,”
e-mailed Zollman. In November 2009,” Zollman recalled, “city
personnel recommended a ban due to a public nuisance ordinance and
complaints, but the council voted against it.
Wrote Karl Fischer of the Contra Costa Times, “While Contra
Costa County officials say they have no record of serious health code
violations,” at the Richmond market, “LGBT Compassion organizers
say they routinely document problems such as cramped cages, no
access to water, and birds and feces too close to produce, eggs and
The prominently politicized community divisions in San
Francisco appear to be markedly less in Richmond. “Chickens are
living creatures, and I feel their pain,” protester Sonya Lee of
the neighboring city El Cerrito told Fischer.
The victory over live bird sales at Heart of the City came
amid continuing heated debate statewide over a bill introduced by
California Assembly Members Paul Fong and Jared Huffman, which would
prohibit the sale of shark fins in California. San Diego and Los
Angeles are believed to be two of the ports handling the most shark
fins entering the U.S.
State and federal laws prohibit killing sharks in U.S. waters
just to take their fins, but do not prohibit imports of fins from
California State Senator Leland Yee, who represents San
Francisco and San Mateo counties, and San Francisco mayor Ed Lee
have prominently opponed the Fong/Huffman bill, calling it an
“assault on Asian cultural cuisine.”
But the Fong/Huffman bill is endorsed by Houston Rockets star
center Yao Ming, a citizen of China, who flew to San Francisco to
videotape a public service announcement favoring the bill for the San
Francisco-based international conservation group WildAid.
“Shark fins may prove to be an unexpected ingredient in this
year’s San Francisco mayoral race, which includes three prominent
Asian-American candidates: Yee, Board of Supervisors president
David Chiu, and assessor/recorder Phil Ting,” observed Robin
Hindery of Associated Press.
Wrote Heather Knight of the San Francisco Chronicle,
“Chinese immigrant voters in the city prize shark fin soup as a
delicacy and consider it part of their heritage. But there are also
thousands of voters who shudder at the thought of illegal shark
finning, in which fisherman cut the tails and fins off living sharks
and throw them back in the water to die. They say a ban on fin sales
would help curb the practice.
“With a Jaws-like tenacity,” Knight said, she “hounded
Chinese American politicians running for mayor in November to pin
them down on the issue. Chiu supports a ban, at least until the
dwindling shark population rebounds. Ting supports the ban because
he doesn’t believe shark finning is a sustainable practice. Yee made
waves when the bill was introduced,” posing for photos with bowls of
shark fin soup, but “has since back-pedaled a bit, saying he
opposes the ban but supports the federal law against shark finning.
“The proposed ban has been big news in the Chinese-language
press throughout the city and state,” Knight continued. “The
overwhelming majority of editorials have been against it. David Lee,
executive director of the Chinese American Voters Education
Committee, said the candidates could find themselves in hot water
over the ban when campaign fundraising gets going. In Chinatown,
Chinese restaurants are at the center of political organizing,
fundraising, and events–and they’re adamantly opposed to the ban.”
But Lee said the Chinese American Voters Education Committee
is neutral on food issues.
One San Francisco Chinese restaurant owner and chef,
Alexander Ong of Betelnut, told Kwong of the Chronicle that he
supports the Fong/Huffman bill because shark fin soup is “deeply
rooted in the culture,” and without legislation, restaurants will
probably not withstand customer pressure to sell it.
“A new poll, however, shows that a surprising number of
Chinese American voters back the ban,” wrote Kwong. “Commissioned
by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the poll found that 76% of California
voters favor making it illegal to sell or distribute shark fins. The
real surprise, though, was that 70% of the 218 Chinese American
voters surveyed favored a ban, said Michael Sutton, the aquarium’s
vice president and a supporter of the legislation.”
Said Sutton, “Chinese Americans feel no different than the
rest of the community. This is a bipartisan issue. Men and women,
liberals and conservatives, of all generations, voice concern about