Coronavirus News: 7 On Your Side Investigates the future of NYC slaughterhouses

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Activists saturated live animal markets in New York City with demands they close Tuesday, staging protests at six different markets in Brooklyn, Astoria, Flushing, The Bronx and Harlem.

In all, New York City has roughly 80 live animal markets, also called slaughterhouses and wet markets.

"Live animal markets are a petri dish of infectious diseases," said Donny Moss, an advocate with the organization Their Turn.

The demonstrations come less than a week after 7 On Your Side Investigates examined repeated health and safety violations noted during state inspections.

"They are not essential businesses," said Jill Carnegie, an advocate with Slaughter Free NYC. "There are other food markets available for people to get what they need to get through this pandemic."

While animal advocates have long argued the markets have no place in a densely populated city like New York, their calls for reform are now being echoed by doctors and legislators, who also have concerns about these markets and diseases carried by animals amid coronavirus.

"Wet markets are an important source of affordable food and livelihood all over the world, but in many places they have been poorly regulated and poorly maintained," said World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, encouraging countries to enforce stricter regulations on live animal markets to limit the risk of disease.

New York Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal said she hoped to introduce new legislation regarding urban slaughterhouses within the week.

"What we are looking at is anything from stronger regulation to shutting them down all together," Rosenthal said.

Already, New York bans new slaughterhouses from opening within 1,500 feet of a residence, but live animal markets already in existence have been allowed to remain open.

Market owners said their stores are culturally significant and shouldn't close.

"There are certain precautions you have to take, certain laws you have to abide by, and I think the same thing should fall to live poultry markets," market owner Imran Uddin said. "And so, education to owners, as well as to the public, I think that is vital."

In a statement, the New York City Department of Health said the markets "pose no risk to public health as long as they are properly cleaned."

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