ISLIP—About 300 opponents of a proposed chicken slaughterhouse on Beaver Dam Road, including residents and animal welfare activists, attended the Islip Town Board of Appeals meeting Tuesday night, Oct. 23 at Islip Town Hall West. Everyone understood that it was going to be a long night.
Nearly 100 people voiced their concerns within the meeting’s three-hour time frame for this one item. They cited the possibilities of waste contaminating water and soil, foul smells, declining property values in the area and child safety—as there is a school bus stop nearby.
The applicant for the site (1 Beaver Dam Road, south of Heckscher State Park) is Joseph Rosario of Huntington. Rosario said he would hire four to five employees, should the property be purchased and the business opened. He also stated that no more than 300 chickens would be at the facility at a given time, with all waste being self-contained and removed by “government-approved poultry merchants.”
Ray Allan, an Islip Terrace resident, works in manufacturing and insists that even though the waste is self-contained, the smell will escape and carry for miles. Allan also expressed concern that the applicant would look to expand to other meat products in the future, including beef. The applicant said he isn’t looking to expand the facility or the parking lot within the 23,000-square-foot site.
John Di Leonardo, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, also spoke about what he considers to be the ethical problems with the proposed slaughterhouse. Di Leonardo said chickens, along with ducks and turkeys, are “inquisitive, interesting animals who are as intelligent as mammals like cats, dogs ad even some primates.” But because they have no federal protections, Di Leonardo says many birds are still conscious when they are killed. He also argued that meat-processing plants are “devastating to local communities” because they pollute water supplies, increase greenhouse emissions, damage wildlife and lower property values.
“Meatpacking employees report injuries and illnesses more than 2.5 times the national average, with workers sustaining serious musculoskeletal diseases and exposure to biological hazards that can increase their risk for other infections,” Di Leonardo said, adding that the psychological toll that killing hundreds of animals every day takes on a person cannot be underestimated. Slaughterhouse work, he added, has been linked to a variety of disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
Di Leonardo, along with numerous other speakers, also stated that slaughterhouses have been connected to an increase in crime rates, including higher incidents of domestic abuse, as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
“With more and more people going vegan than ever before, weekly protests are popping up all over the state outside slaughterhouses, and based on conversations with community members, I know protests just like this would occur in Islip,” Di Leonardo said. “So, I encourage you [to] consider these protests in your traffic projections.”
Rosario says his family has been in the poultry business for 43 years. “Me, myself, for 34 years,” he added.
The packed auditorium gradually emptied throughout the evening. Those that remained, though, were shocked (along with the zoning board) when the applicant refused multiple times to disclose to the board and the public the name of his business. “That’s not part of our application,” stated Eugene Barnosky, Rosario’s lawyer. Board member William D. Wexler appeared more than frustrated when he called on Barnosky to give the name of his client’s corporate outfit in Brooklyn.
Several residents demanded the application be thrown out right away, due to the lawyer’s refusal to do so. The board made no decisions on the future of the proposed slaughterhouse, but directed Barnosky to name Rosario’s business within the week. The board also gave Rosario 60 days to submit additional materials for his application, including the business’ impact on traffic.
Islip resident Carleen Smith Newlands recently began a Facebook campaign, Islip Residents Against Slaughterhouse, which, as of the morning after the meeting, has over 500 members.
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