Animal Abuse Documented At Multiple Markets In San Francisco

An undercover investigation has found that several shops selling live animals may have broken the law


4 Minutes Read

Chickens lined up in an overcrowded cage at a market Such markets have long come under fire over animal welfare concerns - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Live animal markets in and around the San Francisco Bay Area, California, have come under fire for animal cruelty.

Animal advocacy group Animal Outlook conducted an investigation into the matter in February and March. It reported finding welfare violations at 11 shops that sold and slaughtered live animals.

Undercover footage shows one market employee cutting into a turtle who appeared to be still alive and moving. Other clips see fish being bludgeoned and then dismembered, and frogs piled on top of each other in plastic tubs. Footage also shows chickens stuffed into overcrowded metal cages.

“The desire to protect animals against cruelty is inherent in our humanity. Survey after survey finds near-unanimous opposition to animal cruelty. There are laws against it, yet it is allowed to continue under the veil of live markets,” reads a statement from Animal Outlook.

California’s welfare laws do not distinguish between marine and terrestrial species. According to Animal Outlook, this means that the conditions seen at all 11 shops would breach animal welfare laws. 

State law says that animals kept at live markets should not be “dismembered, flayed, cut open, or have its skin, scales, feathers, or shell removed while the animal is still alive.”

Animal welfare violations

Animal Outlook has now filed a law enforcement complaint, which details the exact violations occurring at each location. The complaint states: “We hereby request that you investigate this matter and enforce both San Francisco and California law against these establishments.”

Warning: this image gallery contains depictions of animal abuse.

  • Chickens stuffed into wire cages
  • A worker wrestles with a goat, preparing them to be sold as meat. "No photos" is painted on the wall behind.
  • Dozens of frogs confined in plastic crates
  • A softshell turtle trapped in a mesh bag inside a cooler
  • Turtles in a plastic tub without water
  • A dead fish floats upside down in a dirty tank

Animal Outlook executive director Cheryl Leahy spoke about the investigation in a statement. They said: “We want the public to be aware that this type of animal cruelty is happening in all sorts of places, both on massive factory farms and slaughterhouse run by a multinational corporations and right in our own neighborhoods: cruelty and suffering are standard fare across the board.

“The good news is each of us has the power to take a stand against this cruelty by refusing to purchase animal products.” 

Live animal markets in the US

Leahy emphasized the prevalence of live animal markets across the country – there are hundreds in the US alone – labeling it a “national crisis.”

Live animal markets are sometimes known as “wet markets,” although the latter does not necessarily always trade with live animals.

These businesses have long been controversial. And, they became the subject of renewed scrutiny at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In May 2020, animal rights protests broke out among the 70 live animal markets in New York City, with footage from CBS News showing animals stacked on top of each other with feces, urine, and blood flowing between them. 

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