As regular readers already know, I love the Heart of the City farmers market. But since I usually never go before noon, I had never seen the poultry sales going on there. Until a couple of weeks ago, when I saw the trucks full of empty cages littered with feathers and poop leaving UN Plaza. I found it a bit strange, but didn’t think much of it. It’s a farmers market, after all.

Today I finally managed to go the market early-ish (10am), so I saw the poultry sales in full swign happening next to the fountain often used as a public shower. There were two trucks, a very big one covered in blue tarp presumably selling chickens, and a much smaller one selling some kind of fowl (I’m no bird expert). Apparently, they also sell something called balut which I had never heard of (yes, I live in lalaland). It was a non-stop trickle of customers.

Since the guy selling the partridges (or whatever they were) was doing it out in the open, he was getting quite a bit of attention. Three or four animal advocates were gathered around him taking pictures and videos of the sales, and distributing leaflets to the customers and passersby (apparently there were more of them on Sunday). Of course, I took one. Printed by two organizations, United Poultry Concerns and LGBT Compassion with the awesome tagline ‘Fighting oppression and discrimination for all’, it explains “What’s wrong with live bird sales at farmers markets” (you can read it here):

-Extreme, illegal animal cruelty
-Public health violations
-“Factory farms” brought into the city
-Violations of city-issued permit
-Violations of USDA food stamp regulations
-And much more

Here’s a picture of the partridge vendor taking a couple of birds from their cage for a customer. Their feet were already tied with a rubber band, and they were then placed inside a paper bag that he would then staple (note the stapler at the bottom of the picture, and in turn put in a plastic bag. The other, much bigger, poultry vendor was bagging the birds out of sight.

This guy actually left before selling all his birds, so it looks like the pressure from the advocates (somewhat) worked.

You should read the whole brochure about this issue, but this bit is the one I found the most interesting:

Aware of the cruelty and health risks, none of the city’s 15 other farmers’ markets allow live animal sales. However, the Board of Supervisors permits the UN Plaza market’s management organization to allow live animal sales, detailing animal welfare and public health rules in its permit. Unfortunately, market management and city officials currently refuse to enforce these rules without explanation.

So why wouldn’t the city want to enforce its own laws only in this one market which happens to be in the vicinity of City Hall? Is it because city officials go buy live poultry during their lunch breaks (on Wednesdays and Sundays)?

The leaflet suggests concerned citizens to either contact District 6 Supervisor (which currently means you’ll get Chris Daly telling, “Sorry, I’ve got more SRO’s to build!”) to review the permits and the live poultry sales rules, the District Attorney’s office to prosecute violations of animal cruelty laws, or to simply boycott the market and consider buying your meat in dead form. Instead, I think I’d rather complain to the market manager, who is Christine Adams (, 415-558-9455).