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  1. News Release

  2. May 8, 2020

Hard-Hitting Billboard Targets Live Bird Markets in Philadelphia

Doctors Group also Filed an Emergency Action Complaint

PHILADELPHIA—A hard-hitting billboard is installed 1,280 feet from S&L Poultry Market (formerly called J&B Poultry Market) in Philadelphia. The billboard is on Passyunk Avenue south of Reed Street. It is sponsored by the Physicians Committee—a national nonprofit of 12,000 doctors, including 544 doctors in Pennsylvania.

The doctors group also filed an Emergency Action Complaint arguing that live bird markets should be shut down to prevent future disease outbreaks. “The Department of Public Health should 1) order live bird markets operating in the city to cease operations and 2) coordinate with the Department of Licenses and Inspections to ensure that no food licenses for such establishments are issued or renewed pending the issuance of a permanent regulatory prohibition of such hazardous establishments,” states the complaint, which is addressed to Palak Raval-Nelson, PhD, MPH, director of food protection for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential, according to Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Business Insider reports that H7N9 and H5N9 bird flus were most likely transmitted to humans in markets that sell live birds, and other animals, and slaughter them on site. According to the World Health Organization, people can become infected with avian influenza viruses through direct contact with infected poultry.

“Live bird markets are a welcome mat for pathogens,” says Mark Kennedy, Esq., vice president of legal affairs for the Physicians Committee. “To prevent future disease outbreaks, storefront slaughter facilities should be closed—starting with the ones that have been cited by health authorities for unsanitary conditions.” 
According to Philadelphia Magazine, the federal government filed a lawsuit against J&B Poultry Market (now S&L Poultry Market) alleging a long series of problems and violations. In 2015, inspectors from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health found unclean “plucking equipment,” cages “encrusted with fecal matter,” and “slaughtering equipment encrusted with bird feathers and bird waste.”

An Inspection Report from late 2019 documents additional problems including “Visible physical evidence of fly activity observed in the rear preparation area, where birds are slaughtered, defeathered, and gutted.”

Billboard Details:

The billboard is on Passyunk Avenue on the south side, 20 feet south of Reed Street, facing west. The billboard is 10 feet high and 22 feet wide. It confronts Philadelphia residents with the message “Live Bird Markets in Philly? Shut Them Down!” The billboard directs passersby to  

According to the lawsuit, J&B (now S&L) Poultry Market is located at 1450-1452 South 7th St., Philadelphia. Other live bird markets in Philadelphia include 5th Street Live Poultry and Q&Q Live Poultry.

In April, the Physicians Committee filed a federal Petition for Rulemaking asking the U.S. Surgeon General to close live animal markets to prevent future pandemics. It is signed by 225 doctors including Christopher Wenger, DO, FACC, FNLA, of Lancaster, Pa., Eric J. Brandt, MD, of Yale University School of Medicine, and Michelle L. O’Donoghue, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School.

Live animal markets, including live bird markets, are a breeding ground for organisms that may not cause disease in animal hosts but can be deadly to humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “more than 6 out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people can be spread from animals, and 3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.” Outbreaks cause death and, in the case of covid-19, significant economic harm.

In an interview on Fox & Friends, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “I think we should shut down those things right away. It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down.” It is likely that the new coronavirus emerged from a live animal market in China.

To build immunity, the Physicians Committee recommends healthful, plant-based meals as well as getting enough sleep and exercise. Studies show that affordable, plant-based options can help people prevent and even reverse diabetesheart disease, and high blood pressure, among other conditions.

Media Contact

Jeanne Stuart McVey



Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in education and research.

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