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Residents to meet with slaughterhouse investors

Neighborhood residents will be meeting with owners of a proposed slaughterhouse before a city panel decides if the business will be allowed to open on Buffalo’s East Side.

The Zoning Board of Appeals was scheduled to review plans Wednesday for a slaughterhouse at 614 Broadway that would operate under Islamic dietary law, known as halal.

But one of the slaughterhouse investors, Mohammed Rahman, told the board their attorney could not make Wednesday’s meeting, and asked if the application could be delayed until next month. The board agreed.

The board also agreed to a request by Council President Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the city’s Ellicott District, where the proposed Bismillah Poultry slaughterhouse would be located, that the owners of the proposed business be required to meet with neighborhood residents before the issue is brought back to the Zoning Board. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.

About a dozen people, mostly neighborhood residents, attended the meeting, hoping to express their concerns about opening the slaughterhouse. While they didn’t get a chance to speak at the hearing, several spoke to the media outside the room where the board met.

Residents said they objected to a slaughterhouse in a residential neighborhood for health and quality-of-life reasons.

“We already are loaded with rodents in the neighborhood,” said Kathleen Purdue of Herman Street. “Am I now supposed to worry about cows running down the street?”

“This should not be in a residential neighborhood where children are playing and dogs are out,” said Gina Davis, of East Parade Street, who described herself as a cancer survivor concerned about health issues.

Keith James, president of the Presidential Heights Block Club, expressed concerns over how the animal carcasses are disposed of, and how the sewage system will be affected. “I oppose it,” he said. “It will pose a hazard.”

Rahman said he believes residents’ concerns are based on misinformation and misunderstandings over what is being proposed.

“We are being misunderstood,” he said. “We want to help the community. We want to help an abandoned building. We want to give it a use.”

Rahman and Mdkabir Howlader, who were at Wednesday’s meeting, purchased the brick building along with two others for $20,000 and have said they plan to spend $100,000 to convert it into a slaughterhouse. Rahman said as many as 2,000 chickens and five to 10 goats would be brought to the slaughterhouse to be killed, and their meat sold, every week. Cows would be brought for slaughter just once or twice a year, for holiday meals, they said.

The animals would be killed under halal guidelines as prescribed by the Quran. The process requires severing the animal’s jugular veins, and draining their blood. The guidelines are similar to the kosher method of slaughter prescribed in Judaism. Some slaughterhouses stun the animals before they are killed; others do not.

Opponents of the method of killing – and of slaughterhouses in general – also were at the hearing.

“Slaughterhouses are a morally despicable, profoundly ugly businesses,” said Walter Simpson of Amherst, co-founder of Animal Advocates of Western New York.

“I am against slaughterhouses, but this is inhumane,” added Tracy Murphy, director of the Asha Sanctuary in Amherst.