(July 7, 2012) -- A slaughterhouse in a small Los Angeles suburb is raising a big stink as the owners fight an order to shut it down, accusing the city of discriminating against Asian culture.
Chinese American Live Poultry in Rosemead provides freshly killed chickens—head, feet and all—to many Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley. It opened in 1991 and was allowed to keep operating after the city passed an ordinance prohibiting poultry slaughterhouses, so long as it did not improve or expand its facilities.
However, complaints about foul odors, traffic jams and escaped chickens moved the city to pass an ordinance two years ago ordering Cal Poultry Vikon Inc., which operates the family-owned slaughterhouse, to cease operations by May 12 of this year.
Owners Quan and Dana Phu sued, accusing city officials of racial and religious discrimination. They argued that the chickens meet the cultural and religious practices of Asian-Americans and Southeast Asian Buddhists, who use them as offerings to ancestors.
"They don't care about our kind of business or our culture," Quan Phu told the Los Angeles Times
The chief priest at the Rosemead Buddhist monastery told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the use of chickens as ancestor offerings is a Chinese tradition and that Buddhists are supposed to be vegetarian.
"Buddhist services don't have any chickens or pigs or any animal offering," Bhante Chao Chu said.
Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee issued a preliminary injunction allowing the slaughterhouse to keep operating until the lawsuit is decided.
The public has an "interest in eliminating discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic origin," Gee said.
The controversy pinpoints the growing pains in a community that once was overwhelmingly white and Latino but is now more than 60 percent Asian. Over the past few decades, Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants flocked to the city of 54,000 that calls itself "Today's Small Town America."
It hasn't always been an easy transition. The city was sued in 2005 for failing to provide voter information in Chinese, Vietnamese and Spanish as federal law required. It newsletter only began being offered in languages other than English in 2008.
"This is a cultural clash," Bob Bruesch, who was mayor when the slaughterhouse opened in 1991, told the Times. "I'm not saying that in a negative sense. It's the stuff communities face when there is an ethnic change."
"Who wants a slaughterhouse in their backyard?" current Mayor Sandra Armenta said. "We are trying to be very business-friendly, but we have to look at all aspects."
The slaughterhouse has been cited for some health code