Dogs and Cats Get Cancer Too

Crematorium protest 5-6-14

CBE community member Maria Munoz addresses a large crowd gathered in opposition to the Neptune Society crematorium on May 6, 2014.

May 9, 2014
Steven D. Low, Communications Coordinator

On May 6th East Oakland residents and CBE staff gathered on the steps in front of Oakland City Hall to announce publically: permitting construction of a crematorium in East Oakland is a violation of California Civil Code 11135. In short, CBE has a legal case of racial discrimination and we’ve sued the City accordingly.

As we were preparing for the rally, we discovered the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had also scheduled a rally of their own in front of City Hall. I was worried that our message-Oakland’s low-income communities of color continue to be the dumping ground for polluting industries-would be muddled with SPCA’s message of animal welfare.

At one point the two rallies were yelling over eachother while we chanted, “Oakland for the living! Oakland for the living!”

In this moment it occurred to some folks in both rallies that our messages were not far apart. The Neptune Society crematorium is an issue of civil rights and of environmental injustice, but also of animal welfare.

The hexavalent chromium, hyrdogen fluoride, mercury, arsenic and other compounds-toxics the Alameda County Public Health Department expects from the proposed crematorium– would be inhaled by humans and dogs alike.

East Oakland is overwhelmingly African American and Latino. Residents in this community will watch their lives shortened by 15 years compared to people living in the Oakland Hills. East Oakland, especially for children under five, has one of the worst rates of asthma in the nation. Residents develop cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses at higher rates. Poverty, crime, and the existing cluster of polluting industries conspire to create this grim reality, a reality the cats and dogs of East Oakland are not immune.

When the Oakland Planning Commission rubber-stamped Neptune Societies project with the classification, “General Manufacturing,” they stripped East Oakland (and West Oakland, if and when a crematorium is proposed there) of it’s RIGHT to have advanced notice, and to conduct a public and environmental review of the crematorium.

Thus, low-income communities of color in Oakland have no say in absorbing the toxic soup from crematoriums. Meanwhile, better-off neighborhoods with an overall lighter skin tone are afforded protections. Where I’m from they call that environmental racism.

Take action by flooding the Oakland City Council and encourage them to keep Neptune Society out of East Oakland.

photo credit: Steven Low