Barber closed after evidence of animal sacrifice found
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- A New Bedford barbershop has been closed after city officials found evidence of ritualistic animal sacrifice at the site.
Owner William Camacho disputes the claim, saying he practices Palo Mayobe, an Afro-Caribbean religion similar to Santeria, and that his religious freedoms have been violated.
Animal control officers on Tuesday removed two chickens and four roosters, one dead, from the shop's basement, after fire and building inspectors found the birds during a routine safety inspection.
Camacho says he does not sacrifice animals at the barbershop but only at religious ceremonies in rural settings.
He says he was in the process of moving the birds to a coop at another location when officials found the birds Tuesday.
“Well it’s very insulting to me,” he said. “’Cause what happens is that -- where I come from, it’s very known -- and this town, it’s ignorant for them, ‘cause they don’t know what type of religion it is.”
City officials say it is illegal to keep livestock in a business in downtown New Bedford even for a short time, and that’s why an emergency cease and desist order was issued.
“His barber shop isn’t closed because of his religion,” Mayor Scott Lang said. “It’s closed because of health violations, and he needs to get them straightened out in a hurry.”
Because one of the roosters died, Camacho could still face animal cruelty charges. As the city investigates, he says the shutdown is costing him up to $700 every day.
“I’m losing money and I’m waiting for the city to reopen me,” he said.
Mayor Lang said a court may also decide if Camacho can sacrifice animals for religious purposes elsewhere in the city. Camacho said he’s ready for that legal battle if it’s necessary.
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