Strengthening our motivation: Compassion and protecting the health of animal agriculture workers


Strengthening our motivation: Compassion and protecting the health of animal agriculture workers

Vegan Society of Canada News, February 6th 2019

We have anything but great compassion for those who have to work in animal agriculture, more specifically those who do the actual killing for us in slaughterhouses. An extensive report by Oxfam talks at length about the serious health problems that they face on daily basis:

In the interviews conducted for this report, many of the workers broke into tears at some point, often while describing the injuries they’d sustained: the pain, the surgeries, and the long recovery. In other cases, they were talking about the abuse they’d suffered on the line: supervisors yelling, deriding, and hurrying them along. Most often, they were talking about their families, and their sense of obligation to provide for them and keep working, no matter the conditions in the plants.
The pace today churns out a lot of chicken, but it also churns through a lot of human beings. Since the turnover rate is extraordinarily high, the industry needs to find new pools of workers on a continual basis. The industry taps into marginalized and vulnerable populations; of roughly 250,000 poultry workers, most are (people of color), immigrants, or refugees, with a significant number of women.
Most of these workers face an array of obstacles that prevent them from standing up and speaking out about harassment, injuries, under-compensation, overwork, and other abuses in the workplace. In the words of many, the industry takes advantage of workers who live and work in a climate of fear.
He notes that many people do not get breaks in time; ‘there’s a lot of people peeing on themselves because they would not let them use the bathrooms.
The environment inside the plant is not only harsh, but unhealthy. The processing rooms are cold, humid, and slippery with grease, offal, blood, and water. The air is full of chemicals from cleaning, processing, and cooking. The line is fast, the machines are loud, and the tools are sharp. These conditions pose constant dangers to workers’ health and well-being.
One study put the prevalence of depressive symptoms 80 percent higher among poultry workers than among a peer population in the same area
The constant repetitive motions cause pain in hands, fingers, arms, shoulders, backs, as well as swelling, numbness, loss of grip. These injuries affect the ability to work, do household chores, and lift children. Sometimes they are debilitating and long-lasting, if not permanent.

Oxfam’s report also points out the importance of transparency when it comes to the origin of our food:

We each decide what matters to us when we choose our food. We may exclude meat or eat only organic, or vegan, or fair trade. The choice is yours, but you deserve to know enough to make informed choices. If you’re going to eat chicken, you need to consider what goes on behind the scenes; how not only the animals but workers are treated in raising and processing our food.

Furthermore there are various other research that points to mental problems, like PTSD, in animal agriculture workers, specifically those directly or indirectly connected to slaughterhouses (Dillard 2017; Baran, Rogelberg, S. G., Clausen 2016)

Suppose we are not motivated enough to care about what we eat even after leaning such informations as:

  • The benefits of a plant-based diet on our health
  • The detrimental effects of animal agriculture on the environment
  • Processed meat is a group 1 carcinogen and red meat is group 2A carcinogen classified by IARC

How about after learning the tremendous amount of pain and suffering slaughterhouse workers have to endure? Is this a good reason to start to care?