Slaughterhouses and COVID-19

Slaughterhouses and COVID-19

Vegan Society of Canada News
September 11th 2020

As we have written about in the past, conditions for those working in abattoirs are horrendous.

It was inconceivable to think this situation could become worse, however, that’s indeed what has happened with COVID-19, and the scientific community is in consensus that what was an appalling situation is now so much worse. Slaughterhouse workers are being exploited at unprecedented levels due to this pandemic.

Early in the spread of COVID-19, it was clear in many places throughout the world that slaughterhouses were a magnet for the spread of the virus. In May 2020, Bloomberg published an article showing that many of the communities that have a slaughterhouse in the vicinity were experiencing the spread of COVID-19 at twice the national average.

As time passed, it became evident that this was not limited to the U.S.A. As was reported, communities close to slaughterhouses across Canada were also experiencing much higher rates of COVID-19, as was Germany, France, Netherlands, England, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, and pretty much everywhere else in the world where slaughterhouses exist.

Clearly the animal agriculture industry is not interested in publicizing these statistics, and there is no source at this time to aggregate all the individual data into a comprehensive global picture. Nevertheless, as of July 17, 2020 the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting said in the United States alone there were 133 worker deaths from 43 slaughterhouses in 24 states due to COVID-19.

The animal agriculture industry is not interested in discussing their exploitation of human animals. While slaughterhouse workers have been deemed essential in some countries, just like doctors and nurses, they are not supported by society. For example, they have less access to social programs and as a result experience a reduced quality of life.

In the United States alone, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that minorities have a disproportionate share of employment in slaughterhouses compared to other sectors, and these workers are more likely to have household incomes 200% below the federal poverty level and be uninsured. In addition, it is estimated that about 22 percent of workers are noncitizens. All of this translates into difficulty getting COVID-19 testing and treatment services as well as disincentivizing workers to miss work due to illness, which further spreads the disease.

This pandemic indeed provided new ways for slaughterhouses to kill human animals in greater proportion than before. As a result of the clear trend globally, scientists got together to try and figure out why those houses of death are becoming even deadlier than before, especially to workers who should be protected by law. They came up with the following conclusions:

  1. The working environment in these facilities is favourable to SARS-CoV-2 persistence (metallic surfaces, low temperatures and relative humidity).
  2. The working environment may help SARS-CoV-2 transmission (crowded working places, shared transportation, production of aerosols, droplets, fomites).
  3. A vulnerable, low-paid workforce may be under pressure to keep working despite having symptoms of COVID-19.

As usual their proposal to address these problems are wildly different from our own. In this case, the inadequate suggestions were that all the corporations involved in the killing and suffering of countless animals, including human animals, find enough compassion to, “Implement personnel policies that provide additional medical leave and disability benefits without loss of seniority or pay . . . Add additional vehicles to shuttle routes . . . Add outdoor breakrooms . . . Reduce rate of animal processing.”

It is incomprehensible that presumably well-educated scientists believe that a corporation with a higher proportion of employees 200% below the poverty line will somehow be inclined to give those same employees a top-of-the-line health benefits package and improve their working conditions.

As we have discussed many times, these solutions are like a bandaid applied to a gaping nine inch wound, besides the fact that they are never implemented.

We have a solution that, if followed, is certain to end all the problems with slaughterhouses: Go vegan. We must reflect on just how much suffering we are willing to inflict on human and non-human animals in order to continue to eat traditional meat.

A change of lifestyle offers individuals a powerful means to combat a range of issues, including personal health problems, climate change, loss of biodiversity, global acidification, eutrophication, freshwater shortages, pandemic prevention, antibiotic resistance, save countless lives and much more. We know of no other efficient way for individuals to address these critical challenges simultaneously without waiting for government, corporate, or technological interventions. By changing lifestyle, people can take immediate and impactful action. We encourage you to embrace this lifestyle change today. Contact us for support and to connect with local communities in your area.

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