Recent months have seen meat processing plants around the world become dangerous hot spots for the spread of Covid-19. Major outbreaks of the disease at meatpacking factories and slaughterhouses in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Europe have forced shutdowns due to safety concerns.
Just last week it was reported that 1,500 workers were infected at one of Germany’s largest pork plants forcing Germany to re-impose a strict regional lockdown of over 13 million people.
Shockingly, in the US, over 25,000 cases of Covid-19 have been linked to the meat industry, with at least 91 confirmed deaths. Closer to home, the UK has seen recent outbreaks in meat factories infecting hundreds of workers, forcing the closure of three plants supplying major supermarkets. This isn’t just bad news for those infected, but for their families, friends and communities that they pass the virus on to.
The meat industry prioritises profit over animal welfare and the welfare of its employees.
Meat industry workers are at a much higher risk than most other workers. They work in close quarters on fast production lines, often without enough space to effectively socially distance. Poor air filtration systems that recycle cold, dry untreated air, provide the ideal conditions for the virus to thrive. If that weren’t bad enough, the long shifts and poor working conditions have the potential to weaken workers’ immune systems, increasing the likelihood of them catching and spreading the disease.
We know that the meat industry employs some of society’s most vulnerable workers, many of which are under financial pressure to keep working, regardless of the risks. In the UK around 70% of meat-processing workers are EU migrants. According to unions, many have little knowledge of their rights or how to complain. There have also been reports of illegal trafficking to provide labour for slaughterhouses desperate to fill their positions.
Meat companies around the world are now under increasing scrutiny for their human rights failures as well as their animal rights abuses.
We already understand that factory farming is a ticking time bomb for future pandemics. Three in four of the world’s new and emerging infectious diseases including covid-19, SARs, swine flu and HIV, to name a few, come from our exploitation of animals. Animal agriculture is one of the leading contributors to the climate crisis and our collective future.
We can get all the nutrients we need from a vegan diet whilst minimising our impact on animals, people, and the planet. Instead of reopening these environmentally destructive virus hotbeds we should close them for good and begin our transition to a plant-based food system.
We're calling for the government to permanently close slaughterhouses to reduce the health risks of covid-19 and end factory farming before it ends us.
Sign the letter here: 3in4.viva.org.uk