Shut down the slaughterhouses

By U.S. Government Accountability Office from Washington, DC, United States – Figure 7: Workers in a Hog Slaughter and Processing Plant Use Hooks and Other Tools, Public Domain, Link

On Tuesday, the Denver Post reported  that “5th Greeley JBS worker dies.” JBS is a Colorado slaughterhouse employing 6000 workers. Over 100 employees tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), and five have died: four workers and one person who worked at the corporate office. (Let’s see, that works out to about a 5% mortality rate.) Despite this, JBS is re-opening! And the company is going to court to stop the union from raising safety concerns in public!

Similar events are happening all over the country. Supervisors at meat-packing plants are advising workers to report for shifts even if they’re sick, or telling workers they are lucky to work in a frigid environment where the coronavirus can’t survive.

President Trump has issued an executive order to keep the slaughterhouses open by declaring them to be “critical infrastructure.” This is nonsense. Plants have protein. There is nothing critical about slaughterhouses except that they contribute to the profits of the meat industry. This order shows total lack of compassion for the workers and the community. I have a different suggestion: President Trump, you should issue an executive order shutting the slaughterhouses down.

Here are three reasons:
1. Meat packing plants are hot spots for the coronavirus. Haven’t you been reading the news? This obviously endangers the workers in these plants, who now have to risk their lives just to do their jobs, as well as the lives of everyone else in the community and in the nation. What are you trying to do by forcing the slaughterhouses open, get us all killed?

2. This is an international problem that requires an international approach. This virus originated in China, but now it affects us. If we expect China to shut down their wet markets to stop the spread of the coronavirus, how can we not do our part by closing the slaughterhouses?

3. Closing down the slaughterhouses means closing down the factory farms as well. That protects us against the NEXT pandemic, which could be a much deadlier strain of avian flu or combining the mortality of SARS or MERS (10% and 30%) with the highly contagious properties of COVID-19 (R0 = 5.7). With the coronavirus mortality on the order of 0.5% to 0.8%, the economy is severely affected but we still have basic distribution of food and supplies. Will we be able to get basic supplies in the next pandemic if the mortality is 10% to 30%?

Factory farms are an accident waiting to happen, and if we keep ramping up livestock agriculture and continuing to roll the dice, eventually that accident will happen. Take pre-emptive action now to halt the spread of the coronavirus and stop the next pandemic. Shut down slaughterhouses and factory farms!

13 Replies to “Shut down the slaughterhouses”

  1. It is obvious that lobbyists for the nonhuman animal enslavement industries are at work here. As you alluded to, there is nothing essential about animal flesh, milk, and eggs. The suffering and abuse of “farmed” animals goes on without reprieve. They’re still being aborted and killed in mass, just not slaughtered (“business as usual”) for consumption. Most slaughterhouse workers are unprotected immigrants so I’m not surprised by the lack of concern for them; they are a means to an end just like the other animals they kill and “process”. The insane irony in all of this is that animal enslavement operations are why we have pandemics in the first place. If there were ever companies that needed to be shuttered for human, nonhuman, and environmental health, it’s the animal flesh, milk, and egg industries. Sadly, nonhuman beings continue to be treated as factory widgets both in words and deeds and the madness continues. It’s so very depressing as I constantly ask myself what more I can do. I have been a vegetarian for the last 26 years and a vegan for 17 years. I, along with millions of others, are proof that no one has to eat the flesh, eggs, and milk of other beings to live. Out of social conditioning, convenience, and a perverse, unquestioned desire for the taste of another’s flesh, people continue to choose violence and death for themselves and others. I hope vegan companies will see this as an opportunity to ramp up production and fill the vacuum with plant-based products, opening hearts and minds to ethical eating and the truth that animals are persons; they are not “food”. Perhaps this virus will be one more nail in the coffin of animal enslavement operations. I can only hope and pray.
    Please check out my blog, The Vegan Vine, at

    1. Thank you! Your most recent blog from April 14, “The Silver Lining of COVID-19,” is very insightful. What we really need to do is to enable people to live at this lower level of consumption, which is much kinder to the ecosystem; something like a universal basic income would probably do the trick. Re-establishing the old patterns of exploitation and consumption will also restore the destruction of the planet.

  2. As a Christian American vegan constitutionalist with dreams of the highest possible quality of life for myself and my fellow world citizens, I share many of your views. I cannot imagine following Christ to any other home but constitutional vegan statehood in a biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear weapons-free zone.

    Stop the slaughterhouses in my future home country, yes, without question – whether zoonotic disease transmission is a risk vector or not! But in Colorado, now, or across America as a whole? While “privately” I sympathize, Andrew Yang is far from the presumptive 2020 Democratic nominee, and I am not sure this is our best contemporary vegan message for a general Coloradan or American audience, either. With all due respect for your genuinely cornerstone work.

    We tend to imagine that the world is waking up to the vegan outlook. That it must, or face total ruin. That the best of human logic and emotion are on our side. Indeed, there is a time and place for these arguments. I hope they win. But it is also possible this world will remain vigorously anti-vegan until it ends in a Hell realm. The “powers that be” are not exactly rallying behind the vegan activists. We are in a small minority, and the majority appears committed to our political and religious marginalization, if not our total annihilation. For thousands of years, according to some experts, the mainstream has hunted us down, tortured us, and wiped us out of our rightful leadership roles in church and state. How else do we explain a present configuration of 193+ member states at the United Nations, and not a single vegan constitution? In 2020 AD?

    It is vital that we message holistically and pacifistically. Vegan activists around the world, if they are not careful, may one day be rounded up and psychiatrically hospitalized for delusional disorders. Imagine blogging the same arguments about wet markets in mainland China! How long before it is off to the psychiatric hospital for you? We must prepare younger vegans, especially, for the reality. They are our heroes, yes, and in our eyes they are among the world’s heroes. But they are also hated with demonic venom by an incredibly powerful minority of cold-blooded killers, and perhaps (though we pray not) they are still unconsciously despised by the masses. Young vegans must work together with enormous intelligence and diplomacy to protect themselves, get to psychiatrically safe vegan housing in psychiatrically safe vegan school districts, all while pacifying the opposition with the total love and forbearance that such a difficult diaspora demands.

    Do you think, on the basis of reliable polling data, there has been enough of a vegan awakening under Covid-19 to place Colorado on the edge of a factory-farming prohibition? As a small minority in non-vegan American states, I believe we must voice our sincere respect for the courage and service of all essential workers – according to the Polis and Trump administrations’ definitions, not our own – and offer our prayers for their safety, well-being and recovery from harm. We must speak honestly of our regret at any loss of life from Covid-19, and carefully guard against segmenting our compassion, on the one hand, or unduly using this tragedy to advance our quest for vegan legislation, on the other.

    We face a tightrope and I don’t pretend to offer a definitive answer about how best to walk it. Your view is essential work for the vegan hive mind. Thank you for another thoughtful post.

    1. We’ll see how it goes, but it seems to me that “shut down the slaughterhouses” is a pretty good slogan right now to appeal to a wider audience than we usually get. President Trump will never do that, of course. But this slogan really underlines the basic messages I’d like to see come out of the pandemic; CO VID-19 started with a meat-market in China, and now slaughterhouses in the U. S. are spreading it. The workers at JBS are clearly upset at the way they are being treated. Sure, some people want to “re-open” America. But there are a lot of others, including me, who are very concerned at President Trump’s preference for industry profits over their personal safety.

      1. Great points and I especially appreciated your quantitative future pandemic risk estimate, by the way. Very sober analysis.

        I am sure you have seen the latest Gallup polling data on the estimated number of American vegans and vegetarians. If our 10 million US vegans lived in our own UN member state, our intelligence service would need to issue a statement about whether we felt we had enough evidence to say for sure whether a meat market or the Wuhan Virology Lab was the most likely source of this novel coronavirus. Especially as vegans, we may be presumed to have a bias in favor of the meat market theory, and our credibility hinges on our capacity to hold this in check while maintaining scientific integrity and neutrality. Are you sure we are not getting ahead of the facts here? (The only lab of that kind in China, with a focus on collecting bats with coronaviruses, and so close to the epicenter of this pandemic?)

        We know that nursing homes and hospitals may also be spreading the virus, and many of the workers in this sector are upset, but this does not mean we can shut these institutions down. The people in these institutions need our prayers and our support, even if we strongly disagree with their nutritional policies. I see that your concern is for the slaughterhouse workers (and of course the animals) themselves, and I think this is the right message. PCRM is undoubtedly messaging very carefully in a way that leads on this general support front, too. We don’t want the vast majority to misunderstand either our motives or the broad base of our compassion. Now is and is not the time to put forward our best essential work definition. Domestic violence has gone up under stay-at-home orders. Abruptly taking away foods at the heart of American culture may put some families over the edge. Vegans in at-risk family systems and communities heavily dependent on the livestock trade need to be careful.

        This US President does appear to be fairly unique among world leaders in holding China to account for a possible virology lab security breach. Taiwan and Australia may be the only exceptions (Australia has called for an independent international investigation into the origins of this virus). Now Canada, New Zealand and UK intelligence services are also involved because of a leaked dossier. What side should our imaginal vegan nation take at this time: pro-China, anti-Trump, or something closer to Australian neutrality?

        1. The US President is fairly unique among world leaders in many ways. “Vegan Nation” would almost certainly be anti-Trump, based on Nick Cooney’s Veganomics from several years back, as well as from the Gallup polling data which you cite. It’s harder to predict what the economic or foreign policies of “Vegan Nation” would be, though. My view would be that we would need to acknowledge limits to growth, reduce consumption, reduce population, and of course eliminate or drastically reduce livestock, as well as dealing with issues like social justice. But that’s another story (or another book).

          1. A book that the vegan and vegetarian simple living vanguard in Israel is still writing, too, I expect! Likely noting some of your work in the process.

          2. I forgot to mention that I’ve not read “Veganomics.” How highly do you recommend it? I am re-reading your “Lost Religion” alongside David Ray Griffin’s “Christian Gospel for Americans,” with another study of “Disciples” on the way. We need an academic program to keep up with your work.

          3. Veganomics is a fairly straightforward book which I recommend. Topics covered include things like this: vegetarians smoke and drink less, they tend not to follow traditional religions, and there are more women than men who are vegetarians or vegans. Also discussed is the impact of vegetarianism vs. veganism, the impact of different messages (health, animal rights, environment) on vegetarians and vegans and the public, etc.

          4. Thanks for that well-handled response. In final defense of the absent, I do think President Trump has done some iconoclastic, nationalizing good for the GOP in particular and for the US in general. At the same time, I empathize with the distress of the Democrats. From a green perspective, neither the GOP nor the Democrats presently go far enough toward bioregional decentralization within planetary boundaries (i.e., green nationalism), on the one hand, or with UN reform-aligned pacifism, on the other. It remains to be seen whether ranked choice voting and multi-party representative democracy, perhaps spearheaded by a coalition of Christian pacifists, Greens and Libertarians, will eventually help bridge the gap.

  3. PCRM says this:
    “The Physicians Committee has called on the White House to drop its plan to force meat processing plants to stay open during the COVID-19 crisis. In a message to the President, we point out that meat processing plants are hotbeds for coronavirus and reopening them is a deadly mistake.”

    You can lend your name to their plea here.

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