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!