Shut Down the Slaughterhouses


On April 27th, the Denver Post reported  that “5th Greeley JBS worker dies.” JBS is a Colorado slaughterhouse employing 6000 workers. Over 100 JBS employees tested positive for 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 others in the community. I have a different suggestion: President Trump, you should issue an executive order shutting slaughterhouses down.

Workers in a hog slaughter and processing plant. Image credit U.S. Government Accountability Office, Public Domain.

Here are three reasons why:

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 their 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 slaughterhouses?

3. Closing down slaughterhouses means closing down 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, which has a reproductive number (R0) of 5.7. With the coronavirus mortality on the order of 0.5% to 0.8%, the economy has been 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!

This article was originally posted at

Featured image: pulleys in the processing area of a slaughterhouse. Image credit Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals.

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About Author

Keith Akers runs the Compassionate Spirit blog, and has written three books: Disciples (Apocryphile Press, 2013), The Lost Religion of Jesus (Lantern Books, 2000), and A Vegetarian Sourcebook (G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1983). He's also been published in VegNews, Vegetarian Times, and other vegetarian and vegan publications. Click to see author's profile.

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