Central Valley Meat (CVM), a slaughterhouse in Hanford, California, has confirmed at least 24 cases of employees infected by coronavirus this week. Despite not knowing the extent of the spread (the Fresno Bee reported that the plant is still awaiting additional test results), the plant remains open.
This is not the first time CVM has garnered attention: In July 2012, an undercover video captured by Animal Outlook prompted the USDA to shut the plant down for unsanitary conditions. Our video revealed egregious acts of cruelty that compromised both animal welfare and food safety, including the repeated use of electric prods and physical force to move animals too sick or injured to walk, commonly referred to in the meat industry as “downers.”
Now, the plant is putting workers at risk, continuing to operate despite a coronavirus outbreak at the plant. Already a notoriously dangerous occupation, worker health is being further compromised in the name of profit.
To make matters worse, a new executive order designates meat processing facilities as “critical infrastructure,” demanding that they stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing unions and state health officials concerns about worker safety and plant sanitation. The order also provides liability protection for these facilities, leaving employees who catch the virus as a result of having to go to work with no legal recourse.
Meat certainly isn’t the only protein source we can find (despite what Smithfield Foods implies). To quote Kim Cordova, president of Local 7 of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, people can live without beef.
The executive order and the determination of some plants to stay open at all costs shows that in the eyes of the government and Big Ag, profit is more essential than the health and safety of workers, and the well-being of the general public.[simple-author-box]