As COVID-19 began to spread across the United States this spring, slaughterhouses were hit particularly hard. But despite outbreaks making thousands of workers sick and even killing some of them, President Trump issued an executive order aiming to keep production lines running. As a result of staying open, more slaughterhouse workers across the country were infected with COVID-19, and many died.
Now, it has come to light in emails obtained by ProPublica that the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the industry’s biggest trade group, drafted a similar executive order a mere week before Trump’s order was issued.
The White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not respond to ProPublica with comments. The discovery of these emails raises troubling questions as to whether the meat industry’s influence on President Trump led to the deaths of its own workers in the name of continued profit. All under a guise that the U.S. would run out of food. Meanwhile, shipments of pig meat from the U.S. to China quadrupled after mid-March.
While it is legal for groups like NAMI to suggest draft policy language, this development brings to light concerning corroboration between the administration and the meat industry, and a blatant disregard for the health of workers and consumers. Months later, employees continue becoming infected at work due to factors including the inability to social distance and lack of adequate safety measures.
Meanwhile, the USDA continues allowing chicken plants to run slaughter lines even faster, killing up to 175 birds per minute, and some pig plants are running without any upper limit at all. This forces workers to move even faster to keep up with the reckless speed, almost certainly leading to more crowded conditions in which coronavirus spreads–not to mention exacerbating already painful injuries.
While workers are harmed, animals too are abused in cruel, unnecessary ways under these policies. Animal Outlook investigations have revealed that faster line speeds and increased production result in animals being dragged, beaten, and improperly stunned while workers try to keep up with the rapidly moving lines.
After witnessing this barbaric treatment of animals, Animal Outlook teamed up with a coalition of organizations to sue the USDA.
We cannot permit the meat industry to run amok and create policy that increases profit at the expense of animal and worker lives, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we take action now, together we will have a huge impact.
Keep Animal Outlook in the courtroom fighting meat industry giants. It’s time to hold Big Ag — and our government — accountable. Give today at animaloutlook.org/25years. All donations up to $125,000 will be doubled as part of our 25th anniversary matching challenge, helping us raise a total of $250,000 to fuel our next 25 years.