In light of extensive reductions to staff numbers across Victoria’s abattoirs and after 45 employees of JBS Brooklyn, an abattoir in Melbourne’s west, refused to return to work out of fears for their safety following a COVID-19 outbreak, PETA has written to the union with an offer to cover the cost of re-training staff in the nonviolent profession of floral design.
Abattoir workers know better than anyone that the rate of illness and injury for workers in the meat industry is four times the national average, since staff are often forced to work at reckless speeds in order to maximise production.
In fact, Cedar Meats staff only became aware of a COVID-19 outbreak in May after a worker was rushed to hospital following a workplace accident in which his thumb was severed. Now there is the additional concern that, as Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, noted, “meatworks are particularly vulnerable” to COVID-19, with 339 active cases of the virus being linked to Victorian abattoirs.
Melbourne is not unique in this. Other outbreaks have been reported in abattoirs in France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, the UK and the US.
Then there’s the fact that the bloody, gruesome process of slaughtering, dismembering and packaging the corpses of sentient individuals involves constant cruelty to animals and can lead to workers experiencing mental and other physical health problems.
Cramming animals together in filthy factory farms, abattoirs and meat markets threatens the health of everyone by providing a breeding ground for deadly diseases – and potential pandemics. Long before this novel coronavirus originated in a “wet market” in China, H1N1 (swine flu), which originated in pigs, was traced back to a US factory farm. H5N1 (bird flu), which can be contracted by humans who come into close contact with infected live or dead birds, has a mortality rate of up to 60% and is considered a concern by the World Health Organization because of its potential to mutate and become highly infectious via human-to-human contact.
Working in a slaughterhouse is a dangerous, dirty job. As the world looks towards a cleaner, kinder, way of living, PETA is more than happy to help those who wish to transition out of this violent, bloody industry into sustainable, compassionate – and safer – work.