Whistleblowers Sought as COVID-19 Ravages Industrial Animal Agriculture Industry
The Animal Legal Defense Fund offers tip portal for farm and slaughterhouse workers
DENVER, CO – A series of billboards, in English and Spanish, are launching surrounding the JBS slaughterhouse in Greeley, Colorado — offering an online tip portal where industrial animal agriculture workers can report any concerns, including worker safety, animal abuse and depopulation, and illegal disposal of animals’ bodies. COVID-19 is hitting the industrial animal agriculture industry especially hard, due to its rigid and fragile supply chain from grower to slaughter. Multiple workers have voiced concerns, leading the Animal Legal Defense Fund to offer this online portal — ReportAnimalAg.com — to allow individuals to remain anonymous and avoid retaliation.
Due to the cramped working environments inside slaughterhouses, the pandemic spread quickly through employee ranks — requiring many large facilities to temporarily shut down. This created a bottleneck, leaving many animals — especially pigs and chickens — stuck at farms longer than anticipated, growing larger and older than slaughterhouses could handle or the industry desired. Industry associations and the U.S. Department of Agriculture quickly offered recommendations on “depopulation”— mass killing of animals on farms. Suggested methods include suffocating chickens with foam, blunt force trauma, and ventilation shut down — executed by shutting down all fans and vents to enclosed barns while animals suffocate and are baked alive in rising temperatures over multiple hours.
The industrial animal agriculture industry has done everything possible to prohibit the documentation of its facilities, including lobbying for so-called Ag-Gag laws, designed to make exposing animal abuse and other potential crimes in animal agriculture facilities illegal — many of these laws have been struck down as unconstitutional after legal challenges by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
“The animal agriculture industry doesn’t want the public to see operations when everything is ‘business as usual,’ much less conditions during a pandemic,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “Workers are putting their lives at risk for corporate bottom lines. We want them to know they can report illegal or dangerous conditions anonymously and we will take appropriate action.”
On May 29, 2020, a graphic video was released after a whistleblower came forward in Iowa — exposing the cruel reality of ventilation shut down: pigs calling out in distress as they were slowly cooked to death with steam over the course of many hours. There are conflicting reports of how many animals have been killed nationally — or are planned to be — and no reporting requirements for how the animals’ bodies are disposed of. Industry recommended disposal methods include burning the bodies onsite, burial, and composting (with recommendations to put the deceased animals through a wood-chipper for easier decomposition). Each method has serious public health and environmental concerns.
“The public has a right to know what is being done — and the dangers associated with the process of mass killing and disposal of hundreds of thousands of animals,” says Wells.
June 9, 2020, the USDA issued a press release reporting most slaughterhouses have reopened and are running at 95 percent capacity — meanwhile COVID-19 continues to spread, heightening the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s concerns for worker and animal safety.
Undercover investigations have exposed unsafe conditions for workers and animal cruelty including extreme and prolonged confinement, systematic mutilation of animals (including castration, debeaking, and dehorning without pain management), and severe medical issues going unattended (including prolapsed rectums, open and bleeding wounds, and burst cysts).
Billboard images are available upon request.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund announced that the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has denied the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed on behalf of Miyoko’s Creamery (Miyoko’s).June 26, 2020 Press Release
As the pandemic leads to reduced capacity at slaughterhouses, prolonged use of drug increases risk of harm.June 4, 2020 Press Release
The drug is a beta-agonist — the same class as ractopamine and other drugs known to cause significant health effects in pigs.June 4, 2020 Press Release