The following is an open letter to people who say, “I don’t care about factory farm workers.”
This might not be an easy thing to read if you’ve seen undercover videos revealing how animals are abused at factory farms but, trust me, it’s important. And it’s a topic we seriously need to discuss.
As a content manager at Mercy For Animals, I see comments all the time about how factory farm and slaughterhouse workers “have no soul” or that the commenter would do anything but work in a factory farm.
But really, who grows up saying, “I want to work in a slaughterhouse”?
Almost no one. Here on Long Island, where I live, we have a slaughterhouse operated by the county jail. When I spoke to a legislator a few years back about this, he shook his head and said: “It’s horrible. None of the inmates want to have a shift in the slaughterhouse.”
Now, not every factory farm has a connection to a jail. But they are still horrible places to work for anyone unfortunate enough to have no other option.
Think about this: A 2017 report on immigrant labor at New York dairy farms showed that a whopping 93 percent of the workers surveyed were undocumented immigrants, who are easily exploited. The report compiled by the Workers’ Center of Central New York and Worker Justice Center of New York revealed that dairy workers might not receive a five-minute break during a 12-hour shift. And like all agricultural workers in New York, they were excluded from the right to a day off or compensation for overtime. Their pay hovered just above minimum wage.
Also shocking is that two-thirds of dairy workers in New York have experienced one or more injuries on the job, with 68 percent of those injuries being serious enough to require medical attention. Similarly, Tyson Foods averages one human amputee per month. Per month!
More than 88 percent of the dairy workers surveyed believed their employers cared more about the well-being of the cows than the workers.
And knowing how factory farms treat their animals, that’s horrifying.
Sadly, work at factory farms and slaughterhouses is often the only option for undocumented workers. Even worse, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that undocumented workers are often lured to the U.S. by traffickers hired by the meat, dairy, and egg industries.
According to a Vice article, “The Department of Labor officially puts the number of undocumented farmworkers at 46 percent, but industry experts and labor advocates estimate that the number is much, much higher—possibly closer to 70 percent.”
And if that isn’t enough to make you think about the conditions these workers endure, studies show that slaughterhouse violence subjects countless people to PTSD. This trauma also makes its way into families and communities.
I’ll leave you with this: Workers generally have little power over how farmed animals are treated. Extreme confinement, mutilations without painkillers, and ruthless slaughter are not the fault of low-level workers. While animals pay the ultimate price, farmworkers are oppressed by the same system that values profit over everything else. Many workers have no voice for speaking out against the atrocities they are forced to commit every day.