Children were recently found working at JBS—the world’s largest meat-processing plant. Hired illegally for overnight shifts by the company’s sanitation contractor, children as young as 13 suffered multiple injuries, including caustic chemical burns.
Working at meat-processing plants is inherently dangerous, and people who do it suffer higher injury rates than workers in most other industries. Common serious injuries include dismemberment, fractured fingers, burns, and head trauma. Children working at JBS processing plants in Minnesota and Nebraska allegedly performed risky jobs, like cleaning power equipment with corrosive cleaners and cleaning the floors where animals had been slaughtered.
On Thursday, November 11, 2022, a district judge in Lincoln, Nebraska, granted the U.S. Department of Labor’s request for a nationwide restraining order against Packers Sanitation Services (PSSI)—the company accused of employing minors. An investigation into PSSI found that the company had hired at least 31 children between the ages of 13 and 17. PSSI is also accused of attempting to stop their child workers from cooperating with investigators.
While this story is horrific, meat-processing plants are terrible places to work no matter your age. Workers engage in backbreaking, dangerous work, sometimes forced to stand so close together that they cut one another with their knives. It’s no wonder slaughterhouse workers suffer some of the highest rates of injury and dismemberment on the job. On top of that, the vast majority of meatpacking workers are people of color, immigrants, and those from low-income families—a fact that makes it easier for the meat industry to exploit its workforce.
Recently, Seaboard Foods—the second-largest pork producer in the United States—was accused of ignoring worker injuries. According to Seaboard employees, the company repeatedly ignored doctors’ notes and forced staff to work through injuries. One injured Seaboard employee was given ice and painkillers and sent back to the production floor, only to discover later he had a fractured vertebra and an elbow contusion.
Just last year, an unknown chemical at a massive poultry plant in rural North Carolina began making workers sick. Mountaire Farms workers, who are largely immigrants, reported a suffocating odor, headaches, watery eyes, nausea, dizziness, and pain in their lungs. Some fainted at work, and one man was hospitalized for a lung infection. Despite this, Mountaire Farms reportedly did not address their concerns, give them tools to protect themselves, or even explain what the chemical was. One employee said:
I give my best to Mountaire, but the headaches I’m having are unbearable and it’s clear [Mountaire] doesn’t care about us. They only care about production. We can be dying, and they won’t give us sick time; they won’t help with our hospitalization. They don’t treat us like humans.
Start taking steps to remove your support for this abusive industry today! Check out ChooseVeg.com for recipes, tips, and other ways to add more plant-based foods to your daily routine.