On March 31, dairy farm worker and father of three Juan Panzo Temoxtle tragically drowned in a massive pit full of animal waste. He had been working at Shelton Dairy in Colorado for only six weeks before he died.
Worker advocacy group Project Protect Food System Workers first reported Temoxtle’s death. The group shared that he had been operating a manure vacuum truck when it sank in a pit holding the waste of nearly 3,000 farmed animals. Workers fought to save Temoxtle and finally managed to free the truck using a forklift. But sadly, it was too late. Temoxtle was declared dead at the hospital.
Temoxtle left behind a wife and three children in Mexico. Like many farm and slaughterhouse workers, Temoxtle was an undocumented immigrant working to support his family. Many undocumented workers live in fear of deportation or other consequences, which makes them easier for factory farms to exploit. Serafina Caliuhua Gonzalez, Temoxtle’s wife, said:
Juan came to the United States to have a better future for his kids, but unfortunately God had another plan for him. Juan wanted his kids to have a career and have a better future. He worked so hard for us.
The worker advocacy group that reported on Temoxtle’s death claims the working conditions he was subjected to were “unsafe.” This is not surprising; Temoxtle was not the first dairy worker to suffocate in a manure pit. In fact, massive factory farms have been increasingly reliant on immigrant workers, many of whom operate dangerous equipment without proper training. This means farmworkers are more vulnerable to workplace injuries and even death.
Despite the many dangers in the animal agriculture industry, it receives little federal oversight regarding worker safety. Observing safety guidelines and reporting injuries are often left to the discretion of employers, leaving workers at their mercy. While animals pay the ultimate price, industry workers are oppressed by the same system that values profit over everything else.
We can all remove our support from this abusive system by choosing more plant-based foods. Download our free Vegetarian Starter Guide to learn how.
Cover Photo Credit: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media