Last week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Cory Booker reintroduced the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act. This act, originally introduced last year by Rep. Marcia Fudge (who has since become U.S. secretary of housing and urban development) and Sen. Cory Booker, would ban all slaughterhouses from running at dangerously high speeds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joe Huang-Racalto, senior federal policy advisor for Mercy For Animals, stated:
This legislation is desperately needed to protect workers, animals, and consumers. We applaud Congresswoman DeLauro and Senator Booker for recognizing the severity of this problem, and we strongly urge the swift passage of this important legislation. We will continue to work with Congress and our coalition partners to slow slaughter lines.
High-speed slaughter lines result in unspeakable suffering for animals. They often lead to improper shackling and stunning, leaving countless animals conscious throughout the slaughter process. Additionally, many birds miss the kill blades and are still alive when they reach the scalding feather-removal tanks. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2018 more than 600,000 birds drowned in these tanks.
Increased line speeds are also terrible for people. According to academic research and nonprofit data, chicken slaughterhouses that were granted government waivers to raise their slaughter-line speeds were 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 outbreaks. In fact, since the pandemic began, at least 57,741 meatpacking workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
Higher speeds not only put workers at further risk of COVID-19 but in many cases force them to stand so close together that they cut one another with their knives. No wonder slaughterhouse workers suffer some of the highest rates of injury and dismemberment on the job.
In addition to banning high-speed slaughter lines, the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of the USDA’s response to COVID-19, including how well they protected animals and workers. This could have a positive impact on how the USDA handles crises in the future.
Your action has the potential to facilitate lasting systemic change. The more co-sponsors this bill has, the better its odds of success, so now is the time to speak up. Take action now!