Countless reports have highlighted the dangerous and unsanitary conditions faced by workers at factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Last February, Buzzfeed News revealed that on average, one Tyson employee a month is injured by equipment and loses a finger or limb.
Just a few months later, a report from Oxfam found that line workers at Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Sanderson Farms were denied breaks. In fact, they went so long without breaks that some employees were forced to wear diapers.
These workers are subjected to hazards like injuries, respiratory illness, and infection by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In fact, Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that 10 out of 22 workers who were tested carried potentially deadly bacteria.
While the physical danger for these workers is very real, so is the psychological trauma.
PTSD Journal explains:
These employees are hired to kill animals, such as pigs and cows that are largely gentle creatures. Carrying out this action requires workers to disconnect from what they are doing and from the creature standing before them. This emotional dissonance can lead to consequences such as domestic violence, social withdrawal, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and PTSD.
To make matters worse, slaughterhouse violence not only subjects countless workers to serious psychological trauma but also makes its way into the communities they are part of.
A 2009 study by criminologist Amy Fitzgerald investigated the effects of slaughterhouse employment on crime rates:
The findings indicate that slaughterhouse employment increases total arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with other industries.
Fitzgerald asserts that the slaughterhouse specifically accounts for the spike in crime; she found that when the number of slaughterhouse workers increased, the arrest rate increased. This was the case even when controlling for variables like income, gender, and employment in similar factory operations.
Slaughterhouse workers have little power over how animals are treated. Extreme confinement, mutilations without painkillers, and ruthless slaughter are no fault of low-level workers.
While it’s certainly true that animals pay the ultimate price with their lives, 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.