Recently, employees at a Perdue plant in Georgia walked off the job, angry at management and fearing for their health. These workers are not alone in walking out in protest during the pandemic; Amazon and Instacart employees have also been striking against working conditions. Kendaliyn Granville, one of the Perdue employees on strike, explained at the time: “We’re not getting nothing — no type of compensation, no nothing, not even no cleanliness, no extra pay — no nothing.” She went on to say that workers on the production line said they were exposed to the novel coronavirus.
In a press release last Saturday, Perdue admitted that an employee at a Georgia plant – a different one from the plant described above – tested positive for the virus.
Dangerous and Unsafe Working Conditions
According to an employee who had been streaming live on Facebook, management had requested the workers put in more hours but with no pay increase. In a statement, Perdue replied that employees are entitled to overtime if they work over 40 hours, and that during the pandemic, employees can take home free chicken. But neither of those are good solutions; free animal products don’t help their concerns with unsafe working conditions. Moreover, it doesn’t solve anything to tell employees that they can work additional hours in conditions that the employees have deemed unsafe.
It’s not just the coronavirus that employees at Perdue plants need to be concerned about, it’s also risking serious bodily injury.
“In many commercial slaughterhouses across the country, chickens are hastily shackled — by their legs and upside down — to a fast-moving line where they are supposed to be stunned, then killed, and finally submerged in scalding water at a rate of 140 birds each minute,” the complaint says.
“Because of the rapid speed at which the chickens are processed, millions (if not billions) of birds suffer extreme cruelty during the process every year, and an untold number are drowned or scalded to death while fully conscious. This high speed also causes many workers to suffer painful injuries and exposes consumers to food contamination and illness. Additionally, the slaughter process consumes huge amounts of water and produces vast amounts of wastewater. Despite these problems, the federal agency overseeing slaughter — which has long recognized the connection between animal welfare and food safety— has decided to authorize a 25 percent increase in chicken slaughter line speeds, virtually guaranteeing increases in animal cruelty and public health dangers.”
Read more about the federal cases concerning poultry and swine line speeds here.
Chicken Farmers Versus Perdue
Perdue has also been accused of treating chicken farmers unfairly. In 2017, former chicken farmers sued Perdue, among other chicken exploiters such as Tyson, accusing the businesses of treating the farmers like “indentured servants.”
The farmers said in the lawsuit their net incomes ranged between $12,000 and year and $40,000 a year despite working 12 to 16 hours a day every day of the year.
“Meanwhile, integrators like Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson rake in more than $1 billion and $3.9 billion a year, respectively, in profits,” they said.
The National Chicken Council dismissed the farmers as a “disgruntled minority.” You can read about the lawsuit here.
Of course, animals are also victims here. Chickens are among the most abused animals on the planet, and make up the vast majority of all animals killed for food. Chickens receive few protections in both federal and state laws. They then suffer additional harms, like what animal rights group Mercy For Animals uncovered at a Perdue operation:
A worker at a Perdue Farms contract poultry operation in Richmond County has been arrested and charged with four counts of felony animal abuse. An advocacy group’s undercover video showed workers kicking the birds like footballs and spinning them by their heads to break their necks.
For a detailed history on Perdue and animal cruelty, please read this resource from PETA.
Animal Exploiters Hurt People, Too
There should be no surprise that one of the most well-known animal exploiters, Perdue, has also been exploiting its employees. The Food Empowerment Project has written about exploited factory farm workers, which I encourage you to read.
As we educate people on the reasons why they should go vegan, we should stand in solidarity with the exploited workers in the animal agriculture industry. And if you’re reading this but not vegan yet, please take animals off your plate.
Readers, stay home as much as possible. We need to flatten the curve. I am fortunate enough to continue my contract work from home, and I only leave my apartment about once a week for a grocery/errand run. Find yourself a mask (I bought a few handmade on Etsy – my advice would be to look for one that’s cotton. 3 layers is ideal, as well as a pocket for a filter. Some people use coffee filters or paper towel in the filter pocket, but I bought HEPA vacuum bags online. If you buy a vacuum bag, try to get one that’s effective up to .3 microns.) Reminder to stay at least six feet apart from other people when you go out.
Categories: Animal Welfare