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COVID-19 Reaches US Slaughterhouses

Above photo: Mercy For Animals Canada – CC BY 2.0.

Meat giant JBS USA Holdings closed its Souderton, Pennsylvania slaughter operation. Tyson Foods closed its Columbus Junction, Iowa pork slaughterhouse. Pennsylvania-based Empire Kosher Poultry temporarily closed its doors and Sanderson Farms asked employees at its Moultrie, GA slaughter operation to stay home. COVID-19 has hit U.S. slaughterhouses big time.

In addition to management-ruled closures, employees have also walked out because of the growing number of COVID-19 infected employees and the risks on site.

In the midst of human deaths and hunts for ventilators, media are not focusing on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic but they should. The tiger that tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo is a grim reminder that civet cats hosting a bat virus caused the original SARS virus and outbreak according to the Journal of Virology and COVID-19 is actually named SARS-CoV-2.

COVID-19 unequivocally jumped from animals to humans says the CDC and such viruses “are common in people and [many] different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.”

“Wet markets” in China where exotic animals undergo cruel and unhygienic slaughter caused the current pandemic, as they did SARS, say experts. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House coronavirus task force says he is incredulous that wet markets are still open. “It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we just don’t shut it down,” he said. “I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”

Could the “human-animal interface” of infected U.S. meat workers breathing close to slaughtered animals and each other and exposed to massive amounts of blood and other fluids present bi-directional disease transmission dangers? It certainly does with wet markets.

Big Ag Has Other COVID-19 Problems

Concern for animals, workers, the environment and even the economy and human consumers has never characterized the profit-driven Big Ag. As COVID-19 further closes schools and restaurants, dairy farmers are dumping milk because of low prices and requesting government assistance. In years past, the dairy industry killed as many as 50,000 cows a week to counteract low prices.

The dairy industry was already hurting before the COVID-19 pandemic as the nation migrates to alternative milks like soy, rice, oat, coconut, pea, almond, cashew, hemp, flax, hazelnut, and quinoa. The diary giants Borden’s and Deans filed for bankruptcy last year.

Meanwhile, the egg industry is experiencing an opposite problem: how to deliver cheap eggs when demand from locked down families has increased (though each egg actually increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17 percent).

According to the Wall Street Journal:

“It takes four to five months to raise a hen to egg-laying age, and few farmers so far plan to build new barns or significantly expand their flocks.”

Do egg farmers regret the millions of birds they “depopulated” during the avian flu epidemic a few years ago with suffocation from propylene glycol foam to protect their profits? “Round the clock incinerators and crews in hazmat suits,” were required for bird depopulation in 2015 reported Fortune at the time.

Conditions in today’s football field-sized egg farms are so extreme, those inside the barns whether workers, authorities and investigators or animals are sickened and birds are incinerated from fires–as happened just weeks ago. Livestock fires are a shocking and avoidable common occurrence.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mississippi egg producer Cal-Maine will profit from COVID-19 demand with higher prices. Yet the Humane Society of the United States exposed Cal-Maine’s cruel conditions in a video that showed birds with broken legs, trapped in cage wire unable to reach food and living among their dead flock mates.

It is said that those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The COVID-19 pandemic and the SARS and MERS outbreaks that preceded it is a chilling and horrifying example of such blindness.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).

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