Vegans need to show some compassion for slaughterhouse workers who might have COVID-19

Slaughterhouse Workers

I went vegan in 1988 for the animals. In fact, I was in elementary school the first time I tried to go vegetarian – that was in the 1970s in Texas, and it was not easy. But I loved animals and did not want to contribute to the separation of their families and hurt them. It was simple: compassion and empathy.

As a Chicana, I know that many of my people are the ones who pick our produce, and that is why part of my organization’s mission is to advocate for farm workers. Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) makes sure we give back by supporting boycotts called by farm workers and advocating at the legislative and regulatory level, but we also organize a school supply drive for the children of farm workers.

Being a vegan organization, we do not actively do work for slaughterhouse workers. Over the years, however, we have been outspoken against the undercover investigations performed by animal organizations when slaughterhouse workers (who are committing hideous crimes against non-human animals) are fired from their jobs and deported while the owners (who create these systems) are able to continue their corrupt and inhumane practices. For decades I have heard horrible things that vegans have said about these workers, and I have spoken out. I am horrified and shaken to my core about what has happened to the animals, but I also know that blaming the victim never works.

The recent news of slaughterhouse workers having tested positive for COVID-19 and the sick and heartbreaking remarks by vegans have me wanting to say more.

Many of us who are vegan are so because of our compassion and empathy, yet vilifying slaughterhouse workers is not the behavior of truly compassionate, empathetic people.

COVID-19 is horrific, and the intense pain inflicted on those who get it is unimaginable for many of us. Keep in mind that many slaughterhouse workers are Black, Brown, undocumented, and immigrants, all of whose immune systems are already vulnerable due to stress from the lack of rights in their jobs, not making enough money, fear for their safety, living in unsafe areas, and most likely facing food insecurity. Not one of them decided they wanted to be a slaughterhouse worker when they grew up.

And remember, slaughterhouses have a 100% turnover rate. These people are not staying there.

I have shed tears for Italy, for others around the globe, and for the young and the old. I have watched the videos of people in the ICU. And the most heartbreaking is to see people distraught because they could not be with their loved ones when they passed away. Not able to hold their loved one’s hand as they took their last breath.

How could anyone wish that upon another living being?

The hatred makes me shudder.

We will not post any vitriol toward me or Food Empowerment Project on our social media for this post. We will not spread the hate.

Many times, when I do interviews or speak, I am questioned if vegans really are racist and opposed to our work. In case anyone wants to see messages from vegans hoping that these workers die, we will send them as evidence to you individually, but we will not post them here.

It is time for those of us who want justice and want to lessen the suffering of all beings to quit allowing divisions to be made. At a time like this, the world needs more solidarity.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Sarai Garcia

    I am with you! Please keep up the amazing work

  2. Lisa Ryan

    Thank you for your hard work, ongoing and consistent intersectional voice for justice and equity for ALL beings and our living planet! Much love!

  3. Lisa

    This is amazing! Great work as always <3

    I will always stand with F.E.P. and their commitment to intersectional veganism.

  4. Rebecca Gaines

    Compassion is key on all levels. Grateful for your words.

  5. Jaya Bhumitra

    Solidarity. With you and with workers.

  6. Paula Renee

    I think most vegans stand in solidarity with slaughterhouse workers, especially at this time. The government’s reckless decision to re-open slaughterhouses, no matter what, is dangerous and is going to kill people.

    1. Paula, Thank you for your understanding & for your support! While we appreciate those that do understand this, we have also noticed that many of the people in the community don’t understand this & have NOT been showing compassion even during these unprecedented times. As mentioned in the blog, we have made the decision not to spread this hate publicly… but will share privately with anyone interested.

  7. Peter Kasin

    Yes, in full agreement with you. Slaughterhouse workers need all the support they can get. They are some of the most exploited workers. In the long term my hope is that as meat alternative manufacturing grows, those kinds of factories will be built in communities where there are slaughterhouses, and the workers can be offered a safer alternative in a cleaner, kill-free working environment. If those slaughterhouses close, I hope they would get preferential consideration in hiring. That’s in the long run. In the short term, they must be protected from harm through labor law enforcement, safety inspections, hazard pay if forced to work, (but shouldn’t be forced to work in a covid environment!) but more importantly full pay while stay-at-home during covid. I’m not holding my breath that our current Senate majority and White House will do this. There is a bill , though, co-sponsored by Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren to break up the major meat packers.

  8. Abbey Levine

    Thank you lauren & FEP for always standing up for justice & compassion! I am so proud to know you & to be a supporter!!

  9. Laura Matanah

    Solidarity is key. Thanks for your voice and your work. Onward!

  10. peter metcalf

    When individuals decide that only some animals, or some creatures, or some people or groups of people or cultures, or nationalities, or job holders, or only certain unemployed for that matter, merit inclusion among those for whom they have respect or consideration or compassion, vegans lose credibility in the very foundation of our choice. Among all our options, universal inclusion in our experience of love is the most transformative and life changing possibility anyone has.
    FEP’s intentional focus on inclusivity and breadth of perspective is the reason I support the organization over others promoting veganism.

  11. Max Broad

    I heard about this blog post on the Beyond Species podcast and was so heartened to hear of this message of love and compassion. I understand the fear that many vegans express in showing compassion for slaughterhouse workers, but that is often a knee-jerk assessment. It’s the corporations who are deserving of accountability. Is FEP able to do anything to offer protection/supplies for these workers? I’m interested in hosting a donation drive in Northern CA to collect supplies.

    1. Hey Max, Thanks for your support. We are currently focusing on raising funds to help produce workers – but not slaughterhouse workers at this time.

  12. erin evans

    Thanks for this important statement! Hopefully you remember me, Lauren! I’m reaching out in the hopes that you will know of groups that are doing intersectional activism through vegan food distribution prioritizing POC, or, preferably, run by POC? Vegans for Black Lives Matter is on my radar so I’m looking for more groups that emerged due to the crisis. I’m a trustee in an animal rights grant giving group and we’re wanting to reach out to activists who are doing COVID related food distribution for POC. Here’s a link to grant group:

    And my email is for anyone else who sees this!

    1. Hi, Erin! Thanks so much for sharing the details and thinking of our organization for the grant-giving group you are apart of, we truly appreciate it! We will forward the info along to lauren and hope you stay safe and well.

  13. Roberto

    I have also spoken up on behalf of these modern-day “slaves” of the food chain. When I read a self-proclaimed animal advocates and vengans state he/she wish others death or that they burn in hell, that does it with me. However, with the same commitment to compassion I chastise them because they need our help so that they can evolve. Sadly, in the US there is still racism within the animal advocacy movement, as contradictory as this is.

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