Vegans Need to Show Some Compassion for Slaughterhouse Workers Who might have COVID-19
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FROM lauren Ornelas, FEP Food Empowerment Project
May 2020

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.

slaughterhouse uniforms

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.

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