Issues Relating to Slaughterhouses
1. Working conditions, workers’ rights, whistle-blowers
The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents slaughterhouse workers at Quality Meat Packers and addresses working conditions and worker rights. There needs to be a JUST TRANSITION strategy for workers to move from employment in animal exploitation industries to ethical, environmentally sound, and healthy alternatives which focus on vegan, organic, and local food production.
There is an excellent film called American Dream, which deals with the relationship between the exploitation of workers and the abuse of animals by large corporations which emphasize profit above all else.
When slaughterhouse workers acts as whistle-blowers:
Virgil Butler lecture (1 hour on vimeo): “Inside Tyson’s Hell: Why I Got Out of the Chicken Slaughtering Business” Virgil Butler worked at a chicken slaughterhouse and blew the whistle on the treatment of animals and workers after he showed his wife where he worked and felt embarrassed about his job for the first time; Laura had earlier volunteered at an animals shelter and Virgil says had “a natural desire to act when she sees something wrong.” Compassion over killing talks with Virgil Butler in In Memorial of Virgil Butler. See also PETA’s article on Virgil.
Growing Activism: Labor/Community Strategy Centre focuses on social justice organizing, but mentions approaches and philosophy that apply to all injustice.
2. Animal suffering and abuse
Among the largest pig slaughterhouses in Ontario are Quality Meat Packers and Fearman’s Pork. Both these facilities use carbon dioxide gas chambers to “stun” the pigs before they are hung upside down on one leg and bled with “hollow knives” and sent to the scalding tank to remove their hair. Though the pigs are supposed to be unconscious at the bleeding and scalding tank steps, this is not always the case! Once the pigs start blinking around 1.5 minutes after being stunned they are fully conscious, thus some of them may be going through this horrific process fully conscious.
3. Environmental pollution from slaughterhouses
In its report called “Toxic Toronto,” Now Magazine (April 20-12, 2006) listed Quality Meat Packers as a major polluter of chemical pollutants into our air, land and water each year. According to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, QMP released 2.1 tons of ammonia into the air in 2009 and 0.6 tons of particulate matter (<= 10 Microns) and significant amounts historically as well. The health effects of absorption of fine particulates include bacterial infections and respiratory symptoms, aggravated asthma and cancer, with risks highest for the elderly and children.
A 2006 UN report found that the meat and dairy industries are responsible for about 1/5 of global greenhouse gas emissions. Going Vegan is one of the most effective things you can do to fight climate change. Kerry McCarthy, UK Member of Parliament, says in the film Making the Connection (Environment Films, 2010) that a vegan diet uses 1/3 of the land and 1/3 of the water compared to a meat-based diet. Trewin Restorick, CEO ofGlobal Action Plan in London, says in the film that “as high as 18% of greenhouse emissions globally is caused by the meat and dairy sector.” PETA has a campaign linking climate change and diet. According to their website:
Global warming has been called humankind’s “greatest challenge” and the world’s most grave environmental threat. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although this helps, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming.
For further information, see our Protect the Environment web-page.
4. Neighbourhood campaigns
Key issues to date are smell and noise pollution and concerns about animal welfare and protection, especially during the transport and unloading of pigs at 677 Wellington St. W.
A Toronto Star article “Toronto’s diverse neighbours live in harmony” by Katie Daubs (Aug. 2, 2010) interviews Ms. Karlie Cowie, who is not deaf and blind to the pig’s suffering. Karlie works on Niagara Street and says she became vegetarian after she started working in the neighbourhood:
“When you see the squealing pig trucks come in, and hear the low moan of the refrigerator trucks leaving, it’s all too real. It’s good you can see it, because it is so easy to be removed.”
For further information, see our Community Issues web-page.
5. Number of animals killed and methods used
At Quality Meat Packers, 7,000 pigs are killed each day; 35,000 pigs per week. Fearman’s Pork Inc.(formerly Maple Leafs Pork) is the largest pork-processing facility in Ontario, slaughtering upwards of 45,000 every week and primarily servicing Toronto and the Eastern United States.