Alex Gross '17 Contributing Writer
As a vegan, one thing I have noticed around as well as outside of Smith is that people seem to think that caring about animal welfare means not caring about people. It is widely believed that thinking animals deserve the same rights as humans devalue humans rather than raising the value of animal lives. That being a vegan is classist because “not everyone can afford Tofurkey,” or racist because “people of color work on farms.” Meatless Mondays would have significant human rights impacts as well as the environmental and animal ones previously addressed.
Think for a minute about what it would be like to work in a slaughterhouse. The workers are exposed to blood, fecal matter, puss, as well as other unmentionables all day, in eight-hour shifts. Their background music is the shrieks of the animals. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, these workers are at increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries, developing acute as well as chronic lung disease, and infections transmitted from animals to humans (like bovine tuberculosis).
“Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry” states: “The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. If you work in the stick pit [where they kill the hogs] for any period of time – that let’s [sic] you kill things but doesn’t let you care. You may look a hog in the eye that’s walking around in the blood pit with you and think, ‘God, that really isn’t a bad looking animal.’ You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up to nuzzle me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them…I can’t care.”
People boycott institutions like Wal-Mart because of their labor practices. And yet the meat industry utilizes many of the same practices. Approximately 38% of these workers within the United States are not from the United States – the majority of whom are undocumented. The worker turnover rate per year often exceeds 100% per year – that is to people who are not being threatened with deportation and loss of the jobs. If they are injured, they cannot depend on their supervisors to report the injuries; in fact, these supervisors are incentivized to the lower the number of injuries they report, so often these workers must suffer in silence. Many of the women must put up with sexual harassment on a daily basis from their supervisors and coworkers.
Having said all of this, I implore those of Smith College to think about what they eat – every time meat is consumed – yes, even “sustainable meat,” that allows these practices to continue. All I ask is that Smithies be aware. And participating in meatless Mondays is the first step.