Re: “Insight: Industry history tells why meatpacking is a COVID-19 hot spot” (May 10):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is failing to protect our essential food workers, causing animals and people to suffer as a result. Fifty-one workers tested positive for COVID-19 at a Portland Tyson Foods processing plant, which reopened after three days. Its employees, who are mostly immigrants, were expected to return to work. But the government is failing to protect workers at plants such as this one by failing to provide workers with personal protective equipment, properly sanitize plants or maintain adequate distance between workers.

Meanwhile, the USDA is recklessly issuing waivers that allow slaughterhouses to kill more animals per minute with less oversight, which allows the slaughterhouse industry to self-regulate. Slaughterhouses always involve animal suffering, but faster slaughter speeds make animals even more vulnerable to inhumane handling and slaughter, including botched stuns and animals maintaining or regaining consciousness in the last moments of their lives.

Protections for slaughterhouse workers have also been undermined. Employers have continued to have their employees work shoulder-to-shoulder, despite the alarmingly high rate of COVID-19 infections at slaughterhouses. Killing animals faster puts workers under more stress and leads to more dangerous conditions.

Consumers of animal products should be concerned for their own well-being. When there is less government oversight, food safety protocols are not upheld. For these reasons and more, I am asking Rep. Chellie Pingree and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King to urge the USDA to stop issuing high-speed approvals.

Jennifer Majic

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