People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is bringing its worldwide protest of meat processing plants to East Texas on Saturday.
PETA was set to protest the Tyson production facility in Center at 10:30 a.m. Saturday led by someone dressed as the Grim Reaper holding a scythe bearing the message “Slaughterhouses Kill Animals and Workers.” The plant in Shelby County has been identified as a hot spot for the spread of the coronavirus, and a worker from the plant previously told The Daily Sentinel that the company failed to protect employees as the virus began to spread.
“Filthy, wet, blood- and offal-soaked slaughterhouses are breeding grounds for diseases that can jump from animals to humans—and they’re the least safe workplaces in the world,” PETA president Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement. “As COVID-19 spreads like wildfire from worker to worker, PETA is calling for slaughterhouses to shut down and stay closed, for everyone’s protection.”
Workers in meat and poultry process are not exposed to the virus through the products they handle, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, work environments, such as processing lines where employees have close contact, is believed to contribute substantially to exposure.
The group announced the protest Friday after similar protests around North America.
The animal rights group recently made a strategic purchase of shares in several meat companies including Tyson, Hormel, Anderson Farms, and the parent company of Smithfield. The group plans to use it shares to encourage the company to make plant-based meat alternatives.
“PETA is calling on Tyson to ditch its current business model, recognize the growing interest in plant-based foods as well as the necessity to move away from foods made from animal flesh, and reinvent itself as a producer of healthy and 100% humane vegan meat,” Newkirk said.
The group adheres to the theory that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese wet market where live and dead animals — including bats — are sold for human consumption. While that theory has gained traction among scientists, the origin of the virus has yet to be determined.
Meat processing plants around the nation have been hotbeds for the virus, causing many to cease production as to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. At least two processing facilities in Texas have closed, while dozens in the Midwest have ceased production, according to industry journal Meat+Poultry.
Processing plants in Nacogdoches account for 15% of local COVID-19 cases, according to county emergency management officials. Pilgrims employees in Lufkin have also been hit hard by the disease, with at least one worker dying from complications.