Cargill’s COVID-19 Closure Prompts PETA Appeal to Reinvent Company

With Fatal Viruses Linked to the Meat Industry, Cargill Is Urged to Convert Shuttered Meat Processing Plant to Vegan Food Facility

For Immediate Release:
April 14, 2020

Brooke Rossi 202-483-7382

Wayzata, Minn.

Because a Cargill meat processing plant in Pennsylvania was shuttered after its employees reportedly tested positive for COVID-19—and since the company announced that it’ll also be closing an egg factory there because of decreased demand as well as cutting back hours at a cow slaughterhouse in Alberta, Canada, amid the pandemic—PETA sent a letter today calling on it to redo its business model and reopen the facility as a safe, clean, disease-free vegan meat factory. The group notes that doing so would not only help flatten the coronavirus curve but also help Cargill get ahead of it—and it’s offering to help retrain the company’s employees, free of charge.

“By providing breeding grounds for swine flu, SARS, avian flu, and other diseases, filthy processing plants and meat markets threaten the health of every human being on the planet,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “Since Cargill already produces some faux meats, PETA wants the plant to be converted into one that produces only healthy and 100% humane vegan meat.”

Swine flu began on a U.S. factory farm, and the novel coronavirus originated in a Chinese “wet market,” where live and dead animals were sold for human consumption. Health authorities confirm that influenza viruses and coronaviruses are zoonotic (transmissible from other animals to humans). Grocery store sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal “products” have grown 29% in the past two years to $5 billion.

Last week, PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—held a demonstration outside a Tyson slaughterhouse that was shuttered because of a COVID-19 outbreak. Photos are available here.

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PETA’s letter to Cargill CEO David MacLennan follows.

April 14, 2020

David MacLennan, CEO


Dear Mr. MacLennan,

After learning that Cargill has shut down a meat-packing plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, after 164 employees were taken ill with COVID-19, I’m writing with an urgent, lifesaving suggestion: Will you please not only help flatten the health crisis curve, but get ahead of the consumer curve by carving out a new business model that modernizes your company? It means shutting down meat production permanently, and making the transition to producing only vegan meat, something an increasing number of people are turning to and that will soar in market demand. PETA will chip in to defray the cost of retraining your employees.

Filthy factory farms threaten the health of everyone—not just workers and consumers of meat—by providing a breeding ground for deadly diseases. Mad cow disease (spongiform encephalopathy) came from spinal cords cut out at slaughter. Swine flu—which originated in farmed pigs—has killed hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Likewise, bird flu can easily spread on a crowded chicken farm. Now, while the world is battling the current pandemic—which originated in a meat market—it’s crucial that we each do our part, and that includes Cargill, to make positive changes that will help prevent future outbreaks and protect people around the world.

Working on a kill floor has always been a dangerous and dirty job. Staff must keep up with absurdly fast slaughter speeds, and witness and participate in truly revolting practices, such as killing petrified cows and pigs. Now they have to worry about becoming infected with COVID-19.

Cargill is already planning on producing some vegan meats, so while the writing is on the wall, please start producing only vegan meats, which would support human health, the environment, and, of course, animals.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid E. Newkirk


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