Not stirred by animal cruelty? What about the children?

So you don’t care about animals.

Dogs and cats, OK. They may even be pampered members of our families. 

But cows, chickens, turkeys and fishes? You might believe they were put on Earth by God for us to eat. Or that most people are consuming these animals’ flesh and secretions, so it must be

Photos from the U.S. Department of Labor showing Packer Sanitation employees who are be believed to be minors.

alright. Vegans know these are merely stories we tell ourselves to justify the unjustifiable. 

But children? Surely you care about children. On that we can all agree. 

And if you care about kids, that’s reason alone to forswear meat and transition to a plant-based diet. 

Say what?

If you’re asking, perhaps you missed the news report last week about Packers Sanitation Services, a company that provides overnight cleaning at hundreds of slaughterhouses across the country. 

The U.S. Labor Department found that Packer was illegally employing more than 30 children at just three of its locations. Several of those children suffered chemical burns from the corrosive cleaners they were required to use on overnight shifts.

Let this sink in. Children. Graveyard shifts. Chemical burns.

Will this motivate you to eat plants – to stop subsidizing, with our consumer dollars, this unconscionable exploitation of minors?

The children were cleaning kill floors, meat- and bone-cutting saws, grinding machines and electric knives, according to court documents.

This shouldn’t surprise you: Almost all of these children were brown-skinned immigrants from Mexico, Central America and South America. 

This isn’t just child exploitation. This is racism.

You may be thinking that this was an exception, an outlier. That’s always the specious response we hear when abuses are uncovered at slaughterhouses and factory farms. 

Let’s not delude ourselves. 

The Labor Department, in court filings, stated that this exploitation of child labor is likely occurring at several other Packer sites, besides the three at issue in this court case. 

To Jews, this might sound all too familiar. The same thing was happening at Agriprocessors, which was the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world until U.S. immigration agents shut it down and obtained a criminal conviction against the company’s CEO.

Agriprocessors – located in Postville, IA – employed hundreds of undocumented immigrants, many of whom were minors. 

Why is this so common in animal agriculture? 

Because these companies – Packers, Agriprocessors, and many like them – are striving to keep costs down on the backs of the most vulnerable people: immigrants, especially immigrant children. 

These disgusting, soul-crushing jobs offer low pay and dangerous working conditions. It can be hard to find Americans to do this blood-soaked work. Undocumented immigrants, particularly children, are the ideal employees in this sickening calculus. 

If I sound angrier than usual, it’s because I am. Yes, the unfathomably cruel treatment of animals in the meat, dairy and egg industries bothers me greatly. This cruelty, which egregiously violates the Torah mandate of tza’ar baalei chayim, is what prompted me to go vegan in the first place. But the exploitation and oppression of children? I’m a parent.

We all have a vote with our consumer dollars. We can vote for compassion and enjoy the wide variety of plant-based alternatives in supermarkets and on menus. Or we can vote for complicity in the exploitation of children and animals.

You don’t care about animals? Then let’s do it for the children. an

About the Author
Jeffrey Spitz Cohan is the executive director of Jewish Veg, an international nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire and assist our fellow Jews to transition to plant-based diets.
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