It's not every day that PETA, the animal rights group, finds itself aligned with the meat processors' union. But it seems that everyone is upset at the new executive order by President Trump to open the meat plants, speed up production, and put humans and animals at risk in the hopes that the food supply chain not get interrupted.

The USDA got sued this week by the Humane Society, which outlines unsafe conditions that elevate risks to animals and humans alike, through overcrowding and de-regulation. Allegations by the Humane Society and PETA include scalding animals in a particularly tortuous way and allowing filthy conditions at plants that could endanger consumers and lead to another outbreak of animal-to-human disease. And by forcing plant workers back to work, their union expressed concern that workers are being exposed to unsafe conditions that have led to thousands are getting COVID-19 and more than a dozen succumbing to the virus.

Between all this and the possibility of a meat shortage, this appears to be a very good time to consider going plant-based.

Meat Plants Close, Workers Bristle and the President Says: Bring Home the Bacon

In a new twist to the pandemic health issues coming at us faster than a spray bottle of Lysol, the President has ordered meat processing plants to re-open, allowed deregulation that would speed up production, and is doing everything he can to keep the nation in bacon. Even if it means unsafe practices for workers, barbaric treatment of animals and risky, filthy, and potentially unsafe conditions for consumers, who are going to be possibly eating meat that contains more than they bargained for.

This latest executive order has led to the USDA being sued this week by animal rights groups and a new warning about the safety of the meat that is coming off the conveyor belts. The worry: That these measures will lead to a heightened risk of pathogens entering the food, making Americans sick in the future, if not from a virus, from the possibility of tainted meat.

There has Never Been a Better Time to Go Plant-Based.

Here's the backstory: Tyson Foods, one of the largest makers of meats in the US, had to close down its plant in Waterloo, Iowa, and the second one in Logansport Indiana,  when hundreds of employees came down sick with COVID-19. According to the union, meat processors are being struck hard:  Of the 250,000 meatpacking workers on the front lines of sustaining the nation's food supply, 17 deaths have been reported.

Processing plants around the country have shut down amid outbreaks, The New York Times reports, putting a strain on the nation’s meat supply, and prompting warnings of possible meat shortages. This is certainly a good time to consider going plant-based, especially given what one inspector found, and reported to the animal rights group PETA.

The Trump administration has also loosened restrictions on how pigs are slaughtered, to speed up the meat production process, and the faster methods are being criticized as both crueler for the animals and less safe for humans, who may end up eating meat that contains traces of fecal matter, toenails, hair, tumors, snouts, and other not-so-savory parts.

A Lawsuit is Filed Against the USDA for Unsafe and Inhumane Practices

Enter the lawyers; The USDA is now being sued over these meat policies, and activists call the conditions in some factory farms dangerous, increasing potential risk for diseases, and even allowing the stage to be set for a  future zoological pandemic. One such lawsuit was brought by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed the lawsuit earlier this month

That suit takes issue with the overcrowding on chicken farms and the fact that this is a breeding ground for an avian disease that could eventually find its way into humans.

Industrialized poultry facilities are ideally suited for influenza and mutate into catastrophically contagious ad deadly forms. Avian Influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is a virus with multiple strains that degrees of clinical illness in chickens, other animals, and humans. Highly pathogenic Avian Influenza ("HPAI") is an "extremely infectious and fatal" form of the virus that spreads rapidly within and between flocks and herds and can disastrously affect humans."

The deregulation of the slaughterhouse industry means that the reopened plant, and others, are allowed to use speeded up practices that could see parts of the animal entering the food Americans eat, according to PETA, which cites a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector Jill Mauer as having seen filthy conditions at plants, inhumane animal practices including what appears to be live animals dipped into boiling water to remove their hair and soften their skin, and unsafe conditions that could lead to another deadly virus outbreak.

Other animal-to-human diseases that have been the result of unclean or unregulated meat production have included: mad cow disease, swine flu, avian flu, SARS, HIV, hoof-and-mouth disease, and other zoonotic diseases. All of these have been the results of poor practices in the past. The novel coronavirus may have originated in a Chinese “wet market,” where live and dead animals were sold for human consumption.

The Trump administration signed an executive order to reopen the meat plant in an effort to prevent a meat shortage, but in the latest news, meat plant workers are threatening to not show up. The plant workers are questioning the safety or returning to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Now that Trump is forcing plants to reopen, the union is threatening to not force workers to return to unsafe conditions. “Using executive power to force people back on the job without proper protections is wrong and dangerous,” Richard Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., wrote on Twitter, saying he echoed calls by the food workers’ union “to put worker safety first.”

The next question is: Why don't we all give up meat for a month and practice Meatless May?

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