Image: pigs with face masks.
This image comes from the BBC article: Coronavirus at Smithfield pork plant: The untold story of America’s biggest outbreak , which documents how the covid-19 infection spread like ‘wildfire’ among the workers of a ‘pork’ processing plant, and questions what the company did to protect staff.
Some quotes from the article:
“While many white-collar workers around the country are sheltering in place and working from home, food industry workers like the employees at Smithfield are deemed “essential” and must remain on the front lines.”
“By 15 April, … , the plant had become the number one hotspot in the US, with a cluster of 644 confirmed cases among Smithfield employees and people who contracted it from them.”
The story of Smithfield is a perfect example of the intersections between the exploitation of humans and other animals under capitalism. Although the oppression of other animals is totally left out of the article.
The animals – pigs, are nearly completely absent in the article, although the bodies of thousands of them are ‘processed’ at the plant every day. There’s a brief mention of them in these sentences:
“When running at full capacity, it processes 19,500 freshly-slaughtered hogs per day, slicing, grinding and smoking them into millions of pounds of bacon, hot dogs and spiral-cut hams.”
“Reynoza, …, said that he rarely complained about his gruelling job sawing the legs off pig carcasses”
“About 550 independent farms send their pigs to the Sioux Falls plant.”
It is unclear to me why the image of pigs with face masks is used in the article. There’s also no reference to it in the text.
I do find it a very intriguing image. The exploitation of other animals originally caused the COVID19 virus and many other zoonoses to spread among humans. What would happen if the virus could also infect pigs or other animals in the agricultural industrial complex?
If pigs were shown to be susceptible to the virus, and if it were proven to be the most economic option, measures such as fitting them with face masks would perhaps be installed, although it seems very unpractical and highly unlikely. Maybe the pigs would receive more protection measures than the workers processing the pigs’ bodies in slaughterhouses and meat plants, the pigs’ bodies being economically valued commodities. Or the pigs would be ‘prematurely’ killed by the billions, in an affort to contain the spread of the outbreak among ‘livestock’, as is the case with outbreaks of swine flu, bird flue or footh and mouth disease. Again, motivated by an economic rationale (it’s more cost effective to kill all the animals now and start with a new healthy ‘stock’, than letting the virus spread over time, causing prolonged economic damage).
Maybe the symbolism in the image lies in the protection pigs need from humans. Whatever you read into the image, in the end, pigs don’t need facemasks to ‘protect’ them from Covid19 (or any other virus). They need to be not bred, exploited and killed by the billions and protected from humans.
-Hundreds of U.S. Meat Workers Have Now Tested Positive for Virus, Bloomberg.
–Pandemic ‘poses particular challenges’ for food processing plants: Freeland, CBC News.
-“Terrified to Go to Work”: Hundreds of Workers in Meat & Poultry Plants Test Positive for COVID-19, Democracy Now.
–MEATPACKING GIANT CLOSES SOUTH DAKOTA PLANT ‘INDEFINITELY’ AFTER ALMOST 300 EMPLOYEES TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, Newsweek.
–What Happens If Workers Cutting Up the Nation’s Meat Get Sick?, Propublica.