Slaughterhouse bosses force COVID-19 infected workers to work


This 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

The Lingering Pain Of Working In A Slaughterhouse

Working in a meat-packing factory is a tough, dangerous job. Sharp knives, fast production lines and long hours take a toll on the workers that bring us our steaks, chicken breasts and pork chops. After years working the line, many live in pain for the rest of their lives.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi: we had to work while infected with coronabirus

Employees of slaughterhouse Van Rooi Meat from Helmond tell the NOS that they have been working with coronavirus complaints for the past two months. They dare not report that they have symptoms or are ill, for fear of losing their jobs.

A number of employees state that they have been instructed to lie. They say that a corporation executive instructed them to if asked if they are sick to tick “no” on health statements, which must be completed daily. Some of them voluntarily filled in the health declaration, for fear that they would never return to work if they had complaints.

In the findings of the NOS, the GGD and the Safety Region see reason to immediately announce new measures to the company. This weekend, Van Rooi Meat was informed by letter that unannounced inspections of the health statements will take place.

Director Marc van Rooi denies to the NOS that the staff have been instructed to lie. “To my knowledge, this has not happened. And if we hear about it, we will take measures. We have only one interest and that is to keep the factory corona-free.”

Van Rooi Meat is the second-largest slaughterhouse in the Netherlands. It employs 1700 people, the company has a turnover of 650 million euros and made a profit of 35 million euros last year.

At the end of May, the company had to close for two weeks when a large part of the staff was infected with the coronavirus. This was revealed by two samples of the GGD, in which employees were tested.

Sample manipulated

According to the whistleblowers, the corporation manipulated the first of those two samples. Migrant workers in shared housing were not allowed to work for the company on that day. This was done so that employees who live together did not all have to be quarantined in case of a positive result.

According to an employee, the sample was preceded by an internal survey, so that the company already knew who they should add shouldn’t call.

The GGD says in a response to the NOS that the company was caught at the time. “The sample turned out to be unrepresentative and that bothered us,” says Ellis Jeurissen, director of GGD Brabant-Zuidoost. “But we called the company to account and then carried out a second sample.”

In June, the company was allowed to open again in phases. One of the measures was that all employees have to fill in a health declaration every morning at the gate. If you say you have complaints, you have to go home. Employees want to prevent this for fear of their jobs. “If I had said the truth, I probably wouldn’t be able to return,” said one of them. …

Also, other measures within the slaughterhouse, such as keeping a distance of 1.5 meters and putting on mouth masks, only take place just before an inspection, according to employees. The GGD announced those checks in advance. According to Jeurissen of the GGD, this happened “on the basis of trust”. …

The GGD acknowledges that the statements of employees show that little is actually known about the health situation at the company. According to a spokesperson, since no one has been tested positive since 15 June who claims to work at Van Rooi Meat, the GGD is not sure whether employees of the company are being tested at all.

It is also not known to the GGD how many employees on health statements say they have complaints. That information is not shared by Van Rooi Meat for privacy reasons.

Accountability

In recent weeks, the NOS spoke several times by telephone and in person with a total of eight employees of Van Rooi Meat from Helmond. In all cases it concerns labor migrants from several European countries. Their names are known to the NOS.

The employees who have spoken for this article have been promised anonymity because they are at high risk of being fired if it is known that they have spoken to journalists.

Foxes ate Ice Age humans´ leftovers


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Recently, a convergence of views has led to the notion that the study of animal domestication may tell us something not only about our relationship with domesticated species since perhaps at least the Pleistocene, but also about our own evolution as a species in the more distant past. This symposium brings together scientists from a variety of research backgrounds to examine these views and to elucidate further the possible role of domestication in human evolution.

Robert Wayne (UCLA) begins with a discussion about The Transformation of Wolf to Dog: History, Traits, and Genetics, followed by Anna Kukekova (Univ of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) on Fox Domestication and Genetics of Complex Behaviors, and Robert Franciscus (Univ of Iowa) on Craniofacial Feminization in Canine and Human Evolution. Recorded on 10/10/2014.

From PLOS:

Foxes have been eating humans’ leftovers for 42,000 years

Ancient fox diets might be good indicators of human impact on past ecosystems

July 22, 2020

The diets of ancient foxes were influenced by humans, and these small carnivores might be tracers of human activity over time, according to a study published July 22, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Chris Baumann of the University of Tübingen, Germany and colleagues.

Foxes love leftovers. In the wild, foxes regularly feed on scraps left behind by larger predators like bears and wolves, but the closer foxes live to human civilization, the more of their diet is made up of foods that humans leave behind. In this study, Baumann and colleagues hypothesized that if this commensal relationship goes back to ancient times, then foxes might be useful indicators of human impact in the past.

The authors compared ratios of Carbon and Nitrogen isotopes between the remains of various herbivores, large carnivores, and red and Arctic foxes from several archaeological sites in southwest Germany dating to the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic. At sites older than 42,000 years, when Neanderthals sparsely occupied the region, fox diets were similar to their local large carnivores. But in the younger sites, as Homo sapiens became common in the area, foxes developed a more unique diet consisting largely of reindeer, which are too big for foxes to hunt but which are known to have been important game for ancient humans of the time.

These results suggest that during the Upper Palaeolithic, these foxes made a shift from feeding on scraps left by local large predators to eating food left behind by humans. This indicates that foxes’ reliance on human food goes back a good 42,000 years. The authors propose that, with further studies investigating this fox-human relationship, ancient fox diets may be useful indicators of human impact on ecosystems over time.

The authors add: “Dietary reconstructions of ice-age foxes have shown that early modern humans had an influence on the local ecosystem as early as 40,000 years ago. The more humans populated a particular region, the more the foxes adapted to them.”

Stingless bee honey is healthy, new research


This August 2018 video is called Stingless bee honey harvest 🐝

From the University of Queensland in Australia:

Science sweetens stingless bee species honey health claims

July 22, 2020

Summary: Examination of honey from five different stingless bee species across Neotropical and Indo-Australian regions has enabled for the first time the identification of the unusual disaccharide trehalulose as a major component representing between 13 and 44 g per 100 g of each of these honeys. The previously unrecognized abundance of trehalulose in stingless bee honeys is concrete evidence that supports some of the reported health attributes of this product.

Science has validated Indigenous wisdom by identifying a rare, healthy sugar in native stingless bee honey that is not found in any other food.

University of Queensland organic chemist Associate Professor Mary Fletcher said Indigenous peoples had long known that native stingless bee honey had special health properties.

“We tested honey from two Australian native stingless bee species, two in Malaysia and one in Brazil and found that up to 85 per cent of their sugar is trehalulose, not maltose as previously thought,” she said.

Dr Fletcher said trehalulose was a rare sugar with a low glycaemic index (GI), and not found as a major component in any other foods.

“Traditionally it has been thought that stingless bee honey was good for diabetes and now we know why — having a lower GI means it takes longer for the sugar to be absorbed into the bloodstream, so there is not a spike in glucose that you get from other sugars,” Dr Fletcher said.

“Interestingly trehalulose is also acariogenic, which means it doesn’t cause tooth decay.”

Dr Fletcher said the findings would strengthen the stingless bee honey market and create new opportunities.

“Stingless bee honey sells now for around AUD $200 per kilogram, which is up there with the price of Manuka and Royal Jelly honey,” she said.

“The high commercial value also makes it a risk for substitution, where people could sell other honey as stingless bee honey, or dilute the product.

“But due to this research, we can test for this novel sugar, which will help industry to set a food standard for stingless bee honey.

“People have patented ways of making trehalulose synthetically with enzymes and bacteria, but our research shows stingless bee honey can be used as a wholefood on its own or in other food to get the same health benefits.”

The work of Dr Fletcher and the research team has led to a new project funded by AgriFutures Australia and supported by the Australian Native Bee Association.

Working with Dr Natasha Hungerford from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and Dr Tobias Smith from the School of Biological Sciences the new project will investigate storage and collection, to optimise the trehalulose content of Australian stingless bee honey.

Stingless bees (Meliponini) occur in most tropical and sub-tropical regions, with more than 500 species across Neotropical, Afrotropical and Indo-Australian regions.

Like the well-known Apis mellifera honeybees, stingless bees live in permanent colonies made up of a single queen and workers, who collect pollen and nectar to feed larvae within the colony.

Dr Fletcher said keeping native stingless bees was gaining in popularity in Australia, for their role as pollinators as well as for their unique honey.

As well as having health benefits, stingless bee honey is valued for its flavour and is in high demand from chefs.

Slaughterhouses unsafe, veterinarians warn, bosses neglect COVID-19


This 18 June 2020 video says about itself:

Coronavirus: 657 new cases in German slaughterhouse

Company officials say the outbreak could be linked to a recent easing of travel restrictions. The new cluster of cases comes as hundreds of households in Berlin are back under quarantine after a spike in infections.

Read more here.

Since then, there have been many more infections with COVID-19 for workers of, and people living around that, Tönnies corporation slaughterhouse.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today, by Nynke de Zoeten:

During the coronavirus crisis, the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) responded indifferently and negligently to warnings that the situation in slaughterhouses was not safe. Employees were also insufficiently protected. This is evident from internal mails and documents by two veterinarians who work for the NVWA that Nieuwsuur TV program has.

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, NVWA’s own people warned about the situation in the slaughterhouses. But the vets Martien Scheepers and Jerome Stokkermans, who have to monitor animal welfare and food safety in the slaughterhouses, do not feel sufficiently heard and “let down” by the NVWA management.

Distressed NVWA employees also report to the FNV trade union federation, says executive member Mieke van Vliet. “They also wanted permanent services, and not moving from plant to plant, but that was not followed.” According to the NVWA, this is attempted, but it is not feasible within the roster. According to Scheepers and Stokkermans, an alternative timetable is not being considered.

Van Vliet says that there are guidelines from the NVWA, but that they prove unworkable in practice. Only after a number of major outbreaks in slaughterhouses does change take place.

MPs are shocked. “You can expect that an organization created to monitor compliance with rules will also itsel\f comply with the rules,” says D66 Member of Parliament Tjeerd de Groot. …

Party for the Animals MP Esther Ouwehand: “We can conclude that the minister has misinformed the House. Either she was misinformed by the NVWA bosses, or she deliberately sent the wrong information. Both are serious.”

Hygiene lock

Scheepers’ wife, who also works for the NVWA, also sent an urgent letter to her boss at the beginning of May. She was shocked by the so-called hygiene locks in the slaughterhouse where she works. “I didn’t know what I was seeing, people pushing each other away to wash hands quickly. There is a distance of 0 cm. I think this is a ticking time bomb.”

The manager replied that she will discuss it in “a few days”: “I don’t know if we can do anything about it if the corporation gives us the space. In addition, employees sit side by side in the working environment, canteen, transport and very they probably live close together. … ” On May 12, Scheepers’ wife developed corona-like symptoms. She was only tested after insistence and indeed proved to be positive. …

In early May, half of the vets said in an internal survey that they regularly cannot keep a meter and a half distance. Two-thirds say that keeping a distance in the meat sector is impossible. Nevertheless, Minister of Agriculture, Carola Schouten, replied to parliamentary questions: “inquiries at the NVWA did not show that the RIVM health authority guidelines are not being complied with on a large scale”.

There have been coronavirus outbreaks in at least five slaughterhouses and meat processing companies in the Netherlands. It has been clear to Scheepers and Stokkermans from the start that the RIVM guidelines are “not enforceable at all”. Stokkermans e-mails his supervisor: “For many years we have been working there under often miserable and unhealthy conditions … Conditions were already on the edge, but are completely unacceptable under the current coronavirus conditions.”

Deserted

The concerns in the Netherlands are still increasing. On March 22, an NL alert is issued: ‘keep your distance’. But that still doesn’t happen in the slaughterhouses. The most experienced NVWA supervisors, the ‘Senior Supervising Veterinarians’, send an angry email to the management.

“We work in places where sick people are working. Where insufficient protective equipment is available. We feel let down (in every possible way) by our management.” They email colleagues: “We keep on going as if there is no coronavirus.”

COVID-19 and food industry, worldwide


This 28 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Workers call for closure of meatpacking plant to avoid COVID-19

Some employees at JBS Beef in Tolleson fear catching COVID-19.

From the World Socialist Web Site, 30 June 2020:

Lawsuit charges Tyson foods culpable in death of three workers at Iowa pork plant

A lawsuit on behalf of the families of three workers who died of COVID-19 at Tyson’s largest pork-processing facility in Waterloo, Iowa was filed June 25. Sedika Buljic, aged 58, Reberiano Garcia, aged 60 and Jose Ayala, Jr., aged 44, died during the period April to May from the coronavirus under conditions where the company knowingly put workers at risk.

The Spence Law Firm is charging that the company was aware of the spread of the virus to the Waterloo plant, but concealed the information. As the contagion grew, management failed to implement safety measures. Lastly, in what an AP report called an “explosive claim,” Tyson, “allowed workers and subcontractors from another Iowa plant that had closed due to a coronavirus outbreak to begin working in Waterloo in April. Plant supervisors told employees that their sick coworkers had the flu and warned them not to discuss coronavirus at work.”

In an April newspaper ad, the company’s CEO John Tyson issued a warning that coronavirus and plant closures were leading to a breakdown in the “food supply chain” and there would be meat shortages. Meanwhile, Tyson’s exports of pork to China during the same month increased.

COVID-19 increase at UK’s 2 Sisters, Rowan and Kober meat processing factories. By Tony Robson, 1 July 2020. Inadequate and unsafe forms of transport, poor working conditions, and rundown accommodation are class issues bound up with the wealth extraction demanded by capitalism.

From daily News Line in Britain today:

Super-exploitation in Covid-infected meat factories

THE LINK between outbreaks of Covid-19 at meat processing plants and the sector’s widespread exploitation of migrant workers on low pay and insecure contracts ‘must be addressed’, the union Unite said yesterday.

Although conditions within refrigerated meat processing factories have been cited as a risk factor for coronavirus transmission, Unite said there is also a direct correlation between the treatment of migrant staff as ‘disposable assets’ and the spread of the disease in such environments.

This is particularly true in meat processing factories that do not provide staff who need to self-isolate with company sick pay or any other form of financial support, as it increases the danger of individuals with Covid-19 going into work because they cannot afford to take time off.

The union also raised concerns about track and trace record keeping for agency workers, such as production line staff and cleaners, who often work at multiple sites and whose contact details may not be available or could be overlooked during infection control procedures.

Industry employment standards are also directly linked to overcrowded housing which is a contributing factor to the risk of outbreaks within factories.

A recent Unite survey of 20 per cent of the workforce at a Covid-19 impacted meat processing plant staffed overwhelmingly by migrant workers, found that 43 per cent of respondents live with two or more colleagues (at least three to a house) and 11 per cent live with five or more.

Nearly 65 per cent of the 150 respondents said they have attended work whilst unwell, with 69 per cent of those doing so because they could not afford to lose pay. Just 10 per cent of respondents said they have been tested for Covid-19.

Unite national officer Bev Clarkson said: ‘Exploitation driven by corporate greed is a major factor in the public health emergencies amongst meat processing plants here and in other countries.

‘Migrant workers, who often do not speak English and are scared to speak out because they fear losing their jobs, suffer under a relentless system that long pre-dates Covid-19 in which they are treated without dignity or respect. Exploitation is so rife within the sector that Unite is also concerned that some workers are vulnerable to modern slavery.

‘This issue is now being brought to public attention because of its impact on the UK’s ability to stem the virus. People can see that the treatment of staff in the sector as disposable assets is unjust, unsustainable and a danger to public health.

‘As a priority, employers and government must end the terrible situation where workers are having to choose between self-isolating or going into work because they cannot afford to be ill.

‘It is imperative that ministers and industry commit to a root and branch reform of the meat processing sector. The dire working conditions, low pay and insecure employment that blight the industry and have now come back to bite the nation’s efforts to defeat the coronavirus must be addressed.’

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

At fish processor ProFish in Twello in Gelderland province, 43 workershave been infected with the coronavirus in recent weeks.

”I can get another job. I can’t get another life”. Food processing plants in Ohio and New York hit with outbreaks. By Alex Findijs, 1 July 2020. Outbreaks at salad and fruit processing plants in Springfield, Ohio, and Oswego, New York, show the vulnerability of food workers to the deadly disease.

German slaughterhouse corporation COVID-19 scandal


This video from Germany says about itself:

Ruptly is live from Rheda-Wiedenbrueck on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, after 400 employees of meat processing company Tönnies tested positive for coronavirus.

The Guetersloh district authorities have decided to shut down the operations at the meat company and close all schools and daycare centres until the summer holidays.

Tönnies is going through their second wave of COVID-19 infection this year.

The meat industry has been criticised for not respecting coronavirus hygiene and safety rules since the pandemic started, leading to concerns, as some 130,000 people are employed in 1,500 slaughterhouses across Germany.

Then, it was still ´only´ 400 infected workers …

Tönnies is the biggest meat processing corporation in Germany.

Germany: Alarm mood at the meat baron Tönnies: here. When that article was written, it was still ´only´ 657 infected workers …

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

The corona outbreak in the German meat processing company Tönnies is spreading further. 1029 employees turned out to be infected, compared to almost 700 earlier this week. Two-thirds of the infected workers work in the cutting department.

All 7000 employees of the company in North Rhine-Westphalia are in quarantine. The German health minister Lauterbach has closed the plant. He thinks it is “not responsible” to keep the business open because the source of the infections has still not been discovered.

“Did it happen in the canteen, on the way in, while working or is it the ventilation?” he wonders.

Clemens Tönnies, the millionaire boss of the slaughterhouses, is also the owner of the football club Schalke 04. Schalke 04 players dislike him because of his racist views on Africans: here.

UPDATE 21 June 2020: meanwhile, 1553 Tönnies workers infected.

Good Mexican seabird news


This June 2020 video says about itself:

Mexico’s Secret Seabirds | AWC Episode 1

There are few birds as charismatic or endearing as the blue-footed booby. Join James and Josh on an adventure to Isla Isabel, an island off Mexico’s Pacific coast, to understand the importance of this national park to breeding seabirds.

Along the way, we meet world-renowned chef and star of Master Chef Mexico, Betty Vázquez. By stepping into her kitchen and hearing her story, we discover the impact Isla Isabel and the blue-footed boobies have had on her culinary career.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA:

Good News: After 25 Years of Hard Work, Mexico Recovers 20+ Seabird Species

Seabirds are the fastest declining bird group in the world—so kudos to Mexican biologists for pulling off a massive effort to reverse centuries of damage and restore seabird populations on nearly 40 islands. Their success is a gleam of hope, as well as inspiration for tackling these problems elsewhere. Find out how they did it in our full story.

‘COVID-19 tests for all slaughterhouse workers’


This 1 May 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

1st glimpse inside a meatpacking plant as work continues despite coronavirus | WNT

Across the U.S., there are more than 6,500 meatpacking workers infected with COVID-19 and the virus has killed at least 20.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

The more than 30,000 people who work in the meat processing industry must be tested for the coronavirus. That says trade union federation FNV following the coronavirus outbreak at a meat processing corporation in Helmond.

In a sample, 21 of the 130 employees tested at Van Rooi Meat were found to be infected with the virus. …

“All samples have cases”, said FNV executive member John Klijn. “So there is no reason to believe it is better with other companies in the industry.” …

With similar outbreaks in slaughterhouses in the US, Germany and France in mind, Klijn believes it is wise to have everyone tested. “At the Groenlo meatpacking plant, people in the office were also infected, so we can learn lessons from that.” …

About 33,000 people work in the Dutch slaughterhouse industry. Of these, around 12,000 people are migrant workers. There are more than 350 slaughterhouses and according to the trade association, they generate more than 10 billion euros turnover per year. Most of the meat is exported.

The FNV executive member also argues that staff should receive the same protective equipment as people who work in hospitals. In some factories, employees already work with facemasks, but according to Klijn, that is often an all-day mask.

‘No more jampacked together’

The 1700 employees of the now-closed Van Rooi Meat in Helmond will all be tested for the virus. Most of the workers there come from abroad, the chairman of the Brabant-Southeast Safety Region John Jorritsma said in the NOS Radio 1 News.

“The people who are now in quarantine are very happy that they now get at least a decent place to stay,” says Jorritsma. According to him, some workers lived in “degrading conditions” at campsites across the border. “Now they no longer have to lie huddled together in a tent.”

According to FNV executive member Klijn, the sample at Van Rooi Meat once again shows that risk is stacked in this sector. “You work and live together in an atmosphere that keeps the virus alive for longer.”

French slaughterhouses, COVID-19 epicentres


This French video is about COVID-19 at the Kermené slaughterhouse. It is from 18 May 2020, when it was still reported that ‘only’ six workers had been infected.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

More than 100 infections in French slaughterhouse

In a slaughterhouse in Brittany, 109 employees are infected with the coronavirus. …

It is a slaughterhouse of meat processing corporation Kermené in Saint-Jacut-du-Mené. …

Yesterday it was announced that 45 people were infected at the slaughterhouse of Vion in Groenlo … . Meat processing plants also turn out to be epicentres of coronavirus contamination in Germany, and in the United States nearly one in five workers in the meat processing industry has become infected.

Dutch slaughterhouses, COVID-19 epicentres


This 12 May 2020 video says about itself:

COVID-19 outbreaks in German slaughterhouses expose grim working conditions in meat industry

Unions say much of the cheap meat on our supermarket shelves is slaughtered by migrant workers who earn low wages, live in cramped shared accommodation and operate in crowded working conditions even in the midst of a pandemic.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

A slaughterhouse of the Dutch group Vion in Groenlo was immediately closed after 45 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) confirms the closure upon inquiry. All employees will be tested. Due to the high number of infections, the NVWA could no longer guarantee the health of the veterinarians and they decided as a precaution that they suspend their work. This means that the slaughterhouse must be closed because no slaughtering is allowed without supervision.

Minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality informed parliament today in a letter that possibly twenty percent of the employees are infected. …

Measures

There have been concerns about the situation in slaughterhouses for some time. Eighty percent of the employees are migrant workers and often live together. Trade unions and whistleblowers also report that there is often not enough distance in the slaughterhouses. The Party for the Animals and D66 called in Nieuwsuur TV show this week for taking measures.

Earlier, 28 employees of a Vion site in Scherpenzeel were tested positive for coronavirus and placed on a ship in isolation. …

Small vans

Also in Bad Bramstedt, a small town to the north of Hamburg, a slaughterhouse of the Dutch group has come to a standstill because 128 employees had to be quarantined due to a coronavirus infection.

Employees in the meat industry throughout Germany are infected with COVID-19. “It is mainly the housing where several people have to live in one room and the transport with small vans that cause people to get infected quickly,” Marcel Mansouri of the NGG union said in Nieuwsuur on Monday.