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Animal Rights Activists Protest JBS Slaughtering Animals, Stand In Solidarity With Employees

Man standing in front of a meatpacking plant holding a sign say "We are animals, go vegan."
Johnny Nuñez

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak at a meatpacking plant in Hyrum, animal rights activists have used the situation as an opportunity to protest. 

Protesters gathered outside of the JBS meatpacking plant on Thursday to protest both the slaughter of animals and stand in solidarity with employees infected by COVID-19. 

“There's no question that our protest today is also in solidarity with those workers,” said Jeremy Bekham, Executive Director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, also known as UARC. “We think it's kind of unconscionable the position that they've been put in where they have to basically choose between risking their lives and risking their livelihood position that most people are not having to decide right now.”

UARC partnered with People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA. They saw the controversy around COVID-19 at the plants as an opportunity to highlight their cause. 

“And so UARC partnered with PETA on this protest today to kind of raise awareness that one of the reasons that COVID is with us to begin with is because we herd animals and then we have slaughterhouses that become hotspots of COVID outbreak,” Bekham said. “And maybe it's time to start rethinking this to prevent the next pandemic before it occurs.”

PETA and UARC demanded in their protest that the plant close until JBS could commit to only making plant based products. To some it may sound far-fetched, but Bekham isn’t deterred. 

“I definitely don't think it's going to happen tomorrow, but I absolutely think we are going to have a future sooner than we might think where we no longer view animals as a food source and we shift away from animal agriculture,” Bekham said. “You see the effects of climate change from animal agriculture, land usage, top soil degradation, and also people's attitudes towards the value of the life of animals is also changing. There’s a period where it seems like nothing changes, and then all of a sudden there's quite rapid change."

Harris: For Utah Public Radio, I’m Jackie Harris