Friday, December 01, 2006

Boycott of Smithfield meats

God, things are looking up!

This past Thursday, workers from the world's largest hog slaughterhouse picketed a major supermarket in Charlotte, pressuring the food store (Harris Teeter) to stop carrying Smithfield meats.

Yay! What a wonderful piece of news!

Workers at the Smithfield processing plant in Tar Heel, NC, slaughter 32,000 hogs every single day. The plant is notorious for labor abuses. Just a couple of weeks ago the plant fired about 40 immigrant laborers. The alleged reason was that the workers had bogus social security numbers. But it has been well-documented that Smithfield fires immigrant workers for complaining about safety issues, such as when the production line speeds up. Smithfield also has a well-documented history of firing laborers seen talking to union representatives. The United Food and Commercial Workers union has been trying to unionize the Smithfield workers for decades. In 1997, the workers voted not to unionize, but the results were thrown out by the US Circuit Court of Appeals, noting "intense and widespread coercion prevalent" at the slaughterhouse. The company, and the Tar Heel plant in particular, have been criticized by the National Labor Relations Board for intimidation, firing and spying on workers.

One worker, quoted in the Charlotte Observer, said that laborers at the plant work in freezing temperatures with knives, frequently cutting each other. Workers who stay out too long with injuries are fired.

See the Human Rights Watch document, Blood Sweat and Fear, for more info about Smithfield's labor abuses.

Smithfield is also notorious for environmental and animal abuses associated with the factory farms where their hogs are raised. Massive spills from hog waste lagoons have been tracked by NC State scientists for dozens of miles, as the waste oozes into rivers. The brown plume from a spill can be followed for days as it's carried downriver to coastal estuaries. For more details about the environmental offenses of North Carolina's hog industry, see Veggie Revolution. NC is a good place to make a stand. Our state is second in the nation (after Iowa) in the number of hogs; we have more hogs than people. In fact, just the coastal plain of NC has twice as many hogs as there are people in NYC. And even though each hog makes 4 times the waste of an adult human, the hog waste receives no treatment at all. It's stored in lagoons until it can be sprayed onto crop fields. That is the only legal recourse for getting rid of it.

Smithfield is now building factory hog farms in Poland, because the country lacks environmental and labor protection to stifle the industry. In fact, Smithfield's president referred to Poland as "the Iowa of Europe." The next vulnerable frontier for the meatpacker's market expansion.

If you want to help, go to and attend one of the upcoming protests in 11 N.C. cities.

If you want to help more, eat less meat, eat less ham and pork and bacon. If you do buy these products, seek pastured or organic meat products instead of Smithfield's.

Some of the info in this post came from the following article:
Kerry Hall. "Labor shops for an ally." The Charlotte Observer. December 1, 2006.

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