Medics with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine made the plea during a protest outside the head office of Smithfield – a global pork giant – in Virginia.
Throughout the protest, the doctors maintained social distancing protocol.
The meat industry has made headlines in recent weeks after a top analyst branded U.S. meatpacking facilities ‘COVID-19 hotpots’ as infection levels within the facilities have outpaced the rest of the country.
According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been compiling data of the positive cases and deaths, as of May 16, there have been at least 14,800 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 186 plants in 31 states, and at least 55 reported worker deaths at 30 plants in 18 states.
During their protest, the doctors referenced the COVID-19 risks meat companies pose to their workers, as well as some of the other conditions linked to meat intake.
They held signs saying ‘Support Workers, Close Meat Plants’, ‘Meat Worsens Diabetes & Blood Pressure’, and ‘Cholesterol Is Not Essential’.
Neal Barnard, MD, FACC, president and co-founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, said: “Keeping Smithfield plants open harms the health of workers, the surrounding community, and consumers – all to line the pockets of the meat industry.”
The organization adds: “With workers lined up in close proximity, viruses are easily spread within the slaughterhouse environment. Although studies show that infectious viruses easily survive during refrigeration and freezing, meat companies do not routinely test the extent to which meat products are contaminated with the virus.”