Tyson: Stop neglecting workers, animals, and public health!

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The COVID-19 crisis is exposing how vulnerable our food system is. Tyson Foods, the country’s largest poultry producer, has been in the spotlight for refusing to take meaningful actions to protect its workers and public health at large, all while millions of animals suffer in its unsanitary factory farms. Please sign this petition to demand Tyson stop neglecting public health and finally do right by workers and animals alike. 

Across the nation, workers from at least 31 Tyson plants have tested positive for coronavirus, and tragically over 25 have died. Workers say they have been pressured to work even when sick and never received protective gear even as their coworkers were falling ill. Workers are being forced to choose between their health and a paycheck they need to survive.  

Tyson’s chairman, John H. Tyson, placed full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post in a desperate attempt to get sympathy from the American public and redirect consumers' attention away from the thousands of sick workers. He argued that meat was as essential as health care, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Workers’ lives should not be traded in for Tyson’s profits. 

When Tyson puts workers at risk, it also jeopardizes the health and safety of the entire surrounding community. The same goes for the chickens Tyson raises on factory farms—unsanitary, disease-ridden places where there’s no such thing as social distancing. John Tyson warned in his ad that ‘depopulation’ efforts may occur—meaning killing and discarding millions of animals—which was another stark reminder of how careless Tyson will be to protect its bottom line and public image. 

For decades, Tyson has been called on to improve the treatment of animals in its supply chain. Chickens are bred to grow so large so fast they can hardly walk; as a result, they have weak immune systems and struggle to fight off disease, especially in this environment. Scientists have warned that factory farms are ideal breeding grounds for the emergence and spread of highly infectious zoonotic diseases as well as antibiotic resistant pathogens. Despite these warnings, Tyson continues to expand and prioritize the worst factory farming methods. 

At Tyson’s slaughterhouses, conditions are dangerous and abusive for workers and animals and regularly raise concerns around public health. Animals are hung upside down by their fragile legs and moved through the slaughter line at an unimaginable speed, which results in frequent worker injuries. This fast pace makes detection of feces and other contaminants on chickens’ bodies nearly impossible, which is why roughly 48 percent of grocery store chicken contains fecal bacteria, a common source of foodborne illness. 

Tyson’s normal business practices are in desperate need of repair. Tyson must provide safer working conditions, mandate social distancing, provide testing and transparent reports, and provide paid-sick leave. Tyson needs to slow production line speeds, transition out dangerous live-shackling slaughter practices, and adopt animal welfare reforms like the Better Chicken Commitment. Most importantly, to protect both humans and animals, these companies must move away from factory farming and prioritize its plant-based product lines.

If we don’t speak up, Tyson will continue to prioritize profits over human rights, animal wellbeing, and public health.