Animal Agriculture and the Pandemic: Jain scholar sees beyond our cultural blind spot

Dr. Brianne Donaldson, scholar of Jainism, recently wrote an article about the cultural blindness of our response to slaughterhouse workers. In the Covid19 pandemic, the mental health of farmers was deemed worthy to support. However, “essential” slaughterhouse workers are traumatized every day.

As she says, ” If killing animals is this traumatic, why have anyone do it? Far from “essential” business, slaughterhouse work destroys animals and corrodes the well-being of people. Since nearly all humans living in the industrialized world can live well and healthy without animal flesh, the time has come to transition away from a practice widely acknowledged to be a source of personal trauma and social harm.”

She also gave an engaging 40 minute interview the role of animal agriculture in the Covid19 pandemic.

As Dr. Donaldson describes, it is often immigrants and refugees that work in slaughterhouses. Back when I worked on refugee health, I, too found that the resettlement agencies in NC had placed the refugees from Asia into slaughterhouse jobs.

So what do I mean by cultural blindspot?

Yesterday I talked with some voters in the heartland, Iowa and talking points in favor of one of the candidates were framed largely in terms of economics and social benefits. Though this candidate was in favor of measures to address climate change, to which animal agricultural contributes, the group did not include them, perhaps thinking that Iowans would not resonate with climate change issues. Now with fires burning through the West, it is not an option to deny climate change. And as other posts on this site discuss, our diet is a major contributor to climate change.

And, as cited in this article Dr. Anthony Fauci , a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Friday China and other nations should be pressured to shut down so-called “wet markets” as the new novel coronavirus spreads throughout the world. 

“[They] should shut down those things right away,” Fauci told ‘Fox & Friends” Friday. “It just boggles my mind that when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface that we don’t just shut it down.”

That’s a step. But he stops short of Dr. Donaldson’s recommendation. Just as wet markets are problematic, we can see all slaughterhouses as a human-animal interface that should be shut down.


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