About a dozen demonstrators representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Utah Animal Rights Coalition protested peacefully for animal and workers’ rights at the JBS meat-packing plant in Hyrum.
HYRUM – About a dozen demonstrators imported from the Wasatch Front turned out June 25 to protest for animal and workers’ rights at the JBS meat packing plant in Hyrum.
The mostly young protesters were representing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Utah Animal Rights Coalition, according to Jeremy Beckham, the executive director of UARC.
The JBS plant has recently become the epicenter of the Cache Valley coronovirus outbreak, with more than 300 of its employees testing positive for COVID-19.
The protesters were orderly and peaceful. They wore face-masks and carefully spaced themselves at six-foot interval along 1200 West Street in front of the JBS headquarters.
Most of the neatly printed signs held by the protestors read: “Meat is Murder for Animals AND Workers.”
The plant’s operations continued without interruption during the protest, which Beckham said was the whole point of the event.
He called the daily slaughter of 3,500 “intelligent and sensitive” animals at the plant immoral and the treatment of its workers during the ongoing pandemic unconscionable.
“JBS should be shut down and its employees compensated for their time off the job,” Beckham said.
A press release from the national headquarters of PETA was far more inflammatory than Beckham, describing his amiable activists as “angry protesters.”
“We are calling for this disease-riddled slaughterhouse to be shut down and stay closed until it switches to producing only plant-based meat,” according to Tracy Reiman, the executive vice president of PETA. “JBS has to stop abusing and killing sensitive animals, jeopardizing public health and treating vulnerable human beings as cheap, disposable labor.”
JBS spokesperson Nikki Richardson counters that the plant does value its workers. She says that employees are screened for illness on a daily basis and anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms is sent home. Workers who test positive for COVID-19 are compensated for the time they spend in quarantine.
She adds that JBS follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend that infected persons be isolated for at least 10 days after the onset of illness and at least three days after recovery.
The Bear River Health Department has confirmed that its officials do not have the authority to close JBS because President Donald Trump has declared meat-packing to be an essential industry,
The Hyrum protest was also intended to honor the memory of the late Canadian PETA activist Regan Russell, according to protester Amy Meyer of Salt Lake City.
While protesting against animal cruelty, Russell died June 19 after bring struck by a truck transporting pigs to a slaughterhouse outside Toronto. The fatal incident is still under investigation by Canadian authorities.
While acknowledging that the hour-long JBS protest was largely symbolic, Beckham added that “symbols can provoke discussion and discussion can lead to change.”