Animal rights advocates have put up 19 billboards across Los Angeles that connect the eating of animals to pandemics, and pay tribute to an activist killed in Canada earlier this summer while giving comfort to pigs on the way to slaughter.
The billboards, which went up July 27 for four weeks, are in neighborhoods ranging from Hollywood, Silver Lake and Echo Park to downtown L.A.
The campaign was organized by LA Animal Save and The Animal Alliance. Both groups are trying to make the connection between the COVID-19 pandemic and what they see as the harmful effects of meat eating and the factory farm industry, even as the pandemic itself has forced them to curtail some of their regular activities.
The groups are known locally for the vigils they’ve been holding since 2016 outside the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, where thousands of pigs are butchered every week and turned into Dodger Dogs and other Farmer John products.
Activists had been holding the nighttime vigils twice a week. Volunteers gather around trucks as the animals — crammed into trucks with little space to move — are brought in, giving water to the pigs in an effort to provide them with some comfort before they die.
But LA Animal Save founder Amy Jean Davis told City News Service that the group had to suspend the vigils in March.
“There are around 600 global Animal Save groups (worldwide) … and our two Los Angeles-based groups have the largest turnouts and unfortunately that meant we had to stop holding them. We are not able to keep people six feet apart while bearing witness and giving water to the pigs,” Davis said.
She said she hopes the events will resume once social distancing is no longer required. In the meantime, they’re still holding monthly demos at Farmer John — without giving water to the pigs — and outreach events for slaughterhouse workers, along with weekly cow and chicken vigils at various Los Angeles processing facilities.
It was at a similar pig vigil in Burlington, Ontario, Canada in June that 65-year-old Regan Russell was killed when she was struck by a truck full of pigs on its way to Fearman’s Pork processing plant. Animal rights activists around the world have rallied around Russell’s death, and LA Animal Save and The Animal Alliance used her image in some of the billboards. They planned a vigil for Russell on Sunday evening under one of the billboards in Echo Park, at the intersection of Sunset and Rampart boulevards.
Vegan activists argue that the tight packing of animals in concentrated feeding operations promotes the emergence of diseases that cause human epidemics. They also point out that the tight packing of people on slaughterhouses production lines promotes the spread of these infections.
L.A. County health officials have shut down a handful of food processing facilities due to COVID-19 outbreaks, including Golden State Foods Corp. in Industry, which had 43 confirmed cases of the virus, S&S Foods in Azusa (58 cases) and Mission Foods in Commerce (40 cases) in July.
The Farmer John facility in Vernon saw 153 workers test positive for COVID-19 in the spring, and other outbreaks were reported at CLW Foods, California Farms Meat, Overhill Farms and Rose & Shore, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Smithfield Foods, the Virginia-based company that owns the Farmer John plant, said in May that it implemented stringent new health protocols to protect against the virus.
“Our Smithfield family members are crucial to our nation’s response to COVID-19. We thank them for keeping food on America’s tables, and have implemented aggressive measures to protect their health and safety during this pandemic,” Smithfield Foods said in a statement.
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