Love Meat and Dairy? Thank Illegal Immigrants
Politics and Activism

Thank Illegal Immigrants For Your Meat And Dairy

The American meat and dairy industries almost exclusively rely on the exploitation of undocumented workers.

Thank Illegal Immigrants For Your Meat And Dairy

A couple days ago, the longest government shutdown in American history came to an end, with Trump signing a short-term three week government funding bill that didn't include his signature policy goal of a border wall. This bipartisan agreement was reached in the hopes that Congress could come up with a solution to increase border security.

In keeping up with the very public debate our nation has been having about the "crisis" of illegal immigration, I've noticed that there's one aspect of this thorny issue which is consistently ignored, most notably by those like Trump who are immigration hardliners; the truth is that our meat and dairy industries could not function without the labor of so-called illegal immigrants.

Despite Trump's claim that immigrants are stealing American jobs, undocumented immigrants often do incredibly difficult jobs that native-born workers simply aren't willing to do. This is notably the case in the agriculture industry, where unauthorized immigrants make up about half of the labor force, according to Department of Agriculture estimates.

A 2017 research study of New York dairy farmers found that most turned to undocumented workers after struggling to find U.S. citizens willing to take up such dangerous and demanding work. Farmers in the Midwest, in dairy-producing states like Wisconsin, see the employment of undocumented workers as the result of a rural labor shortage, though some argue that if wages were raised, more citizens would want those jobs.

This line of thinking points to a larger, structural problem. Employers have an incentive to hire undocumented workers because they can pay them less and make them work in horrible working conditions, and these workers have no legal recourse to resist this abuse and exploitation. According to the fundamental law of economics, where there is demand, there is going to be supply; and no border wall or steel-slat barrier is going to alter this situation.

Moreover, the fact that these workers aren't here legally allows meat and dairy companies to deny them rights they would otherwise have and punish workers who dare to speak up. Indeed, the operations of slaughterhouses aren't just bad for animal welfare; they're also awful when it comes to human welfare.

Undocumented workers are forced to work in horrible conditions for extremely low pay and, because of their legal status, are far less likely to unionize. Those in slaughterhouse cleanup crews have gotten gruesome injuries working around highly dangerous equipment. The chicken industry is notorious for its abysmal working conditions. Four companies control the majority of the poultry market- Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's, Perdue, and Sanderson Farms- and with the industrialization of the industry, workers have been pushed to the limit to boost productivity: being forced to repeat the same motions over and over again, standing in the frigid air in pools of blood.

A woman named Delores who works at a plant in Arkansas, my home state, told Oxfam she was denied a bathroom break many times and had to start wearing Pampers. A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that 34 percent of poultry workers showed signs of carpal tunnel syndrome, an extremely painful nerve disorder often caused by repetitive activity. Case Farms, which produces chicken for KFC, Popeyes, and Taco Bell, has repeatedly failed to comply with federal workplace-safety standards and used its employees undocumented status to avoid paying for injuries. These practices are an affront to basic human dignity.

Under Trump's anti-immigrant zeal, ICE has increased workplace raids, leaving workers at risk of deportation and silencing them even more from speaking out; and while workers themselves are arrested, the owners of these factories usually aren't. So after some workers are deported, more undocumented immigrants are hired to replace them and the cycle of exploitation continues because it is in the economic interest of the meat companies.

Meanwhile, Trump supporters have the audacity to declare their steadfast opposition to illegal immigration while enjoying the cheap and tasty meat that is the result of this system of abuse and exploitation.

The system for making animal products in this country is fundamentally immoral. It not only violates animal rights. The abuses and conditions I have described violate human rights. This is an injustice we should not ignore. Despite my dreams of a vegan utopia, I recognize that the meat and dairy industries are not going to just disappear overnight; but these industries can and should be pressured by consumers into changing their behavior. There are flickers of hope.

Last year, on my 18th birthday interestingly, undocumented dairy workers in Vermont won a huge victory when Ben and Jerry's signed their Milk with Dignity agreement, giving workers a full day off each week and minimum wage. These activists managed to accomplish this despite the fact that their outspoken activism made them at risk of deportation.

Ultimately, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. I think boycotting the products of these companies is the best way to put your beliefs into action, but I acknowledge that many won't like that conclusion. But next time you eat a McChicken nugget, pause to reflect on where your meat is coming from and remember the undocumented workers laboring in horrible conditions in slaughterhouses and decide whether you want to do something or do nothing.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Whether you are quarantining away from your significant other because of coronavirus or separated by the country lines at this time, it's fair to say that long-distance relationships are tough no matter what. However, there are ways to show love from a distance whether that's through daily FaceTime calls, cute Snapchats, or sexy pics sent to them on their phone. You can brighten up their day even more with some of these unique gifts that can fit any price range and a variety of interests.

Keep Reading... Show less

Rihanna is known for many things: her music, fashion, makeup, and now skincare. As a makeup artist myself, I can confidently say that she rocked the makeup world when she released her makeup line in 2017 and has been influencing the beauty world ever since.

Trying some of her makeup products myself, I know that she doesn't skimp on quality, and even though some of her products may be a little pricey, trust me, you get what you pay for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Friends, no one needs to be reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the U.S. Frankly, this is because we have all collectively decided not to do the one simple thing that was asked of us and wear a mask.

I could make this a very boring article, and berate you with facts and statistics and the importance of wearing a mask, but I have opted against that for both of our sakes. Instead, I will attempt to reach you in another way. You might not care about a disapproving look from me, but from Nick Miller? Maybe that will be enough to change your mind.

Keep Reading... Show less

I don't want to point fingers or call anyone out, but it seems as though since the school year came to a close and summer officially started, more and more people began to care less and less about coronavirus (COVID-19).

I understand that eventually you have to get on with your life and cannot live in isolation forever, but people are still dying, cases are still increasing, and COVID is clearly not going anywhere for the time being.

Keep Reading... Show less

Preview These Top Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020 Picks — From Luxury Purses To Skincare

Currently 3 million people viewing the Stella McCartney purse I absolutely must have.

Online shopping has been a guilty pleasure of ours for years, but now more than ever it's been a shopping lover's outlet for all our home redecorating projects and resort wear we're purchasing for that trip we had to cancel.

One of my favorite places to (virtually) window shop has always been Nordstrom. I admittedly can't afford to go on sprees there often, but I still get a high off of adding things to my cart I know I'll never actually end up buying. But sometimes, that's not enough — that's when I, like the masses of luxury-, beauty-, fashion-, and decor-lovers around the world count the days down to the annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Things That 'Shameless' Got Wrong About Bipolar Disorder

There is so much more than Ian and Monica lead viewers to believe.

"Shameless" is a hit television series that airs across the world, for my own personal viewing on Netflix. While the show is a major hit, people aren't talking about the issues in the portrayal in the "mental health" category. Ian and Monica are both pretty important characters with bipolar disorder (BD). There are, however, five major flaws with what their bipolar looks like.

Keep Reading... Show less

Dear Grandma,

I wish my words could adequately explain how much I miss seeing your smile and hearing your laugh. You were such a bright ray of sunshine in my life and now that you're gone, I can't help but remember all the times we had together.

Keep Reading... Show less

Bombshell news coming from Bachelor Nation today, Tayshia Adams is replacing Clare Crawley as the bachelorette!

Rumor has it that Clare found her person early on in the process and did not want to continue with the process of leading other men on throughout the season.

Keep Reading... Show less

- Though as a little girl, I had the silkiest, softest hair that would get compliments everywhere I went, since I turned about thirteen I've since had coarse, dry hair no amount of deep conditioning masks or sulfate-free shampoo could fix.

- I started using the Raincry's Condition Boar Bristle Brush several months ago, and while I noticed that my hair had been softer, silkier, and shinier than it had ever been, I didn't make the connection because I never thought a simple hairbrush could make any difference in my hair texture.

- I will be the first to admit that I thought it was ridiculous to spend nearly a hundred dollars on a hairbrush, but this one eliminates the need for me to use any heat tools or styling products on it.

- I put some oil or a serum in my hair when it's wet, brush my hair with the boar bristle brush once it's dry, and end up with the lowest maintenance, shiniest hair I've had since I was 8 years old.


Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments