It’s been over a hundred years since the socialist, Upton Sinclair, wrote his ground-breaking novel "The Jungle" in 1906. This book catapulted Sinclair to fame and pressured President Theodore Roosevelt to introduce food safety regulations. “I aimed at the public’s heart,” Sinclair remarked, “and by accident I hit it in the stomach." He hoped for socialist revolution but had to settle for accurate meat-labeling.
The consumption of meat is a popular topic, with environmental and health concerns listed alongside discussions of needless animal suffering and death, the impossible notion of humane farming, and the concept of humans outgrowing meat. Also, little attention has been paid to the struggles of the workers who supply the meat itself.
All these factors, together with the anti-union and anti-worker legislation introduced in the United States, and the counter-revolution of the Soviet Union, have revived conditions in the slaughter industry that are reminiscent of those that Sinclair hoped to end.
In 2005, Human Rights Watch published a report entitled Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in US Meat and Poultry Plants, which concluded that working conditions in America’s meat-packing plants were so bad that they violated basic human rights. This was the first time that Human Rights Watch had criticized any American industry. One particularly gruesome finding was that workers in some of the larger firms had taken to wearing adult diapers on the line, as they were routinely denied toilet breaks. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports twice as many injuries and illnesses among meat-packing employees as in the average of American manufacturing jobs—a number that many unions contend should be much higher, as workers are routinely intimidated out of reporting and into withdrawing claims for compensation. Abattoir workers have a high rate of perpetration-induced traumatic stress, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as the increased rates of domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse to be found within this section of the population after their employment there.
As communists, we must walk a fine line between our desire to support the struggles of workers and remaining steadfast in our ideological positions, even if that means actively campaigning against the continued manufacture of arms, or against meat, fur and dairy production, which will ultimately put those workers out of a job. We have a duty to provide a broader analysis of those industries and the impact they have on the wider world.
Meat production is one of the most profitable, most destructive and most unnecessary industries. Increased meat production has led to deforestation of the Amazon for cattle ranches. Research shows that without meat and dairy consumption the global use of farmland could be reduced by more than 75 per cent and still feed the world. Meat and dairy provide only 18 per cent of the calories and 37 per cent of the protein consumed globally but use 83 per cent of farmland and produce 60 per cent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Even the lowest-impact meat and dairy products cause much more environmental harm than the least-sustainable vegetable and cereal-growing.
“The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underlie the commodities that we use on a daily basis.”
- Angela Davis
The Animal Rights Commission challenges the old credo of the meat-packing giant Armour, “We feed the world,” while showing that we can do it without the exploitation of the earth, of our fellow-humans, or of any other living creature.
The Animal Rights Commission of the PCUSA seeks to educate, and advocate against exploitation of both human and non human animals on this planet. Capitalism is the system by which the vast majority of exploitation takes place. It is a system that will destroy this planet for all creatures and must be opposed.
The Animal Rights Commission drew much inspiration from the Irish Communist Party.
As with any commission, we issue statements regarding current events, working class history, theory and much more.
Using the button on the side, you can access the Animal Rights Commission archive.