VERNON (CNS) – Animal rights activists are holding a vigil Wednesday outside Farmer John’s slaughterhouse in Vernon for the thousands of pigs killed at the facility for food despite plans to close the plant in early 2023.
The factory and its associated pig production farm have been the target of weekly vigils organized by the Animal Alliance network, protesting the treatment of baby pigs which they say are being raised in cramped conditions until they are loaded onto trucks bound for the slaughterhouse.
This week’s demonstration comes just days after the Virginia-based factory owner announced the plant would close in early 2023, citing rising costs of doing business in California. Parent company Smithfield Foods is also exploring “strategic options to exit its farms in Arizona and California.”
Company officials said they are providing “transition assistance” to employees at the plant, including “relocation options” to other Smithfield facilities and farms.
“We are grateful to our team members in the Western Region for their dedication and valuable contributions to our mission. We are committed to providing financial and other transition assistance to employees affected by this difficult decision,” said Smithfield Chief Operating Officer Brady Stewart said in a statement. statement.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn also pledged to help workers who will be displaced after the plant closes.
“The planned closure of the Farmer John plant in Vernon will impact the economy and workers in southeast Los Angeles County,” Hahn said in a statement Friday. “I will do my best to provide county resources to Farmer John employees to help them with the job training and assistance they need to secure new, well-paying jobs.”
John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which represents unionized meat packers at the plant, said he hoped another operator would take over the operation.
“Despite a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with Farmer John employees and their union, Smithfield has decided to exit its California operations,” Grant said in a statement. “A fair deal that compensates their workers until next year has been reached, and we hope that another operator will take advantage of the highly skilled and stable workforce that makes Farmer John’s factory part of productive and profitable of Vernon’s packaging infrastructure.
A union spokeswoman told City News Service there were around 1,500 UFCW workers at the plant, with other workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the International Union of Operating Engineers. .
The Animal Alliance network has long criticized Farmer John’s plant and organizers announced on Saturday that such vigils would continue.
During the demonstrations, volunteers show up in the early morning to offer water and human contact to the animals in the back of the trucks while waiting to enter the slaughterhouse.
“They are crammed into trucks with over a hundred of them crammed together, often with no space to move freely,” according to the organization’s website. “These pigs are usually raised in windowless warehouses and the first time they see the light is when they are loaded onto these trucks.”
Activists said they spoke to Jim Monroe, vice president of corporate affairs at Smithfield, and asked the company to expand its plant-based meat line, Pure Farmland, or even switch to a plant-based business model. of plants, which they say “will save the lives of millions of pigs, be healthier for their consumers, safer for those who live near their slaughterhouses and be sustainable for our environment as a whole.
“We believe that a transition to plant-based meats will be better for their business and their long-term employees. Slaughterhouse work is at the top of the most dangerous and traumatic jobs a person can do. “, said the group.
Monroe and other Smithfield officials could not be reached for comment, but the group said Monroe “expressed a willingness to talk about our demands again and possibly share our demands with others at Smithfield.” .
Activists say they have also offered to help coordinate the rescue of “a few” pigs that would be sent to sanctuaries, but the company has so far refused that request.
In 2019, Farmer John chose not to renew his contract to supply Dodger Dogs to Dodger Stadium and grocery stores after more than 50 years.
It’s unclear what will happen to the meatpacking plant at 3049 E. Vernon Ave., which has long been a popular destination for tourists.