In a Dickensian-like drama, JBS, the world’s largest meat producer and animal feed and pet food ingredient supplier, has been caught using child labor to clean and sanitize their slaughterhouses in the U.S.
Children as young as 13, dressed in hard hats, raincoats, waterproof overalls, and rubber boots to protect them from blood splatter, animal waste, and cleaning products – some using power equipment – worked long hours toiling into the night cleaning the blood and animal waste in JBS slaughterhouses. As many as 190 children – ages 13 to 17 – cleaned dangerous equipment with corrosive cleaners during overnight shifts at three JBS USA slaughtering and meatpacking facilities in Grand Island, NE, and Worthington, MN, and at Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall, MN.
An investigation led by the U.S. Secretary of Labor found that JBS procured child labor services from Packers Sanitation Services, a labor contractor. Based on what the Department of Labor found, a court order prohibiting Packers Sanitation from using child labor revealed that children under 16 worked long hours or overnight shifts – some working on power-driven machines or the kill floor.
When the children wanted to cooperate with the Labor Department, the company intimidated the underage workers to discourage them from cooperating with investigators. At least one employee deleted or manipulated employment records.
According to court documents, the Labor Department believes Packers may employ minor children under similar conditions at other plants.
“Taking advantage of children, exposing them to workplace dangers – and interfering with a federal investigation – demonstrates Packers Sanitation Services Inc.’s flagrant disregard for the law and the well-being of young workers,” Michael Lazzeri, regional administrator for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, said in a statement.
In granting the Temporary Restraining Oder, the Judge said: “The Court has little difficulty concluding that any ongoing use of child labor constitutes irreparable harm to the children involved.“
Indeed, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards prohibits an employer from employing “any oppressive child labor in commerce or production of goods for commerce or any enterprise engaged in commerce or the production of foods for commerce.” “Oppressive child labor” includes any child under 16 years of age or between 16 and 18 in any occupation the Secretary of Labor declares to be particularly hazardous or detrimental to the children’s well-being.
JBS, whose deep ties to the animal feed and pet food industry, should make consumers pause and consider if the pet food contains products produced by the exploitation of children. While most pet food companies will not be able to assure consumers that their products do not contain ingredients from JBS, leaving consumers with the task of asking the company who they procure their ingredients from.
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