France has just made history. In response to growing public outcry against slaughterhouse cruelty, hygiene concerns, and safety violations revealed in footage released by French animal rights group L214, the French National Assembly passed a bill for mandatory cameras in all French slaughterhouses. The bill passed 28 to 4, signaling a major change in the way both the public and officials view the animal agriculture industry. The bill will go into full effect in 2018 if it clears the Senate vote, but there will first be a trial run in July 2017. Starting in the summer, 263 French slaughterhouses will have cameras placed in areas where all animals are “moved, held, immobilized, stunned and killed.” While those concerned with animal rights have a reason to celebrate, this is more than just a victory for animals in France — it is a victory for slaughterhouse workers, too, who are routinely exploited by the animal agriculture industry. This move mirror’s Israel’s recent decision to install cameras in their slaughterhouses.
The higher ups in the French animal agriculture industry made their thoughts on the bill very clear. Some of those in the industry have responded to the government’s apparent attack on the industry by “dumping truckloads of manure in front of ministries, blocking traffic with trucks, burning tires, and hanging [dead] pigs from highway overpasses.” French Minister of Agriculture Stephane LeFoll invoked “respect for slaughterhouse workers” as one of the key reasons for why this bill should not go live in the near future. But, is it really about respect for slaughterhouse workers, or is the French animal agriculture industry already sweating bullets about the expected blowback when what happens behind the doors of slaughterhouses is no longer kept behind closed doors?
In the United States, factory farm jobs have one of the largest turnover rates in the country, ranging from 95 to 100 percent annually. 70 percent of workers suffer from respiratory conditions and there is little job security for workers, most of whom come from low-income and non-English-speaking families, leaving them with little choice of where they can find steady employment. Tyson Foods became infamous for routinely denying its workers bathroom breaks, resulting in many employees wearing diapers. On top of that, they have failed to provide adequate care to injured workers and have been routinely fined by the federal government for failing to pay workers overtime. So, we’re not really buying LeFoll’s “respect for slaughterhouse workers” argument.
LeFoll’s other argument against cameras in French slaughterhouses is a “farmers’ crisis.” According to an article on Medium, French “agriculture unions are pushing for further government relief for ‘Made in France’ meat and dairy products while they battle waning meat sales.” We can understand why the animal agriculture industry has a reason to be afraid of being under constant scrutiny by the federal government. Recent undercover investigations by L214 have exposed widespread abuse in slaughterhouses, revealing footage of “animals being tormented, brutalized and butchered by callous workers while still alive.” Under this new bill, any violations will incur a penalty of “6 to 12 months of prison and fines from 7500 to 20,000 Euros ($8000 to $21,000)” … and the cameras won’t be monitored by the federal government, which like the United States, subsidizes the meat and dairy industry. When the new law goes into effect, slaughterhouse footage will be overseen by an independent commission and a national slaughterhouse ethics committee. They’re right to be afraid.
Lucky for anyone who finds that what happens behind slaughterhouses unsavory, there has never been a better time to give plant-based protein a try. Vegan options are popping up in grocery stores and restaurants everywhere, and plant-based meats are becoming more and more like “the real thing.”