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Animal rights activists slam meat packer for virus outbreak

Farmer John in Vernon

City News Service | 2/19/2021, midnight
Animal rights activists scheduled a protest in front of the Farmer John..

Animal rights activists scheduled a protest in front of the Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon this week, stringing together 7,000 paper hearts to honor the 7,000 pigs they estimate are killed at the facility each day.

The planned demonstration comes amid a growing COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, where 882 workers have been infected with the coronavirus. That’s more than double the number of cases reported just six weeks ago, and by far the largest outbreak at a nonresidential setting in Los Angeles County.

The only other similarly sized outbreak at an industrial facility is the 601 cases at Northrop-Grumman in Palmdale, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

A spokesman for Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which owns Farmer John, told City News Service that characterizing the plant as the site of the county’s largest industrial COVID-19 outbreak was “a misleading and unfair’’ statement.

“We are aggressively testing. We have a very low current incidence of positive—including asymptomatic results—and have remained very low for a sustained period. We will continue to aggressively test despite your efforts to stigmatize our employees.

“L.A. County is the number one county in the nation for Covid positive—with more than 1.1 million cases,’’ he added.

In November, Smithfield Foods was fined $58,000 by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California, and another $47,000 in fines were issued to CitiStaff Solutions Inc. over the COVID-19 outbreak.