UK meat industry warns of imminent threat to supplies from CO2 crisis

by ReutersMonday, 20 September 2021 11:28 GMT


We explore the challenges of ending hunger and malnutrition as food production adjusts to a warming world


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* CO2 shortage is caused by closure of fertiliser plants

* Meat industry needs CO2 for animal slaughter, packaging

* Ocado reduces lines of frozen foods it can deliver (Adds Ocado, Cranswick, updated BRC line, farmers union)

By James Davey

LONDON, Sept 20 (Reuters) – Some of Britain’s meat processors will run out of carbon dioxide (CO2) within five days, forcing them to halt production and impacting supplies to food retailers, the head of the industry’s lobby group warned on Monday.

A jump in gas prices has forced several domestic energy suppliers out of business and has shut fertiliser plants that also make CO2 as a by-product of their production process.

The CO2 gas is used to stun animals before slaughter, in the vacuum packing of food products to extend their shelf life, and to put the fizz into beer, cider and soft drinks. CO2’s solid form is dry ice, which is used in food deliveries.

The CO2 crisis has compounded an acute shortage of truck drivers in the UK, which has been blamed on the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit.

“My members are saying anything between five, 10 and 15 days supply (remain),” Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association told Sky News.

With no CO2 a meat processor cannot operate, he said.

“The animals have to stay on farm. They’ll cause farmers on the farm huge animal welfare problems and British pork and British poultry will disappear off the shelves,” Allen said.

“We’re two weeks away from seeing some real impacts on the shelves,” he said, adding that poultry could start disappearing even sooner.


Allen said the government was working hard to try and resolve the issue and might be able to persuade a UK fertiliser producer to re-start its plant.

The crisis is also having a more immediate impact.

Online supermarket group Ocado said it had temporarily reduced the number of lines it is able to deliver from its frozen range. Dry ice is used to keep items frozen during delivery. Ocado shares were down 2.7% at 1105 GMT.

Shares in processor Cranswick, whose products include fresh pork and chicken and gourmet sausages, were down 2.7% after CEO Adam Couch said production could be halted.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents retailers including the major supermarket groups, said the CO2 shortage had compounded existing pressures on production and distribution.

“… it is vital that government takes immediate action to prioritise suppliers and avoid significant disruption to food supplies,” said Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability.

Britain’s National Farmers Union said it was concerned about the shortages of fertiliser and CO2.

“We’re aware of the added strain this puts on a food supply chain already under significant pressure due to lack of labour,” said NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly said the government was looking to address short-term shortages.

“We will ensure that we are able to put food on the table, obviously that is a real priority,” he told Sky News.

Britain’s big four supermarket groups – market leader Tesco , Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons – had no immediate comment. (Reporting by James Davey; editing by Guy Faulconbridge, Jason Neely and Gareth Jones)

Ransomware gang that hit meat supplier mysteriously vanishes from the internet

By Brian FungZachary Cohen and Geneva Sands, CNN Business

Updated 3:30 PM ET, Tue July 13, 2021

Washington (CNN Business)REvil, the ransomware gang that attacked meat supplier JBS Foods this spring and a major IT software vendor this month, has mysteriously vanished from the internet, according to cybersecurity experts tracking the group.Websites and other infrastructure belonging to the cybercriminal gang, which is believed to operate from Eastern Europe or Russia, went dark on Tuesday as close observers of the group found they were unable to connect to REvil’s web page listing its victims.Others said they were unable to connect to the sites REvil uses to communicate with victims and collect ransom payments.

“All REvil sites are down, including the payment sites and data leak site,” tweeted Lawrence Abrams, creator of the information security blog BleepingComputer. “The public ransomware gang represenative [sic], Unknown, is strangely quiet.”

What it's really like to negotiate with ransomware attackers

What it’s really like to negotiate with ransomware attackersThe reasons for REvil’s disappearance were not immediately clear, but it follows a raft of high-profile hackings by the group that seized control of computers around the world. It also comes after President Joe Biden said he warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin there would be consequences if Moscow failed to address the ransomware attacks emanating from within its borders.

The Biden administration has increasingly identified ransomware as a threat to national and economic security, highlighting its potential to disrupt critical infrastructure that Americans depend on.Ransomware works by locking down a computer network, stealing and encrypting data until victims agree to pay a fee.Those who refuse can find their information leaked online. In recent years, ransomware gangs have gone after hospitals, universities, police departments, city governments, and a wide range of other targets.A source familiar told CNN the House Intelligence Committee has not been briefed on what caused REvil to go dark. An aide with the Senate Intelligence Committee said “no comment” when asked if that committee had been briefed on the situation.Over the July 4 holiday weekend, cybersecurity experts said REvil was responsible for an attack on Kaseya, an IT software company that indirectly supports countless small businesses including accounting firms, restaurants and dentists’ offices.REvil claimed credit for the attack, demanding an eye-popping $70 million ransom to release the affected machines. US officials have also said REvil was behind the attack on JBS, one of the world’s largest meatpacking companies.REvil has obtained $11 million from victims in the course of its operation, according to the cryptocurrency payments tracker Ransomwhere.

Why it's so difficult to bring ransomware attackers to justice

Why it’s so difficult to bring ransomware attackers to justiceThe group’s sudden disappearance has prompted widespread speculation about what may have occurred. Theories range from planned system downtime to a coordinated governmental strike. But at this stage, experts are still guessing. The FBI and US Cyber Command declined to comment on whether they may have been involved.”This outage could be criminal maintenance, planned retirement, or, more likely, the result of an offensive response to the criminal enterprise — we don’t know,” said Steve Moore, chief security strategist at the cybersecurity firm Exabeam.Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, hypothesized that western governments may be pressuring internet infrastructure companies not to complete web browser requests for REvil’s sites.Drew Schmitt, principal threat intelligence analyst at GuidePoint Security, cautioned that while an inability to connect to REvil’s sites may be a potential indicator of law enforcement involvement, it doesn’t prove it conclusively.”Last week REvil’s site was down for a bit as well,” he said in a statement to CNN.REvil is among the most prolific ransomware attackers, according to the cybersecurity firm CheckPoint. In the last two months alone, REvil conducted 15 attacks per week, CheckPoint spokesman Ekram Ahmed said.

Given the attention it has generated, REvil may have voluntarily chosen to lay low for a while, Ahmed added. “We recommend not jumping to any immediate conclusions as it’s early, but REvil is, indeed, one of the most ruthless and creative ransomware gangs we’ve ever seen.”Anne Neuberger, the top White House cyber official, was traveling with Biden on Tuesday, though her reasons for accompanying the president to Philadelphia were not clear. A White House spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This company gives formerly incarcerated people a second chance, but workers face on-the-job dangers

Even workers who feel indebted to Packers Sanitation Services Inc. for employing them acknowledge they have been put in situations that made them scared or uncomfortable.

Illustration of meatpacking worker falling into an abyss of chicken carcasses.

Workers for an industrial sanitation company with among the worst rates of workplace injuries in the country feel conflicted because they were grateful that the company hires people with felony convictions.Joe Glough / for NBC NewsMay 8, 2021, 3:00 AM PDTBy Amy Martyn

A 911 call from the Tyson chicken processing plant in Baker Hill, Alabama, came late in the afternoon on March 3, 2020. When the paramedic arrived and saw Carlos Lynn’s body, still by the machine that Lynn had been cleaning, he knew there was nothing to do but call the coroner.

Lynn, 39, had been sanitizing the chicken chiller, an approximately 50-foot-long machine that fills its own room at the chicken plant. Its key feature is a device made of blades called an auger that rotates poultry into a 10-foot-deep tank of cold water when the production line is running. No cameras were in the chiller room. The Barbour County coroner determined that about 30 minutes had passed before a co-worker walked into the room and discovered that Lynn had been decapitated.

Lynn’s death briefly made international news before being overshadowed by the coronavirus outbreak. Five months later, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector determined the accident could have been prevented if there had been a physical barrier on the chiller, guarding the corner where the auger blades meet the top of an overflow drain, according to Department of Labor documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request.

Image: Carlos Lynn with his wife Beverly
Carlos Lynn with his wife, Beverly.Courtesy Beverly Gamble

It’s unclear why Tyson’s machine didn’t have such a guard, which is required by federal law, because getting caught in the pinch points of running machinery is a known risk of working in a meatpacking plant.

Tyson installed additional guarding “immediately after the accident,” company spokesperson Kelly Hellbusch said.

But Tyson never paid any fines to the agency, known as OSHA, or any civil damages for the decapitation. In state court, the $40 billion meat processor argued that it was not responsible for the safety of the workers who clean its machines.

Tyson “did not owe a duty to Carlos Lynn, an employee of an independent contractor, with respect to working conditions,” the meatpacker argued in his family’s wrongful death suit.

Instead, providing a safe workplace fell on the responsibility of Lynn’s former employer, Packers Sanitation Services Inc., or PSSI, an industrial sanitation company that has some of the worst rates of workplace injuries in the country, according to a 2017 analysis by the worker protection advocacy group the National Employment Law Project.

In interviews, some PSSI workers felt conflicted about PSSI’s safety record because they were grateful that the company hires people with felony convictions and pays above minimum wage.

PSSI tells its workers in promotional material and in training that they are part of a family, even as it asks them to sign documents assuming the risk of death on the job: “I understand that performance of work or services on the customer’s property can result in personal harm, loss, damage, injury, or death. I accept these risks,” reads a liability waiver included in the PSSI employee contracts.

In interviews, some PSSI workers felt conflicted about PSSI’s safety record because they were grateful that the company hires people with felony convictions and pays above minimum wage.

“We’ve done all kinds of stuff for people that have died. We’ve raised money for their families and give away stuff,” said one supervisor who would only speak on condition of anonymity out of concern that he could violate a confidentiality clause in his employment contract. “This is a family company. It’s not just, ‘Oh well, thank you. Have a nice day. I’m sorry that your husband, wife or child died working for our company.’”

In a statement to NBC News, PSSI spokesperson Gina Swenson wrote that “all of our workers are part of the PSSI family, and we provide them the resources and training not only to succeed at their jobs but grow with the company.”

“The death of Carlos Lynn is profoundly sad and tragic, and we grieve for his family and loved ones,” the statement said.‘You’ve got to stop’

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, at least 270 U.S. meatpacking workers have died of the disease and thousands more were infected, according to lawmakers and the Food & Environment Reporting Network. A U.S. House subcommittee is currently investigating the three biggest meatpackers in the country — Tyson Foods, Smithfield Foods and JBS USA — and it is looking into OSHA because the worker safety agency waited months before inspecting factories where workers had complained about outbreaks.

Separately, a group of Democratic lawmakers has introduced a bill that would ban meatpacking plants from increasing their production line speeds during the pandemic. The Department of Agriculture has approved line speed waivers at 15 poultry plants despite concerns that faster speeds could make it even harder to follow Covid-19 protocols. (Tyson owns seven plants with line speed waivers that were later the source of coronavirus outbreaks, according to the Food & Environment Reporting Network.)

Meatpacking workers worry for their safety without access to Covid vaccines

MARCH 11, 202107:22

Human rights and labor experts describe those measures as only a start in addressing the dangers that meatpacking workers face. Even before the pandemic, one meat or poultry worker in the U.S. was sent to a hospital with an injury or lost a body part, on average, every other day, according to a Human Rights Watch investigation published in 2019, with rates of injury and illness “significantly higher” than other manufacturing jobs, they found.

Less is known about the dangers of independent contractors who work in the factories, according to researchers from the Government Accountability Office and the Human Rights Watch report. But OSHA data on severe accidents suggests sanitation workers face higher risk of injuries like amputation or death.

According to the National Employment Law Project, which studied the issue in 2017, PSSI had the 14th highest number of severe worker injuries in the country out of 14,000 workplaces despite employing only 17,000 workers. Every other dangerous workplace to make the list employed between 44,000 and 1.6 million workers domestically. The group noted that meatpackers were overrepresented in its ranking, with Tyson Foods coming in fourth and JBS and Pilgrim’s Pride sixth.

In a statement to NBC News, PSSI described that report as “flawed” and said it has reduced its OSHA recordable injury rate by more than 30 percent since 2018.

PSSI also said it is “not involved in our customers’ production decisions” and that it has authority to “notify the customer of any unsafe conditions, and we do not hesitate to act in these situations.”

Image: Chemical burn on Taylor Travis' foot
A chemical burn on Taylor Travis’ foot.Courtesy Taylor Travis

But some PSSI workers see a connection between high production speeds at food processing plants and equipment that doesn’t have required safety guards, which is a commonplace violation according to OSHA records and interviews.

“Everything costs money and stuff takes time and that’s the problem,” said Taylor Travis, who worked for PSSI for nine years before leaving last year. In that time, he said, one friend lost their arm up to the elbow after falling asleep while cleaning a machine without a guard, and another lost the tip of a finger in a machine. Travis suffered a chemical burn on his foot because the protective boots given to him by PSSI had a hole in them, according to pictures he provided NBC News. He says he was sent home to recover for four days without being provided paperwork and didn’t file a complaint with OSHA.

PSSI declined to comment on this and other accounts from individual workers.

“They’ve got to cut back on production,” he said. “You want to keep pumping these chicken legs out. You want to keep up pumping these hamburger patties and steaks out. You’ve got to stop.”‘PSSI til I die’ values

When meatpacking workers go home for the day, it’s up to the third-shift cleaning crew to get rid of any trace of the fat deposits, blood, feathers, microscopic bacteria and other animal remnants left behind so the plant can pass a USDA inspection before a new round of animals is slaughtered and processed the next day.

PSSI, founded in 1973 with the pitch that it provided sanitation with nonunionized workers, now sanitizes more than 450 plants all over the country. Its customers include all types of food processors and the world’s biggest meatpackers.

According to a contract with one meatpacker in North Carolina, obtained via FOIA, PSSI is paid between $26,000 to $50,000 per week to clean the plant, depending on whether it cleans four or seven days a week.

Privately held, PSSI was purchased by the private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LP for around $1 billion in 2014, according to Reuters.

PSSI said it has taken multiple steps to improve its accident rate since 2018, including hiring former OSHA officials and recording plants with a new monitoring system that can detect and send alerts about “operational irregularities.”

People who take sanitation jobs with PSSI include people from all backgrounds, ages, races and nationalities, according to six current or former workers interviewed by NBC News, most of whom requested anonymity because they were concerned that granting interviews violated confidentiality clauses in their contracts. The one commonality among workers, according to an employee recruiter at PSSI, is that they are “people that really need a job.”

“I did things that put me in prison, and when I got out of prison, PSSI was there to give me a chance to make amends.”

One PSSI supervisor still remembers the $680 check a friend showed him from one week of work. He was amazed at the amount of money, considering that, like him, the friend had a felony on his record.

“I did things that put me in prison, and when I got out of prison, PSSI was there to give me a chance to make amends,” he said.

On an employee-only Facebook page, workers say they are proud to be serving their country and protecting the nation’s food supply. During the pandemic, some were provided T-shirts that read, “I’m an Essential Employee.” In one post, a worker commented, “PSSI til I die.”

New hires start anywhere between $12 to $15 an hour, depending on where the plant is located, according to internal job postings and interviews. During a four-week training, recruits are taught how to lock out and tag out machines — in other words, how to power the machines completely off — before getting near them. They are also taught how to make a caustic acid mixture used to kill bacteria and how to spray down all machines and surfaces with high-pressure hydraulic hoses.

If workers can go 30 days without recording an accident at the plant they clean, they are invited to vote on which fast-food restaurant they want for a catered dinner. Sixty days comes with a second catered dinner.

“When we get to 120 and above, that’s where we start giving out TVs. That’s part of our plan to help people stay safe,” the employee recruiter said.

David Attenborough: ‘Eating Free-Range Meat Is Middle-Class Hypocrisy’

The veteran broadcaster made the comments ahead of the launch of his new film David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
'I'm affluent enough to afford free-range, but it's a middle-class hypocrisy'

‘I’m affluent enough to afford free-range, but it’s a middle-class hypocrisy’

David Attenborough says eating free-range meat is a ‘middle-class hypocrisy’ – and that he is ‘troubled’ when he eats fish and chicken.

The veteran broadcaster made the comments during an interview with the Radio Times magazine ahead of the launch of his new film David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet.

‘Middle-class hypocrisy’

Sir David said he ‘couldn’t remember’ when he’d last eaten meat, and that it was ‘years ago’.

But he then revealed: ” I eat fish, and chicken, and my conscience does trouble me.

“I’m affluent enough to afford free-range, but it’s a middle-class hypocrisy.”

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet premieres on September 28. It will launch on Netflix in October.

The film covers the period of his life, outlining the defining moments, and highlighting how the environment has been damaged during that time.

Announcing the launch of the film, Sir David warned: “Humanity is at a crossroads and I think the natural world is really under serious, serious threat.”

The next pandemic?

Dear Editor,

What the world does not need now is another pandemic. Yet in Victoria, hundreds of thousands of chickens, turkeys and even emus are now being killed in the hope that wholesale carnage can stop or slow the spread of at least three different, extremely virulent strains of bird flu. This is not surprising – confining and killing animals for food has been linked to SARS, swine flu, bird flu, and COVID-19.

You’ll never catch the flu from tofu, but when tens of thousands of birds are crammed into sheds and forced to stand in their own waste and breathe in the fumes, diseases spread and can mutate into different strains quickly. People can be co-infected with an avian and a human influenza virus. The genetic information in these viruses can then reassort to create a new virus, against which humans have little or no immunity.

If you care about animals, and your own health, do what many others are doing nowadays and choose healthy vegan meals. If everyone went vegan, these birds, each of them a personality who wanted only to enjoy life, wouldn’t have lived in misery and died in terror, and humans wouldn’t be facing yet another catastrophic virus.

Mimi Bekhechi
Campaigns Strategist
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
PO Box 20308 World Square
Sydney, NSW, 2002

David Attenborough Urges Public To Ditch Meat And Encourages Plant-Based Diet In New Film

The 94-year-old broadcaster said: ‘We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters’
The 'natural world is fading' (Photo edited by PBN)

The ‘natural world is fading’ (Photo edited by PBN)

Veteran presenter Sir David Attenborough has urged the public to ditch meat and work towards a plant-based diet in his new documentary A Life On Our Planet.

The film, which premieres in U.K cinemas for one night only on September 28, looks at the environmental changes that have happened on Earth over Sir David’s lifetime and offers some solutions to the climate crisis.

‘We must change our diet’

According to the Mirror, the historian said: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.

“If we had a mostly plant-based diet we could increase the yield of the land. We have an urgent need for free land… Nature is our biggest ally.”

Sir David also warned that the ‘natural world is fading’ and predicts the loss of biodiversity, which he describes as the true tragedy of our times – is ‘still unfolding’.

‘A Life On Our Planet’

“I am David Attenborough, and I am 93. I’ve had the most extraordinary life. It is only now that I appreciate how extraordinary,” Sir David says in the film’s trailer.

“Our planet is headed for disaster. We need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it and I’m going to tell you how.”

Kim Jong-un orders North Koreans to hand over pet dogs — so they can be used as meat

‘Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down’

The outlet says the move is likely designed to quell public anger over the country’s economic tailspin. A source told the outlet that Kim made the order in July.

“Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down,” the source said.

Once the pets are rounded up, it’s reported, some go to zoos and some are sold into the restaurant trade, where dogs are regularly consumed. Pyongyang, the Daily Mail reports, has a number of specialized dog eateries.

Chosun Ilbo reports that although pet ownership was long frowned upon in North Korea, the state had seemed to relent since the late 1990s, when the rich of Pyongyang started owning pets as symbols of superiority.

Adrdinary people raise pigs and livestock on their porches, but high-ranking officials and the wealthy own pet dogs, which stoked some resentment.”

Crop damageAccording to the Daily Mail, a recent report by the UN said up to 60 percent of North Koreans face “widespread food shortages.” In recent weeks, heavy rain and flooding have sparked concern about crop damage and food supplies in the isolated country.

North Korea’s national Red Cross Society is the only organization with access to all nine provinces, and more than 43,000 volunteers have been working alongside health teams on COVID-19 prevention efforts as well as helping flood-related work, said Antony Balmain of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

“Hundreds of homes have been damaged and large areas of rice fields have been submerged due to heavy rain and some flash flooding,” Balmain said, according to Reuters.

North Korea’s Red Cross has deployed 43,000 volunteers to help communities prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus and provide flood assistance.

Kim declared an emergency last month and imposed a lockdown on Kaesong, near the inter-Korean border, after a man who defected to the South in 2017 returned to the city showing coronavirus symptoms.

— with files from Reuters

North Koreans forced to give up pet dogs to supply restaurants

Credit: HD Wallpaper

North-Korean elites have been forced to give up their pet dogs as they symbolise “western decadence,” South-Korean newspapers report, and to salvage food scarcity.

In the country, dogs are kept mostly by elite figures who can afford the luxury, as they signal superiority. According to the supreme leader, this practice leads to social dissatisfaction and should be seen as a trend tainted by bourgeois ideology.

The story was reported by one of South Korea’s oldest newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo. It must be noted that North and South Korea have remained at war since June 1950, and Chosun Ilbo is known to be generally sceptical of the country’s northern neighbour.

“Authorities have identified households with pet dogs and are forcing them to give them up or forcefully confiscating them and putting them down,” according to one of Chosun Ilbo’s sources. “Some of them are then taken to state-run zoos, or sold to dog meat restaurants.”

According to the newspaper, the move comes amid rising civil unrest over the declining economy, the Covid-19 pandemic and recent heavy floods.

By confiscating the dogs, Kim Jong-Un hits two birds with one stone: he destroys a live symbol for economic inequality and simultaneously contributes to solving the food crisis.

The Daily NK, a South Korean newspaper reporting on North Korea based on a network of informants from the North, published a similar story in July. Sources told the Daily NK that all dogs over 15 kg were bought up to supply Pyongyang restaurants with meat. Owners received a certificate rather than money, which will allow them to be reimbursed with oil and rice on 10 October.

Serving dog meat has been a declining trend in South Korea, but the dish remains popular in China and North Korea. North Korea’s capital has multiple restaurants specialising in dogs.

According to the Daily Mail, the UN recently reported that up to 60% of North-Korea’s population of 25.5 million currently suffers from a shortage of food.

Amée Zoutberg
The Brussels Times

Chicken wings imported to China from Brazil test positive for COVID-19, Chinese officials say

Frozen chicken wings imported to China from Brazil have tested positive for the coronavirus, local authorities said on Thursday. A sample was taken from the surface of the wings and tested positive, making them one of the latest food imports to test positive for the virus, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, traces of coronavirus were found on a package of frozen shrimp in Anhui province. The shrimp was also from Ecuador.

While the CDC says there is no evidence to suggest that consuming or handling food is associated with COVID-19, China has been increasing screenings amid concerns over food imports.

Coronaviruses are thought to spread mostly person-to-person through respiratory droplets, the CDC says. However, “it is possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, including food or food packaging, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes,” the CDC says.

This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, and the risk of getting COVID-19 from food is thought to be very low, the CDC says. “The virus that causes COVID-19 cannot grow on food. Although bacteria can grow on food, a virus requires a living host like a person or an animal to multiply,” the CDC says.

The CDC recommends washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling food, or before cooking and eating food.

Still, all meat and seafood containers coming into major ports in China are being screened. In June, China suspended some meat imports – including those from Brazil, Reuters reports.

As a precaution, anyone who might have come in contact with the potentially contaminated food products in Shenzhen were traced and tested by health authorities there. All results were negative, the city said, according to Reuters.

Tests are also being conducted for those who may have come in contact with the contaminated shrimp, as well as the environment surrounding the local market, in Xian.

Will Austin Fight COVID-19 by Going Vegan?

PETA Sends Mayor a Box of Vegan Chocolates, Asks for Help Encouraging Residents to Choose Healthy, Humane Meat-Free Meals

For Immediate Release:
July 23, 2020

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Austin, Texas – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Austin, PETA sent a letter this morning asking the city’s mayor, Steve Adler, to encourage all residents to help prevent future pandemics, safeguard their own health, and save animals’ lives by going vegan.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—is also sending the mayor a box of delicious vegan chocolates shaped like chickens, frogs, and bats, noting that these “animals” can be eaten without risking another pandemic. COVID-19 apparently originated in a Chinese “wet market,” in which animals are sold for human consumption. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America, and most residents would never dream of eating the city’s 1.5 million bats—so PETA is encouraging them to extend that compassion to all other animals, including chickens and cows.

“The next SARS, swine flu, bird flu, or COVID-19 outbreak will be just around the corner as long as people keep eating animals,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA stands ready with free vegan starter kits and mentors to help everyone boost their immune system and help prevent future pandemics by eating delicious, humane vegan meals.”

PETA notes that going vegan has never been easier. Several popular Austin eateries, such as Counter CultureThe Beer Plant, and Citizen Eatery, serve tasty plant-based fare. For more information, please visit

PETA’s letter to Adler follows.

July 23, 2020

The Honorable Steve Adler
Mayor of Austin

Dear Mayor Adler,

Greetings from PETA. As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in Austin, putting public health at risk, I’m writing with a lifesaving suggestion: Encourage all residents to eat vegan. PETA stands ready to help them make the switch by offering resources such as our free vegan starter kits and our free vegan mentor services. We’ll also be sending you a box of dairy-free chocolates in the shapes of chickens, frogs, and bats—the only kind of “animals” that can be eaten compassionately and safely.

COVID-19, swine flu, avian flu, mad cow disease, SARS, Ebola, and AIDS are all linked to the production or consumption of meat, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that approximately 75% of recently emerged infectious diseases affecting humans originated in other animals. As long as animals are bred, confined in their own filth, and slaughtered, it’s not a matter of if another pandemic will occur but when.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other wholesome vegan foods are cholesterol-free, generally low in saturated fat, and high in fiber and other nutrients, and they can even prevent—and in some cases, reverse—life-threatening diseases as well as boost immunity. In fact, Corinne Bush, science director of the American Nutrition Association and a representative of the Personalized Nutrition & COVID-19 Task Force, advises people to eat plenty of produce in order to boost their immune system and ward off COVID-19 and other health problems. Dr. Mehmet Oz agrees, pointing out that fruits and vegetables “enhance your immune response,” and he shared antioxidant-rich smoothie recipes on TODAY.

We’re ready to help Austin residents turn over a healthy new vegan leaf, so please let us know how we can be of assistance. We look forward to hearing from you.


Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals