Slaughtering Innocence: Illegal Child Labor

Child labor has been illegal in the United States for over eighty-five years. So, why have investigators recently discovered numerous children aged 13-17 working overnight shifts cleaning the “scene of the crime” at slaughterhouses?

The Unseen Reality: Illegal Child Labor in Slaughterhouses

Federal officials recently discovered 102 children working as cleaners in slaughterhouses nationwide for the cleaning subcontractors Packers Sanitation Service Inc. Children as young as 13 were seen using caustic chemicals to clean sharp saws and equipment in slaughterhouses across eight states. Several children reported severe chemical burns while working.

Some of these children had come across the border as unaccompanied minors leading investigators to address the possibility that any of the juveniles were victims of labor trafficking. Gregory Chen, senior director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, states, “It is vital that the federal government not only investigate the violations committed by this private company but in addition that it provides protections for the children who may have been victimized by this country.

Both the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor should apply policies they have recently announced to ensure these children are not deported to the country into unsafe circumstances, that they receive legal protection to be able to remain in this country and have a stable, safe environment.”

Packers Sanitation Service Inc.

Packers Sanitation Service Inc. was fined $15,138 for each minor working in slaughterhouses, totaling over 1.5 million dollars. The company now claims to be taking “significant steps to ensure future compliance with the law, including employing an outside compliance specialist.”

It also claims to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding the minimum age requirement for employees. They are adamant that no individual under the age of 18 has been hired by this company which has 700 sites employing 17,000 workers across the nation.

However, one investigation uncovered that although the company’s systems flagged some workers as minors, the company chose to ignore these flags. Adults in the slaughterhouse tried to derail the Wages and Hours Division’s investigations into the company’s employment and practices. Many of the adults within the company, who tried to derail the investigations, were the very same individuals responsible for recruiting, hiring, and supervising these children.

PTSD, Depression, and Anxiety

It is widely reported that most adults who work in slaughterhouses have some degree of PTSD. The atrocities they witness daily take their toll on their emotional and mental health. Workers often act out towards each other, and many take the violence home.

“Job dissatisfaction in workers under 30 years of age has been widely reported because workers have experienced workplace violence by co-workers or have worked in a violent environment.”

Researchers also observed that employees who were directly involved in the death of these animals had “significantly higher levels of job stress, stress-related somatic complaints, and lower levels of job satisfaction than did employees who were not involved, which suggests that animal slaughter might be an important cause of work-related stress.”

If these are the repercussions that full-grown adults experience while working in this horrific environment, what kind of trauma awaits a child forced to work there?

What Happens in A Slaughterhouse?

Every day, thousands of animals meet a gruesome end in slaughterhouses nationwide. These doomed beings have already suffered a horrible life of confinement and mistreatment before they are sent to slaughter. When they are deemed fat enough to slaughter, they are crammed into trucks with no food or water and transported for hours, or even days, to the slaughterhouse where they will meet their demise. Their last moments are filled with pain and terror.

Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, animals are unloaded into a holding pen. There they wait. They watch as their companions are taken into the building one by one, never to return. Imagine standing in a cage as, one by one, members of your family are taken away. Can you feel their fear, hear their cries, and imagine the dread you would feel knowing you were next?

The Horrific Reality of Slaughterhouses

The inside of a slaughterhouse is a factory. The process varies little by species, but the result is the same. Live animals go in, and their cut-up flesh exits the other side.

Animals go through a series of stations where they are systematically killed and processed. As they enter the slaughterhouse, animals are sent single file through a chute that limits their movement. Here, they are stunned with one of three methods depending on their species. Cows, calves, and sheep are usually stunned with a pneumatic device that drives a bolt into their skull between their eyes. Pigs are often stunned either by an electrical current sent through their brain or by suffocation with carbon dioxide gas. The end result is a stunned animal that is easy to send through the rest of the slaughterhouse process.

After being stunned, animals are suspended by a hind leg to a conveyor that will carry them through the remaining steps in this already horrifying process. The animal is bled out, then their hide is removed, except for pigs whose skin is left on. They are then disemboweled, decapitated, and chopped into pieces. The entire process is hazardous, unsanitary, and cruel.

It is hard to imagine how much torture and carnage these unfortunate children see. What kind of “mess” do the slaughterhouse workers leave behind daily? We would never allow our children to clean up the scene of a murder, yet that is quite possibly what these 100-plus children do each day. Even if they do not witness the actual process, cleaning up the carnage left behind slaughters their innocence and likely inflicts emotional damage that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.






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