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Activists protest outside Cargill Meat Solutions, call for closure of meatpacking plants in Wisconsin

NOW: Activists protest outside Cargill Meat Solutions, call for closure of meatpacking plants in Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Local activists gathered outside Cargill to protest the operation of meatpacking industries during the pandemic, saying these plants aren’t essential.

Doctors, nurses, and residents called for the closure of not just Cargill, but all Wisconsin meatpacking plants.

They want the plants to close because they say what starts in the plants doesn’t always stay there and can spread to local communities.

“It’s basically a hot center of activity for COVID,” said Dr. Ashwani Garg, a family medicine doctor.

Dr. Garg is part of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving human and animal lives through plant-based diets and ethical and effective scientific research.

Garg and a group of protesters met outside the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Butler, demanding its closure.

“In Wisconsin, there have been more than 800 cases of COVID amongst the meat workers, divided between 16 meat processing plants,” said Dr. Garg.

Plants operated by Tyson, Smithfield, JBS, and Cargill have all had temporary closures at their locations across the country to stop or slow the spread of the virus.

According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, as of this week, officials have linked at least 15,300 COVID-19 infections to 192 different meatpacking plants.

At least 63 workers have died.

“It may be the actual meat that may be a route of spread, they have not tested meat for COVID,” said Dr. Garg. “And the packaging -- the virus can survive on the plastic for a year, and it can survive freezing and refrigeration.”

“We know there’s outbreaks, but the companies were not releasing the numbers of people affected,” said a local protester who wished to remain anonymous.

Protesters held signs that said “support workers-close the plants," saying if they deem these workers essential, not to consider them expendable.

“Everyone should have the right to make a complaint, be well-protected, and have social distancing within the workplace, even if it reduces the number of meat products that go out,” said the protester.

CBS 58 reached out to Cargill. They say they are committed to keeping their employees safe, and are taking extra steps to keep them safe --such as screening their temperatures, installing protective barriers on the production floor between employees, and the mandatory use of face masks.

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