The Oscar-winning actor has joined forces with the Animal Legal Defense Fund to promote an online tip portal where workers can anonymously report any concerns without fear of retaliation.
COVID-19 and slaughterhouses
Slaughterhouses have made headlines throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, after being branded hotspots of the disease as infection levels within the facilities surged due in part to the cramped working environments, leading numerous facilities to temporarily shut down.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, this 'created a bottleneck, leaving many animals - especially pigs and chickens - stuck at farms longer than anticipated, growing larger and older than slaughterhouses could handle or the industry desired'.
As a result, many of the animals were killed on farms, using extremely inhumane methods, including suffocation with foam, blunt force trauma, and ventilation shut down - executed by shutting down all fans and vents to enclosed barns while animals suffocate and are baked alive in rising temperatures over multiple hours.
A graphic video (below - viewer caution advised) released by a whistleblower in Iowa exposed ventilation shut down, revealing 'pigs calling out in distress as they were slowly cooked to death with steam over the course of many hours'.
'Flagrant disregard for worker safety'
“Despite the animal agribusiness industry’s flagrant disregard for worker safety as COVID-19 ravages slaughterhouses, a surge of whistleblowers - under the constant threat of employer retaliation - are coming forward with information about the mass killing of animals and disposal practices that have severe environmental implications," Joaquin Phoenix said in a statement.
"Whistleblowers are instrumental in helping animal protection organizations identify, investigate, document, and expose cruelty. ReportAnimalAg.com provides a safe space for employees to confidentially, and with anonymity, voice their concerns. Our billboards will be raised near factory farms and slaughterhouses across the country."
'Workers are putting their lives at risk'
Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director, Stephen Wells, added: "The animal agriculture industry doesn’t want the public to see operations when everything is ‘business as usual,’ much less conditions during a pandemic.
"Workers are putting their lives at risk for corporate bottom lines. We want them to know they can report illegal or dangerous conditions anonymously and we will take appropriate action."
He added: "The public has a right to know what is being done - and the dangers associated with the process of mass killing and disposal of hundreds of thousands of animals."
A series of billboards, in English and Spanish, are launching near slaughterhouses across the country advertising the online portal to workers. Locations include Greeley, Colorado; Toledo, Perry, and Waterloo, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Los Angeles, California; and Springdale, Arkansas.