A U.S pork giant is facing calls to switch its production to 100 percent vegan meat.
Smithfield, which is owned by Hong Kong–based parent company WH Group, already produces a range of plant-based products under its Pure Farmland brand, including vegan sausages, burgers, and meatballs.
Vegan charity PETA bought stock in the Smithfield last month and has offered to cover the costs of retraining employees to make vegan meats
Now a PETA Asia representative will attend the annual meeting of WH Group today to ask a shareholder question on behalf of PETA U.S - 'when will Smithfield switch to producing exclusively vegan meats?'.
The question follows U.S slaughterhouses being branded 'COVID-19 hotpots' by a top analyst.
According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been compiling data of the positive cases and deaths, as of May 31, there have been at least 20,000 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 215 plants in 33 states, and at least 73 reported worker deaths at 33 plants in 21 states.
PETA says 'fast line speeds and close-quartered working conditions - in which workers are exposed to blood, offal, and animal waste - make virus transmission nearly unavoidable'.
"Smithfield could respond to consumer demand by recognizing that American tastes are rapidly turning to veggie burgers, vegan sausage, and other plant-based products that don’t threaten the health of everyone on the planet," PETA president, Ingrid Newkirk, said.
"As a shareholder, PETA U.S. is calling on Smithfield to seize tomorrow’s market today and convert its slaughterhouses into vegan meat production facilities."
The charity adds that it has bought stock in a number of companies to push them to produce exclusively vegan meats. They include Hormel, Sanderson Farms, Maple Leaf Foods, Kraft Heinz (parent company of Oscar Mayer), and Tyson.
Smithfield Foods told Plant Based News: "Existing capacity elsewhere in our operations is sufficient to meet the current demand for our plant based protein products."
*This article was updated on June 4 to include Smithfields' response.