The call comes from welfare charity Viva!, which is campaigning for the end of factory farming, to protect both animals and human health.
U.S slaughterhouses have been branded 'COVID-19 hotpots' by a top analyst as infection levels within the facilities have outpaced the rest of the country.
According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, which has been compiling data of the positive cases and deaths, as of June 23, there have been at least 25,700 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities in at least 243 plants in 33 states, and at least 93 reported worker deaths at 39 plants in 24 states.
And the U.S is not alone: according to the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return group (FAIRR), meat processing plants are at the center of Covid-19 outbreaks worldwide. Facilities in Germany, Ireland, Canada and the U.K among other nations have experienced outbreaks.
'The link is clear'
In a statement sent to Plant Based News, Dr. Justine Butler, Viva! Health senior researcher, said: "The link between intensive animal farming and disease outbreak is clear. The Covid-19 pandemic is just one in a long line of zoonotic diseases which have been caused by the consumption and exploitation of animals, including SARS, MERS, HIV and Ebola – to name just a few. Now, meat processing plants are directly increasing the number of coronavirus cases and putting the wider population at risk.
"A number of theories have been suggested as to why meat processing plants are so badly affected. It could be a lack of social distancing due to the quantity of animals being processed and the speed of production lines, which is amplified by the poor working conditions and cold temperatures.
"Additionally, factory farming has been optimized to prioritize cost and efficiency at the expense of worker safety, animal welfare, and biosecurity, allowing for plenty of opportunities for disease outbreak."
'Could have been avoided'
Dr. Butler added that the pandemic could have been avoided, saying: "If government-supported plant-based food initiatives and encouraged a transition from animal to arable farming, we could dramatically decrease disease outbreak.
"Factory farms kill over 70 billion animals a year – it’s big business and it’s coming back to bite us! We must take action to end our reliance on unsustainable animal agriculture and prevent future pandemics. It’s time to end factory farming and go vegan."