Nonprofit Physcians' Committee for Responsible Medicine members to gather at Legislative Hall

Medical professionals "dedicated to saving and improving human and animal lives through plant-based diets" are urging the governor to close slaughterhouses and will protest in Dover tomorrow.

The Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit with a membership of over 175,000 medical professionals, sent a letter to the governors of all 50 states. The letter urges them to close meat and poultry processing plants across the country. 

Registered dietitian Karen Smith works at a primary care practice in Wilmington and is a member of the Physician's Committee. She will be participating in the protest.   "I work with patients who are affected by chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and autoimmune diseases - those associated with highest rates of mortality for people who have contracted the coronavirus," she said. "Meat is not necessary for the human diet and raises the risk for many chronic medical conditions."   According to the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, meat consumption raises the risk for many of the underlying medical conditions — diabetes, hypertension, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — that can make COVID-19 infections more deadly. A recent study found that regular consumption of processed meat, red meat or poultry increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Research also links red meat, poultry and fish to an increased risk for diabetes.   "We are asking workers to do a job that is not at all essential - people do not need to eat chicken - without any thought for their health," Smith said. "I think if people could see how close people are working in slaughterhouses... It is not a safe environment."

As of May 14, according to data collected by Food and Environment Reporting Network, as of May 13, at least 15,689 U.S. meatpacking workers, food processors and farm workers have tested positive for COVID-19. At least 65 have died. 

Bloomberg reported this week that COVID-19 spread at twice the national rate in counties with meat processing plants. Last week, more than half of the 300 workers tested in just one Sussex County plant were found to be positive for the virus. Sussex has reported over 3,500 cases of infection, almost half the total cases for Delaware. 

The protest will take place tomorrow, Friday, May 15, at 11:30 a.m. at Legislative Hall, at 150 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Dover. Protesters will maintain social distancing measures.