Farmer John slaughterhouse, a pig slaughterhouse in Vernon, Los Angeles, owned by Smithfield Foods Inc., will shut down completely by the beginning of next year. Many “vigils” have been staged by animal rights activists at its entrance, some of which with vegan celebrities such as Joaquin Phoenix or Moby. However, with the closure, the slaughter will now happen in more remote places unlikely to attract this type of activist, which means that this news has not necessarily been seen as a victory by the local activists — after all, the lives of the pigs will not be spared with this closure.
According to a Smithfield Foods, Inc. statement, the decision was made due to the “escalating cost of doing business in California” and the company also said it will decrease its sow herd in Utah and is looking to exit its farms in Arizona and California. Between 1,800 and 2,500 employees will be laid off.
Although by Smithfield Foods moving operations from L.A. (where many vegan activists reside) to more socially isolated mid-western locations, implies that fewer activists could stage vigils for them, on the other side this may be a sign that the entire agriculture industry is on the run. The recent improvements in animal welfare legislation in California, as well as workers’ rights, is likely to have driven Smithfield Foods to other states where they are freer to exploit more animals and people. But if state after state ends up imitating California — as it often happens — they may run out of places to hide. The most important thing, though, is to close animal farms rather than slaughterhouses, as the problem is pigs being bred into existence, not pigs being killed once they have already been forced to live in factory farms. But any closure of any animal agriculture facility is unlikely to be protested by any animal activist.