Slaughterhouses as Sites of Exception

Joanna Smith is PhD Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Beginning inthe earliest weeks of the pandemic, America’s slaughterhouses have been a flash-point both for outbreaks of the coronavirus and for public anxiety. Industry leaders offered dire warnings of meat shortages as, predictably, COVID-19 clusters began to erupt at slaughterhouses around the country. The working conditions in meat plants were ripe for disease to spread rapidly: thousands of workers standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the disassembly line; crowded locker rooms, dining halls, and bathrooms; windowless buildings. Yet when the first slaughterhouse was shut down because of an outbreak – a Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota – cries for meat plants to stay open grew louder. Although there were slowdowns across the food system, with shortages of eggs, milk, produce, and canned goods, none seemed to evoke such an emotional response from the public as the threat of meat shortage.


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Conflicts between Religious Liberty and the New Public Health

Jeffrey B. Hammond is Associate Professor of Law at Faulkner Law
Michael J. DeBoer is Associate Professor of Law at Faulkner Law


In the United States, governments’ responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have brought into focus conflicts between religious liberty and public health objectives and directives. State and local governments have utilized familiar and long-established public health measures to combat this pandemic, including orders mandating business closures, isolation, quarantine, testing, and contact tracing. These measures have had significant effects on religious believers and their places of worship. Apart from these public health orders’ disruption on routine worship assemblies, the orders have disrupted other important religious services, including baptisms, Eucharistic celebrations, weddings, funerals, last rites, and pastoral counseling.


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