On Tuesday, a group of six Mexican veterinarians filed a federal lawsuit against Idaho-based dairy farm Funk Dairy, Inc. for human trafficking. The suit implicates dairy farm owner David Funk, manager Curtis Giles, and attorney Jeremy Pittard in obtaining professional work visas for the immigrants—with the promise of high-paying animal healthcare jobs—while forcing the plaintiffs to engage in general labor such as milking cows and cleaning manure for a full year, ending in 2015. The workers allege they were paid lower wages than promised, forced to live in substandard housing, threatened with deportation should they refuse to perform assigned work, and exploited for their inability to speak English and unfamiliarity with the United States labor laws. The plaintiffs’ attorney Edgar Ivan Aguilasocho said the American animal agriculture industry is experiencing a shortage of workers, stating, “As far as we can tell, this criminal conspiracy was aimed at providing a makeshift solution to that kind of shortage.” The lawsuit also lists other violations including the denial of meal breaks, inadequate toilet facilities, unhygienic work stations, and lack of protective equipment—which resulted in the partial amputation of one worker’s finger. The negative impact of the animal agriculture industry on human workers is not limited to this incident. A 2016 Oxfam America report revealed that workers at numerous poultry processing plants were denied basic human rights such as bathroom breaks, and were consequently forced to wear adult diapers during their day-long shifts on the kill floor.
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