Animal rights activists protest JBS meatpacking plant

Bridgett Weaver

Protesters showed up with signs to protest the JBS meatpacking plant on Friday. The group was from all across Colorado, and they were trying to get out their vegan message to treat animals better.
Bridgett Weaver/ |

What is a vegan diet?

Vegans abstain from the use of animal products, especially in their diet. For some vegans, that means abstaining from food such as eggs and dairy products, in addition to eschewing meat. The vegan diet often also is associated with a philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals.

A group of animal rights protesters waved signs Oct. 2 and yelled messages to animals on trucks that drove past, carrying livestock to slaughter at the JBS processing plant in Greeley.

“We see you, sweet angel,” yelled one protester to the cows in transit. “I’m sorry,” said another.

About a dozen animal rights activists stood at the corner of 8th Avenue and 5th Street with signs to protest the JBS meatpacking plant, which sits about a mile north of their post.

Protest organizer Julia Weingardt said the group wanted to educate the people of Greeley.

“We’re bringing an education and awareness to the suffering, exploitation and abuse of farm animals,” she said.

She also wants to tell people about the health and environmental benefits of going vegan.

“I know it may seem like a lofty goal, but in a perfect world everyone would be vegan,” she said.

Weingardt is an instructor at Aims Community College in Greeley and at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, where she actively opposes violence — toward people and animals.

“There is just no justification for this violence,” she said, pointing to the plant down the street. “I don’t agree with the killing of a sentient being who wants to live.”

Lily Edwards-Callaway, head of animal welfare for the JBS beef division, said it’s unfortunate that there are people who are critical of what they do at JBS.

“We really do have a great respect for the animals that come into our facilities and take pride in the care we give them when they’re there,” she said.

Edwards-Callaway said they will continue with their standard of operation.

“We’ll continue to conduct our business in an ethical manor like we do every day so that we can continue to provide food for those who enjoy our product,” she said.

JBS provides more than 4,000 jobs in the Greeley economy between the meatpacking plant on 8th Avenue and the U.S. headquarters in west Greeley. JBS is the largest producer of beef and lamb in the world.

Locally, the food giant contracts with more than 175 producers in Weld County and northern Colorado and paid out more than $2.5 billion in 2014 to producers who raised the livestock.

Weingardt said she knows the economic impact that losing JBS would cause.

“I think about the job loss, I think about the consequences, but the animal’s welfare and suffering supersedes that,” she said.

Weingardt, who has a master’s degree in communications, offered to help people polish their resumes to find other jobs.

Others came from all over the state, as far south as Colorado Springs and Castle Rock.

Hulya Johnson, 49, of Lafayette, said she wanted to come to Greeley to protest because of the size of JBS’s presence in the community.

“What we do to our farm animals is just inhumane,” she said.

Weingardt said she plans to hold protests as often as monthly.

“I don’t want Greeley to be the place where cows come to die,” Weingardt said. ❖