Brave New Life Project
Did you know that 70% of global deforestation is due to animal agriculture?
And, since forests are home to more than 80% of all terrestrial species of animals, plants, and insects, animal agriculture is one of the biggest contributing factors to our rapid biodiversity loss.
If any of you have watched David Attenborough’s witness statement, Life On Our Planet, then you’ll know how much this is impacting the stability of our planet’s ecosystem.
As part of our mission to create a more sustainable and plant-based future, we spoke to Jessi from the Brave New Life Project.
We wanted to provide them with a platform to talk about their work to help animal agricultural workers transition to more humane and eco-friendly farming.
Supporting The Change We Wish to See In the World
Over to you, Jessi!
What Does Brave New Life Project do?
Brave New Life Project (BNLP) supports workers to transition out of the animal agriculture industry and into careers that are more humane, sustainable, and prosperous.
In the middle of a pandemic? That sounds like a great idea but how does this work out in reality?
First, let’s look at what the animal agricultural industry looked like before the pandemic.
As recently as 2018, the average salary of a slaughterhouse worker was just $28,450 – for a family of four.
This is also not including the unknown number of undocumented workers within the industry, who lack access to basic healthcare, reportedly make less, are exploited, and treated more inhumanely by management.
Workers also endure long hours and increasing quotas and line speeds, which is known to increase injuries. Sadly they are also poorly represented by their employers and their own unions.
How does this impact the mental health of animal agriculture employees?
Due to all of these issues, it is very common for meatpacking workers to have mental health issues and often suffer from PTSD. Many live in pain and poverty and feel discontentment within the meat processing industry.
They fear retribution, potential deportation, and avoid seeking help or new employment due to an overall lack of support. Therapy and resolution assistance are not common supports that employees have access to.
Hasn’t the pandemic highlighted the plea of meatpacking workers?
With the current Global Crisis, these issues have only gotten worse.
Meatpacking plants were shut down for a brief period of time, in April 2020. Shortly after they were seen as an essential business and were given protection through the Defense Production Act.
This act laid out safety guidelines for businesses to follow to ensure they would not be held liable for an employee who contracted the virus at work.
It seems this has created even more negligence among managers, as we have seen in a U.S.A Tyson Plant, where a lawsuit is being played out.
“Earlier that month, manager Tom Hart ‘organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for Covid-19,’ according to the lawsuit.”
Sadly we have found that this attitude is inherent in the meatpacking industry. That is one of the many reasons why we don’t advocate for better work conditions, but instead offer to help workers transition their careers into a more humane, sustainable and prosperous line of work.
How does BNLP help workers leave the meat processing industry?
Although the idea for BNLP is new, the concept and methods we use are not.
We wanted to ensure that our program provides a holistic approach for vocational services so that workers leaving the meat processing industry can attain meaningful, diverse, competitive employment within their communities.
By advocating for transitioning workers and their families, we are helping to provide the services, resources, and tools they need to create better living situations for themselves and their families.
When we meet the needs of the individuals, we also strengthen and create more resilience in our communities during a time when we need it the most.
Who is eligible for your program?
One key thing about our program is that we take zero exclusion very seriously.
Anyone within the animal agriculture industry who wants to work is eligible for job preparation, training services, translation assistance, legal assistance, integration with mental health and behavioral services, and any other applicable wrap-around supports.
Which employment model do you use?
The core employment approach of BNLP has been adapted from the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Model, which has created more positive competitive employment outcomes compared to other supportive employment models.
BNLP aims to implement the IPS supported employment model for the meat processing industry, using a holistic approach paired to customize an employment plan for each individual.
The IPS model has shown success with many populations in the mental health field.
Can you explain why you use a more holistic approach?
Evidence has overwhelmingly shown that allowing a client to have access to all variations of support (not just employment assistance) allows for a higher employment rate, as well as a longer retention rate at their future job.
This is why we help connect workers with services in their community to meet their unique mental health or physical health needs, along with building career opportunities and skillsets to achieve their career goals.
What support can an animal agricultural worker expect to receive from BNLP?
For each client, a BNLP assistant will also support them through the following phases of employment:
- Job placement
- Job coaching
- Follow-along supports (long-term supports will also be provided if needed)
What about regenerative farming?
The future is regenerative.
Not only do we facilitate and help to identify educational, vocational, legal, and mental health support opportunities. We also are working hard to offer regenerative farming paid internships and an opportunity toward land ownership in a cooperative farming community.
Currently, we are starting the first steps towards these future programs and will be launching our CSA (community supported agriculture) as a pilot program this upcoming spring in 2021.
Next spring we will plant our first crop in a wildlife preservation area, as a demonstration of how farmers can coexist with nature.
The first year of our CSA will be a learning experience for all of us. We are focused on creating educational opportunities for the community, finalizing a curriculum for the farming internship, and getting a feel for our specific environment on this growing spot.
We will keep you updated as we continue to expand and grow. Thanks for being part of our community.
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Jessi has been working as a social worker for 5 years because she loves being part of change. She has worked in many areas in the mental health field but she is honored to work with this population and give back to her community.