SAVS responds to Listeria outcry
On Sunday afternoon, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made an announcement confirming
that polony and products from an Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane, Limpopo, are the
source of the largest outbreak of listeria in global history. ‘Avoid all processed meat products
that are sold as ready to eat,’ said Motsoaledi, adding that pregnant women should avoid
processed meat ‘like the plague’.
Since then, in true Mzansi style, we’ve been in the thick of a social media-fuelled frenzy of
national shock, horror and hardcore hilarity, with some bristling commentary coming from
stalwart vegans. Freedom of expression is a beautiful, hard-won thing that also has the
potential to wound and do harm. So, even at the height of ‘polonygate’, let us not forget the
severity of the situation for animals and humans alike.
We mourn the lives of the hundreds of thousands of sentient animals that have been trashed along with
the approximately 4 000 tons of polony and viennas sent to hazardous waste sites. We are
haunted by the suffering of the millions of animals who remain trapped in meat and dairy
production facilities across the country and the planet right now. We also mourn the lives of
the more than 180 people who have died as a result of this outbreak.
Listeriosis affects the elderly, those with compromised immune systems (such as people
with AIDS and diabetes), and new-born babies. The people who have died or become ill
from eating the contaminated animal products have, on the whole, been the vulnerable.
Poverty and a dependence on low-budget, processed foods within homes and institutions
across South Africa mean that bread and polony are a staple lunch for thousands. We are
mindful too of the lives of the workers whose livelihoods are dependent on and bound up in
the violence and toxicity of the animal industrial system.
While listeria contamination has been linked to particular processed meat products, it is a
fact that plants can also be carriers of the listeria bacteria if in contact with water or soil
containing contaminated animal manure.
As our struggle for a world of plant-based nutrition free of animal cruelty gains daily
momentum across the planet, the time has come to ask the question: how do we, in South
Africa, shift from this state of affairs to one in which people have access to healthy plant-
based foods and are aware that there is another choice? As individuals and as a vegan
community, we will continue to talk, share food, support plant-based local products and
industries, create community gardens, demand clean accessible water for all and lobby for
the support of the medical community and for healthy meals in eating programmes and
institutions. As the South African Vegan Society we view this as an opportunity to open up
new thinking and discussions exploring food availability/accessibility, poverty, race and class
as they concern the vegan and animal justice movement, which is growing exponentially by