Coronavirus and unsafe working conditions for poultry workers

By Nailah John, Linda Golodner Food Safety and Nutrition Fellow

In these uncertain times of COVID-19, many workers are being exposed to the disease at poultry plants across the United States. Eater notes that many of these workers are Black, Latino, or immigrants earning low wages and working in overcrowded conditions to package the items that end up on the plates of many families across the States.

Let us dive in a little deeper. The Los Angeles Times has highlighted the spike in coronavirus and meat plants across the United States, with hundreds of reported cases in the last week. This is, of course, a concern to the food supply chain and worker safety. The Associated Press has reported that massive meat processing plants have temporarily closed due to workers contracting COVID-19. This raises concerns about shortages of beef, pork, and poultry. At the same time, workers are being exposed and are succumbing to COVID-19.

The New York Times also reported that workers are standing elbow-to-elbow to do the low-wage work of cutting and packing meat. Many have been on the front line of these packing plants while being sick because they cannot afford to stay home and sacrifice paychecks. Some have staged walkouts to protest being insufficiently protected. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which has a seat on the National Consumers League’s Board of Directors, has engaged in talks with Cargill, which has agreed to give employees a $2/hour emergency pay increase in addition to a pay raise. The union and Cargill are working on ways to better practice social distancing within the packing plants. Increased sanitization and screening at the plants, and virtual health visits will be expanded for those seeking care health care.

Each day brings new information about COVID-19. When going to the store to purchase meat, let us remember that someone stood in a plant slaughtering and packing it. They are on the frontline risking their lives so that we can eat. UFCW is calling on ALL food employers to step up by developing ways to protect workers and by compensating them commensurate with the risks they are taking to deliver quality products to the grocery stores, restaurants, and family tables of America.

Chipotle workers welcome company’s settlement with DOJ but say more safety reforms needed

April 23, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

NEW YORK–Chipotle workers on Wednesday welcomed the news that the Department of Justice imposed on the company the largest criminal fine ever for a food safety case but said the company needs to make more reforms to address the core issues that are driving worker abuses and violations of food safety protocols.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has sickened many people across the US, essential workers like those at Chipotle and other chains have risked their health and their lives to provide food to their communities. These workers say that long-standing issues at Chipotle are putting them at risk.

In February, the National Consumers League and SEIU 32BJ released a report following an in-depth investigation with dozens of Chipotle workers throughout New York City documenting widespread worker abuses that directly affect customer safety.

“I am glad that the Justice Department has held Chipotle accountable for their actions that have put people at risk,” said Luis Torres, a worker at a Chipotle store in Manhattan. “But even as recent as the beginning of March we had to walk off the job together to fight back against managers pressuring crewmembers to work sick while the Coronavirus crisis was escalating. We’re pressured to make the food faster and aren’t always allowed to take the proper safety precautions. We are speaking out because we just want to stay safe and keep our customers safe.”

The government’s announcement resonates with the report’s findings, including managers pressuring workers to work sick and violations of food safety protocol and Chipotle’s own policies. For example, many workers reported manager pressure not to wash their hands during rush periods so as not to slow the line.

The report also called attention to the ineffective food safety audits, which now must be improved per the deferred prosecution agreement. The food safety audits and Chipotle’s paid sick day policy were part of a set of reforms put in place in 2016 to win back the trust of Chipotle customers following earlier illness outbreaks at Chipotle but according to workers, audits only happen quarterly, meaning that once a store is audited, the manager knows they won’t get audited again until the next quarter.

“We applaud the work of US Attorney’s Office for working with the FDA and for holding Chipotle accountable with a substantial fine,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “This should be a wake-up call for Chipotle. For years, its management incentive practices have put profits first, endangering the safety and health of customers and workers repeatedly. Now more than ever when food safety is so critical, Chipotle needs a massive overhaul of its management and business practices to put consumer and worker safety first.”

New York City workers have also reported retaliation from managers if they use their sick days.

“Courageous Chipotle workers have stood up to demand the company live up to its responsibilities to protect the health and safety of customers and employees,” said 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made this more important than ever. We are proud to support workers in their fight for food safety, stable jobs with lower turnover and respect for their essential work in the community.”

Workers, 32BJ and the NCL are demanding Chipotle fundamentally reform their policies to promote worker and consumer safety and ensure that workers have a real voice on the job through their own organization. When workers have the power to protect themselves, the public is better protected as well.

###

About 32BJ SEIU

With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

National Consumers League statement on airline consumer protections in Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act

March 24, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC–The National Consumers League, America’s pioneering consumer and worker advocacy organization, today called on leaders in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to support the consumer protection provisions in the “Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act,” (H.R. 6379) the COVID-19 relief legislation introduced by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY). These provisions would prohibit airline price gouging (Sec. 601) and require full cash refunds for cancelled flights (Sec. 602) during the national COVID-19 emergency. In addition, the bill would require that airlines provide quarterly reports to the Department of Transportation on the revenue they collect from baggage, change/cancellation, seat reservations, and other add-on fees.

NCL, along with a coalition of consumer and passenger rights groups, last week called on Congress to include a series of consumer protection measures in any airline bailout legislation. The proposed protections would address passengers’ concerns during the current emergency as well as broader structural issues in the airline industry going forward.

The following statement is attributable to John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud at the National Consumers League:

“A functioning airline industry is vital to America’s economy during this time of national emergency. Congressional leaders must not lose sight of the fact that passengers are the lifeblood of that industry. Congressional Democrats’ COVID-19 relief bill contains many, but not all, of the protections that airline passenger groups, including NCL, requested. While it is not a perfect bill, we urge leaders in the Senate and House to work together to ensure that the proposed protections are not watered down at the behest of the airline lobby as negotiations progress toward a final package.”

—————–

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

NCL statement: Thank you, quarantine workers

March 18, 2020

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832 

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League joins with our fellow Americans, friends, colleagues, and families in as we adapt our lives to address the health crisis caused by COVID-19. NCL has long been a consumer and patient advocate and we strongly support research, scientific programs, and policy solutions to address diseases across the board.

We want to take this moment to say “thank you” to the thousands of public health servants going into the hospitals, doctors offices and clinics and working on the frontlines to save millions of lives. We rely and depend on their vast knowledge, dedication and commitment to treating sick patients, and we want to specially thank them during this unprecedented national health crisis.

We also thank so many other workers – those in drug stores, grocery stores, Post Offices, the food delivery drivers, taxi, bus and subway drivers, utility workers keeping our electricity, gas, and water systems intact. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude as so many of us are able to work from home; we depend on all of you and thank you for your service to the nation.

We also join with colleagues in the healthcare advocacy community to thank infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci for his extraordinary and selfless leadership in this battle against the spread of the coronavirus.

Join us on social to say #ThankYouDrFauci.

###

About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneering consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

Florence Kelley and women’s suffrage at the National Archives

Today the National Consumers League staff is visiting the exhibit at the National Archives entitled Rightfully Hers: American Women and the VoteAs many are aware, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States. In 1920, American democracy dramatically expanded when the newly ratified 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibited the states from denying the vote on the basis of sex.  

As the exhibit notes, “The U.S. Constitution as drafted in 1787 did not specify eligibility requirements for voting. It left that power to the states. Subsequent constitutional amendments and Federal laws have gradually restricted states’ power to decide who votes. But before 1920, the only constitutional restriction prohibited states from barring voters on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude. States’ power to determine voter eligibility made the struggle for women’s voting rights a piecemeal process.” So the 19th Amendment was critically important because we no longer had to rely on states to grant women the right to vote. It became mandatory.

The National Consumers League, led by the towering reformer Florence Kelley, was a leading voice for women’s suffrage long before ratification of the 19th Amendment. In February 1898, Kelley wrote a paper entitled “The Working Woman’s Need of the Ballot,” which was read at hearings on “the philosophy of the [women’s suffrage] movement.

As Kathryn Kish Sklar points out in her biography of Kelley – Florence Kelley and the Nation’s Workconducted by the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Women’s Suffrage: “No one needs all the powers of the fullest citizenship more urgently than the wage-earning woman …. Since she was “cut off from the protection awarded to her sisters abroad” but had no power “to defend her interests at the polls.” Kelley argued this impaired her standing in the community and lowered “her value as a human being and consequently as a worker.”

Florence Kelley and her fellow Progressive Era reformers led the fight for women’s suffrage in speeches, reports, and testimony before Congress. We thank them for their bravery and refusal to back down in the face of brutal opposition from many forces and we celebrate with them this 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment as we enjoy and take in all that this exhibit has to offer. Thanks to the National Archives and our dear friend Professor Robyn Muncy of the University of Maryland, who co-curated the exhibit with the Archives’ Corinne Porter.

New study says Chipotle management presses workers to work sick and skip food safety practices, creating health risks for consumers

February 6, 2020

The Unsavory side of ‘Food with Integrity.’ ” report details management practices that lead to worker abuses and call into question protocols Chipotle put in place after recent food safety crises

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

New York — After dozens of outbreaks of foodborne illness incidents over the past four years, Chipotle gave lip service to reforms in their work practices, but the fast-casual restaurant has continued to engage in management practices that lead to abuses of workers that may create food safety risks for consumers, a new study says.

Scores of employees interviewed for the study reported management pressure to work fast without following proper food safety procedures, such as:

  • One worker being pressured to work while sick, even after the worker vomited partway into his shift;
  • Undercooked chicken being served to a customer because the grill cookout in place had not been properly trained;
  • Workers pressured to work so fast that during lunch and dinner rushes, they often flipped over  chopping boards used to cut raw meat, and reused the boards without washing them;
  • One worker who cooked food had to clean feces off the floor or ceiling of a bathroom multiple times without hazmat suit or adequate protection equipment;
  • Pressure to work without stopping, with no time left to wash their hands for hours on end.

In the report, “The Unsavory Side of ‘Food with Integrity,'” workers told researchers that their managers often knew when supposedly independent audits were coming because other managers or field leaders who have undergone inspection often tip them off. Workers reported that managers relax rules outside of inspection periods and tightened up adherence to food safety protocols when inspections are imminent.

“The findings of this report call into question the effectiveness of measures that Chipotle put in place to solve their food safety crises of a few years ago,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League, which co-authored the report. “If Chipotle executive management and the Food Safety Advisory Council are responsible for making sure that this program is implemented effectively to keep the public safe, they have been asleep at the wheel.”

The National Consumers League, America’s pioneering consumer advocacy organization which has been representing consumers and workers on marketplace and workplace issues since their founding in 1899, undertook the study after SEIU Local 32BJ brought the organization information from field organizers about what were learning about practices that could affect consumer food safety from Chipotle workers they were supporting in their organizing efforts.

Organizers and researchers spoke to hundreds of workers, then undertook formal interviews with 47 workers at 25 stores in New York City. These interviews and statements form the basis of the report, which also included analysis of a variety of corporate filings, press reports, and other publicly available documents.

“We chose to blow the whistle on these practices and abuses because our Chipotle managers did not listen to us,” Jeremy Espinal, a Chipotle worker, said. “It’s a pressure-packed workplace where supervisors intimidate you and retaliate against you.”

“I am speaking out because I want to make Chipotle a better place to work and a better place for customers to eat,” Jahaira Garcia, another Chipotle worker, said. “This job is how I support myself, how I help my father out with expenses at home and how I am able to partly pay for my school fees.”

32BJ President Kyle Bragg thanked the National Consumers League for working with the union and thanked the workers for their courage.

“I believe that these workers are Chipotle’s best assets,” Bragg said. “They can put the integrity back into ‘food with integrity.’ Give them a voice on the job and they will help Chipotle achieve the lofty ideals of its marketing.”

Report findings include:

  • Managerial pay incentives that promote cutting food safety corners:  managers can earn up to an additional 25% of base pay by meeting performance goals that include reducing labor costs, creating a highly pressurized work environment. This bonus program may incentivize managers to meet productivity goals by cutting corners on food safety or by violating worker protection laws.
  • Ineffective store audits: Worker interviews revealed that general managers frequently know when supposedly independent audits are coming because other managers or field leaders who have been inspected often tip them off. Workers reported that managers have relaxed rules following outside of inspection periods and tightened up adherence to food safety protocols when an audit is imminent.
  • Pressure to work sick: New York-based workers reported that managers have pressured crew members to work while sick or retaliated against workers for taking paid sick leave.
  • Minimal training: Despite the substantial skills needed to safely prepare Chipotle’s fresh food menu, many new hires receive minimal training and “learn as they go” from co-workers who may not have received much training themselves.

“As chairman of the New York City Council Public Health Committee, this is deeply troubling to me,” said New York Councilmember Mark Levine. “Risk of contagion should not be aggravated by an aggressive incentive structure that encourages managers to abuse workers and cut food safety corners. The public needs to know more and Chipotle needs to change their policies. That is why I am calling for a public hearing in the Council. I encourage Chipotle workers and consumers to come forward to discuss these issues. I also invite the company to be there to engage in this conversation.”

Nick Freudenberg, distinguished professor of Public Health at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy and Director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, discussed Chipotle’s history of food borne disease outbreaks.

In 2015 and 2016, Chipotle was rocked by a series of food safety crises that sickened hundreds of customers across the country and included exposure to virulent pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus, resulting in vomiting, pain, and in some cases hospitalizations. Despite claiming major food safety reforms instituted in 2016 to recapture consumer confidence, the company continued to have food-borne illness problems in 2017 and 2018, including an Ohio outbreak in which 647 people were sickened.

Despite Chipotle implementing an “enhanced food safety program” in 2016, the City’s Department of Health found 260 critical violations at 74 out of 84 restaurants from 2017 to 2019. Critical violations are those most likely to pose “a substantial risk to the public’s health” and lead to food-borne illness. The critical violation examples found by health inspectors include food left at dangerous temperatures that allow for the growth of pathogens, practices that allow for the contamination of ready-to-eat foods, evidence of various pests, and stores supervised by managers without a certificate in food protection. Just two weeks ago, the City cited a Chipotle restaurant where they found a crewmember working while “ill with a disease transmissible by food or [an] exposed infected cut or burn on [their] hand”.

Worker advocates and community groups were surprised by the findings and expressed support for Chipotle workers:

“Chipotle has not only acted duplicitously—championing a mission of integrity and freshness in public while speeding up production and cutting corners behind the counter—the company has created added risks for workers and consumers in the pursuit of profits,” said Ana Maria Archila of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Outlined in this report are issues that range from cautionary to alarming. Will Chipotle wait for another outbreak before they take corrective action—or will they take action ‘with integrity’ now to reduce potential harm?”

“This report is vital to understanding that the exploitation of workers in the food industry does not just impact workers and their families, it impacts everyone, including consumers,” Suzanne Adely of the Food Chain Workers Alliance said. “Chipotle and all food service workers deserve fair working conditions. Denying them basic, humane rights like sick days, proper healthy and safe working spaces, cannot be justified. Exploiting food workers for profit does not only harm workers and their families, it harms everyone, including consumers.”

“Chipotle is another example of worker safety and consumer safety being undermined together,” said Charlene Obernauer of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). “Chipotle has a legal responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace and they need to take the appropriate steps to make this possible.”

“This report details how Chipotle’s low-road labor standards and incentives for managers to cut corners are endangering the dining public,” said Paul Sonn, State Policy Program Director for the National Employment Law Project. “Chipotle needs to recognize that investing in its workforce with stable, quality jobs is essential for delivering a safe and healthy dining experience for its customers.”

“We are deeply concerned with the workplace issues, especially that of forced arbitration described by Chipotle workers in this study,” Deborah Axt of Make the Road said. “We stand with Chipotle workers, the majority of whom are workers of color and many of whom are from communities like the ones our members are from, in calling for company-wide reforms and a commitment to invest in a stable workforce.”

###

About 32BJ SEIU

With 175,000 members in 11 states, including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

About the National Consumers League (NCL)

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Two dynamos of women’s rights law crashed through the glass ceiling—part 2

Marcia Greenberger, the founder and co-president of the National Women’s….

Why won’t New York’s governor Cuomo ban a nasty pesticide that harms children?

Reid Maki is the director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League and he coordinates the Child Labor Coalition.

Something really curious is happening in New York State. In June, the New York Assembly passed a bill to ban the nasty pesticide chlorpyrifos, which damages the development of children. But that’s not the weird part.

What’s surprising is that Governor Andrew Cuomo has not signed the bill, despite the fact that the NY Attorney General Letitia James joined five other attorneys general in suing the Trump Administration’s federal Environmental Protection Agency because it overturned an Obama Administration ban on the pesticide.

“Chlorpyrifos is extremely dangerous, especially to the health of our children,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “Yet, the Trump Administration continues to ignore both the science and law, by allowing this toxic pesticide to contaminate food at unsafe levels. If the Trump EPA won’t do its job and protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, my office will take them to court and force them to fulfill their responsibilities.”

The other states that joined the suit are Washington, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, and California—the latter is the country’s largest agricultural producer (measured by cash receipts) and has decided to remove chlorpyrifos from the market in 2020. 

Studies have also linked chlorpyrifos to autism, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention deficit disorders, and delayed motor development.

Nationally, home use was banned in 2001 because of its impact on children’s developing brains. In 2018, Hawaii became the first state to enact a complete ban on its use, which includes farms.

Chlorpyrifos is also thought to damage male reproductive organs to the point that it can make men sterile.

Since food safety authorities determined that there was no safe exposure level to chlorpyrifos—that any trace of the pesticide was too dangerous—the European Union is expected to ban entry of food products contaminated with the pesticide next year.

In August, the National Consumers League (NCL) and the Child Labor Coalition (CLC), which NCL co-chairs, joined 80+ groups—including many from New York—on a letter, urging Governor Cuomo to sign the chlorpyrifos ban. We were naïve enough to think he would.

With an avalanche of data suggesting it is too dangerous to use and his own attorney general suing over its use, why has Cuomo seemingly decided not to ban the pesticide? We can only guess. In July, the governor signed landmark legislation to protect farmworkers from labor abuses, ensure equitable housing and working conditions, and grant them collective bargaining, overtime pay, unemployment compensation and other benefits.

Farmworkers are some of the most exploited workers in America, and we applaud the governor for doing the right thing, but he seems to be taking the position that—having done something farm owners didn’t like—he shouldn’t sign the chlorpyrifos ban because they won’t like that either. The farmers see the pesticide as an effective tool to help them grow crops.

The problem is that chlorpyrifos doesn’t just harm those who eat farm produce; It harms the very people that produce crops—the farmers and the farmworkers and the children of both.

Should giving farmworker labor rights mean that it’s okay to endanger their fertility and cause their children to suffer developmental delays or autism? And from the farmers’ perspective, shouldn’t their children be protected from those afflictions? The governor shouldn’t be striving to protect some of the people some of the time, but should protect all of the people all of the time.

Boy jockeys in Indonesia risk injury and death

Reid Maki is the director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League and he coordinates the Child Labor Coalition.

I didn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the recent New York Times headline: “For Indonesia’s Child Jockeys, Time to Retire at 10, After 5 years of Racing.”  The story, written and photographed by Adam Dean, revealed that child jockeys in Indonesia’s island of Sumbawa as young as 5 are racing horses and getting hurt in the process. The cultural practice is entrenched and boy jockeys are getting younger each year. “In the late ‘90s, jockeys were usually aged from about 10 to 14 years old, but then we found the lighter jockeys to be faster, and now they are aged from about 6 to 10, Fahrir H.M. Noer, a deputy chairman of one of the races, told reporter Dean.

As an advocate who has followed child labor closely for 20 years, I was not surprised that young children might do something dangerous. More than one million children around the world are engaged in mining, which is extremely hazardous. We’ve seen photos of children in the Philippines who mine underwater, connected to very precarious breathing tubes. Children work with toxic chemicals in leather tanning facilities; they help break apart giant ships. Nearly half the 152 million children trapped in child labor perform hazardous child labor.

In this case, however, I was surprised that that children, 5 to 10, could be asked to control animals so large and fast—a task that requires well developed athletic skills. Dean’s stunning photos confirm that this phenomenon is happening:

Racing around the first bend. Adam Dean for The New York Times

Child jockeys, between ages 5 to 10, in a professional race on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia in July.

The Child Labor Coalition has been posting these photos on Twitter (@ChildLaborCLC) and there has been almost no response from our 17,000 followers. Several tweets have elicited only one or two retweets each. There has been no horror decrying the practice–no expressions of concern for the little boys.  I don’t know why this is the case. Cleary, jockeying a horse is dangerous and these children are too young. Is the public confused because horse racing is a sport? Or does it feel that the use of children as jockeys is an embedded cultural practice in Indonesia and somehow acceptable?

Dean tells the story of Firmansyah, 8, who fell off his horse while racing and hit his head on a wooden railing. Fortunately, the boy’s injury did not seem to be as serious as feared.

Although horse racing officials in Indonesia defend the practice of using child jockeys as part of the culture and something the children want to do, some Indonesian advocates disagree. The Times story quotes Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for child protection, a nonprofit: “This is clearly child exploitation. The horses move so fast. The boys ride the horses with no proper protection. This is violence against children. As children, they cannot say no to their parents or whoever ordered them to ride the horse.”

This new report of child jockeys is not the first. We’ve known for a long time that the Persian Gulf nations used child jockeys—boys trafficked form Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan—to ride camels in races. For a time, there were reports that the boys were being replaced with robotic jockeys but that attempt appears to have been short-lived. In July 2002, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced a ban on child jockeys under 15, but in 2010, Anti-Slavery International photographed violations of the ban. A report in FrontPage Mag in December of 2011 said that the “Camel jockey slave trade [is] still alive and well.” The report noted that some of the Persian Gulf’s boy jockeys in training were “starved, beaten and sometimes sexually abused.” Death and serious injury, as well as damaged genitals, may result from jockeying. The child jockeys in the Persian Gulf were also often victims of trafficking from other countries—something that doesn’t seem to be happening to the child jockeys of Indonesia.

The Indonesian jockeys wear masks on their faces. We can’t help but wonder if it is a deliberate attempt to obscure the riders’ faces so that race fans can ignore the fact that children are risking their lives for their pleasure.

An owner embracing his horse after a winning ride. Adam Dean for The New York Times

Check out this boy who is resting after an injury—he looks so young and fragile:

Imam Dudu, 8, resting after a fall. Adam Dean for The New York Times

And the facial injuries to this rider:

Firmansyah, 8, who fell from his horse the day before, getting ready for another race.

Isn’t it time for this dangerous practice to end?

Our gratitude to Adam Dean for breaking this story and for his stunning photos. Thanks to the New York Times for this powerful expose.