Germany’s largest slaughterhouse reopens — under stricter conditions

After a four-week mandatory break due to a coronavirus outbreak, Germany's largest slaughterhouse, Tönnies, has restarted its production.

Germany's largest slaughterhouse reopens — under stricter conditions
Police outside Tönnies factory on Thursday where a Greenpeace demonstration took place. Photo: DPA

North Rhine-Westphalian Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann, of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said during a TV interview on Thursday that stricter official inspections would take place on a regular basis.

“Tönnies will work completely differently than before”, he said. 

Among other things, the factory's 6,500 employees will be be regularly tested for coronavirus.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: German politician floats prison sentence for billionaire slaughterhouse boss

Appraisers to inspect the workplaces

After around 1,400 Tönnies employees became infected with the coronavirus in mid-June, production was halted by authorities in the Gütersloh district.

The factory's workers were ordered into quarantine and the districts of Gütersloh and Warendorf were ordered into lockdown – a restriction which has now been lifted.

Going forward, according to the city of Rheda-Wiedenbrück, a permit for meat processing will only be reissued after another examination this week. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's new local coronavirus lockdowns

Among other things, experts are also to inspect the Plexiglas panes that separate the workers during the heavy physical work. 

Relief and protests

Tönnies slaughters between 20,000 and 25,000 pigs per day in normal operation at its headquarters. A total of 30,000 are officially permitted. 

Laumann, however, said that this number would only remain if the company could guarantee better health protection for employees.

The temporary halt in production led to complaints from breeders about overcrowded stables. 

Yet not everyone was happy that the factory was back in operation. Greenpeace activists gathered outside of the factory Thursday to protest mass meat production and the deplorable conditions they say result to both people and animals as a result of it. 

Although the plant was opening, slaughtering of animals was not due to take place yet.


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Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.