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Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.
Sunday, August 31, 2003
by most people, even many of those
in the fight for animal rights, is the
effects on the minds of those people
who do the actual slaughter of the
chickens. You see, the killing machine
can never slit the throat of every bird
that goes by, especially those that the
stunner does not stun properly. So,
you have what is known as a "killer"
whose job it is to catch those birds
so that they are not scalded alive in the
tank. (Of course he can't catch all of
them, but we'll get to that.)
(Keep in mind while you read this that
the plant I worked at was the smallest
Tyson had. They have some that are
much bigger that run hundreds of
thousands of birds a shift. Of course,
they have more than one killer, but only
one per line. They just run more than
Picture this: You are told by your supervisor
that it is your night in the kill room. You
think, "Sh*t, it's gonna be a rough night
tonight." No matter what the weather is
like outside, this room is hot, between
90-100F. The scalders also keep the
humidity at about 100%. You can see
the steam in the air as a kind of haze.
You put on your plastic apron to cover
your whole body from the sprays of blood
and the hot water that keeps the killing
machine's blade clean and washes the floor.
You put on the steel glove and pick up the
knife. It's very sharp. It has to be.
You can hear the squawking from the
chickens being hung in the next room
as well as the metal shackles rattling.
You can hear the motors that drive the
chickens down the line. It is so loud you
could scream and not hear yourself. (I've
done it just to see.) You have to
communicate with hand signals to anyone
who might come in. Although, no one
wants to. They only come in if they have
to. And they certainly donj't want to startle
you.Not with a sharp knife in your hand.
If you whirled around......
Here come the birds through the stunner
into the killing machine. It's time to get
busy. You can expect to have to catch
every 5th one or so, many that are not
stunned. Remember, they come at you
182-186 per minute. There is blood
everywhere, in the 3'x3'x20' trough
beneath the machine, on your face, your
neck, your arms, all down your apron.
You are covered in it. Sometimes you
have to wash off the clots of blood,
without taking your eyes off the line
lest one slip by, which they will....
You can't catch them all, but you try.
Every time you miss one you "hear" the
awful squawk it's making when you see
it flopping around in the scalder, beating
itself against the sides. Damn, another
"redibird." You know that for every one
you see suffer like this, there have been
as many as 10 you didn't see. You just
know it happens. You hope the machine
doesn't break down or falter. You just
want to get through the night and go home.
But, it will be a long 2 1/2 hours until break
time. More than two hours of killing nonstop.
At least a couple dozen chickens a minute
at best. At worst, a whole lot more.
The sheer amount of killing and blood
can really get to you after awhile, especially
if you can't just shut down all emotion
completely and turn into a robot zombie
of death. You feel like part of a big death
machine. Pretty much treated that way as
well. Sometimes weird thoughts will enter
your head. It's just you and the dying
chickens. The surreal feelings grow into
such a horror of the barbaric nature of
You are murdering helpless birds by
the thousands (75,000 to 90,000 a night).
You are a killer.
You can't really talk to anyone about
this. The guys at work will think you are
soft. Family and friends don't want to
know about this. It makes them
uncomfortable and unsure of what
to say or how to act. They can even
look at you a little weird. Some don't
want much else to do with you when they
know what you do for a living.
You are a killer.
Out of desperation you send your
mind elsewhere so that you don't end
up like those guys that lose it. Like the
guy that fell on his knees praying to God
for forgiveness. Or the guy they hauled
off to the mental hospital that kept having
nightmares that chickens were after him.
I've had those, too. (shudder) Very creepy.
You find something else to dwell on to try
to remove yourself from the situation.
To keep your mind from drowning in all
those hundreds of gallons of blood you
see. Most people who work this room and
work in the hanging cage use some sort
of stimulant to keep up the pace and some
sort of mellowing substance to escape reality.
You become more prone to violence.
When you get angry you become much
more likely to physically attack whatever
or whoever you are mad at. You are a lot
more likely to use a weapon than you were.
Especially a knife. A sharp one.
You are a killer.
You begin to feel a sense of disgust
at yoursef at what you have done and
continue to do. You are ashamed to
tell others what you do at night while
they are asleep in their beds.
You are a killer.
People tend to avoid you, even others
at the plant, whether from instinct or
because they know what you do and
can't understand how you can do it
night after night. There must be
something wrong with you. You have
the smell of death on you.
You are a killer. A mass murderer.
You shut down all emotions eventually.
You just can't care about anything.
Because if you care about something,
it opens the gate to all those bad feelings
that you can't afford to feel and still
do your job. You have bills to pay.
You have to eat. But, you don't want
chicken. You have to be really hungry
to eat that. You know what goes into e
very bite. All the horror and negativity.
All the brutality.
Concentrated into every bite.
Many people who do this commit violent
acts. They commit crimes. People who
already are criminals tend to gravitate
towards this job. You can't have a strong
conscience and kill living creatures night
You feel isolated from society, not a
part of it. Alone. You know you are
different from most people. They don't
have visions of horrible death in their heads.
They have not seen what you have seen.
And they don't want to. They don't even
want to hear about it.
If they did, how could they eat that next
piece of chicken?
Welcome to the nightmare I escaped.
I'm better now. I play well with others,
at least most of the time......