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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, September 07, 2003
She was the one that had to weather
the effects killing had on me. This is
another outcome of the industry that
is frequently overlooked. Here is her
side of what it is like to live with a killer:
Well, first off I have to say that if I hadn't
loved Virgil as much as I do and seen the
basic goodness in him only I knew to be
there I could have not have stayed with
him through the bad times.
I could see what was in his heart, even
when he denied it was there. He had to
deny it, sometimes even to himself to
keep himself sane and to protect himself
from the other people who look on
compassion and kindness as a weakness.
When he worked at Tyson doing a next-
to-impossible job that was so brutal, it
created such a buildup of stress that it
flowed over into our life together. He
was upset and angry a lot and frequently
vented his frustrations upon me. He
was violent at times, though never really
hurt me. More verbal abuse than anything.
He was dependent on alcohol and some
drugs to deal with the pain he was feeling.
He trusted no one, ever, including me, for
a long time. He was suspicious of everyone's
motives if they were nice to him. He thought
that they must want something. He kept
watching and waiting for me to make any
kind of slip that would prove him to be right
that nobody caared about anyone other
than themselves, and given half a chance,
would stab him in the back.
I have had my love for him tested repeatedly.
Each time having to prove to him that I did
indeed love him, the person hiding beneath
the killer. Many people could not understand
what I saw in him and were actually afraid
for my safety with him, especially my mother.
(She loves him now.)
He felt it necessary to be armed with some
kind of weapon at all times, just in case
someone might want to attack him out of the
blue, even if it was just a pocket knife. In
fact, the first time my mother saw him he had
a 39-3/4" katana (a big sword) strapped on
his back and was in full camo.
(Boy, was she worried!!!)
Somehow I just knew that with enough love
and a whole lot of patience, the real Virgil
would come out from behind the defensive walls
he built around himself and shine, like the
wonderful person I knew him to be.
He really and truly believed he was evil and
that there was no hope of ever redeeming
himself. After all, he had killed people and
literally millions of chickens. What was there
to love about that? He had just resigned
himself to a doomed fate and was lost, just
waiting to die and have it all over with.
He just did not believe anyone could possibly
love him, ever. It was the saddest thing
I have ever seen a person go through. His
was the most tortured soul I had ever come
Now, I am a healer by nature. I seem to have
an unendless supply of love for my fellow
humans and for animals. I am naturally drawn
to those that are suffering and I feel a burning
need to help make it all better. I refuse to
believe that love and patience will ever lose.
It may be a hard battle and it is not a battle
for the faint-hearted. Many times I was so
frustrated and just downright mad. Why
could he not see that he was loved and
deserving of such love? Why did he act
so hostile to me when all I wanted to do
was to help him? I didn't understand.
But, I figured it out. He was scared.
Scared of opening up and feeling emotions
again. He was totally shut down. There
could be a smile on his face, but there was
pain in his eyes. He was afraid that if he
ever let down his guard and came out from
behind the walls, that he would be naked
and vulnerable to feel the pain and be hurt .
So, every time he got close to caring, he
pulled away and reverted to a hostile,
defensive attitude. He knew he could
not do his job if he cared. (Of course, he
was right about that part.) He knew that
his co-workers would take it as a sign of
weakness and he would lose their respect.
Sad, isn't it?
I felt such a wave of sorrow at seeing any
living thing in such distress. I was
determined to love him out of it. This kind
of effort requires such an outpouring of
unconditional love that it is exhausting and
totally draining. You have to learn how to
love someone, not in spite of what they have
done or who they are, but because of it.
After all, they would not be who they are
had these experiences not shaped them in
some way. You have to love all the things
about a person that made them them. You
can't pick and choose what parts to love. It is
an all or none kind of thing.
I admired the strength and courage he had
in surviving such a miserable life. How hard
it had to be to get up every day and go down
to that horrible place to do horrible things.
Many people think that only a heartless person
could do such things. Not so, just one
that has shut their heart down.
But it continues to beat where no one can
I saw it. I knew it was there. Don't
ask me how because I could not tell you.
I just felt it, and I felt it strongly. Strongly
enough that I was willing to put myself
in a position to let him destroy me if I
failed. Such is love.
Obviously, love won out here. Only, some
of the love came from an unlikely place,
not just from me. It came from a bunch of
puppies - 20 of them. They finished what
Last winter we had 2 litters of puppies born
a day apart, we still have 3 left. (Anyone
want a puppy?) We had scheduled our last
2 female German Shepherds to be spayed, but
they had other ideas. My mother's Newfoundl-
land mix I rescued from the road, where some
thoughtless person dumped him as a puppy,
broke down the fence, just pulled the pole right
out of the ground and violated my girls before
I could get them in.
(You have to understand that we live on very
little money, so were signed up for a low-
income spay/neuter program they do a few
times a year around here.)
I decided to give Virgil the whole responsiblity
of raising these puppies, with a little help and
a few pointers. I had done this many times
when I used to raise Shepherds. (No more,
there are too many homeless dogs).
This experience was transforming. Virgil had
been coming along, slowly, feeling his way,
many times making a step forward, only to take
2 steps back. But he was opening up, however
cautiously. I knew he was ready for more, even
if he did not.
So, I gave him the puppies to raise. All 20 of
them! A bunch of furry little buindles of love.
All dependent on him for everything, including
their very survival. It was a joy to watch. He
came to love those puppies fiercely. They were
definitely no threat. They had no hidden agenda.
They just wanted food, water, and love. Lots
of love. After all, each puppy had to compete with
19 others for his attention. He was swamped
with such an outpouring of love and devotion
every time he stepped in the yard to tend them.
He could barely walk. It could take 10 minutes to
walk 10 feet. But he could not ignore the love
and devotion they had for him. He began to notice
how excited they got every time he stepped out
the door. I knew they would.
("It's Daddy! It's Daddy! Wag, wag, wag!")
He was so touched by this. I believe if he
had been able to he would have cried with
the joy of that much totally unconditional
love. They didn't know or care how many
people he killed in combat during his years
in the military, or about the millions of chickens
he slaughtered. They loved him anyway,
just as I did.
He finally broke out of his shell and is a better
person for it. That person was in there all
the time. I knew that even if he did not.
Now we work together to make the world a
better place, a kinder place, with more love.
And more understanding. We know those
things are lurking there behind all the evil.
If someone with his background can make
such a big change - a killer turned animal rights
activist - why can't everyone else change, too?
It just takes hope, love, and patience.
A whole lot of it. But, isn't the end result
Today, do something unexpected for someone
or something in pain. Even if it is just
something small, like a smile or a hug.
The world will be a better place for it. And
you will be a better person.
Peace and love to you all,