<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

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.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

In the shoes of a live-hanger 

Now that you have experienced through
my earlier post what it is like killing the
chickens, I thought I might tell you about
another part of back dock - the hanging

It is called that because back in the 70's
it was a steel-framed chicken wire cage
set on a concrete slab with a sheet metal
roof over it. Some plants still have a cage
set in a concrete room. Ours just had
the 10'x12' concrete room, with no
windows and 2 doors that stayed closed
while you are working. It is also poorly
ventilated. The A/C didn't work and the
heat worked about half the time.

You work in blacklight conditions. Chickens
come in on a 3'x9' belt from your right and
the metal shackles you put the birds' legs
in go past you from left to right at 182-186
shackles per minute. You are responsible
for every 7th one.

On the far left, the lead hanger runs the belt
by pushing a lever with his knee and hangs
the first shackle. How things go depends
totally on this guy's ability to #1 keep the
birds coming at a steady rate so that there
are roughly the same number of birds in
front of each hanger so that they don't
get bunched up in front of 1 or 2 people
with everybody reaching over everybody
else #2 he has to keep your shackle hung
every time because everyone hangs their
bird on the left of the person's before
him when it reaches a point directly in
front of him. While this may seem obvious,
you have 7 people (sometimes more if
there are a bunch of "virgins") shoulder to
shoulder on a 9' line trying to grab and
hang 24-26 birds per minute steady for
2 1/2 hours without stopping to do
anything. If you leave the line without
permission, it's automatic termination.
Someone is always in your personal
space, and that irritation and hindrance
to mobility is compunded by anyone
having to reach over anyone.

Add to that the constant dust level you
breathe in and have all over you, the
constant sprays of chicken poop all over
you, even in the face, even in your mouth
(yes, I have swallowed some before,
shudder. You open your mouth to breathe
and it goes right down your throat.) The
worst was a hot, wet, slimy splat in my
ear that made it burn.

In the summer, with the heat on top of
everything else, the dust would clog the
pores of your skin to where you couldn't
sweat anymore. You had to keep as much
of your body covered as possible to keep
the dust off. I have seen quite a few people
pass out. Keep in mind that most of the
dust consists of powdered poop that has
stuck to thechickens before drying there.
It's about the consistency of baby powder,
but smells much worse.

You are doing this for less than $10 an hour,
plus benefits because it's all there is. You can
see how people would get frustrated and quit.
Some just get downright mean. Invarioubly,
they take it out on the chickens and sometimes
each other, sometimes even their families.
Because you and they have to eat. Bills must
be paid. You hate it and dread it. You cannot
imagine the bleakness of the energy there. It
is a sense of utter despair. You go here when
there is nowhere else to go. And your supervisor
knows it. And management knows it. Since they
know that if you could be anywhere else you
would be, they treat you like it. They remind you
of it.

To compound the problem is the issue of the
illegal immigrants, mostly Mexicans. (Now, don't
get me wrong - I'm not being prejudiced here.
I have had quite a few Mexican friends. My son
is half Mexican.) Since they will work in an
environment that most Americans wouldn't even
dream of working in and they work so much
cheaper than we do, Tyson gets away with what
they want. If you don't like it, leave. They'll just
throw a Mexican in your place. Hell, they will throw
2 if they have to. They work cheap and don't
complain - indeed can't complain. Again, Tyson
knows it. They are God.

The language barrier also makes it more difficult
to train them, especially when you still have to
hang your 1/7th of the line. Imagine trying to
train, hang, and run the belt at the same time.
Then you have to teach them to run that belt.
Sometimes the chickens would get so clumped
up, I had to pull them back apart before they
smother to death, since their instinct is to
huddle up when they're scared.

The frustration and stress that goes along with
this job is tremendous, especially for a new-hire.
This is where the habit of bashing the chickens
starts. They will reach for a chicken, it will move
or jump out of the way, and cause them to miss
their shackles, which gets them screamed at.
(Real quick - pretend to pick up a chicken by
both legs and flip it upside-down once every 2
seconds. You have to move a little faster than
that, picking something up that weighs from
4-7 1/2 lbs. that is trying to keep from getting
treated this way.) They will fight for their lives.
They will peck you, scratch you, and poop on
you. You will get mad, very mad. Guaranteed.

After this happens over and over every night
for an extended period of time, you are not
the same person you were when you walked
in the door, assuming you last more than one
night. Quite a few didn't make it that long.
Only the desperate ones stayed. It gets easier
for some people to torture the chickens. They
become maniacs because they kill every day
and will often get creative about it. Luckily, this
did not happen to me, but I was unable to stop
it from happening with others. Even the ones
that didn't do sadistic things couldn't understand
me caring whether or not someone else did.
They were just chickens. Excuse me, pre-
processed product. Tyson doesn't want you
to refer to them as living, breathing chickens.
They are pre-processed and post-processed
product. It's easier that way.

Welcome to the my nightmare. At least I finally
woke up. There are many still there, but they
are not sleeping. They are killing. Right now.
Over 3 a second, just at that plant.

How many chickens do you think have died in
a horrible manner around the world during the
few minutes you spent reading this? How many
cows? How many pigs?

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