<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Monday, September 08, 2003

On Death Road 

Before I begin today's post I told a
fellow blogger I would link to him via
a problem in Iraq that could be very
helpful to the Iraqi people. Check out
Chief Wiggles post today.


Now, on to the post. I titled today's
post "On Death Road" for a reason.
That is exactly what it is for thousands
of chickens every day going to the plant
where I worked and the many more
going to many more around the world.

Around here it is a common sight to
see big semis full of cages of chickens
headed for slaughter. Many of them
do not survive the trip. Which are
more lucky, the ones who die en route
or the ones who make it?

This trip can last as long as 3 hours
in all extremes of weather conditions.
These chickens are crammed into the
cages so tightly that many smother,
especially in this summer. Many freeze
to death in the winter.

These don't count against the profits
of Tyson, but against the profits of the
farmer who raised them. The farmer
only gets paid for those chickens that
survive long enough to be slaughtered.
Everything else is considered DOA.

Each season has its own particular
problems. In summer, the catchers
start catching around 6:30 or 7:00
on Sunday evening for the first night
shift Sunday night, which starts at
8:50 p.m. The temperature can still
be quite high in this area at that time
of the evening, sometimes over 100F.
Add to that the fact that the birds are
given nothing but salt water for 12
hours, then no food and water for the
next 12, to clean them out for processing.
It is supposed to be against the rules
for them to be given salt water to begin
with, but when did Tyson start caring
about the rules? The inspector, a
Tyson employee, (NOT USDA) is usually
on site soimetime during that 24 hours.
For some reason, he always seems to
be looking in some other direction when
the salt water is provided. I wonder why?
You can imagine the shape of the chickens
by the time they are loaded on the truck.

Many of them die on the truck while in
the process of being loaded before ever
leaving the farm. Many of them are
broken and bruised by the loading itself.
Many trucks travel down gravel and dirt
roads for a number of miles before they
ever hit the highway. I have seen trucks
with limbs as big around as your arm
shoved 3'-4' deep into the cages on
some occasions. They impale the chickens
and leave big holes in the cages, allowing
more chickens to fall out on the road to
be hit by vehicles, if they are not killed
outright by the fall itself.

The ones that make it to the plant sit
in the cages on the truck under a shed
with a tin roof or out in the open blazing
sun (if there is no room in the shed) for
hours until they are needed. We would
usually have 3-4 or more trucks backed
up in this manner before we ever hung
the first chicken. Many of them die of
heat stroke and heart attacks, but
primarily from dehydration, as many as
500 per load. The ones that die on
the truck are accounted for in such a
manner as to make it seem they were
dead before leaving the farm so that
Tyson is not accountable for them.

As bad as that is, in my opinion, the
winter is even worse. Temperatures
commonly are below freezing, with the
added wind chill on the road. Many of
the chickens arrive with ice clumps
frozen to them, their legs and wings
frozen in grotesque positions. I have
seen the time you could touch the comb
on a chicken's head and have it come
off in your hand and be solid black.
They are riding in open-air wire cages
with no wind break. Many of them are
actually frozen to the cage itself. When
this happens, it is particularly cruel
because of the way they are driven out.

There is a guy that dumps the cages,
that has a steel rod 1/4" in diameter
and 8' long that he uses to jam into
the side of the chicken to knock it loose,
but it ususally just goes through the
side of the chicken. When it does, he
just keeps doing it until he rips the bird
apart or rips its feet loose from its body.

Tyson does not suspend operations for
bad weather, no matter how cold, wet,
or snowy it is. There was hardly a winter
that went by that there were not several
truck wrecks. In January of 1999 a truck
was going uphill, slid into the ditch, rolled
over on its side, and ruptured a fuel tank.
This drowned over 1000 chickens in diesel
fuel. The cages that were left were loaded
onto another truck and brought on
to the plant. Because the rest of the
chickens had diesel fuel on them when they
came into the hanging cage, we had to
break their necks and throw them in a
dumpster, since they could not be run.

That same night an entire catch crew was
wiped out by a truck wreck trying to drive
home because Tyson refused to suspend
operations. Nine people died that night.
There was never much said since most of
them were illegals, but they were still people.

There is a plant in Clarksville about 6 hours
from here. That plant broke down and
sent 5 loads of chickens to Grannis. That
night the temperature was down in the
teens, with a slight freezing drizzle. Of
that 5 loads of chickens, 6000 to a load,
around 8000 of them survived the trip.

Another time birds came up from Center,
TX (about a 10-hour drive) in July when
the temp was 105F around here, closer
to 115F down there. Out of a load of
"spent hens" (those that are worn out
from laying eggs) I did not see a single
one arrive alive.

We read in one of the many articles
written lately about the fight between
KFC and PETA (where KFC makes
defensive statements) that they claim
that the transport cages are kept in
good repair. I am here to refute that
lie as pure propaganda. I have seen
otherwise.

Most of the transport cages we used
were in such a state of disrepair that
many never made it to the plant
without losing some of their contents.
A lot of them are not bad enough for
the chickens to fall out of, but they
get their heads, legs, and wings
trapped in the broken places in the
sides of the cages becoming injured
or killed.

Sometimes the cages are so warped
that the forklift cannot pick them up
properly, so they get dropped, further
injuring and killing the birds.

All chickens that don't get hung in
the shackles are written off as DOAs
and thrown in a pile to be weighed
before heading for the off-haul
facility to be ground up and used
for more chicken feed. This is also
what they do with the ones that
are considered too sick to run also.
Perhaps this has something to do
with the level of disease in the houses??

But, none of this costs Tyson near
as much as it costs the farmer. He
has to be happy with whatever he
gets paid for his chickens. After all,
most farmers have liens against
their homes and land held by Tyson.
They are just as trapped into the
situation as most of the employees
are. It's a brutal business for all
concerned. I'm glad I'm out of it.
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