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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.
Saturday, October 04, 2003
There was a story on one of their plants in
the Washington Post that had pictures and
testimony from workers in addition to the
documentation gathered under the Freedom
of Information Act. This article can also be
found at the Humane Farming Association
website if you don't want the .pdf version.
This was printed on 4-10-01 and the stories
told here at this plant and the many others
listed toward the end of the article sound
very similar to what I have found to be the
norm in the poultry industry. This is but one
of the bits of information that has strengthened
my belief that factory farming is cruel, and the
amount of unnecessary cruelty and abuse is
very widespread within the whole industry.
The introduction to it reads:
It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into
steak at the modern slaughterhouse where
Ramon Moreno works. For 20 years, his post
was "second-legger," a job that entails cutting
hocks off carcasses as they whirl past at a rate
of 309 an hour.
The cattle were supposed to be dead before
they got to Moreno. But too often they weren't.
"They blink. They make noises," he said softly.
"The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking
around." Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he
says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly
alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as
the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller.
"They die," said Moreno, "piece by piece."
It also explains that:
Under a 23-year-old federal law, slaughtered
cattle and hogs first must be "stunned" -
rendered insensible to pain - with a blow to the
head or an electric shock. But at overtaxed plants,
the law is sometimes broken, with cruel
consequences for animals as well as workers.
Enforcement records, interviews, videos and
worker affidavits describe repeated violations
of the Humane Slaughter Act at dozens of
slaughterhouses, ranging from the smallest,
custom butcheries to modern, automated
establishments such as the sprawling IBP Inc.
plant here where Moreno works.
"In plants all over the United States, this
happens on a daily basis," said Lester
Friedlander, a veterinarian and formerly chief
government inspector at a Pennsylvania
hamburger plant. "I've seen it happen. And
I've talked to other veterinarians. They feel
it's out of control."
Here are a few more of the things said by
workers and others involved in the industry
that were interviewed for the story:
"I complained to everyone - I said, 'Lookit,
they're skinning live cows in there,' " Walker
said. "Always it was the same answer: 'We
know it's true. But there's nothing we can
do about it.' "
"They were still conscious and had good
reflexes," B.V. Swamy, a veterinarian and
senior USDA official at the plant, wrote. The
shift supervisor "allowed the cattle to be
"The live cows cause a lot of injuries," said
Martin Fuentes, an IBP worker whose arm
was kicked and shattered by a dying cow.
"The line is never stopped simply because
an animal is alive."
The hitch, IBP workers say, is that some
"stunned" cattle wake up. "If you put a
knife into the cow, it's going to make a
noise: It says, 'Moo!'" said Moreno, the
former second-legger, who began working
in the stockyard last year. "They move the
head and the eyes and the leg like the cow
wants to walk."
"I've seen thousands and thousands of
cows go through the slaughter process alive,"
IBP veteran Fuentes, the worker who was
injured while working on live cattle, said in an
affi-davit. "The cows can get seven minutes
down the line and still be alive. I've been in
the side-puller where they're still alive. All the
hide is stripped out down the neck there."
One worker said IBP pressured him to sign
a statement denying that he had seen live
cattle on the line. "I knew that what I wrote
wasn't true," said the worker, who did not
want to be identified for fear of losing his job.
"Cows still go alive every day. When cows go
alive, it's because they don't give me time to
Grandin also inspected IBP's plant, at the
company's request; that inspection was
announced. Although she observed no live
cattle being butchered, she concluded that the
plant's older-style equipment was "overloaded."
Grandin reviewed parts of the workers' videotape
and said there was no mistaking what she saw.
"There were fully alive beef on that rail," Grandin
Also keep in mind that there are numerous
problems with inspection, just like I have talked
about down at Tyson.
The meat inspectors' union, in its petition last
spring to Washington state's attorney general,
contended that federal agents are "often
prevented from carrying out" the mandate
against animal cruelty. Among the obstacles
inspectors face are "dramatic increases in
production speeds, lack of support from
supervisors in plants and district offices . . .
new inspection policies which significantly reduce
our enforcement authority, and little to no access
to the areas of the plants where animals are killed,"
stated the petition by the National Joint Council
of Food Inspection Locals.
"It always ends up in argument: Instead of re-
stunning the animal, you spend 20 minutes just
talking about it," said Colorado meat inspector
Gary Dahl, sharing his private views. "Yes, the
animal will be dead in a few minutes anyway. But
why not let him die with dignity?"
"The industry's self-inspections are meaningless.
They're designed to lull Americans into a false
sense of security about what goes on inside
Well, isn't this pretty much what I have been
saying all along? We know things are wrong.
Even the officials know things are wrong.
Why, oh why, are we not doing something