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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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Another Tyson Tragedy 

The winter of 1999 we had a bad snow, at least
for around here. About 13" fell down around the
plant. I went out and measured it in my front yard.
There were drifts about 3' deep in places. This was
the worst I can remember in my years in this state.

I counted 60 chicken houses that had collapsed under
the weight. I am sure there were more, but I know of
that many because I had volunteered to round up the
survivors. There were 20 of us volunteers from the
plant to go catch whatever birds had survived. We
helped clean up some of the houses at the last.

Catching the chickens was quite a job, running
around in the snow. Coyotes and other animals had
gotten some of them, we figured. We found hundreds
that were nothing but feathers. They were easy
pickings for predators, never having been outside before.
It was really a busted effort to try to catch them. Every
place we went there were fewer and fewer. The first few
houses we got some, but they finally called us off when
they realized we just weren't going to save very many.
We got 3 trucks (of 5500 birds each) off the first farm
and 2 off the second, after that we couldn't get a whole
truckload from the others. We had started out the day
after it happened. After they had been out overnight,
though, there just wasn't hardly anything left.

There were three of us that volunteered to clean up
the houses a couple of days later to see what could
be salvaged. We intended to haul the copper and stuff
off to the salvage yard to fund the effort. We also
thought we could use some of the tin at home for
sheds, barns, and such. We realized we had made a
mistake we we started driving up to the house. You
could start to smell it almost 1/4 mile away.

When we actually drove up and got out we could hear
the green flies just a-humming. They live inside the
chicken houses year-round. Many will survive the
winter in there with the chickens. Half the house was
still standing, but the other was flattened. That was
the end where the chickens were. When we went up
to start moving some stuff around we kept finding dead
chickens under everything all stuck to it all. The smell
was god-awful. We finally gave up and left. They
eventually bulldozed the place. They did that t most
of the others, too. Of most of the rest of the houses,
not even half was left. The whole things were flattened.

Each house holds from 20,000-40,000 chickens. This
was considered a pretty big disaster. Hundreds of
thousands of chickens died in that snow storm in those
60 houses. We saved but a fraction. Those were in
pretty bad shape. The plant only ran 3-4 days a week
after that for about three months before we got back
up to 40-hour weeks again.

This is not the only event like this to happen. I'm not
sure what could be done much differently, rather than
building the houses stronger, as long as we as a society
continue to mass-produce animals for their flesh. It
sounds bad enough when you read something like this.
It is quite another thing when you are standing there
looking at it, smelling it. It hits home then. It's real.
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