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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.
Monday, October 13, 2003
inspection at different times during the night.
They walk in and look at a certain part of the
back dock area and check things out. However,
about once a week they do an open inspection
before we start hanging chickens.
On these open inspections they look a little harder
because they have more time to do it in. They would
check every piece of equipment we had. They would
only look for anything that might contaminate
the chickens, nothing else. They were looking for
rust, metal shavings, hydraulic oil, etc. that might
get on the chickens, thus contaminating them.
They do not check for broken pieces of machinery,
just for contaminants, especially chemical ones
like grease and hydraulic fluid. That is the job of
the supervisor. They only handle food safety.
One night in the spring of '98 (I think) when an
inspector came in and did an open inspection, he
noticed we had some pigeons roosting on a support
beam under the dump shed right outside the
hanging cage. This beam supported the roof that
covered the dump and the truck being unloaded.
The forklift operator and the dump operator were
protected by this roof as they unloaded the chickens.
These pigeons defecated on the chickens below them
while the inspector was there.
He decided that this constituted cross-contamination
between domestic and wild birds, thereby creating
a potential hazard to humans. The inspector said
that the pigeons had to go and that the belt that
the chickens were on had to be washed. The
unfortunate chickens that were contaminated by
the pigeon droppings we were forced to kill by
wringing their necks. We had to kill about 300
of them this way and throw them in the dumpster.
Richard (the night shift superintendent at the time,
now asst. plant manager) went to his truck and
got a pellet rifle. He came in and shot them all,
letting them fall and bleed on the belt. He told us
to hurry up and dump some more chickens on the
belt before the inspector came back to see it, without
washing it off. He knew that if it was full of chickens,
the inspector would not go up and move the chickens
to look under them. He would just take Richard's
word for it that the belt had been cleaned before
The pigeons were also tossed in the same dumpster
as the chickens we were forced to kill. Now, if you
remember, all the chickens in this dumpster of
(normally) DOAs go to the augur to be ground up
for animal feed. Therefore, the possibility of the
pigeons spreading whatever they call that disease
that can spread between the species to the next
generation of chickens still existed. The pigeons
were ground up with the chickens, about 20 of
them on this occasion.
Now, this has happened more than once. It is
not an uncommon thing to happen each spring.
However, usually there are only one or two of them
as opposed to 20. They get way up high in the
roof girders away from the chickens so they don't
pose much of a problem.
After this incident, though, Richard started always
shooting the pigeons up there and throwing them
in the dumpster (or more often having one of us do
it) to keep the inspector from seeing something
like that happen again. He didn't want us to have
another late start or to have to stop the line
because of such an incident. However, by shooting
the pigeons and having them fall down into the
area and bleed all over the place and the chickens,
he was probably causing more contamination
than if they had been left alone. His only concern
was for production, not contamination or safety.
One of the inspectors recommended wrapping the
girders with screen to keep them from coming
back. They wouldn't have a place to sit and would
go somewhere else. However, Richard didn't take
this advice. He decided the easiest way to deal
with the problem was to just shoot them.
This is just one more example of how Tyson is
able to pull the wool over the inspectors' eyes
and get away with illegal and unsafe business
practices. These poor people are so overworked
and understaffed for the amount of stuff they
have to look at that it is quite easy to get things
past them. When the plant is in operation, all
but one of them are permanently stuck on front
line. That leaves that one inspector to cover
back dock, the killing room, the feather room,
debone, packing line, and the freezer. All by
himself. No human being can be in two places
at one time, let alone six. There is no way
humanly possible for him to catch all the problems
that go on.
For one thing, every supervisor, upper management,
and all the utilitiy workers have walkie talkies and know
exactly where that inspector is at any given time.
Most of the time they even know where he is going
next. If they want to deceive him, it is not very
hard to do. Unfortunately, it happens all the time.
It is an extremely rare occurrence for someone to
actually get caught by an inspector doing something
wrong. For every one time they get caught, they
probably got away with it at least 25 or 30 times.
Of course, it only takes one such contaminated bird
to make someone's kid sick somewhere. Thousands
of people very year fall ill from tainted meat, some of
Inspectors operate a lot by trust in the employees
nd the company to do the right thing. When they
find a contaminated bird, they will put it to the side
in the belief that it will be taken care of. Rarely is
there a followup to make sure it was. They are so
busy they have moved in to more birds, pulling out
the ones that need more attention.
This is why I find it somewhat amusing when people
use the argument of the inspectors to try to say
that there is no way a company can get away with
the kind of behavior I have told of here.
If we really want to control the slaughterhouses,
we need to increase the inspections and install
cameras to record what is going on. That is really
the only way to ensure that the type of incidents I
have talked about don't continue. It is not in the
interest of the industry to do this, so they won't
unless someone forces them to.
It is in our interest, however. Very much so. We
should hold the industry responsible for its actions
by making sure it conforms to ethical practices that
are in everyone's best interest, us and the animals.