<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Frankenchickens 

I have spent quite a bit of time talking about
cruelty and the working environment, but I
have yet to mention something else that is a
big problem. Naturally, raising as many birds
a year as they do and playing with their genetics,
there are bound to be those that stand out as a
little, shall we say, "different."

Some were very "different."

I saw quite a few chickens, usually the runts,
that had beaks deformed in such a way as to
not have the top of the beak match up with the
bottom, instead overlapping on the sides. I am
sure that made it very difficult to eat. These
were always quite a bit smaller than the others,
and of course, we all know what happens to the
runts like this. They are mostly killed and dropped
on the floor in a pile in the corner. We were not
supposed to kill them, as it was considered a
waste of the hanger's time. We were supposed to
throw them over there alive, but I couldn't stand
the thought of them going into the dumpster
alive to face that grinding augur.

The most common deformity of all was a condition
of the chicken's hock (what would be our knee).
Instead of them facing forward with their feet facing
front, they would be turned out to the sides so that
the feet were pointed out to the sides, also. These
had to hop and flap their wings to move because
they couldn't walk or use their legs to move forward
in any other way.

Another common occurrence was what the hangers
called "curly toes." Their feet would be drawn up
into rigid claws (like us making a fist). They were
grown that way and couldn't move them. These
moved in a similar way as the other birds with the
leg problems. They couldn't move very far at once.

Ever so often, we would see chickens come through
with more than 2 legs. A 3rd leg would be grown
out between their other 2 legs, but only be about
1/3 the size of the normal legs. Sometimes there
would be 2 extra legs like this. They were all
withered up and useless, but didn't seem to cause
too many problems for them as far as movement.
These did get hung once you figured out which
legs to pick up and hang.

Then there were the even weirder things.

Like, I once saw a chicken with 6 toes on 1 foot.
I saw one once that had a comb all the way down
its neck. One had a tumor growing on top of its
head like a mushroom cap turned upside down.
It made it look like an alien chicken. It had just a
few little wispy feathers growing out of it, which
made it look even more eerie.

I saw one that had an extra head once, but it
wasn't a whole head. It was just a little head that
grew from the side of the chicken's neck and was
just the front part of a comb, 2 eyes, and the
upper part of the beak. You could tell it couldn't
see out of those eyes, though. They were milky
and obviously blind. They did blink, though, but
not together. It was more like alternating winks.
I got yelled at by the supervisor for missing shackles
when I picked this one up because all I could do was
just stand there and stare at it in shock. It was a
particularly large bird, much bigger than the rest.
Very creepy.

But, the creepiest thing I ever saw was once when
I was in the killing room, I saw this chicken coming
down the line that hadn't been cut. I grabbed it to
cut it and when I pulled its neck up and turned its
head a little, it had a tumor on the side of its head
that was the exact shape of a human's face in
silhouette. It had grown up under its eye until its
eye was right in the place where the human's eye
would be on the tumor. When I cut its throat, it
blinked its eye and it looked almost like a human
blinking its eye at me. That was creepy! After this
episode I didn't go back in the killing room for weeks.
I told them to fire me if they wanted, but I wasn't
going back in there for a while.

That place has all the makings for a good horror
show. Now you see why I quit eating chickens long,
long ago? I could never be sure which chicken it
would be. I knew far, far too much.
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