<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Killers in Training 

One of the most dangerous situations for
somebody working on back dock was to try
to train a new-hire to kill.

To begin with, our killing room was a real
small place. It was about one step from
the wall to the line. From the killing machine
to the wall of the blood trough was about
3 steps. Now, I'm not a little guy, so with
just me, the room was comfortably full.
But, you add a new-hire with a razor-sharp
knife, it gets overcrowded real quick.

The whole idea for me, as the experienced
killer, was to teach him what to look for. That
is a bit more complicated than you might think.
In order for a chicken to bleed out in the short
amount of time that it has, it must be cut
squarely across both carotid arteries and the
jugular, but not all the way through the spine.

In order for me to teach him all this, I had to
put him between me and the killing machine, look
over his shoulder, and try to tell him (mostly
with hand gestures because of all the noise)
what to cut, then catch whatever he doesn't.
Most new-hires had a tendency to try to chase
the line, so it worked out that their knife would
come across my arm. There was no protection
from it. I have been stabbed by a new-hire
across the line that way. I have been badly cut
once across my arm.

There is one time in particular that I remember
when this guy stabbed himself in the neck.
He reached for this chicken with his grabbing
hand and the chicken pecked him on the arm
when he grabbed for it. It made him mad. So,
he drew his knife back to stab the chicken.
When he drew it back real quick he stabbed
himself in the neck with it. It scared everybody
when they saw it, but especially me because he
only missed my throat by less than an inch when
he drew that knife back.

New-hires were dangerous because Tyson pushed
them too hard. They were constantly afraid of
losing their jobs and the killing room was an
impossible job anyway. They would just go wild
with their knives, mostly because they were chasing
the line trying to catch 3 or 4 chickens in a row that
they had to kill. Of course, they would be nervous
with new-job jitters. Although, they would
concentrate on the chicken, they would not notice
what else was going on. I actually saw one run
headfirst into the wall of the blood trough one time.

It was difficult to find somebody that could function
in the killing room. We might keep 1 out of every 10
new-hires that went in there. Even the ones that
were willing to stay had a problem with it, whether
they admitted it or not. Almost all of them, without
fail, went through a period of getting sick when they
first came in there. Some of them would get violently
ill. If you happened to be standing between them and
the bathroom when that happened, you had to watch
to make sure you didn't get a knife in your guts.

It's also extremely hard to teach them to stay on the
line when the chickens start spraying blood all in their
face. Because of the positions of the chicken's throat
and your face, every time you cut one's throat it is
going to squirt you with two streams of hot chicken
blood right in the face. If you don't get two distinct
jets, then you haven't cut it right. I have never seen
a new-hire that could do it without turning his face.

The killing room is particularly bad when you get a load
of chickens that weren't pulled off the feeders in time.
Every time you cut their throat, you are going to have
blood and partially digested food coming out the hole.
It will run down your arms and your hands. When the
chickens flop, they will sling it on you. I have never
smelled anything that stank any worse. I have been
puked on by 4 or 5 new-hires in a situation like this.
It is not uncommon.

I guess it is quite obvious that this is not the type
of job people do because they like it. I suppose it
is also obvious that it is stressful and nasty. It is
also violent and dangerous. However, all of this
could be helped if it wasn't so fast-paced. The
constant drive for production at any cost means
literally that - at any cost.

I am glad I don't have to do this anymore. I am
even more glad I will never have to do it again.
Even if they wanted me to, which I bet they don't!
Ha ha ha!
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