<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Friday, December 05, 2003

More on Illegal Acts and Deception at Tyson 

I just finished reading the great book,
"Slaughterhouse" by Gail Eisnitz. I
was amazed to see how many other
workers across the entire factory farming
industry had similar, and even the same
in some instances, stories to tell of what
I have written about as I experienced
things through the years.

I will probably discuss several different
things that this book brought to mind,
but the first thing I wanted to talk about
was what I read in chapter 21, pages 244-
248 about Tyson's involvement with a guy
named Mike Espy.

This guy was indicted by a federal grand
jury in 1997 for "illegally accepting gifts
worth tens of thousands of dollars from
food companies associated with the USDA."

Although he was acquitted of the charges
in December 1998, there were still two of
the lobbyists for the industry that were
convicted of lying to FBI agents. One of
these lobbyists was working for Tyson.

There were also some other charges in
this scandal:

Tyson's director of governmental affairs
was also convicted of providing illegal gifts
to Espy on two occasions with intent to
influence the Secretary.

At the time the book was written he was
facing a year on each count.

Tyson Foods also pleaded guilty to providing
illegal gratuities to Espy while the company
had business before the USDA and was fined
a total of $6 million.

Now, I was working for Tyson when this all
went down, and I remember it very well. You
would think that getting a major federal
conviction against someone like Tyson would
be a bad thing for them. But, in this case, it
wasn't really so bad.

They managed to control damage and only
fire two people. And they were just lobbyists
at that. And it left Tyson open to make some
rules that they would have never been able to
make any other way.

They called this their "New Ethics Program."

Right at the top of this list was the rule I have
mentioned before that said that no employee
could talk to any USDA inspector or veterinarian
on or off the job. The reason that this was such
a good thing for Tyson was because, before that,
at least half the violations that the USDA found
were only found because an employee reported
the violation to the inspector. Obviously, when
the employees could no longer speak to any of
the inspectors, this could not happen. So, if the
already overworked inspectors missed something,
Tyson would get away with it.

Now, this also went the other way. An inspector
couldn't walk up and ask an employee how long
a piece of chicken had been laying out somewhere.
The inspector would be obliged to go and speak
to the supervisor first. Then they would have to
have the supervisor present when they asked the
employee. Of course, the employee will give
whatever answer the supervisor wants if he wants
to keep his job.

The inspectors said that if it had to be that way
that there was no way to know that the employee
was telling the truth. So, Tyson set up this so-called
"complaint line." You have heard me mention this
before. It is also Ed "al-Sahaf" Nickelson's
favorite thing to bring up when he has to try to
cover Tyson's butt all the time.

Supposedly, you can call into this line to complain
if you feel you have been retaliated against by
management for any reason (or if you have any
other problems) and be anonymous. Really, it
is set up as a way to catch troublemakers, like me.

As I have said before, everybody that told me
that they used that line got fired or their job
suddenly became so miserable that they quit.

The one thing I never heard discussed in their
"ethics program" was the humane handling of
the chickens. It was certainly not mentioned
as something to use that complaint line for.
As chickens are not included in the Humane
Slaughter Act or any other legislation, there
was no one to report anything like that to.

Even if someone did want to stick their neck
out in such a way, no one had any authority
to actually do anything about it but Tyson.
And they didn't care. Humane handline does
not generate increased production and profits,
so why would they care?

The point I am trying to make is that before
these new rules were implemented, the overall
efficiency of the plant at Grannis was about 75%-
80%. After they implemented these new rules,
it shot up to the lower-to-mid-90s and stayed
there. This means that more chicken that used
to be condemned as unsafe for humans to eat
(and was therefore ground up for animal feed
or discarded) was now making it through without
being detected.

Higher line speeds mean that it is harder for the
inspectors to properly inspect the meat and
less humane handling for the birds because the
workers are in such a hurry to keep the lines full.
High-pressure washers spread more germs
deeper into the meat than they wash off. The
technology is not making things safer, just more
efficient. It is certainly not any more humane.

The industry would have you believe that they
just miraculously became much safer in their
practices, but this is not so. It simply means
that they are getting away with more things.
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