<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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, December 18, 2003

Ramblings and Reasonings 

Today I received an email from a reader that was a copy of an article on a lawsuit against Tyson by the residents of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Now, it didn't have a link in it, so I can't provide one here, at least not yet. (I emailed for it and haven't heard back.) UPDATE: I got the link. But, the lawsuit has been filed on behalf of residents who:

have all lost children or suffered serious health problems, including cancers and blood disorders, because of high levels of arsenic ingested as a result of chicken litter spread around their town. Alpharma, Inc. (NYSE:ALO), Tyson (NYSE:TSN) and other poultry producers were named defendants in the lawsuit. The details of the lawsuits and the health problems were discussed at a news conference in Fayetteville today.

I have to admit, this piqued my curiosity. But, I really started becoming increasingly alarmed about this as I continued to read on. The article sent to me went on to say that:

According to John Baker, attorney representing the residents, the first suit includes survivors of cancer and the parents of four children who died from leukemia and brain cancer. Several residents have been diagnosed with rare forms of cancer normally occurring at a rate of one in a million. Prairie Grove has a population of just 2,540, with a county population of 175,000. Sandra Beckcom, a registered nurse who has worked in medical facilities in the community, has a muscle cancer called leiomysarcoma. "I've seen first-hand the failure of the medical community to report cancers and other serious diseases in this county. I have a recurring diagnosis of what is normally a rare form of cancer, but there are three known cases diagnosed in this community. This is extremely alarming and should be a red flag for everyone who lives here."
Alpharma, Inc., manufacturers a product called 3-Nitro (Roxarsone) that is ground and mixed with chicken feed by Tyson and others in the poultry industry to enhance growth of the chicken. Roxarsone passes straight through chickens to their litter and becomes the very toxic poison known as Inorganic Arsenic III and Inorganic Arsenic V when placed in the environment.
Chicken litter is spread throughout the Norwest corridor of Arkansas with a high concentration in Washington County, particularly in the farmland surrounding Prairie Grove. The poultry industry typically spreads the fertilizer in a three-mile radius around the chicken farms, exaggerating the concentration in Washington County where there is an abundance of these farms. Attorneys say Washington County has the second largest chicken population in the United States (approximately 10 million).
A large group of families gathered at the Radisson in Fayetteville today to ask the poultry industry to stop using the chemical additive Roxarsone and to stop spreading the contaminated chicken litter throughout their community. Prairie Grove resident Tommy Johnson lost his teenaged son Austin to brain cancer.
"The petroleum industry, chemical industry, healthcare industry, and private citizens have to treat and dispose of waste in a safe and healthy manner," he says. "Why shouldn't the poultry industry be held to the same standard?"
The families represented in the lawsuits have asked the court to enjoin the poultry producers from using the chemical Roxarsone as a poultry food supplement and from spreading the poison in Washington County.
The lawsuit was originally filed earlier this year in Hinds County, Mississippi, where one family moved at the recommendation of their child's physician.
The Mississippi Court felt it would be more convenient to try the case in Washington County where more witnesses and victims reside so the case was dismissed without prejudice and re-filed here today.

Now, I don't usually like to post things like this without a link or some other form of reference to show people for themselves where the information came from. I made an exception in this case because I am using it to illustrate a point. The only thing at the top of this to make it in any way identifiable as to who may have written it was simply the date of 12/16/03 and that it was a press release - in other words, not much info on that. If I receive the link, I will share it with anyone who cares enough to look want to look it up. Anyway...

I started doing a search on the web for the source of this article. I did a search for "Prairie Grove, Arkansas" first. Well, mostly that brought up a bunch of sites from businesses promoting their products there or a site telling me how wonderful the town was and why I should live there. But, I did find an extremely disturbing item in this search. Check this out:

Since October 2001, the Arkansas Department of Health has been investigating a potential cluster of testicular cancer in this town. From 1997 to 2001, five cases of the cancer have been diagnosed, which is about five times the national rate. In studies of the city’s water supply, a local and now-closed nuclear reactor, a low-level radioactive landfill and 14 private natural gas wells, the Department of Health has not yet found any contamination that may be carcinogenic.

Well, I'll tell you that THAT gave me some cause for concern!!! Especially since that bit of info comes from a place set up to track the "hotspots" of communities with high ratios of strange, unnatural, even unexplainable, collections of people experiencing rare, serious and even fatal illnesses. I immediately went into full search mode on the keywords "lawsuit 'chicken litter'" after reading that.

Oh my goodness at the myriad of interesting things that sprung up from THAT search! Apparently this is a MUCH bigger issue than even I was aware of. Well, I decided then and there that I would go through all these things, read up on the issue, and do a post on what I found and where I found it.

I started surfing, collecting info, and filing it away, until I came across this site. Now, I had, of course, heard about the Mad Cowboy, otherwise known as Howard Lyman. I have talked to people that know him. I would just love to meet him myself. He sounds like a fun, down-to-earth kind of guy, but I hadn't ever yet managed to get around to reading up on him and his story. I wish I had done so, but I am always so busy that I have just never gotten around to doing it. I'm glad I did today. It was a great read, so if you haven't seen it yet, either, I recommend taking a minute to do just that. We laughed out loud at his wit and marveled at the strength of character that he displayed in his fight. And we understood what he meant about how the whole thing ended up enriching his life in wonderful ways.

Well, after reading that excerpt, I am really feeling like our situations are not really so different in the big picture. He took on "Big Beef" and I took on "Big Chicken." They both are huge and powerful (even if being a "Big Chicken" doesn't much sound like it. Ha! ha! ha!- couldn't resist that one), and they fight back viciously at anyone who even thinks of trying to cross them or says anything bad about the factory farming industry. The industry reminds me of a bunch of threatened wild and vicious dogs, all back-to-back and side-to-side, forming a kind of circle against the ever-growing public assault on their cold and cruelly callous, as well as irresponsible and unsafe, ways of doing business. They are all biting, snapping, and snarling, while the ever-growing crowds of people that used buy into their propaganda are increasingly pointing fingers and demanding answers and responsibility for what they - that awakening public - correctly (in my opinion) reasons are threats to society itself by these big greedy corporations. These corporations are trying to take over the world - and I really don't think I am being too melodramatic when I say that. The public is waking up, albeit slowly, and trying to right the wrongs of this generation and the generations before us before we pass these problems off onto our kids and grandkids. This is what is scaring these big corporations. They don't want to take responsibility because it is expensive.

I've been just absolutely thrilled to find that there are so many people in the world that care about these issues. There are far more caring and concerned people in this world than I had first thought there were when I first spoke up almost a year ago, just two months after leaving Tyson in the middle of Nov. '02. That seems like it has been so long ago, yet the time has seemed to fly, too. What a different life I had just a scant year ago before all this started! But, just as Howard Lyman also found out and spoke of, speaking out about wrongs you are in a position to help stop has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life as far as enriching my personal life and the way I approach things, even in the way I view life itself - all life. It is but one of many ways that I have made major changes in what I do, how I do it, and what direction my life is going in because of those choices. That is what life really boils down to - making the right choices. I am trying to make more of those now.

I really hope that if you have not read his book yet, you check it out. I would love to read it. Hey, if anyone has an extra copy around, or one they are through with, could you pass it on? Anyway, this link (the same one as above) will take you to an extremely revealing look at what he went through as an "Alleged Food Disparager."

Those are his words to describe himself because of the ridiculous lawsuit he and Oprah had to defend themselves against. They had been accused of violating the Texas Food Disparagement Act, and the authorities charged him with a list of ridiculous charges for exercising his right to free speech. They just threw Oprah in there for airing it, even though she had the other side sitting there, too, from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, saying what he could. That apparently wasn't very much or too helpful to his side, since Howard knew what he was talking about and told everyone what was being fed to cows and, by extension, directly to them and their kids. As you might expect, when the public heard this (and the industry!) it created a major ruckus and a big ol' fight!

Well, as you can imagine, we really identified with this guy. He went from being a cattle rancher to being a whistle-blower just like I went from chicken hanger to whistle-blower. He got attacked, and I got attacked. He went vegetarian because of what he personally knew about factory farming from his years of experience in it, and so did we. There are other things in common, but you see the picture.

After reading that, I almost posted it in its entirety and let it just stand with a few brief words of description and introduction, thinking I would use that as a post by itself so that I could resume my search and get some things done around here that I have been neglecting to get done. I decided not to do that, though. I felt like that was ripping you off, in a way. And some people seem to worry that there is something wrong if I miss a day of posting. I didn't used to worry about that as much and no one used to write me to ask of something was wrong, since most of the people that read it then didn't all come every day, and the ones that did knew that I was fine, just a little busy. I just sometimes have to do "regular" life stuff, just like you. That's all. No big deal. I spend a lot of time doing other things because there is so much to do. I read emails from supporters, personal emails, articles, etc. every day and still have to try to check out the group and, if I have time, the comments here. There is just a lot to do, and I still have a "regular" life, too.

This is not a complaint, just a simple explanation of why I don't have an immediate answer to someone who leaves a comment and comes back throughout the day to see if I have answered it yet. That was never the reasoning behind putting a comments section on the site, nor were they put there for that express purpose. For those that have been around from the beginning, you will remember that I put them there so that people could let me or others know what they thought of a post, whether it needed further clarification, had extra info to add to it from their experience or research, had ideas for posts, and that sort of thing. That is not where I carry on conversations with people, normally. That's what email is for. Neither were they put there for anyone to insult others or for personal agendas or any other reason. I'm not pointing any fingers or anything, just simply explaining.

I have gotten to "know" quite a few of you now, through emails back and forth across the world. We have shared quite a bit of the trials and troubles that all of us activists face and the great rewards that make all those sacrifices and hardships worth enduring. You know, I am starting to have a problem with hanging a label on myself. I have been thinking a bit about this way society has of labeling people. "I am/you are an activist."

Why do we feel the need to do this? Perhaps an increasing desire to not get lost in the sea of voices? By identifying with particular groups of people, we can join those voices into one loud voice to shout one message. But, see, that is the problem. We are not one voice always. We don't every one of us believe exactly alike on all things. That's the problem with labels. While being helpful to describe the sorts of values one holds, it is also limiting in a way, because there is so much that the label does NOT say about that individual.

Then, you get to stereotyping. "Well, all AR activists think this, so we shouldn't listen to them. They are all nuts anyway. They don't want any people to have any animals ever. " You know, maybe some people might believe that, but I highly doubt that most people who consider themselves to be falling under this label would go to that extreme. I, for one, don't. Yet, I get all sorts of beliefs attributed to me by the use of the label to identify what kind of person I am. And, you see the other problem there, don't you? It leaves out all kinds of other things that I am and some that I am not.

I am going to end this post for now because, as should be obvious, I am sort of going on "information overload" right now and am starting to ramble. I could use a break for a bit and get outside in the fresh air with the cats and dogs, the trees, the birds, and all the rest of Nature in all Her splendor.

I am learning so much so fast. I am now apparently supposed to have researched and formed an official position on all these many issues people write about, many of which I am not aware of yet. (Not that I am accusing the contributor of the article that started this post of asking for that. That was not the case. That was a simple "heads-up," and I always appreciate help like that.) But, everyone has some issue that really bugs them the most, whatever label(s) they have hanging on them.

Unless you don't care about anything at all and have no labels. What do we call those people? Maybe I shouldn't have asked that. Now, I'll get another wave of emails from people who know JUST what to call them! LOL! :) (If I do, I promise to post the list in the group. but not here. I try to be more selective of what is posted here, now that so many people are reading it. This is a serious issue and should be treated as such here. That is important to me and what this whole blog is about.)

If you want to try to boil down what I think to be the right thing to do and what kind of person I think of myself as, I cannot do that. I live and learn and change from day to day, as do most people, especially those that are working to grow and mature in spirit. The past is the past, and the future hasn't happened yet, so all I can do is to be "me" right here and right now.

I am just another individual on this planet like the rest of you. We are all interconnected, and what one of us does always ripples to affect the others. What kind of ripples you make in your life through your everyday personal choices is what kind of life you are living and what kind of person you are. Therefore, it is my belief that we should all just listen to that voice deep inside ourselves that lets us know what we should or should not do - what is right and what is wrong. That voice that comes from within and is each person's own personal spiritual way to "tune in" to whatever you call your Source of spiritual power and strength, be it God, Goddess, Yahweh, Allah, or however else you may think of what is divine in this universe. The Source of us all - the name is unimportant. That is where the "little voice" comes from. Some people simply call it their conscience. Whatever you want to call it, that is your own link to everything, everyone, and all else that is divine. And it always knows best. You just have to listen carefully.

If you listen closely enough, your "little voice" will tell you what to do. Whether you agree with it or not, is beside the point. The point is that it will never lie and never lead you wrong. Not if you seek and listen with a pure heart and an open mind. We all get caught up in everyday situations that leave us wondering what to do - what choice to make. Will we be wrong or right? That's when far too many of us try to use just our minds to "figure it out" using all of the available "facts." I am guilty of this. That is, in fact, what I started out my day doing. Then, I got another gentle nudge. Better than a big ol' push, like my years at Tyson were. I apparently needed a big push to change my ways. I'm glad it came. I listen to these gentle reminders. If I don't, they grow, and are not so gentle.

Oh, I'll still do the research, and I'll keep on posting. I'll keep on doing what I'm doing. But, I will do this with the awareness that I am doing it because it is what I am supposed to be doing as opposed to what I should be doing. Can you understand the difference? Really?

I won't be doing this because that is what an activist does to make good arguments, but because my little voice, my "line to the divine," the one who never lies, tells me that it is the right thing to do, what I am supposed to do. There is a big difference.

I have found my calling and perhaps my purpose in this life, but it is not who I am. It is just simply what I do. Just one of the many things that I do. Because that is what this is really all about - my living a better life and doing my part in making the world a better place.

What I used to do at that plant was not making this a better world - it was making it a worse one. Speaking out about what I saw there. Now that is making it a better world. See the difference now?
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