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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.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
with the stunner being turned down too low.
However, there was once a time that I
remember it being turned up way too high,
This all started when a group of us killers had
started complaining about this problem. When
we didn't get any results, and the problem got
steadily worse over a period of about two
months, I helped to stage a strike of sorts by
the killers. We all stayed at home that Sunday
night. I don't remember the exact year, but
Green Bay lost to Denver in the SuperBowl
game that night. ( I remember because I lost
money betting on Green Bay that night.)
Anyway, about the time for first break, I called
in and told Tyson why we were not there, then
set the phone down on the counter so that
they could not call us back all upset.
When we showed up for work the next night,
they were very upset. Jim, our superintendent
at the time, decided to get even, I suppose.
Around first break that night he cranked the
stunner all the way up. This was zapping the
eyeballs out of the chickens and burning their
legs to the bone where they met the shackles.
This happened to around 2200 birds, more or
less. (At 182 birds per minute x the 12 minutes
it takes for a problem to be noticed, this is 2184
This extra electricity also heated up the salt water
in the stunner so that the birds were having their
heads and necks dragged through water that was
hot enough to start steaming and making those
little bubbles that happen before water boils.
When I would grab the chickens that missed the
killing machine in order to cut their throats, their
feathers would come out in my hands and the
skin of their necks would stick to my cut glove.
(that Kevlar glove we had to wear to kill to keep
from cutting ourselves with the extra-sharp
killing knives) Toward the end, some of them
even started having their heads swell up before
they got to me and there was blood coming out
of their earholes and noseholes. There was also
a grayish fluid coming out their noses with the
blood that may have been their brains cooking
out of their heads. I am not sure, but they
were still kicking and flopping awfully hard.
They made noises, but I couldn't really say it
was sqawking. It sounded like what you might
expect a chicken clucking under water would
sound like or something. Kind of a eerie
gurgling sound. It really creeped me out.
I knew exactly when it happened because all
of a sudden when he cranked it up the
strength of the current hitting the chickens
caused their muscles to spasm really hard, so
the shackles started banging against the sides
of the stunner. And, of course, they also
banged against each other. I also noticed
that the water in the stunner started steaming
like a pot on a stove, so I knew what had
happened, especially when Jim came and stuck
his head in the door, looking all happy and
satisfied when he saw what was going on.
Then he took off, things went back to the way
they were, and he came in with Doc. Tyson
policy being what it was with regard to talking
to these guys (I explained it yesterday), I
couldn't tell him what had happened. He
couldn't come in there and ask me before Jim
got there, either. The only story he got to
hear was what Jim told him had happened.
And all I could do was stand there and shake
my head. Nothing new.
The timing was extremely important on this
because it takes 12 minutes for the chicken to
make it from back dock all the way to front-line.
That is how long it takes before something like
this is noticed. Jim turned it up and then went
from the motor room (where he turned up the
amperage on the stunner) to the chute that
the chickens fall down through onto front-line.
When he saw the first of them coming, he ran
back and turned the stunner back to where it
When the USDA vet (we called him Doc) came
back there to investigate what was going on
back there to make the chickens come out that
way, Jim said that he came around there and
found the stunner turned up on 19. Now, 19
is normal. That is the number we were trying
to get him to turn it up to. He was turning it
down to 12 and 13, most of the time. When
he turned it all the way up, he probably maxed
it out at around 30.
So, from then on, Doc said to run the stunner
on no more than 15. This does what killers call
"tickling" the chickens. It just sends them into
a panic. The killing machine can't get them
because they are flopping around and the killer
can't cut their throats, so they get scalded alive.
As long as Jim got his bonuses for production
and efficiency, he didn't care.
So, Jim won that one. We were all written up,
and one of the guys was even fired. Jim told
me that if I tried to organize employees like
that again that he not only would fire me, he
would make sure that I wouldn't work again in
this area. He said that he would put in my
personnel file that I was inciting riots at work
and ruin my chances at getting work ever again.
(I wonder what that file says about me now??!!
Well, I toned it down after that. I realized that
Jim was a sneaky little manipulator, and he
could do a lot of damage to me behind my back.
Also, it was the type of damage that no one
could retaliate against. I also had a new baby
at the time that I had to support, so I really
needed steady work.
I had just about forgotten about Jim. I have
been mostly talking about all the problems
that either started or got worse after Richard
came down there. Now that I have remembered
Jim, I am remembering a lot of things he did
when he wielded power down at that hellhole.
Richard Frasier is a bully, so that is one of
the main reasons I despised him so much. I
just can't stand the type of person who gets
their jollies and feeling of personal power from
pushing around others they consider to be
inferior to them. But Jim, although not
necessarily any better or worse of a person,
had different tactics. He was more of a
manipulator and fickle back-stabber. He was
the type of person to be the first to stand up
and take credit for something good that
happened and be always on the lookout for
scapegoats for everything that went bad.
In other words, they both fit in perfectly
there at Tyson. Just the kind of people that
upper management wants to drive the slaves
to keep producttion and profits up.
Tune in tomorrow for another story about
Jim's ways. I wonder which plant he is at
now and whose lives he is ruining?