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, September 30, 2003
But, they're "just" chickens
I couldn't tell you how many times I have
heard this phrase uttered. Many times it
is said by someone who considers themselves
to be a kind, compassionate person, too.
At least, as far as humans go. Well, maybe
dogs and cats, too. It depends on the person.
I received an email from someone who said
that he was concerned about the danger these
workers pose to other humans, but that he
couldn't bring himself to care about the chickens
themselves. In his own words, he says,
"Well, I do certainly understand that cruelty is
cruelty. I also have heard the phrase 'You can
tell the character of a man in the way that he
treats small animals and children' and agree
However, if there is cruel treatment going on
between men and animals, I would really only
be concerned for the humans. I mean, chickens
are nice and all, they're especially cute when they
are newly born, but they're just chickens.
It's like the fate of the farm chicken to live a sad,
short life and whose inevitable ending is to be
killed and eaten.
Chickens are just not people, and so my concern
for them only ranges from 'almost indifferent' to
Sadly, this attitude is very common, especially
in this area. Indeed, it is this mindset that
allows this kind of behavior to go unchecked. It
continues to grow and fester inside the person
committing the cruelty until the brutality crosses
over into their behavior toward other people.
Think about this: I have heard management
say, "They are just line workers. They are a dime
a dozen." Obviously they care even less about
the chickens processed every night. They don't
strike a single chord on the heartstrings of this
type of person. Before very long, there are no
strings left to strike a chord on. This is inhumanity.
This is also what happens when a person discounts
the suffering of anything by saying, "it is just"
anything. The list only grows longer with time.
It doesn't really matter much what species is
being cruelly abused and mistreated (well, except
to the particular creature suffering). I can agree
with the person that sent this email in that cruelty is
cruelty, no matter who or what it is directed toward.
It is wrong to assume that just because certain
species are raised and slaughtered for food, that
they don't have the right to be treated in a humane
manner. They are still feeling, somewhat intelligent
creatures that feel pain and bleed, just like us.
Society cannot afford to try to draw the line at
which species we allow to be treated in a cruel and
violent way. We have to realize that it does not
matter one bit what kind of creature it is that is
being treated wrong. The problem is that it happens
at all to any living creature.
"The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not
to hate them, but to be indifferent to them:
that's the essence of inhumanity." -----George Bernard Shaw
Most of the maintenance personnel down at
Tyson are actually competent workers, with
the exception of one or two (like most places),
and try to do their jobs the best they can.
But, there are not very many of them and the
ones that there are find themselves hamstrung
by company policy in many cases. This does
not allow for much preventative maintenance,
especially if it costs something.
The company and their supervisor will only
authorize something to be fixed after it breaks,
and often only if it affects the line - as in
stopping it altogether or simply slowing it
down. Often this leaves out things like
light switches, emergency stop switches on
machinery, the lights themselves in some
cases, and climate control devices - a/c and
All these create a dangerous environment
for both the workers and the chickens. Many
times this also makes the workers' jobs harder.
* Shackles will be left bent for days at a time.
* Light switches can shock you when you flick
the switch while you are standing in water
* Corrosion built up around the motor of a
fan coupled with bare wires in the back of it,
causing a fire in the motor.
* The hanging belt was constantly out of
* The stunner was always acting up, especially
because of the tendency for the ground wire
to become corroded and break, leaving the
* Hydraulic hoses broke 2-3 times per month
because of them not being replaced on time.
* They consistently left dangerous objects
laying around after finishing a project before
our shift came in (things like pieces of wire
left on the belt, pipe fittings, pipe, etc.)
Bent shackles are especially dangerous to
chickens and workers. With the bright lights
off and the black lights on, add to that the dust
level and constantly having something in your
eye(s), and visibility is not very good. When a
bent shackle comes around it can either entangle
a hanger or a chicken is hung in it. Since the
shackle is out of line with the rest of the shackles
it will leave that one chicken sticking out and get it
hung up on the chain guides ripping the bird in half.
A hanger may either hit himself on it or become
entangled in it. Either way it's not a pretty sight
and can be avoided. Some times I have reported
the same bent shackles 7 or 8 times before some-
thing was ever done about it.
Once when I turned on the black lights in the
hanging cage, sparks flew from the light
fixture and all the lights went out, just when
we were starting to hang the chickens. The
bad thing is that we had to work anyway. It
was 2 1/2 hrs. before they fixed the lights.
As difficult as that job is anyway, try doing it
in the dark. It was worse for the poor chickens
than it was for us because they got hung every
way but the right way in many cases. I think
the scalder probably killed as many during that
2 1/2 hrs. as the killer did.
The belt that we hung off of was fed its supply
of chickens from a machine called a dump. It
literally dumped cages of birds onto a pair of
conveyor belts, which were activated when you
activated the hanging belt. These 2 belts on the
dump had to be synchronized with each other
and turn only half as fast as the hanging belt.
Otherwise the hanging belt would become over-
loaded and birds would smother to death.
The adjustment ideally should have been made
by the lead hanger, who knew exactly what he
needed, but Richard had maintenance take over
adjustment of the whole apparatus because he
felt that we weren't dumping enough birds on
the line at one time and that that was why empty
shackles were going out. Naturally, maintenance
guys didn't know how to adjust the belt properly,
because they weren't hangers, so they just maxed
all 3 belts out. This ended up smothering hundreds
of birds a night and made it hard on the hangers
to pick them up because the birds were wilder,
Packed so tightly on the belt, they were afraid of
smothering and were trying to get off. When I
left down there, there was still a fight going on
over who should adjust the belts.
The stunner is a long vat filled with a salt water
solution that is electrified. When the chickens
pass through it, in theory, it shocks them into
insensibility and immobilizes them. I say "in
theory" because the whole time I worked down
there I could probably count on my fingers the
number of times it worked up to expectations.
You can blame it on a lot of reasons, but mostly
I believe, it was a lack of preventive maintenance
coupled with mismanagement, namely Richard's.
The killer was the one who should have been
allowed to set the stunner because he knew
whether it was doing its job or not. Richard
decided that he or maintenance knew more about
adjusting it then the man on the floor. You can
add to that the fact that maintenance wasn't even
allowed to use a 6 ft. piece of new electrical wire
without their supervisor's approval, who took his
orders from Richard. Even though anyone could
look and plainly see that the ground wire to the
stunner was broken, they would have to get an
approved work order before they could replace it.
This would take a minimum of 25-30 minutes.
All the while, there were chickens whistling through
there at 182+ per minute. Without a ground wire,
the stunner was worse than useless. Without the
chickens being so much as "tickled" (the term used
do describe the effect) they would be nearly jumping
from the shackles without very many being killed
by the killing machine.
Most of the time it would present such a dangerous
situation for the killer that he would be forced to
just back away from the line because, while the
stunner without a ground wire doesn't shock the
chickens very hard, it will shock the hell out of
anything or anyone near the outside of it. I was
twice shocked in this way, once seriously.
Now, if the chickens are missing the machine and
the killer cannot get close enough to slit their
throats to kill them, they go through the scalder
alive and conscious.
One of my biggest problems with the maintenance
situation down there was their lack of any pretense
of any preventive maintenance of the hydraulic
system. I might point out that our hydraulic
system's operating pressure was from 1200-1700 psi.
The normal operating temp. for the hydraulic fluid
was well above boiling temperature for water. And,
I would like to point out that the lead hanger (which
was usually me) worked within 6 in. of a nest of
hydraulic hoses. The same hydraulic hoses ran
underneath the feet of the dump operator. As far
as I can remember, maintenance never once changed
out a hydraulic line before it burst. You could clearly
see the deterioration day after day.
I once warned my supervisor for 2 weeks prior to a
hose rupturing. I pointed it out to him night after
night. Anyone could see it clearly separating from
its fitting and cracking down its entire length. When
it finally did rupture it put a 2 in. wide blister from
my hip to my knee. The stream cut clean through
my smock, apron, coveralls, and my jeans. Had I
not been dressed as warmly as I was I would have
gotten a nasty cut as well as a burn. This obviously
could have been avoided. And to top it all off, we
had to wring the necks of over 300 chickens because
they were soaked in hydraulic fluid so the USDA
would not let us run them.
Maintenance worked the shift just prior to ours from
around 2 p.m. until 9 p.m., with just a skeleton crew
on during the shift for emergency repairs. The crew
that worked the afternoon before our shift would
leave debris around on the floor and the belt. The
objects on the floor are particularly dangerous to the
hangers because we worked under such low visibility
conditions and could not see things laying on the floor.
It wasn't uncommon to have someone fall and hurt
themselves because of tripping over this stuff. Our
dump operator was an older guy, around 50 or so.
He once tripped on a piece of pipe and fell between 2
cages on the dump and ended up breaking his leg.
It was written up as an on-the-job accident, but it
could have easily been avoided.
Leaving debris on the belt was dangerous to both
hangers and chickens, especially if it was wire or cable.
I once knew of a guy getting his wrist dislocated
because a piece of wire got tangled up in a shackle
and around his hand at the same time. And it wasn't
uncommon to see where a chicken had gotten its head
stuck in a piece of PVC pipe, a pipe fitting, or some
other foreign object left on the belt, and die from it.
The point of all of this is that there are more problems
than just cruelty to chickens, bad working conditions,
and environmental damage. There is also the problem
of mismanagement, many times caused by someone
in authority on a power trip, wanting to control every-
thing without the practical experience and knowledge
necessary to make some decisions. Throw into the
mix the dangling of bonuses for production and
keeping expenses down, and you have a recipe that
just begs for mismanagement, violations, and
cover-ups. There is no incentive to conduct business
in a responsible manner, just a profitable one.
I guess that leaves it to society to create these
incentives ourselves. Vote with your wallet. Buy
only from companies whose practices and policies
you agree with. There is a lot of competition for
your money out there. With a minimal amount of
research you can make a sound decision on who
to do business with.
I figured I would wrap up this horror series
(thank goodness - this hasn't been fun to
remember and talk about - too many haunting
images in my mind) with a list of things that
happened through the years, but weren't so
common. The worst thing about them was
that they happened at all and show the depths
to which people can sink. Also, even worse, is
the fact that they could get away with it.
One night someone had the bright idea to line
up about a dozen chickens on the belt. They
were pretty sick and couldn't struggle very much.
He shoved each chicken's head up the butt of the
chicken in front of it. Since this action made for
such a tight fit, the chickens couldn't pull their
We went back in there to hang them after a break
and I picked up the first chicken, not noticing this
because the chickens are stuffed together on the
belt so tight, anyway, They were still barely alive,
(maybe some were dead from suffocation) and
some other people hung some of them. Most of
them were bleeding from their butts, so I'm sure
it hurt them quite a bit. And it surely can't have
been much fun to have their heads enclosed in
another chicken's butt.
I remember another time we went back from
break and someone had gone in there at break
time when the line was stopped. They hung
about 20 chickens by their wings instead of by
their feet. When the line started back up, before
we could get it shut back off again, most of them
had run through the killing machine and had their
feet cut off. With no feet, they couldn't be rehung
on the line, so most of them got thrown in the
DOA dumpster still alive (and we all know what
happens to the ones in there). A lot of them also
had their wings snatched off by the killer and the
utility guy that ran in the killing room to pull them off.
Whoever had done this might have gotten in some
trouble for doing this since it stopped the line,
but nobody knew and he never got caught.
Sometimes people would intentionally hang chickens
by their heads because the guy on the end of the
line had to snatch them off and rehang them right.
They thought it was a great prank to pull. Usually
the guy on the end of the line would just hang the
feet without taking out the head because it was
Those were almost sure to be scalded
alive because the killer couldn't get to their throats
to cut them and the shackle wouldn't squeeze their
throats enough to strangle them.
One night a guy on the end of the line got really
aggravated and picked up a piece of pipe about
2 ft. long (a 3/4" piece of galvanized steel hot
water line that maintenance had inadvertently
left in the floor after replacement that night).
He started whacking the chickens' heads off with
it like a baseball bat because one of them shit
in his face. The heads would travel across the
room and hit the wall about 10 ft. away and just
splatter like tomatoes against the wall. He did
about 10-15 birds that way. It was the worst
display of loss of control I ever saw down there.
And, of course, there were the dry ice bombs I
have already mentioned. We will finally wrap up
this disgusting thread of talk. I am probably
even more glad about this than you are. But I
felt it had to be said. These problems still exist
because no one has spoken up about them.
Speak up about this and stop it, please. The Polk
County prosecutor's information is here:
The Honorable Tim Williamson, Prosecuting Attorney
Polk County Prosecutor's Office
P.O. Drawer 109, 600 Port Arthur St.
Mena, AR 71953
First off, I need to mention something. I
wrote before about an issue over at Chief
Wiggles blog (the US Intel Officer in Iraq).
I have put up 2 buttons here 1) to write
about the generals I described (very, very
important they be released), and 2) a toy
drive for Iraqi children (they also need
school supplies - his site explains what
some of the appropriate items are). Please
click on the buttons for more info. This
is a worthy cause that will bring joy and
goodwill to some very deserving Iraqis.
Now, we will switch gears and get down
to another serious problem a little closer
to home. "Culling the runts" should be
fairly self-explanatory. It is simply the
process of killing the chickens that did
not develop properly, and are smaller
and not desirable for meat.
There is a myriad of reasons why they
don't grow as fast as the other chickens.
Some have medical problems and would
have probably died anyway, but a lot of
them just don't react to the growth
hormones the way the others do. They
simply look like what you would expect a
normal 9-week-old chicken to look like.
I snuck a few out of there once and took
them home to raise myself. They developed
into normal chickens given the normal
amount of time to develop.
Tyson had a policy of destroying them in
the hanging cage. They should have been
euthanized humanely before they were sent
over to be ground up into chicken feed, but
they were anything but humanely euthanized.
Standard policy was to just throw them in
the dumpster alive. This is the same one
that the DOAs went in. Several times a night
a forklift would come by and pick it up and
set down a new one. The ones they carried
away went to the augur where the chickens
were ground up, the runts being ground alive.
This wasn't enough for some of the workers
around there. They had to get a little more
creative about it. One of the things they did
was to take a step back off the line with one
and chunk it into the exhaust fans over our
heads. The exhaust fan would pulverize it
and sling it back as a mush into the person's
face who was standing directly below it.
(Ha ha ha! Real funny, huh? Sick.) This was
fun since it would totally freak out a new person
who is standing there on the line, trying to hang
their chickens and suddenly gets a face full of
blood, guts, feathers, and shit.
Another thing I have seen them do to them is
to throw them against the wall as hard as they
could. It would leave a big bloody smear on the
wall. I fail to see how this is amusing, but it
seemed to give them a real thrill, anyway.
The third, and last, way that they would cull
a runt was also the most common. They simply
pulled its head off and threw it on the floor to
watch it flop. Sadly enough, this was probably
the most humane way, but still a bit sick for
the reason behind it. It wasn't that they were
trying to be humane, they just wanted to watch
it flop and sling blood everywhere. It was
especially common for them to do it and throw
the chicken behind a new person. The bird would
flop up and bounce against the backs of their legs.
They would turn around and look and see a head-
less bird flopping around, spraying blood all over
them. I think this would be quite an upsetting
thing to happen to anybody, but especially some-
body who had never been in the hanging cage
before. It was always great fun to mess with
the new people. What can they do?
There would be several hundred runts a night,
and management didn't care, since they were
to be culled anyway.
I am a member of a Yahoo! group called
Animal Rights Debate where people from
both sides of the issue come to discuss the
issues of rights, welfare, and use of animals.
One of the members asked me, "How much
testing has been done with Argon?" in reply
to my answer to her about whether there
was a humane way to kill chickens. I had
told her that gas-stunning is being used in
Europe. It is better, not only for the chickens,
but also for the workers.
Since this commercially viable possibility exists,
we should employ it here, too. I had not
heard of such a practice before Cem told me
that he had been doing some research into the
idea. I brought this up to some people who
still work down at the plant, and they would
love to see it implemented. You should have
seen their faces light up with joy at the idea
of making their job so much better.
So, Lisa, here is the answer I would have
posted on the forum, but I felt it was too long
for that and also deserved posting here:
The following is taken from a position paper
written by Cem Akin at PETA, who was the
researcher assigned to my case. (He has shown
himself to be a very educated person that care
about the truth. He made sure that I could back
up every pieces of information that we used. I
have never seen any attempt by him to skew the
truth. I trust his research because of his track
record of displaying consistent honesty and truth)
The words are his, but the emphasis is mine:
Research has shown that the use of 90%
argon in air with less than 2% residual oxygen
is the most humane and least aversive mixture
for killing poultry. A study comparing different
types of mixtures found that the argon mixture
is "acceptable on humanitarian grounds" and
that "chickens can be ideally be killed in batches
by inducing anoxia...with 90% argon...in air.
(A.B.M. Raj, 1994)
While CO2 has been shown to bee highly aversive
to humans (N. G. Gregory, A. B. Mohan Raj,
A.R.S. Audsley, and C.C. Daly, "Effects of Carbon
Dioxide on Man," in "The Use of Carbon Dioxide
for the Stunning of Slaughter Pigs,"
Fleischwirtschaft 70 :1173-4) and birds
when inhaled, argon is an inert gas and is not
readily detected, thus can be used to create a
non-aversive atmosphere where birds die
painlessly. In one study, researchers observed
that 100% of hens tested entered a feeding
chamber filled with 90% argon voluntarily and
were killed by the gas, while fewer than half even
set foot into a chamber containing CO2. (A.B.M.
Raj, 1994) Other research looking into poultry
gassing, particularly for turkeys, found that
"because argon is an inert gas with no taste or
odor, most of the turkeys did not detect its
presence, and they didn't show any signs of
respiratory discomfort before they lost
consciousness," whereas others displayed
discomfort via head shaking and gasping with a
mixture containing CO2. (A.B.M. Raj 1996)
Clearly, the use of an anoxia-inducing mixture
of 90% argon in air with less than 2% residual
oxygen results in great welfare improvements
over other methods of killing or stunning poultry,
including reduced stress during unloading,
shackling, and stunning, and a reduced risk of
prestun shocks and being conscious during neck-
cutting and scalding. The residual oxygen level,
however, must be carefully maintained at less
than 2% to ensure rapid brain function loss,
as several researchers have found that trapped
air between birds or crates can raise the residual
oxygen to levels than can prevent proper
stunning. Also, in order to ensure that recovery
to consciousness does not occur, it is crucial
that the birds be killed by the gas before being
shackled. Studies examining the batch tunning
of chickens using the various gas concentrations
found that many birds rapidly regained
consciousness, suggesting that gas stunning
may be unsuitable on welfare grounds.
Researchers have recommended that "birds
should be killed rather than stunned by the
stunning gases" and that this "will not only
obviate the recovery of consciousness, but
subsequent operations such as uncrating and
shackling of the birds and neck cutting would be
performed more easily on the dead and hence
relaxed carcasses." (A.B.M. Raj, and N.G. Gregory,
"Investigations Into the Batch Stunning/Killing
of Chickens Using Carbon Dioxide or Argon-
Induced Hypoxia," Research in Veterinary Science,
49 : 366.) In order to improve upon
the deficiencies of electrical stunning, the use of
gas methods must kill the birds, rather than
merely stun, thus reducing the likelihood of
regaining consciousness during slaughter.
In addition to the welfare benefits, gas killing
provides producers with improved carcass
quality when compared to electrical stunning,
the latter of which is "frequently criticized on
both bird welfare and meat quality grounds."
(A.B.M. Raj, L.J. Wilkins, R,I. Richardson,
S.P. Johnson, and S.B. Wotton, "Carcass
and Meat Quality in Broilers Either Killed With
a Gas Mixture or Stunned With an Electric
Current Under Commercial Conditions," British
Poultry Science (in press), (1997): p. 169)
Researchers at the University of Bristol looked
at carcasses of gas-stunned vs. electrically
stunned broilers and concluded that incidence
of broken bones and breast muscle
hemorrhaging would be "substantially reduced
by gas-killing of broilers," (Ibid, p. 173.)
In addition, the study found that gassing also
results in a more rapid pH fall after the killing
than with electrical stunning, thus enabling
early filleting. A study published in the
Veterinary Record also compared carcasses
from the two stunning methods and stated
that "the advantages of gaseous stunning
include improved meat quality, fewer broken
bones, and less muscle hemorrhaging,"
(A.B.M. Raj, and N.G. Gregory, "Effiency of
Bleeding of Broilers After Gaseous or Electrical
Stunning," Veterinary Record, 128 :127.)
The authors also looked into the concern that
gas-stunned birds do not have as good a
bleed-out rate as electrically stunned birds and
found that after 1 minute, the differences were
"not sufficient to impede the bleeding efficiency
of broilers." (Ibid, p. 128.) Another study at
the University of Bristol in the U.K. found that
"Gaseous stunning of broilers produced relatively
better quality carcasses and meat than electrical
stunning and therefore may have commercial
advantages." (A.B.M. Raj, T.C. Grey, and N.C.
Gregory, "Effect of Electrical and Gaseous
Stunning on the Carcass and Meat Quality of
Broilers," British Poultry Science, 31 : 725.)
Yet another reason that gas killing improves
carcass quality results from the tendency of
a chicken to inhale water during the initial
spasm from being electrically shocked. A
recent study examined this by including a
radioisotope in the stun bath and then looking
at carcasses to determine whether or not
internal radioactivity was detected. The results
clearly showed that "chickens can and do inhale
water during electrical stunning in a water bath
and that no remedy is available at the moment."
N.G. Gregory, and P.E. Whittington, "Inhalation
of Water During Electrical Stunning in Chickens,"
Research in Veterinary Science, 53 :362.)
The authors suggest that the respiratory tract
could thus become contaminated with bacteria
from the stun bath and leak onto the edible
portions of the carcass during evisceration.
I hope everyone enjoyed the break from the
gruesome today. As hard as it is for you to read
about this stuff, it is even harder on me to have
to talk about it, especially with all those pictures
in my head of what it actually looked like, smelled
like, heard like, felt like.....
Here, today, there is hope. This would definitely
be a win-win situation for everyone down the line.
The chickens, the workers, the consumers, and
even the activists - welfare or rights, all benefit.
This is another of the evil, sadistic
"amusements" certain individuals thought
was a good practical joke to play on new-
Simply put, they would tie the chicken's
legs together in a square knot, and I don't
mean by using a piece of rope. I mean that
they tied their legs in a knot.
In order to do this, they would dislocate the
chicken's legs at the hips and knees (hocks).
Then loop one leg over the other across their
stomach, and pull it tight. Then they would
break both legs and loop them back through
each other a 2nd time to form a square knot.
When the new-hire picked the chicken up and
tried to hang it, it would be total bedlam since
he could not get the legs untied. He would
have no idea what had happened, so he would
usually end up throwing it on the floor and
grabbing another chicken to hang real quick.
Of course, that would injure the bird even
worse. It wasn't gently laid there, but thrown.
I have picked up these birds before and untied
their legs. The bones inside their legs felt like
a sack of broken glass. They would usually be
bleeding in several places where the bones would
break through the skin.
I can't explain to you how it made me feel to see
something like that. I still had to hang it anyway
and hope its 8-second ride to the killing machine
was quick. If I hadn't picked them up and hung
them anyway, they would have had to lay on the
floor like that all night until they died.
This was a pretty common practice since they
liked to pull it on new people. We always had a
fresh supply of those.
For the next several posts I want to discuss
different methods of torture that were
performed by specific individuals on a regular
basis for amusement and/or sport.
This post is about "shit fights."
I would say that the individuals participating
in these events considered it a sport. It was
an ugly little game that ended up seriously
injuring and/or killing a lot of chickens in a
Since it was a pretty involved and time-
consuming endeavor, it was usually practiced
in the times when we were broken down and
weren't going to be running for at least an hour
or so. For this reason, upper management
cannot claim that they didn't know about it.
A breakdown that would stop a line would
draw all the supervisors, superintendents, and
maintenance people in the plant at the time.
They just chose to ignore it instead of
addressing the problem.
The way this was played out was to try to get
as much shit on your opponent as you could.
The way you did that was to grab up a chicken
and hold it in the palm of one hand, aim it in
the general direction of your target, and then,
with the fist of your other hand, hit the chicken
in the small of the back just below where the
wings hinge to the backbone as hard as you
can. This will squirt shit across the room for
about 4-5 ft. It will also squirt blood out of
the chicken's mouth and rectum. I have seen
it actually split one's belly open with its guts
running out between the guy's fingers.
Some chickens wouldn't squirt on the first hit,
so they would hit them a couple of more times.
Since a chicken was only good for 1 squirt
anyway, the idea was to grab 1, squirt it, then
grab another one as fast as you could to squirt
your opponent. Sometimes there would be
3 or 4 guys involved at once, although I have
seen as many as 5. It would go on for 10-15
minutes - however long they could last until
their arms got tired or until someone got so
much shit on him that he backed out. That
was considered a loss - the idea being to be
the last man standing.
Often before the game would begin, each of
the participants would ante up a dollar or two.
Then the last man standing would take the
pot. Naturally, when this occurred, there
was more of a desire to win, so the little "game"
would usually go on longer.
Most of the time this doesn't kill the chicken
right away. Therefore, the supervisors really
didn't see anything wrong with it because
they didn't realize exactly how much damage
was being done (or chose not to care). The
chicken was runnable and could be passed
on to the next department anyway.
The problem with this is pretty obvious. The
chicken is not dead, but I couldn't imagine
how much pain it must be in, considering its
back was broken, and more than likely most
of its ribs. But, it was still runnable.
I did tell a supervisor at the time by the name
of Rick Hall. He told me that if they weren't
squirting shit on me, then don't worry about
it. I ended up getting physical with one guy
that was doing it and got written up for it.
I was told that if I put my hands on another
employee, I would be fired. So, there wasn't
much I could do to stop it. No one cared.
This particular "sport" was not practiced as
frequently as some of the other forms of
unnecessary regular torture, but it was one
of the more brutal ones. And it steadily
reoccurred the entire time I worked there.
This happened about once or twice a month,
whenever we broke down. But the fact that
it happened at all is what is intolerable.
In the heat of the summer is the time
of year when the conditions are the
worst for working back dock The days
are long and hot, and the catchers
start well before dark. It could still be
hovering close to 100F outside, but in
the hanging cage it would be another
15 degrees hotter, with an increase of
at least 10% humidity.
Everyone drags themselves in to work
for another night. The workers' faces
look like they are walking dead, and no
one is looking forward to the night.
Everybody gathers in the back dock
break room at about 8:35 p.m. Every-
one is pushing and shoving in the little
room, trying to get their gear on.
You have to wear a smock, full-length
plastic apron (from chin to toes), knee-
high rubber boots, and 2 pairs of gloves -
rubber over cloth. If you are lucky, you
also get a pair of sleeve guards to protect
your arms from the ammonia burns.
You hear the truck pull up and the super
hollers, "FORKLIFT!" That means the forklift
driver is on deck, ready to start unloading
the cages onto the dump. Then the super
hollers, "DUMP!" The dump operator turns
on his machine and dumps 3 cages onto the
belt - about 900 chickens. (In the winter
there would be twice that many.)
Every time a cage goes over, the dust rises
up so thick you can barely see the cage the
chickens came out of. Up with the dust comes
the smell - at least the first of the real smell.
It smells like death.
Then the super hollers, "STAND ON THE LINE!"
You have about 30 seconds to go. You walk
to the front of the belt and hit the lever to
run the chickens up to where you and the
other 6 people are standing directly over them.
You hear the big motors start up (there are 2
electric motors about the size of VWs). The
line is running. The smell is atrocious and the
chickens are panicking. Many of them are
squawking loudly, some are just sitting there
trembling. Sometimes you catch one looking
up at you, eye to eye, and you know it's
(I have seen the look on men's faces as they
go into battle for the first time. It looks the
same as the look in that chicken's eyes. No
one can convince me that that chicken did not
know what was about to happen.)
The super walks out and Troy yells, "HANG 'EM!"
For the next 2 1/2 hours you are "married" to
that line. You better hope you don't have to
go to the bathroom. Your night has begun.
The job description says you are expected to
hang 26 birds/minute - 1/7th of the line,
approximately at 182-186/minute.
Within the first hour, your hands are getting
sore. By then, the dust is so thick, you can
actually feel it settle on your eyes. You don't
dare breathe through your mouth. You clench
your jaw and breathe through your nose.
You reach down, looking at that chicken on the
belt. You know your shackle is coming. You
have exactly enough time to reach down and
pick your chicken up before your shackle gets
to you. You reach down and grab it by the
wing or the head to spin it around to face you.
Then, to make sure it doesn't move while you
are grabbing it to hang it, you put one hand on
its head and push its head down against the belt.
That will make it try to jump up to get away from
you and it will extend its legs. Then you catch its
leg between your first 2 fingers and slide them all
the way down until the back of your hand touches
its foot. You put your thumb on its hock and
bend its leg backward until it's hyper-extended,
while you close your hand around its leg at the
thigh. As you snatch it up off the belt, you grab
its other leg the same way. You glance at the
line and identify your shackle. When it gets within
reach of you, you slap your chicken all the way
to the bottom of it. Then go for the next one
and hope you have been fast enough.
You must do this a minimum of 26 times every minute. If you don't keep up, you will be, at
first sternly reprimanded, then sent home.
If you are unfortunate to get caught on the
end of the line, and you are experienced, you
are also expected to catch all the empty
shackles the new hires miss, plus your own.
You are also responsible for the "one-leggers,"
"high-hangs," (when the chicken has not been
pulled to the bottom of the shackle - you have
to pull down on its wings real hard), and "wing
hangs" (when its wing is trapped in the shackle -
you grab the wing and pull).
If you are hanging lead, you have to keep the
belt running in addition to hanging you shackle.
This means, sometimes, you will get a pile of
chickens in front of you. There will be an empty
spot on the belt down the line where the dump
operator was slow to get a cage dumped. So,
you grab the big pile of birds you have and sling
them at the people who have none - while running
the belt and hanging your shackle.
Only the absolute, most experienced hangers
even have a chance at doing this job. If you
are doing it and screw up - it doesn't matter
why, it's your fault.
After 2 1/2 hours of this, you get a 30-minute
break. This includes the time it takes to take
off all your gear and wash up. There is one
sink for everybody. You have to clean up
before begin allowed to enter the part of the
plant where the vending machines and tables
are, which is all the way around the other side
of the complex. It usually takes 10-15 minutes
to get around there. So, if you grab your stuff
and eat it on the way back, you have enough
time before you have to gear back up and go at
it all over again for another 2 1/2 hours.
By second break, you are what they call "galded"
by the ammonia. The dust containing the
ammonia not only leaves burns, but also chafes
your skin. The dust is probably 75% chicken
manure dried to a powder. Every time the
chickens flap their wings in front of you and
fight the shackles, they create clouds of it.
Did I also mention your eyes are burning like
hell? Oh, yeah, forgot that part of it. It's
not uncommon to have nose bleeds, either.
Usually the 2nd round was when people would
usually start getting frustrated. It wasn't
uncommon for the next 2 1/2 hours to see
some real evil things go on.
I have seen people grab a chicken by its legs
and beat it against the belt until they ripped
it in half, usually because it shit in their face.
If you are dumb enough to open your mouth
to talk to someone (and almost all newbies
wanted to talk) you will get a shot right inside
your mouth. Yes, I've swallowed some in my
time. It's unavoidable sometimes. It's kind of
gritty, like Metamucil, and tastes kind of salty.
It's gross, but it's part of the job.
After the 2nd break (2:20 a.m.-2:50 a.m.) you
go again until the chickens run out, which is
usually around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Then, it's
finally over - you can go home and fall into bed.
Can you believe I did this for years?????
They always have openings if anyone is
interested. Starting pay is $6.85/hr. for night
shift, $6.55/hr. for days+benefits. They
usually hire a whole new crew every summer.
If they made it through one summer, they
usually won't go back for another one. No?
This is a copy of another statement that
was sent to the sheriff's office along with
the first one I described in my intoductory
post that you can find all over the web now.
"One-legger" is the term used to describe
a chicken that has accidentally been hung
in a shackle by only one leg. The person in
the killing room is under orders from their
supervisor (mine was Ed Taylor, who passed
on these orders from Richard Frasier) to get
these birds off the line any way possible. The
fastest way to accomplish this is to cut the
chicken's leg off at the hock because the birds
are going by in excess of 182 per minute. After
they do this the killer doesn't have time to finish
killing the horribly wounded chickens because
of trying to keep up with all the rest that the
stunner and killing machine miss. Consequently,
these chickens lay on the floor in a pile, where
the killer has thrown them, to slowly bleed to
death or die of shock. Some of them will try to
flop back out in the floor and get kicked back i
nto the corner. I have personally seen this
happen six or more times to the same chicken
before it finally bled to death.
One-leggers can pose a very real danger to
the person in the killing room if they are left
on the line. The killer's knife is between 7" to
8" long and is razor sharp. I, and others, have
received many cuts to our hands and wrists
from the killing knives because of the fight
that the one-leggers put up to save
themselves. In order to cut birds’ necks, the
killer has to reach out and grab the chicken by
the head, put his thumb on the inside of its
beak, and with his pointer finger behind its
neck, he rotates his hand to pull the neck
tight, all while the chicken is flopping around.
With the one leg loose, a one legger can kick
the knife and usually drive the blade right into
the killer's wrist.
Because of this danger and the damage
done by the machinery to the one-leggers,
Richard Frasier decided to have the back-dock
hangers start pulling the one-leggers off the
line any way possible. The hanger on the end
of the line has the responsibility of making
sure no one-leggers enter the killing room.
Since he has no knife and no time to gently
pull the chicken out or hang the free leg, the
hanger was told to grab the chicken at the
base of its wings, one hand on each wing, and
pull straight down, ripping the chicken out of
the shackle. Most of the time the chicken will
separate at the weakest point, which is where
the thigh attaches to the body. Then it is
thrown into a heap behind the hangers on the
floor, where they are left to bleed to death.
The chicken will take anywhere from a few
minutes to several hours to die, depending
on the amount of damage done.
I would estimate that anywhere from
200-1500 birds a night have this happen to
them. The average number is around 200-400.
I have seen over 1500 suffer this way in one
night, when there was a higher ratio of
inexperienced workers on the line.
Thee worst thing about this is that it is
standard practice (and legal, as far as I know).
This is something else we are trying to stop.
It's unnecessary and cruel. This is the kind
of cruelty you support if you eat Tyson chicken.
There are many other options. Send a
message with your purchases. Vote with
your dollars. We are making progress. We
can change things if we all work together.
I came across an article yesterday
about an Italian man who was
arrested for taking his pet chicken
for a walk in a Dutch town.
When residents called police to
tell them about this, the cops
thought it was a joke, but they
got there and this guy was walking
his pet chicken.
They arrested him, confiscated
and killed his chicken, even though
he protested, did not believe the
cops, and even complained to the
Italian embassy in Amsterdam.
Why would this happen?!! Turns
out, there have been outbreaks
of a poultry virus all over Holland
and Blegium. To make it worse,
the strain jumped to humans,
infecting more than 80 people and
killing one vet.
I decided to try to find out more
about this, given yesterday's post
that had me wondering how long
it might be before this might happen.
Especially since I, and so many
others at Tyson, were repeatedly
getting sick when sick chickens
The avian flu spilled over into Belgium
from the Netherlands, where it has
devastated the poultry industry. Since
the disease's discovery in February,
Dutch farmers have culled 15 million
birds out of a total population of 100
million. The export ban alone is costing
the Dutch poultry industry an estimated
€2 million ($2.2 million) a day."
This is when the vet died from pneumonia
two days after working on a farm where
bird flu infections had been discovered.
At first they tried to say that this guy's
immune system was already weakened
by another virus, however large amounts of
the bird flu had been found in the man's
lungs, but no other viruses that could have
caused his death. They also found it in
pigs on five farms.
What was really interesting to me about
this was that at that time the spread of this
had made people fear that this epidemic
could spread like SARS.
But officials from the World Health
Organization said the bird flu had little in
common with SARS and there was no
evidence that it could transfer to humans.
Six people died in Hong Kong in 1997
from an outbreak of a bird virus.
In Holland, health officials also sought to
assuage public fears the bird flu had
mutated into something that could easily
spread among humans. "We now know
there's no mutation of the virus, we know
for sure that the vet died of the original
bird flu. It's very good to know that," Dutch
Health Ministry spokesman Bas Kuik told
the news agency Reuters.
Why would this be comforting? It
seems to me that this fact would
make it more scary. It doesn't have
to mutate to kill you?! But, of course,
it was the vet's fault he died.
Both the Dutch and Belgian
governments have stepped up
human flu and bird flu vaccination
efforts for workers who come into
regular contact with fowl that could
be affected by the illness. In addition
to the vet, some workers culling the
birds have reported eye-infections
and flu symptoms.
Wow, we suffered the same at
Tyson. They were telling us that
we couldn't catch anything the
chickens had, too. Surely they
would not have lied to us......
Kuik even suggested on Tuesday
the vet's death might have been
prevented if he had obtained a
vaccination. "If he had taken his anti-
virals he probably wouldn't have died.
It's pretty bad when you have to
vaccinate yourself against your food!
I read a couple of interesting articles yesterday that came in my PlanetSave
newsletter. But what interested me most
was that the related developments were
written about on the same day and the
articles appeared on the same page together.
The first one was entitled "Vermont groups
win federal grant to turn farm waste into
A coalition of Vermont groups has
won a $747,000 federal grant to build
technology that would convert manure
from small farms into methane gas.
If small farms could convert waste to
cheap, green energy, not only would
they manage their waste streams but
(they) will be more independent and
financially secure,'' said Dr. Guy Roberts
of the Intervale Foundation.
The foundation will use the funding from
the U.S. Department of Agriculture and
Department of Energy to build an anaerobic
digester to turn cow manure into energy
that could heat greenhouses and fuel
generators and refrigerators...
...The actual size of the pipes would be
roughly 30 feet long and five feet wide with
few moving parts. As the manure slowly
flows through pipes, the organisms living
in it convert the waste into methane. The
end product could be used to fertilize crops
because the processed manure has a high
concentration of nutrients. Anaerobic
digesters already are used on 30 large farms
with 300 cows or more in the United States...
...the Intervale model would convert waste
from small farms that have 45 cattle...
Then, right below that was an article about
the fact that "California has eradicated Exotic
Newcastle Disease...that paralyzes and kills
all bird species."
California is the country's No. 3 egg producer.
More than half the state's 12 million egg-laying
hens are in the quarantine zone. In 2001,
Riverside County led the state in production
with an egg crop valued at $56 million.
Newcastle disease ravaged California's poultry
industry in the 1970s, costing millions of
dollars to eradicate. It can be transmitted
through feces, feed, cages and other materials,
and can become airborne.
This time, California spent $160 million to
eradicate the disease, using thousands of
veterinarians from the state, federal government
and Baja California, Mexico. About 3.1 million
birds statewide were destroyed.
U.S. Agriculture Department officials believe
farm workers who keep cockfighting roosters
infected with Exotic Newcastle spread it to
egg farms. The infection can be carried on
people's clothing and shoes.
The federal government spent $11.5 million
from October to May to destroy 144,000
birds characterized as game fowl.
Hmmm... Maybe there is an Earth-friendly
way to deal with this issue after all. It
would be great news indeed if they could
prevent all those unnecessary cruel deaths
of the chickens (I mean, they have to suffer
a bit when they get sick) as well as some
of the pollution they churn out and turn
it into energy at the same time. Plus, how
long do you suppose it would take for
Newscastle to mutate somehow and start
infecting humans? These places breed
super-germs. It already mutated to become
air-borne. This is too similar to SARS...
This is a term that realy bothers me. This
is a new term that the law and anti-AR
people are using to justify stepped-up
campaigns against groups of people who
are trying to promote changes in society.
There have been efforts to stop lawful
protests with this term. Before this,
somebody that set a fire was simply
an arsonist. That is not the same thing
as terrorism. Neither is protesting
outside of someone's home or office.
Painting someone's car is vandalism,
not terrorism. Making threatening
phone calls is harassment, or at the
worst, simple assault. That is not
Suicide bombings are terrorism.
Blowing up buildings with little kids
inside is terrorism. Releasing animals
is criminal mischief. Blowing up an
empty building is still not terrorism.
It may be considered a crime, but these
people are not terrorists. These people
still have civil rights.
I also detest the usage of 9/11 by either
side for promoting their own agenda. It
was an act of terrorism. This should be
used to rally the American people together,
not split them apart.
While some factual statements may have
been made regarding this issue, I feel it
was in poor taste to do it. That is not
the way to convince people to listen to
your side of things, no matter the truth
of the argument.
The issue at hand of animal suffering
is bad, even horrible, but the facts speak
for themselves. There is no sense in
evoking this tragedy to make a point.
There is no connection between those
deaths and animal rights.
Yes, the people who died won't be eating
any more meat, but I seriously doubt every
one of them did so. These people certainly
will not have the opportunity to help
Let's stick to the issue at hand, people.
It is not necessary to exploit this tragedy
for any personal gain or for the gain of
any group. I was upset at all the money
made by companies playing on people's
patriotism by selling products with flags
on them, too. Coffee mugs and T-shirts
and bumper stickers. Come on.
It belittles the deaths of these people to
either make money from the tragedy or
to invoke them to prove an unrelated point.
Behind every fight for rights, every cause
that worked for change, there have always
been those considered "extremists." This
works on both sides of every issue.
Prior to the Civil War, there were people
like John Brown, who committed violent
acts in the name of ending slavery. In the
fight for civil rights, there were the militant
Black Panthers. In the fight for animal rights,
you have direct action advocates.
However, on the other side of the fence, you
have organizations like the KKK and the type
of people who consider it their God-given
right to exploit and kill those that they feel
are beneath them and only put on the face
of this Earth for exploitation in whatever
cruel ways they decide, whether for necessity
or just because they believe it is fun (like those
evil people who set cats on fire because they
hate them, throw animals in a pit to watch
them fight, etc.).
The rest of the people fall somewhere in
between. You have some people who will
not acknowledge that animals have any rights
at all, yet they do concede that animals should
be treated in a humane manner up until the
point that they are exploited in whatever
manner - food, experimentation, fur coats.
Isn't the very idea that these animals deserve
to be treated humanely defined as a "right?"
Extremists, whether or not you agree with
their tactics, do actually have some benefit
to any cause. They make the rest of society
take a look at what is so wrong with the
status quo that a certain segment of people
feels the need to take drastic, even violent
measures to stop it.
Take the situation in San Francisco where
ALF vandals did about $60,000 worth of
damage to a business designed to specialize
in foie gras. That story made the front page
of the San Francisco Chronicle and generated
quite a bit of discussion on the issue. Before
this action, there were many people who had
no idea how foie gras was made to be on their
plates. This was rarely covered in the media.
Instead, you mostly saw articles discussing
how tasty it was and who prepared it best.
Whether or not you agree with the tactics of
this group, they did accomplish their goal of
putting the facts of this issue before the eyes
of the unsuspecting public who were ignorantly
enjoying this "delicacy." Once people were
made aware, they started complaining and
some chefs started pulling it off the menu.
Those who stood to gain from the continued
exploitation had before consistently played
down, even denied, the cruelty toward these
ducks. They had everything to gain from
misleading the public about exactly how
cruel this practice is. They would have us
believe that these tubes are just kinda put
into the ducks mouths and these ducks
are just happy gluttons swallowing it all
You cannot argue with a video, showing
barrels of dead ducks who did not survive
this kind of treatment long enough for their
livers to make it onto someone's plate. The
same goes for the ones who were barely
alive, so weak that they were unable to
defend themselves against rats that were
eating them alive.
It is very hard to argue that shoving
a tube all the way down the throat of a duck
and pumping up to 1 lb. of corn into them
is humane and the right thing to do just
because it makes their liver taste good. This
argument would also be hard to make if
people realized how many of the ducks'
throats were perforated by these long,
thick metal tubes thereby ensuring great
pain and suffering.
Never mind that activists have been telling
people about this issue for quite a long
time. People dismiss many of them as
being fanatics and will not listen. It is
said that a picture is worth a thousand
words. Obviously, a video is worth many
Industry advocates are masters at lying
and manipulating the public. People want
to hear that animals live happy, carefree
lives up until the moment they are killed
for their dinners. They want to hear that
just as much as they want to hear that
these animals are killed quickly and cleanly
so that the animals do not suffer.
Sadly, this is not the case, as many
advocates for animals have been pointing
out for years. Each side can always find
some scientist, some expert, somewhere,
that will back up their claims with a very
carefully collected bunch of statistics and
studies backing up their point of view.
But when you are seeing images of true
suffering, you cannot argue with the facts.
Even though many people call these individuals
terrorists, fanatics, and extremists, their
tactics do work to some extent.
If the public had been listening to the facts
that had been presented in a nice, rational
manner, and heeded this information, thus
stopping the practice, these people would
not have felt the need to "scream" so loudly
to wake the public up to what is going on.
I am not trying to advocate violence or
urging anyone to go bomb a building or set
a fire, even to release thousands of animals
that may wreak havoc on a community. The
point I am trying to make here is that, if
people were not so gullible, accepting the
self-serving explanations of the industry,
this group of people would not have felt the
need to expose the practice in such a dramatic
The same goes for the ad campaigns of PETA
that seem to offend so many people. These
big corporations spend millions of dollars a
year on PR and advertising to convince people
to buy their product and that they are such
good, caring community members, supplying
products and jobs to the community. Going
up against such an alliance can be quite
daunting for a small group of individuals
that advocate change. Unless they do something
dramatic to get the media's attention, the
public is unlikely to hear their message unless
they were to actively look for it. This is their
way of advertising.
How many people would actually do the
research to find out exactly what it took to
have that piece of meat arrive on their plate?
How many really want to know? This
information has been out there for
anyone to read for quite some time, but
how many had actually read it?
The same goes for the fight against KFC.
Tyson is not going to change their cruel
ways voluntarily. Why should they? It
might actually cost them some money.
It would definitely hurt their image to admit
they had been selling tortured birds to
the unsuspecting public and lying to them
about it for years.
Look how many people are upset by the
thought that the Bush administration lied
to the public about the WMDs in Iraq.
Do you think they would give Tyson or KFC
any more slack if they came clean and said,
"Okay, we have lied to you for years. We
knew there was cruelty, but we didn't care
as long as we were making money. We
were laughing at your gullibility all the way
to the bank. But we are sorry now and won't
do it anymore. Please forgive us. From now
on we pledge to do chicken right!"
I don't think so. I believe there would be a
public outcry, protests, and boycotts. The
media would be camped out on David Novak
and Don Tyon's doorsteps shoving microphones
in their faces every time they peeped out the
door, never mind what would happen to their
No, unfortunately, the public must exert a
small effort, just a few clicks of the mouse,
to find out what the truth is. Otherwise, we
will continue to see glaring headlines that
bring the public face to face with the issue.
After all, it is in our best interest to know
what we are putting on our plates and the
plates of our children, what we spend our
dollars supporting. As long as the public
is not demanding change, the industry has
no incentive to change anything.
While surfing around the past couple
of days, I have noticed quite a few people
who are concerned with the treatment
of chickens. Their answer to this is to
buy "free range" eggs. They seem to
believe that in doing so, they are not
supporting cruelty. Well, congratulations
to the industry - they have certainly
pulled the wool over many people's eyes.
Today I believe I will pull it off and let
them see the truth.
First off, any birds raised in the U.S. for
meat can be sold as "free range" if they
have USDA certified access to the outdoors.
There is no other criteria. It does not mean
their living conditions are much better or
they have much more room. These are not
happy chickens pecking around in the grass.
They can be given access to no more than a
gravel-lined area and get this certification.
The "free range" hens kept for laying eggs
are still debeaked just as the battery hens
are. They are still kept in an enclosed shed
with not very much floor space per bird.
"Free range" does not mean they are even
allowed outside at all. They are just given
a little more space (1 to 2 sq. ft. as opposed
to 50 in.), which still falls way short of the
290 sq. in. the hen needs to flap her wings,
and they are not in cages. If they are allowed
outside, there is usually only a small opening
that only the closest chickens can reach. This
yard may be nothing more than a nasty mud
area filled with disease and droppings. Free
range only works when the land is fresh. It
does not take very long for crowded birds to
despoil an area.
Right now there are no set standards
defining what can be labeled "free range"
eggs. These hens may not be caged over
a manure pit, but they are walking around
in it. In fact, the hens in a "free range"
house have a higher mortality rate than the
ones kept in cages because they must live in
their own excrement, which is filthy and
Just as with the battery caged hens, "free
range" hatcheries kill all male chicks shortly
after birth. Standard killing methods are to
either grind them up alive or throw them into
trash bags to suffocate. The "spent" hens
are still sent to slaughter after about a year.
Now, for the ones labeled "Animal Care Certified"
by the industry trade group United Egg
Producers (UEP): A product may be labeled
as such if they abide by their guidelines of
67 sq. in. per bird. It does not even have to
happen immediately, but can be phased in
over a 6-year period. The guidelines do not
prohibit forced-molting or debeaking. They
can still be kept in cages suspended over a
For more information on this issue, including
pictures, you can visit UPC's or COK's pages
that lay all this out.
For those who thought they were doing the
right thing and not supporting cruelty, I am
glad you are making an effort. But, don't
let the industry's jargon fool you. Do a little
research. Get informed. The facts are out
there. And I am always just an email away
if you have any other questions.
Most people don't know that all this
business did not start with my desire
to help chickens, but to help myself
and my co-workers. We were being
forced to endure horrible, even illegal,
working conditions at the slaughterhouse.
This started out with me trying to get
help for the workers from OSHA, due
to the huge number of safety violations
that would somehow miraculously be
dealt with before an OSHA inspection
took place. We always had about a
week's notice of such inspections, even
though such inspections are supposed
to be a surprise.
Light switches that would shock an
employee, left unrepaired for weeks or
months, would suddenly be fixed just
before OSHA showed up. I was shocked
three times by one of these.
The emergency stop button for the
killing machine was too far away from
the machine to be reached by the person
killing beside it. This machine can grab
you and hold you in it while it cuts you.
If it were to catch you while you were
alone in the room, which is most of the
time, you could not get away. I complained
about this issue for three years, with
nothing being done. It was still this way
my last night I worked there. Tyson got
away with this by stating to OSHA that
there was always someone in the room
with the killer, which is a lie. Of course,
when OSHA inspected, there was.
The emergency stop button on the hanging
line only worked about half the time. If
someone were to be caught in the hanging
line, and the emergency stop button failed,
they would be dragged through the stunner
and the killing machine. It would work when
OSHA came by, but frequently would not
work for a night or two.
We had quite a bit of electrical equipment
that should have been waterproofed, but
wasn't because of high deterioration of
rubber water seals due to constant exposure
to high ammonia levels. The biggest problem
with this was the fact that the cleanup crew
used high-pressure (122 psi) hoses to clean
all machinery, spraying electrical equipment
with the power still on. This led to short
circuits and burned wires.
Most of the time, machinery was improperly
grounded, especially the stunner. Even
though I am not an electrician myself, my
brother is. He works afternoon and nights
as their in-house electrician. He told me
that the maintenance supervisor told him
not to replace anything without the maintenance
supervisor's (Dwight Billings) approval unless
it completely stopped production. Billings
told me to quit complaining, that as long as
the chickens were running, that was all that
concerned him. I was shocked by the stunner
twice, once seriously enough to be sent home.
They refused to take me to the doctor, despite
my plea for them to do so. Instead, they sent
me to drive 20 miles home alone in a rainstorm
after I had been knocked unconscious by an
electrical shock. This happened, I believe, in '98.
OSHA has regulations on the amount of dust
allowed to be in the air where we worked. If
the dust level exceeds their safety level, you
are to wear goggles and breathing masks.
The plant did have these items in abundance
in the supply closet for employees to use.
However, we were not allowed time to change
the masks during production or time to clean
our goggles when they got dirty. Therefore,
using them was more unsafe than not doing so.
The dust masks would get so full of dust we
could not breathe, so we would have to pull
them off. The goggles would be so coated
with dust that we could not see, so off they
went. If you were caught stepping off the
line to clean your goggles or change your
dust mask, you could be terminated.
Employees are issued ear plugs, however,
if they fall out while you are working on the
line, you cannot replace them. Your hands
are covered with feces and blood, and other
nasty things that you do not dare allow in
your ears. You cannot take the time to go
wash your hands and put a new set in.
The climate control systems were never a
high priority. It was dangerously hot in the
summer (I have seen it 125F in the hanging
cage) and dangerously cold in the winter
(cold enough your boots would freeze to the
floor while you were working and chickens
would freeze to the belt, thereby pulling the
birds apart when you picked them up). The
ice on the runway where the trucks are
unloaded would be bad enough to cause the
forklift to slide and crash into the side of the
trailer and drop cages as well as turn in
circles due to lack of traction.
On two different occasions we had anhydrous
ammonia leaks. This chemical is used in the
chillers that cool the birds down after leaving
the evisceration line. There are two huge tanks
on top of the plant. Every evening a big tanker
truck filled them up. The first leak was
considered minor, and they evacuated the plant
for the rest of the night. The second caused
the evacuation of the entire town of Grannis,
and was considered a major one. They had
around 30-40 of us helping to clean up this
spill without any sort of chemical protective
gear whatsoever. We were "volunteered" by
the plant manager for this duty. There was
one supervisor watching from all the way
across the parking lot (around 400-500 yards)
wearing a respirator. Needless to say, every
one of us got quite sick. We suffered
nosebleeds and blisters in our sinuses, throats,
and mouths. We also had raw spots on our
hands and arms. We went to the doctor(s)
after this for treatment, but this was done at
our own expense, without Tyson's help and
without workman's compensation paying for
any of it. I, along with quite a few others,
missed several days of work over this.
One summer an OSHA inspector came to the
plant as part of an investigation into safety
violation allegations. Superintendent Bell
(who quit a few weeks after this incident)
and Sheila Bagley (who was transferred
around the same time and given a promotion
two positions above the one she held at this
time) called me outside on the sidewalk in
front of the plant where no one but the three
of us could hear the conversation. At the time
I was on parole and they knew I had a drug
problem. They told me, "if you want to
remain free and keep your job, you will go down
and talk to the OSHA man and make Tyson
I had to go down there and lie to this man.
At this time, I had a wife and baby at home
that depended on me, not to mention the
fact that I was looking at a prison sentence
if I got fired. This conversation with the
OSHA man lasted about an hour. He asked
about the conditions mentioned above, in
particular about Tyson's policy allowing us
to take breaks for maintenance of safety
equipment and rest periods so that we were
not overworked. I was forced to lie to this
man and tell him everything was fine, which
it clearly was not.
Everyone else that was questioned by this
man (that I was aware of) was Hispanic and
their immigration status was suspect. Two
of them I knew for sure were illegals, Roberto
Garcia and Hernando Vasquez.
I was in the process of trying to organize
my fellow co-workers to make a report to
OSHA and come clean about this situation
(after I got off parole and got straightened
out on the drug problem) when I got fired.
I had already gotten the forms to make
the report to OSHA and was trying to
gather signatures to back up these allegations.
Tyson heard about this and started to
intimidate the other workers into keeping
quiet about and fired me as the ring-
leader to set an example to the rest.
It worked to silence them.
Without anyone to back up my story,
I could do no more than to have OSHA
call Tyson and ask them about this
situation, which they would (of course)
have denied. No one was interested
in helping the employees, so I decided
to see if anyone cared about helping
the chickens, who also suffered from
the same conditions imposed on the
It turned out that a lot of people cared.
I had never even heard of PETA before
this. My wife told me about them, so
we wrote them about this situation
and added all the other examples of
unnecessary cruelty I had seen and
been a part of for so long. However,
being an animal rights group, under-
standably their focus was solely on
the chickens, and, while they were
concerned about the conditions the
workers were forced to endure, this
was not their area of expertise. They
were of the opinion that if we could
improve the conditions for the chickens
we would improve the conditions for
If the workers were not treated so
inhumanely, they would be less likely
to treat the chickens that way. It
goes along with the saying, "Sh*t
rolls downhill." Workers are frustrated
by bad conditions and no recourse, so
they take it out on the chickens. While
I do not condone such behavior, I can
understand why it happens. There is
a huge amount of frustration and rage
as well as a overwhelming feeling of
injustice at the uncaring attitude of
management to their plight.
However, the more I worked with the
various animal rights groups and found
out that this problem was not an isolated
incident, but the norm for millions of
chickens as well as many workers, I
became more and more conscious of
the huge scope of the inherent cruelty
of the whole factory farming industry.
I became more aware of the fact that
these animals destined for America's
dinner plates were innocent victims, with
no voice and even less recourse than
the workers. While I understood the
workers' concerns for their jobs and
the survival of their families, they were
still making a choice.
I was pleased to see two more stories
of efforts by other activists to DO
SOMETHING about this situation.
First, there was an article in the Sunday
Telegraph in Australia. Animal Liberation
rescued 15 birds from chicken farms over
there and got videotapes of the conditions
inside. What is even better is that they
got the story, and editorial, and a picture
in such a large newspaper.
The conditions they found are the same as
what I have described in an earlier post as
being my experience as to the conditions
these birds live under. Good work folks!
Also, I found out that here in America
there is a woman named Rachel Bjork who is biking across the country and
demonstrating at KFCs on the way to
protest the treatment of chickens. She
is keeping a travel diary of her trek here.
Good luck and great job, Rachel!
There are many more people doing
their bit that don't get heard about
every day. There are many people
writing letters, making calls, and holding
protests around the world on almost a
daily basis to do something about this
problem - to bring it to people's
If you have done something to make the
situation better, contact me. I'll be glad
to call attention to your efforts and give
you encouragement, for what it is worth.
It is hard to go against what the majority
of what people do and think and stick your
neck out, in the full knowledge that there
will be someone out there just waiting for a
crack at you. I know - it has happened to me.
Then, of course, you have the vast majority
still screaming, "They're just chickens!"
Yes, they are chickens (or cows, pigs, etc.)
but I hardly think that we need to be overly
cruel to them. It is not necessary to torture
these animals to kill them for food. There are
humane ways of doing it. And we'll keep
fighting for that until people quit it.
This morning's post is later than
usual because I had a hard time
thinking what to write on today.
Not that there is nothing to say,
but that I have a hard time finding
something new to say.
The words have been said by many,
the examples cited, the pictures
shown. Still, people continue to
go on much the same, hoping and
convincing themselves that these
stories of cruelty are the exception.
They tell themselves these examples
are not the rule.
I received an email today pointing
me to an article in the Denver
Westword by Jason Sheehan. He
writes a column called "Bite Me."
All ready to poke fun at Alec
Baldwin, who narrates it, he
decided he better watch it first
to be "a good little journalist."
He then explained to his readers
What followed was probably
the most uncomfortable thirteen
minutes of my life...What sickened
me was that much of it was true.
Every horror PETA showed was an
actual one...Ugly and vile as the film
is, I think everyone should see it. I
think third-graders should be made
to watch it before lunch. I think it
should be run on a continuous-loop
tape for auditoriums full of people
with their eyelids peeled back, Clockwork
Orange style, just to remind us how
far removed we've become from the
chain of breeding and killing that puts
food on our tables every night...I am
as much a murderer as any of the sadists
captured in that DVD. All carnivores are.
He is right. He also says he hopes that
the images he saw were rare. I am here
to tell you they are not. In fact the treatment
of these animals is legal and standard
procedure. It happens every day, is in
fact probably happening somewhere at
this very minute. Right now.
Check these things out for yourself.
Become informed. I did not always feel
the way I do now. It was less than a year
ago that I was there in the slaughter
plant. I am a very unlikely person to have
become active in the fight to help animals.
I killed them and ate them.
Congratulation go out to my friend,
Karen Davis of UPC (United Poultry
Concerns) for having her letter to
the editor publiched Rockdale Citizen,
in Conyers, Georgia.
Her letter addresses the arrest on
charges of animal cruelty of seven
young men and women who broke
into a chicken house in Bulloch
County GA on Sunday, August 31,
where they decapitated several
chickens for fun and videotaped the
Bulloch County Chief Deputy Gene
McDaniel had proposed that these
young people be made to work in
a slaughterhouse killing chickens
as part of their punishment.
In her letter she used much of the
material I have written to make her
point that this would not be a good
...an inappropriate punishment if the
goal is to rehabilitate them. Killing
chickens for a living is not fun for
most people, but killing chickens for
a living does fuel cruel and sadistic
impulses in many employees, who
vent hatred of their jobs on the chickens,
their spouses, their children, their
neighbors and themselves. Torturing
the chickens at the plant becomes a
job-related pleasure for many frustrated
poultry workers, whose relationship
to the birds is, after all, a completely
Alcoholism, amphetamine use, mental
illness, assault with deadly weapons,
manslaughter, child endangerment,
child abuse, domestic violence and animal
abuse are endemic to the slaughterhouse
milieu. As one former chicken
slaughterhouse employee explained after
giving several examples of cruelty
to the birds and to people that he
witnessed and practiced himself, "This
type of work teaches you a callous
disregard for life and an inability to
feel compassion or pity for others
who are suffering. Especially the ones
who go to the killing room every night.
It just breaks down a person's
inhibitions." (Virgil Butler, via e-mail
to United Poultry Concerns, Aug.
Many people eat chicken because it
not only tastes good and they perceive
it to be healthier than red meat, but
also because it is relatively cheap.
There are more factors to consider than
the retail price when calculating the true cost of a piece of chicken. Setting aside
the inherent cruelty of factory farming
chicken, let's examine other factors.
The 1997 rankings on animal waste for
Polk County (where Tyson's plant in
Grannis is, along with many chicken
houses) make it among the top 90-
100% of counties with the most
animal waste in the U.S.
From the 6,440,999 chickens raised
in Polk County alone that year there
were 200,000 tons of waste. That
translates to 48,000,000 gallons of
it, with 5,300,000 lbs. of nitrogen,
(of which 2,100,000 are lost to the
atmosphere) and 1,500,000 lbs. of
phosphorus. There was an increase
of 9% of waste from 1987-1997.
These figures also put Polk County
into the top 90-100% most polluted
counties for nitrogen and phosphorus.
Keep in mind that 83% of the bodies
of water are not reported to the EPA as
beneficial in this state. Of the 10% that
are, 2% are considered impaired.
There are 6 of them in this country that
have been reported by the state to have
problems. The Big Eagle Creek, a part
of Mt. Fork River, which runs into Broken
Bow Lake, is one of these. So is Holly
Creek, which also runs into that lake.
This lake is not only the biggest
recreational lake in that area, but is also
where the city of Broken Bow, OK gets
Tyson's plant in Grannis is located near
Big Eagle Creek. When their wastewater
ponds overflow, this is the creek they
flow into. The same goes for Holly Creek,
which has wastewater overflows from the
Tyson plant in Broken Bow. This happens
a couple of times a year, when there is
The EPA shut Tyson's Grannis plant down
in 1998 for wastewater contamination until
they remedied the problem. It took about
a week for the water level to go back down.
Before the EPA shut them down, many
gallons of wastewater flowed, ruining the
ecosystem in Big Eagle Creek.
I used to have some friends that I would
go swimming with in this creek. I can
remember when it was beautiful, clear,
and clean. I saw it a year after that
incident happened. It looked dead and
nasty. I wouldn't want to swim in it.
I certainly wouldn't want it to drain into
the water I drink.
This next batch of information comes
from a paper written by William Harris,
M.D. located here.
Rates for at least six common types of
cancer, country by country, correlate
with the consumption of animal source
food. A variety of phytochemicals
present in plant foods have been
demonstrated to be protective against
the DNA damage that leads to cancer.
Up to 80% of bowel and breast cancer
may be preventable by dietary change.
Diet contributes to varying extent to
the risk of many other cancers, including
cancers of the lung, prostate, stomach,
esophagus, and pancreas.
The USDA has shielded the meat and
dairy industries from normal market forces
since at least the beginning of the
Commodities Credit Corporation (CCC) in
1933 by giving direct price supports to
dairy production, and de facto supports
to the meat industry in the form of feed
grain price supports. In 1998 USDA
Secretary Dan Glickman bought up at least
$250 million worth of beef, chicken, dairy,
eggs, fish, lamb, and pork that could not
be sold on an already flooded market.
This is contrary to advice given by the
National Cancer Institute, the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
(DHHS), and the USDA itself, to consume
daily at least five servings of fruit and
vegetables. Vegetable and fruit growers
have for the most part been excluded
from support programs. Evidence indicates
that animal industries have exerted
enormous pressure on the government
for continuation of their supports. These
industries then plow their profit margins
into massive ad campaigns, nutritional
"education", and political action to insure
that their benefits will continue.
A glance at IRS Corporate Income Tax
Form 1120 and most state corporate
tax forms shows also that advertising
is a tax deductible business expense.
Take all this into account along with
how much more acreage of land is
needed to grow the grain to first
cycle through an animal before being
utilized by our bodies than what is
actually needed to grow the grain
to feed us directly. It takes about
3 acres to support a meat-eater and
only 1/3 acre to support a vegetarian.
There are more factors involved, like
the added air pollution of trucking these
animals around and such, but you get
That one piece of meat costs a whole
lot more than the price on the package.
We all pay that cost and so will our
children and grandchildren if we allow
it to continue?
What kind of world, what kind of life,
do we want to give them?
Mr. Kweisi Mfume, President and CEO of
the NAACP just sent a letter to KFC CEO
David Novak, asking that the company
adopt animal-welfare improvements
recommended by PETA and eliminate
practices such as allowing chickens to be
scalded to death in defeathering tanks and
breeding and drugging birds so that their
leg bones splinter under their own breast
Mr. Mfume’s letter comes on the heels
of recent open letters from hip-hop
mogul Russell Simmons and Sir Paul
McCartney calling on the company to
make improvements in animal welfare.
Before I get into today's post, I
must take the time to pause and
remember the events that brought
this country together 2 years ago
today. The past few days I have
been wondering to myself, "What
happened to that feeling of solidarity?
What happened to 'united we stand?'"
It seems that we have split apart
again into camps of pointing fingers
and argument. We have alienated a
good bit of the world that gave us
their sympathy and support. Today
we need to put all that aside and come
back together to remember what this is
It does not matter who should
have done this and who shouldn't
have done that. It is time for us all, as
Americans to once again come together
and remember our fallen ones and once
again be proud. It is again time to show
the world that, "UNITED WE STAND!!!"
Because we all know the second part,
"divided we fall....."
Always remember, "Freedom isn't free."
Now, someone has apparently taken the
time to question both sides of this story.
They contacted Tyson and PETA for their
positions on my statement and the
subsequent investigation going on at the
PETA forwarded to me the Tyson PR
man's response. Here are the relevant
points, and my answers to them:
(For anyone interested, I will be glad to
forward Tyson's official response, in full,
to you for your consideration. I have
simply edited it for brevity, since this
will be a long post anyway.)
We take very seriously the allegations
made by Virgil Butler regarding chicken
processing in our Grannis, Arkansas
plant, and cooperated fully in a
thorough investigation in cooperation
with the USDA, and with local law
enforcement officials in gathering
statements from others working
during the time period described by
I talked to those who were forced to
come into Tyson's office and write out
their statements refuting everything
I said. The sheriff did not take these
people to talk privately. To admit
anything in front of a supervisor
meant they would not only lose their
jobs, but also go to jail. Is this how
a proper investigation is conducted?
...he had never raised these issues
with any management, either at the
plant or corporate level. As far as I
know, he never raised the issue with
any civil authorities. It is corporate
policy for each plant to have posters
informing team members of the 1-800
ethics hotline, by which they may
(anonymously, if they choose) report
ethical violations to our corporate ethics
department...Records of these calls are
I repeatedly went to supervisors about
the problems. I cite some instances of
such attempts in my statement. Do you
think the supervisor would admit such a
thing to top management in Springdale
and lose their jobs?
As for the ethics line, that was a
requirement of them being on probation
over the attempted bribing of the head
of the Dept. of Agriculture.
The Ethics line was explained to us as
being for reporting harassment by a
supervisor, or if you caught bribes
passing from plant employees to USDA
inspectors, or to report a USDA inspector
harassing an employee. It had nothing to
do with anyone abusing chickens. The few
employees that told me they used this line
were fired shortly after. If everything is
recorded, how is it anonymous?
...USDA inspectors (there are at least
seven working on each production shift
in the Grannis plant-they visually inspect
each bird that comes down the line)
condemn birds that enter the feather
picking machinery without having been
killed. This condemnation is recorded
against the performance standards of
the plant, so managers have incentives
to ensure it does not occur.
Well, I have already addressed this problem
in another post, "The Col.'s secret recipe."
I have personally seen 40-50 birds go by
without getting killed. Then I saw paperwork
that only showed 15. What happened to
the others? I have even seen the inspectors
argue amongst themselves as to whether
a particular chicken was a cadaver or not.
Who do you think was watching the line
while they were arguing? No one, but me,
standing there killing. 7 inspectors watch
something over 100 employees on front-line
running 182 birds per minute on 4 lines.
How efficient do you think that is? Also,
they could have 3 fecal events per hour
without stopping the line, legally.
The plant makes no products for KFC.
I have seen the plant reports that say
otherwise. They may not now, but they did.
I even heard the supervisors talking about it.
...we are committed to handling and
processing chickens as humanely
Excuse me, I'm still laughing. Even though
it is not funny. Who do you think ordered
most of the atrocities I have discussed?
Did you know that an employee could be
fired for even talking to an inspector?
New-hires are shown a video when they
start work. A man named Leland Tollett
tells them not to not to talk to them, not
even to buy them a cup of coffee after work.
For anyone wanting to know more about
the dirty secrets of Tyson that go beyond
chickens, let me know. I have information
that goes way deeper than abusing chickens.
This information came from a site called
"The Catbird Seat," who was quoting
investigative reporter Ambrose Evans-
Pritchard in his book, "The Secret Life of
Did you know that there were
comprehensive intelligence files from
the Criminal Investigations Division
of the Arkansas State Police, going back
as far as the early 1970's with such famous
names as Don Tyson, the billionaire
president of Tyson Foods, connected with
Bill and Hillary Clinton?
There are files from the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Agency, marked DEA
SENSITIVE, under the rubric of the
"Donald TYSON Drug Trafficking
Organization." One was from the DEA
office in Oklahoma City, dated December
14, 1982. It cited a confidential informant
alleging that "TYSON smuggles cocaine
from Colombia, South America inside
race horses to Hot Springs, Arkansas."
It cited the investigation tracking number
for Don J. Tyson, a/k/a "Chicken Man,"
as Nadis 470067.
A second document from the DEA
office in Tucson, dated July 9, 1984,
stated that "the Cooperating Individual
had information concerning heroin,
cocaine and marijuana trafficking in
the States of Arkansas, Texas, and
Missouri by the TYSON organization."
The informant described a place called
"THE BARN" which TYSON used as a
"stash" location for large quantities of
marijuana and cocaine.
Two sets of documents refer to alleged
hit men employed by Tyson to kill drug
dealers who owed him money.
Last week a helicopter buzzed our place,
circled and hovered for a few seconds
with someone hanging out the door, holding
something in their hand. I thought it
might be a camera, but now I'm wondering.
Here is a little more:
None of the allegations led to criminal
charges, and it would soon become clear
why. Police officers who tried to mount a
case against Tyson were destroyed by their
superiors in the State Police.
The first to try was Beverly "B.J." Weaver,
then an undercover narcotics officer in
Springdale. Working the streets and bars
of northwest Arkansas, disguised as a
deaf woman, she collected detailed
intelligence on Tyson's alleged smuggling
network. . . .
"There were loads going out with the
chickens," she explained.
"They'd put the coke in the rectums of
the chickens, live chickens. That's how
they'd move it." . . .
As the allegations from her informants
mounted, she requested the intelligence
files on Don Tyson. That is when her
problems began. Her colleagues in the
Springdale office -- who she now believes
were "on the take" from the Tyson machine
-- put out the word that she was "not
stable," that she had "flipped out." Then
it got rough. "They started passing out
my photo on the streets, which put my
life in danger. I became paranoid. I didn't
trust my phone line. There was nobody
I could really trust." . . .
By 1987 her position was untenable.
Her career in ruins, she resigned from
the police and found a job as a security
guard in the Bahamas. .
And when the sheriff had me come into
the station to give my statement, they
arrested me and put me in jail for a
3-year-old warrant for a traffic violation
that didn't exist on the computer.
They insinuated that if I would not make
the statement I could leave and it would be
dropped. I had paid it of course, but my
trailer burned up with the receipt and they
knew it. They were laughing as I had to
cough up almost $1500 to get out. But
they had to take my statement. However,
the sheriff did come back, telling me he
made changes to it and put my initials
by the changes, since I could not, seeing
as I was in handcuffs at the time. I still
don't know what it was he changed. He
did not show me. He held up the paper
about 8-10' in front of my face, and I need
glasses to read.
Do you see what we are up against?
This is just part of what was there.
If you want the whole thing you can
research it yourself or drop me an
email. I'll be glad to forward it to you.
We will never change Tyson by changing
the law. Around here he owns the law.
They pay for a goodly part of the budget
of the Polk County sheriff's office so that
they can have a branch in Grannis for
"security reasons." Yeah, there are so-o-o
many break-ins down there.
We have to vote with our dollars, people.
Boycott Tyson if you do not want to
support such a thug.