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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.
Wednesday, March 24, 2004
I have been quite interested to see all the people coming here from France. And there have been quite a few over the last couple of days! Welcome to all of you! Merci to you all for caring enough to read what is written here. And a double merci to the person that was responsible for putting this site up for those people to find! Also a big thanks to David for translating and adding the post "Inside the Mind of a Killer" in the magazine, "Cahiers Antispecistes."
With everyone working together from all over the world, we can make a difference!
I would also like to thank Patty in Australia for bringing this blog to the attention over there. To Billye, for being a person of dedicated courage and a true friend. And Cheryl for her support and help. And, of course, all the members of the Yahoo group I own. They have stood by me from the beginning, fighting against the scourge of factory farming. What a wonderful group of people, that keeps growing by the week! Thanks to Richard for helping with what he can, when he can, and to all the others who have sent donations. I could never list all of you without taking up a whole page. You know who you are. And David (a different David from above) for spreading the word about my desire to work as a consultant to different animal organizations, even if only part-time. There are many happy things happening behind the scenes right now.
As they continue to materialize, I will keep on posting the updates here for the loyal readers who have been so steady and supportive throughout the life of the blog. There are speaking engagements, maybe even a speaking tour, and perhaps even a movie! Lots going on!
I will try to keep you updated as best I can, but I have really been working hard lately at everything I can find (that is legal, anyway) to make sure that this blog stays up and running. I still have two more weeks of payments on the phone bill to make before I am out of the woods on that. But, do I have faith that this will all work out. After all, I'm doing the right thing, huh? And where there is a will, there indeed is a way!
For the first time in my life, I have learned what the word "friend" really means. The AR community is full of some of the best people in the world. And I am damn proud to be a part of it! Thank you all for your courage and dedication to helping the plight of the innocent, exploited animals.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done. Chickens (and other animals) still die every day, abused and tortured for their flesh and the eggs they produce. This won't stop any time soon. But, with every mind we crack open, we have made a change. That does give me hope for the future. A future where people don't decide that humans are more important than any other species on this planet. Wouldn't that be a wonderful thing?!!! Sigh...
You probably remember seeing the pictures and stories of the poor chickens we rescued that had fallen off the back of the truck. Well, there have been more sightings, but sadly enough, they were already dead on the road. And, unfortunately, since I don't own a digital camera myself, I can't get pics of everything I see. But, I don't forget, either. And I guarantee that I won't let anyone else forget. It is still happening, even if you aren't seeing pics of this.
The worst thing about this is what I said before: It is so unnecessary!
All of this suffering is unnecessary.
You know, at one time, I never would have thought that I could lead a life without the use of animals in my diet. It was inconceivable to me. At one time, I actually never even thought I would work anywhere but at that hellhole of a chicken plant. It just goes to show how much one person's life can change so easily. If I can do this, so can others. It wasn't even hard to do.
I just made up my mind that I would not be a part of the suffering anymore.
It was that simple.
Nothing hard about it, really. There are so many choices out there that don't require the suffering and death of animals. And, as a bonus, my health has improved tremendously. I am also living closer to my desire of leaving a smaller ecological footprint. Not eating meat not only saves the animals, but the environment as well. This new way of life has also helped renew me spiritually, helping me to grow in that manner. I have become a totally different person than I used to be. And it feels wonderful! And free!
What it all comes down to is that I like me much better than I used to.
I may still have a ways to go, but I am getting there. That plant left scars on me that run really deep. I have been thinking about that a bit more lately since a reader emailed me to ask me why people work in these places for so long, given the fact that they are such unsafe hellholes and pay so little.
I have addressed this question here at length, but it boils down to a loss of hope. And, there is the compounding factor of the fact that the longer you work in one of those places, the worse of a person you turn into, espeically in your own mind. There is no way to escape that. You feel "less than" someone else. It makes you into someone who doesn't care, is more prone to violence, more prone to substance abuse, more prone to many other antisocial activities and thoughts. In short, it is such a dehumanizing experience that you are never the same person again. I hold mental scars from that place that I will probably carry for the rest of my life. And guilt. Always the guilt that I actually did that for so long. It doesn't ever completely go away.
But, I can't really regret that time or those experiences.
Why? Because if I hadn't gone through that sort of a dark hell, then I couldn't do what I am doing now - educating the public. Because the public does have the right to know what happens in their name. Just like the anti-war people are protesting the admistrations practices with their signs of "Not in My Name!" the behaviors and practices of the factory farming industry do go on in their name if they continue to eat the flesh of animal corpses. There is no escaping the fact that if you continue to eat these innocent, defenseless, and harmless creatures, you are indeed supporting and condoning the sort of actions I have written about here.
There is no good argument against that fact. If you eat meat, then you support cruelty to animals. You support it with every purchase you make, every bite you take. That may be hard to take for some people, but it is the unvarnished truth. Eating meat is cruel and unnecessary in today's culture.
If you engage in that sort of diet, then you support not only animal cruelty and environmental degradation, but also the exploitation of your fellow countrymen, too. These are your neighbors. Like the guy that died from the ammonia leak at Enterprise. And, he is not the only one. There have been many others maimed and killed in these plants because of safety problems. There is also such a prevailing uncaring attitude by their superiors that considers such people as expendable assets.
Been following the Tyson purge lately? Not too long ago they announced that they were reducing their workforce by 5% across the board. Now, they said that they were going to do this mostly by attrition. However, I have read two stories now where Tyson has done an internal audit targeting the illegals in some of their plants. They, of course, deny any connection, but we all know how much they lie and deceive people. I have proved that time after time after time. I really don't think that there is much question about that anymore.
Let me explain to you a few important things for you to consider about their hiring process that will shed a little light on this situation:
When you go to be hired at Tyson, you are required to supply at least 3 references of jobs where you have worked in the U.S. And they check all 3 of those. You are also required to supply a photo id, along with a Social Security card, which they also verify. Now, if they check all of that against state and federal records, then how do you suppose all these illegals would get in there?
Because they wanted them there, that's why.
Now, you couple that with the fact that several of the illegals that I worked with down there at Grannis told me that they knew they had a job lined up before they ever left Mexico, and you begin to see exactly what is going on here. They bring people in, give them the necessary papers they need, and get rid of them when they need to, making it seem like they are "doing the right thing" by these internal audits. There is just no way that they didn't know that these people were illegals. No way.
I also told you before about the catch crew boss that was arrested just before I left that plant. They arrested him for tax evasion, as I understand it. They also deported the whole catch crew. This whole thing went down right there in the Tyson parking lot. I saw it happen, along with over 50 people. Tyson knew they were illegal. Everyone knew. Another thing that happened that night was that about 2/3 of the Mexicans that worked inside the plant, got in their cars and left the plant. Now, why do you suppose they would have done that? Because they were illegals, too? Do you really believe that Tyson didn't know that? If so, then why would they let them stay? And why would a supervisor have holllered that INS was there on other occasions when there was a raid? Is that the way to purge illegals, by alerting those individuals to the fact that the authorities are there? Hardly.
Why do they engage in this? Because, they needed them. They needed them because, even in this poor rural area where there are few jobs, there is a shortage of people willing to put up with their abusive exploitation and unsafe working conditions.
Look what lengths I have gone to in order to avoid working at such a place again! I could have done so if I had wanted to. It wouldn't have been hard. They have a policy whereby if you are fired, they will rehire you again in 6 months if you want to come back. Of course, you lose all seniority and benefits, but you can get your job back. I did that before when they had fired me on other occasions, like when I went to jail. My shift superintendent had actually called the authorities to tell them that I had a job lined up when I got out. He did this, even knowing that I had been convicted of violent offenses. When I got fired this last time, they told me to come back in six months - that I was guaranteed to have my job back. I was told by several people, including my supervisor, that last night, "You'll be back." They love to get an experienced hand for new-hire pay. I didn't have to go public this time. And I certainly didn't do it out of revenge.
I could also have gone to another plant, even another company, like Pilgrim's. It's not hard for someone to get a job on that line, especially if you have the years of experience that I have. They would have hired me on the spot.
But, I did none of those things. I decided to go public instead, even with the full knowledge that by doing so, I would probably not be able to find another steady job around here.
I did it because it was the right thing to do.
And, even with the intense hardship and sacrifice that this decision has brought into my life, I am not sorry that I made that decision. No, everything that I have gone through has been worth it. Every bit of it.
All the days of doing without, watching the cabin we started building deteriorate because of lack of funds to finish it, the many days of working at hard labor all day long for less than $50, have been worth it. And, I would do it again, even knowing what I know I would have to go through.
It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't always been much fun. But it has been necessary. Very necessary. Somebody had to, after all. Someone had to speak up for the workers, and for the chickens they kill.
And, that someone has been me.
I never thought that it would go this far when I made that first statement. I had no idea. I certainly never foresaw something like having all my stuff translated into other languages and being spread around the world. I never thought that I would be written up in newspapers and magazines. I never had a clue that someone might want to make a movie about me. And, I never imagined someone like myself, a backwoods hillbilly ex-chicken-killer, going on a speaking tour around the country! I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it sometimes.
Because my story is not any different from the ones that many other people doing that job would tell. That is the saddest part of this. I am not at all unique in my experiences. There are many people that I know that still go down there. Some are threatened by what I have done and have gotten angry with me. But, there are a surprising number who have come up to me privately, shaking my hand and thanking me, even two of the USDA inspectors. One of them told me that they were glad that I was telling this story - that somebody needed to. But, in the same breath, they also told me not to ever mention their name.
That's fear talking.
Several of the people that worked next to me were fired since I left, probably because of their ties to me, and Tyson's knowledge that I was still maintaining a friendly relationship with employees down there who were feeding me information. They read this blog every day, and their spokesman, Ed Nicholson, even joined my Yahoo group to watch what I do and say. I also imagine that Tyson wasn't too happy about Paul getting in there with a video camera and filming the kill floor three different times! I figure there was a purge of everyone that they suspected could have been in on that. I suspect that they wanted to get rid of anyone that they thought might have any sympathy and support for me and my fight against them.
But, you know, they can never get rid of all of those people. If they did, then that plant wouldn't run very well. There is a lot more support than they have a clue about. And they will never know which ones those people are because they are too afraid to speak out in public or to others in the plant. Tyson tried to make an example out of me, and possibly even out of those that worked closest to me. It didn't work, though. I still hear things. There are still those down there that are totally supportive of what I am doing.
Surprising? Not hardly. Why? Because if I can get the changes made that I want to see made, it will benefit them tremendously. Like the gas-killing. If those birds were already dead before the hangers had to handle them, not only would it be easier on the chickens, but also on the workers. And they know this. They know that I am fighting for them, just as much as I am fighting for those poor, helpless chickens.
And I will keep right on fighting.
That's a promise.
And again, I'm not alone!!!!