<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Chicken Cruelty, USA (Part Two) 

This post today was prompted by a message I read today in a Care2 network message that had a link to KFC's press release stating their reaction to the video footage taken at the Pilgrim's Pride plant. I followed that link to see what they had to say about this and what they intended to do about it. Respectively, a lot and not much, as it turns out. I had a letter to the editor published, there have been some good op-eds published, and I have written extensively on this before, but I will discuss this further here because some people are still not seeming to get the message due to highly paid corporate spin doctors. So, I will try to set the record straight.

While KFC, Pilgrim's Pride, and the entire industry are busy spraining their wrists patting themselves on the back for the way this has been handled, we have to look not just at what they are saying, but what they are not saying, to understand what the true situation is. (Of course, regular readers and fellow activists have a pretty good idea, but I still get a lot of people here that are new to the cold, hard facts about this industry.)

Their very first statement is a lie in that they claim that they are "setting the record straight, " when all they are truly doing is trying to keep people buying their chicken without guilt. And, it gets worse from there, although they do mix just enough truth in there to make it convincing to those that don't know any better. So, I will set it straight for them.

They, along with the entire industry, is trying to play this off as an isolated incident involving "a few bad apples." I even saw them referred to as "knuckleheads" in one industry article. You can almost hear the chuckle in the sentence it is used in and see the person shaking their head in fake consternation at such odd behavior. The truth is that this kind of behavior is widespread and happens industry-wide. I have seen it personally in two different plants and heard about it happening in others from other workers. It's anything but isolated.

They also claim that they will not buy chicken from that plant until they are assured that such things are not happening there anymore. Now, I find this hard to believe, unless they have a much different arrangement up there than what I have found to be the norm in the industry. In order to be sure that they did not get chicken from that plant, I would think that they would have to not buy any at all from Pilgrim's Pride because each kill plant sends their dead chickens on to a further processing plant, where they are mixed together with the chickens from the other kill plants that serve an area (usually - very few plants kill and process). Each company, like KFC, buys from the central distribution center of the supplier, where all the meat is stored. Since the industry has fought tooth and nail against mandatory COOL legislation, there is no way for them to know which chicken came from which kill plant. I don't see how they could make sure that the chicken they are buying didn't come from there.

Now, they do have a valid point when they say that they are not the only customers buying this chicken. The average American going to the store is just as likely to get some of it as they are. Who knows? If you doubt that, try asking the person at the store what plant the meat they are selling came from. I just about guarantee that they can't tell you. Ask the person at KFC where their chicken came from. They can't tell you, either. All they can tell you (at most) is what company it came from.

When they start talking about their animal welfare guidelines is really where there start getting to be problems. They aren't even following the recommendations of their own committee they set up a while back. Several of the people making those recommendations that KFC didn't like are no longer on that committee.

This is also part of the reason PETA is targeting them. At one time KFC and PETA were negotiating back when the committee was formed. This was around the time that my allegations had come to light and so embarrassed Tyson and KFC. PETA came forth with a reasonable list of recommendations, then the negotiations were abruptly called off by KFC after they didn't get the answers they wanted from their own hastily-formed animal welfare committee, who mostly agreed with PETA. So, rightfully, PETA turned up the heat a bit. They have no one to blame but themselves. You can't claim to be a "leader" in animal welfare issues if you don't make leading changes.

Then, of course, they just start resorting to the ol' character assassination trick. Anything to get peoples' minds off the fact that workers were caught on tape doing horrible things to chickens that could easily have been headed for KFC. Much easier to bash PETA and individuals than do anything meaningful to help the chickens.

They also try to shirk responsibility on the one hand, while claiming to show it by their actions on the other. They can't have it both ways. No, they don't own the farms, but when they say that they hold their suppliers to certain standards, it is obvious that this is not true or we would not have seen such behavior at Pilgrim's, and you would not be reading about similar incidents that happened at Tyson on this site.

Also, if they were truly "appalled" by this sort of behavior, they would have required that Tyson make some of the same changes when I came forward that they say they are requiring of that Pilgrim's plant. They didn't do that. Indeed, Tyson didn't either. No one in the industry did or we wouldn't have seen this footage on this video. Nope, the entire industry, KFC included, preferred to lie to everyone and cover up the incidents, trying to assassinate my character instead of taking responsibility like they have been forced to do by this latest publicity.

While firing the 11 people involved is a good first step, as are seeking cruelty charges against those involved, that is just not enough. If they truly want to prevent such incidents in the future, they will have to make some big changes in how they do things. And, I just don't really see them doing that. They will instead issue meaningless press releases designed to lessen the guilt of their intended customers to keep them buying their products. That's all they really care about. If it wasn't, they would have addressed this situation long ago.

Until the day comes that doing the job right is more important than profit margins, nothing is really going to change.

And, because of that fact, I highly doubt that this is the last video we see from PETA...
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