<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Memorial Day 

I wanted to take a moment today to express a little of my feelings about what this day means to me.

Memorial Day has always meant a lot to me. It's not just another holiday that means a long weekend and camping out or partying. Too many people forget that. It's to honor those who have fought to make and keep this country free.

In my case, the ones I look up to the most are those that paid the ultimate price for that freedom - the ones that didn't come home. The ones that died for that freedom many people take for granted. I consider myself lucky that I came back with all my pieces and parts.

Whatever any of us may think about war, especially the one we are involved in now, we must still honor those willing to die for their country and the freedom we all enjoy. You don't have to support the war, but you should support the warrior. He/She deserves respect and gratitude for the sacrifice he/she is willing to give. When you take that oath to "protect the country against all enemies, foreign and domestic," it is indeed a weighty thing.

I feel for those that are overseas right now. Although I don't personally agree with a good bit of what has happened, I still have to take my hat off to the people willing to be there. Just last week we were reading in the paper that we lost some guys around here from the Guard unit based in Mena. One of them died, and others were wounded. That really brought the war home to me, as I am sure that it did to their families. And, I've got a feeling that we will see more of this in the days and weeks to come. I'm sure those guys didn't want to die any more than the ones that will die in the future want to die, but they were willing to take the chance to defend something they believed in. You just have to respect that kind of dedication and courage. I know that I do.

Hopefully one of these days people will be able to settle their differences without war, without fighting. Sadly, that day hasn't arrived yet. Until it does, soldiers will fight, and soldiers will die. None of us like this, but that's the reality of it.

The free countries of today were not always that way. That freedom came at great cost. There was a lot of blood shed to make them that way - a lot. We should never take our rights and freedoms for granted. And we should respect and thank those willing to shed it for us. If you have the chance today to make a difference in a veteran's life, please do. Give him/her a reason to smile. Give them your respect and a thank you. They have earned it.

Freedom is never free.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Clarification on Stunner Usage 

I recently received an email from a reader that brought up some points that she thought should be further discussed about the use of a "stunner" in the slaughterhouse. If you have been reading this blog for awhile and gone through the archives, then you are already aware of the use of the "stunner" to paralyze the chickens before they have their throats slit, either by the killing machine or the human "killer." However, after she did a search of this site on the word "stunner" using the search box I provide on here to make your quest for information easier, she found that I had not addressed some specific points that she thought deserved further discussion. I agree. Sorry about that. Let me attempt to rectify that oversight.

As she rightfully pointed out, many times (even in mainstream media) the stunner is described as a device that is used to "stun" the chickens and make them insensible to pain before killing, thus making the process more humane. Nothing could be further from the truth, however...

Now, I thought that I had discussed this and made it clear, but I guess I had not. I have discussed this in personal emails to individuals however, and sometimes it is hard for me to remember what I have discussed here, what has been discussed in the group, and what has been discussed in private emails. Also, many times I have just thought that people knew things that they obviously didn't. Especially in the beginning, when I started this blog, I assumed there was a lot more general public knowledge of the slaughter process than there actually is. I never realized then that the vast majority of people do not know the specifics of what goes on before the food hits their plates. I have tried to correct that gap in knowledge for those wishing to learn and become more educated on the facts. Sometimes though, obviously I don't make the necessary points, and I always appreciate it when someone writes to me to point that out.

So, in an attempt to fix this oversight on my part, I will go back over this and try to explain it to the best of my ability so that there is better understanding of the use of this technology.

The first question she asked was about my post on the stunner being turned down. She wanted to know if that was a move to save electricity or to facilitate bleed-out, as she pointed out that high voltage hinders bleed-out. My answer to her was this:

You might save a little electricity, but it would probably be pretty negligible. It might affect the budget of that department, but primarily they turn it down to facilitate bleed-out. I have also known of it being done to make it rough on a certain employee that might be in there at a certain time. This might be done if that employee was part of an effort to try to unionize or organize in any way with other employees. I (and several other people) was trying to help do just that at one time, but it never got off the ground. This was one of the reasons. The person will either quit in frustration or do such a bad job that they would have an excuse to fire them. Now, of course, I can't say that this happens in every plant, but this is what went on down at Grannis.

The next thing she brought up was that:

If people know anything about the chicken slaughter business, they
are probably under the false impression that stunning is humane.
(Every article in the mainstream media written on the subject - and
I've probably seen it - says that the chickens are first stunned "for
humane reasons." [Poppycock]

Isn't it true that even when the stunner is working properly the
animals are NOT made IN-sensible to pain?

Yes, I have noticed that the industry tries to make it sound like they use this for "humane" reasons. That's a load of crap, though. The stunner is strictly to facilitate line speed. Before they implemented the stunner down at that plant, the line ran 98 birds per minute, with two killers. After adding the stunner, it jumped the speed up to 120. Then, they added the killing machine, dropped one of the killers, and turned the speed up to 142. Now, of course, it runs 186 birds per minute. All it does is paralyze the muscles. It doesn't render them unconscious or make them insensible to pain. In Tyson's own words to the workers, "It makes the plant more efficient." I heard that from a shift superintendent. They never said anything about "humane." Humane treatment was never brought up. the only thing that is ever brought up in training, as far as the killer goes, is efficiency. Just get them killed or be fired. They don't care about "humane."

In answer to this, she wrote back this bit that prompted this post:

However you do it - perhaps a myriad of ways - let people know this bogus industry practice. Indeed, I have read mainstream media stories about poultry slaughter, and they all assume that the stunning is a humane feature of the mechanization of poultry slaughter. The industry does not, of course, do anything to set the record straight. That would never happen.

When you think of it... if you follow the logic... every chicken is bled out while still sentient. Would you agree?

Check this out, regarding beheading of a mammal, namely a human::::

Also: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/05/12/224912.php

It's pretty gory, but interesting. Excerpt:

"it hurts very much to have your head cut off, and the longer it takes, the worse it hurts. Once your spinal cord is cut and your head is severed you will continue to experience the full spectrum of pain, without the heavenly numb of shock-absorbing chemicals, which are back there with your body."

One last question:
Is a chicken sentient to pain even after having no blood in its body? I would assume not. Your thoughts?

And here was (most of) my answer to her:

Yes, every chicken is bled out while still sentient. They hang there and look at you while they are bleeding. You can definitely tell that they know what is going on. Sometimes if they are not completely immobilized by the stunner (which happens frequently), they will try to hide their head from you by sticking it under the wing of the chicken next to them. They will also flop around and peck at your hands as you are cutting their throats. One last futile act of self-defense, I guess. But, I have to agree that after all the blood is drained, they are past knowing. They will lose consciousness after a certain amount of blood is gone. That length of time depends on how well the killer does his job. If he doesn't get both carotid arteries, then you have what is called a "mis-cut." Even though the chicken is bleeding, he/she will still be alive until he/she hits the scalder. That's what will finally finish him/her. If the killer does his job properly, then it usually takes about 8-10 seconds before they lose consciousness. But the speed they come at you makes it hard to do a good job every time.

I sincerely hope that this clears up any questions anyone may have about the use of the "stunner." Please don't hesitate to write and ask questions like these if I haven't made something clear to you. If it isn't clear to you, then it's a good bet that it isn't clear to others as well. Although I may strive to make sure and give all the details I can think of about something, I am certainly far from perfect and have been guilty of assuming that people knew more than I thought they did. I have been made to realize on several occasions that I have not made some things clear enough for those not fully informed about the practices that go on in the slaughterhouses, the ones the catch crews employ, or even in the grow houses where they raise the chickens. There has also been quite a bit of interest in the mindset of someone that does this work, how it affects their life and their perspective, and whether it makes them more prone to violence toward other humans. (YES!!!) Again, if anyone ever has any questions that you have not found addressed here, or something has not been explained well enough to you, don't hesitate to shoot off an email to me. I'll be glad to answer you and clarify things here.

I'm glad to know that someone has found the "search this site" box useful. I never knew if anyone was using it or not. For those that never noticed it, by all means use it to find what you want to know. This blog is not the most organized because of the format it took, so I put that there to make finding answers to questions easier for readers so that you would not have to wade through endless archived entries to find the information you are seeking. One of these days, I look to have a better organized site under my own domain (I have a group offering me a free one!), but that has had to take a back seat, since Laura and I know nothing about HTML coding, and don't have much time to learn. I do hope to learn this, as I am interested in going back to school to learn more about computers. Gotta keep up, and this ol' body of mine has been too abused to keep doing physical labor for too many more years! LOL!

Oh, and I have added a new link to the sidebar you may find informative and interesting. Check out "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian." (No, I didn't write it, but I agree with what it says.) The author called it "the mighty convincer." I agree with that, too. Good work, Pam. Thanks for writing. Your group does good work. Glad to add your link to my site.

Have a good day everyone. Done your good deed yet for today? If not, what are you waiting on?????
Posted by: # Virgil / 9:33 AM 14 comments Links to this post

Friday, May 21, 2004

I Finally Got Some Military Records - Credibility Restored! 

Well, it has been a long time in the coming, but I have finally done it! I got some of my military records that people wanted to see. Now there should be no question of whether or not I served. (For those not aware of the controversy, refer back in the archives to December, 2003 to see what went on. Tyson had disputed that I served, and when the LA Times said that they tried to check it out, they told me that they were told by the military that no such records could be found. As I did not have any of these copies then, they ran a retraction stating as much. This clears that up once and for all. I have now proved that I did in fact serve.)

I wanted to explain a few things before you look at what I have decided to share, though.

First of all, if you were reading this blog back then, you were aware of the fact that my trailer had burned, along with everything in it, including any copies of records I had. I was not aware of the existence of these back then, and certain members of my family (especially my sister-in-law)were not too happy with me blowing the whistle on Tyson because they were being hassled by Tyson for my actions. So, we pretty much didn't talk for quite a while until the dust settled a bit. I do still have family members working there that are still not happy with my actions, but that isn't really a problem for me now. I understand that they are afraid of losing their jobs and everything they have worked so hard to get, so I am not holding a grudge against any of them for their actions or inactions when it comes to this controversy.

Also, I want to make it clear that I am not holding the LA Times or the reporter who wrote the story responsible. They did the best job they could under the circumstances. The fact of the matter is that I had no reason to believe at the time that any of this would happen, and given only three days to come up with proof, there really wasn't much that I could do about it. Yeah, I was pretty angry at the time (and for quite a while after, actually) because I felt like they didn't work hard enough to get to the bottom of this, but I can see how they were under a lot of pressure from an angry Tyson and expected me to back up my story myself. So, I can't blame them for any of this. I guess I should have made sure that I had a little more proof of things I said, but in all fairness, I never knew that this would be an issue. I was so concerned with making sure that my allegations against Tyson were backed up with incontrovertible evidence (like the videos of eyewitness testimony) that I just never even thought about the fact of anyone questioning whether or not I had served. It was pretty much common knowledge around here, so I never thought there would be a problem with it. And I certainly had no idea that there might have been a loss of records. (I might point out here that I have never confirmed this with the military myself - just took the reporter's word for it, but she had no reason to lie about it.)

Now, as to the records themselves.

What I was able to get is only a small portion of what there was. While I may have some suspicion that some of them might have been gotten rid of, I have no proof of this, and it is equally possible that the missing portions were the ones that burned up. Therefore, I do not intend to "go after" anyone about this or open any sort of investigation into any sort of "cover-up" or "tampering." It could have happened, but it might not have. I will never know for sure, and it really doesn't matter, seeing as I got enough to prove what I needed to prove - namely that I did indeed serve my country as I said I did. Case closed. Move on.

I had pretty much decided a while back not to pursue finding these records because of several reasons. First, I thought that it was a waste of my time, as I didn't know that they existed and figured that it would all blow over after a while. Especially since I had other evidence to back up what I said about what happened at Tyson. Second, Tyson was trying their best to keep the focus on me and my personal life and off of what happened at the plant. That was not what I wanted to talk about or spend my time and energy on. I have much more important things to work on with all the cruelty issues involving the animals. I was advised by several people not to worry about it - that it didn't matter. (Wrong!) Third, and perhaps the biggest reason, was that I was afraid that whatever I posted about myself would make it easy for someone to steal my identity or to copy such records to use for nefarious purposes. I know that a couple of the things I posted could have been duplicated and used to gain entry to a military base, apply for benefits, or go to a VA Hospital (maybe more). I was not going to just put up something that terrorists could use to threaten any of our service men and women or their families. I am still worried about that a bit, but I did a lot of sanitizing of the records to try and prevent this. (However, if anyone from the military contacts me to tell me to remove these forms, I will do so immediately, so look quickly and make copies if you are interested and need them, just in case.)

Now, on the photo page (where I posted these) are the descriptions of what you are looking at, for those unfamiliar with military forms. But, I will give you a quick rundown of what is there. I showed a pic of the folder all this stuff was found in, a pay voucher, a processing sheet, my ASVAB scores, and a DD214.

However, I also included something else while I was at it. Many of you may remember that I talked about the fact of having been quite sick when I lost my job there and that I sought medical help. Therefore, Tyson decided to fire me while I was under a doctor's care. I called in and even emailed my sister-in-law to report my illness when I couldn't get through on the call-in number at the plant (it's a message-only number; no person answers that line, and it rarely works, and then sometimes only in Spanish!), but she didn't tell them that and even said that she signed off on my termination papers. Well, I have also posted the certified letter I received from the hospital at the time, telling me that I needed a sinus scan. (I still have the doctor's excuse, too, but I didn't post that.) Of course, this was never done, since I lost my insurance and couldn't pay for such an expensive test, so I still have no idea what is wrong, but I have no doubt that it is related to the exposure to dust, lime, and other things I was breathing when I worked there. Quite a few of us got real sick, and that was why I was trying to contact OSHA about the working conditions. We were getting VERY sick and wanted conditions improved. Safety rules were being violated, and we couldn't get any help from the company. Now, just about all of the people that were exposed and turned up sick have lost their jobs. Seems they did a little more cleaning house after I left to cover themselves. Who knows what that sinus scan would show?

I will share another thing with you before I end this post. That is the reason that I finally decided to post these records. You see, I found out recently that there were activists (one of them a person that I have worked with and that I consider a friend) that were being mocked when they were trying to protest these abuses. Apparently some of the flyers they were using must have had some of the testimony I had given and (from what I was told) my name on them. There were people walking up to these caring, dedicated individuals and telling them that the cruelties they were protesting weren't real and that everything I said was a lie, based on the fact that no records had surfaced to prove my military service. Apparently in these peoples' minds, if I had made that up, then I had made up the abuses at the plant also. Well, this obviously hurt my friend and made her feel hurt and confused. That, in turn, made me feel bad, too. I had not realized that it was such a big deal. But, when I found out that my inaction on this issue had caused her (and no doubt others) hardship, I contacted her and promised that I would do my best to see what I could do to fix the problem. Well, now I have fulfilled that promise.

I would like to publicly apologize to her and anyone else that endured similar treatment because of all of this. I really thought that my testimony, along with the videos that backed up my allegations, were enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was telling the truth about what happened down there. I was apparently very wrong. Some people just don't seem to want to believe such things. They seem to grab at anything they can to justify their continued support of such a cruel industry. I was new to the activist scene and really didn't know much about what I was doing or the hurdles activists face in trying to educate the public. (I am not trying to make excuses or anything, just trying to offer an explanation of what I thought at the time.) I really thought that people would see all of that evidence and realize that every time they took a bite of Tyson chicken, they were supporting terrible and torturous cruelty to animals. I also even naively believed that Tyson would be forced to take steps to ensure that this sort of treatment would not happen anymore and that the ones responsible for the worst of the atrocities, especially those in charge, like Richard Frasier, would be fired and prosecuted. Man, did I have a lot to learn!

Well, I have been around a little longer now. I have a better idea of the true situation. I understand that much of the public is in denial and that these powerful corporations will stop at nothing to make a buck, even at the expense of everything else - the workers, the chickens, the environment, and even their own credibility. They lie and twist facts. They manipulate people and governments. They have no conscience. And that was where my problem was. I did have a conscience - one that was eating at me all the time for my involvement in it all for so very long.

This will be the last I intend to say on this matter. I now consider this issue closed. None of this was ever about me or my personal life. It was about the workers and the chickens the most. It was about me trying my best to make amends and get rid of the overwhelming guilt I suffered.

And, once again, I would like to apologize to anyone that suffered because of this. You on the front lines have my permission to make copies of what I posted to shove in the faces of those who doubt what you say when protesting. But, do it quick. (If you come to this page late and the documents are gone, though, just email me. I will email you a copy.)

And the last thing I would like to do here is to thank those that have stood by me through all of this, trusting in me and that what I said was indeed the truth. Your trust was not misplaced. You can't know how much your support has meant to me. You know who you are. I couldn't have done it all without you. Thanks for being there and believing in me.
Posted by: # Virgil / 3:40 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Monday, May 17, 2004

USDA Cover-ups and Rampant Corruption 

I think that it is long past time for there to be a complete overhaul of the USDA. They have obviously become so very corrupt and lost all credibility through the recent media attention on the practices that they have been allowing for years that benefit the large corporations they fall down on their knees to help.

I don't know how many of you have been following all of the different issues involving this agency, but there is an extremely disturbing pattern, given that they are the ones responsible for making sure that the food the public eats and that is shipped to other countries to feed to their citizens is safe. They have clearly been failing miserably in this aspect of their job, instead focusing on misleading propaganda to shield the industry from embarrassments and loss of their profits, lying to the public and doing their best to cover-up the kind of embarrassing and hard-to-explain incidents that have been brought to light. I think that it is past time for this agency to be broken up and two separate agencies formed. We need one for the promotion of our products and a separate one for regulating the safety of those products. This has never become more clear than the recent events that are still occurring even as I type this.

For those that haven't kept up completely, I will give you a quick run-down of why I am saying all of this.

First off, if you have read the earlier portions of this blog, especially my personal eyewitness accounts of my days at Tyson in the early archives, then you already are aware of the many violations happening at just one chicken plant and a very small one at that. Those were things that were witnessed by only one person willing to speak up. Who knows how many other similar stories there are that have never seen the light of day?!

Then, of course, we have the famous BSE cow here and the accusations of cover-up and alteration of records in that case, as well as the fact that they are refusing to allow private companies to test all of the cattle they slaughter for BSE.

Now, we have the incident with the cow at Lone Star in Texas that may have had BSE, but of course we will never know for sure because they made sure of that by ordering that it not be tested, and this is not a unique occurrence at all. They have even ordered the folks involved to talk to no one about this. It was quickly sent for rendering without tests and ordered to be fed to pigs on the assumption that pigs cannot get TSEs. Well, that actually may or may not be true. Take a look at this scientific report on this site. So, perhaps there are even mad pigs out there?

They can also feed such material to chickens, and then the litter from the houses, including the spilled and uneaten feed containing that material, can be fed back to cows. And they can still feed the blood of cows to calves, since they don't get any of their mothers' precious milk. That would undermine profits, too. (And in a quick sideline, they have not decided to undermine the entire organic industry by allowing cows given antibiotics to be considered organic. But, that is a whole 'nother story, and one that really makes me mad!)

Even more disturbing are the many other articles that have come out recently that I have been following. Ann Veneman herself admits that there will probably be more cases found, but since the diseased animals sent for rendering are not tested, how will we know? She even says that they aren't going to test for safety reasons, but only to do a little screening for surveillance. Mostly to make people feel better and keep on buying, no doubt. They aren't even training the inspectors properly on what to watch for.

And, perhaps most upsetting for the countries that we export to, some of the USDA vets that sign off on the export certificates have blown the whistle and said that they have been pressured to sign off on things that were false, and have had action taken against them if they refused.

Now this comes as no surprise to me, and it shouldn't to you if you have read my accounts, because the same thing was happening at the Tyson plant that I worked at. I wrote all about that issue here long before these reports were being made public in the media. There has been a long history of this kind of thing for years, and everyone in the industry knows about it, down to the lowly line-worker at the slaughterhouse. And, everyone knows that if you want to keep your job that you better just keep your mouth shut and do what the companies say. That is why there have been a few inspectors come and shake my hand, but wish to remain anonymous in their support for my work. Their hands are tied, and they know that they would face retributions for speaking out and not passing things that should not pass inspection. They feel bad about it, but don't want to lose their jobs.

Well, that simply cannot be allowed anymore. The stakes are just too high. The cat is out of the bag now, and people are starting to find out about the rampant corruption in the very agency that is supposed to protect that most basic commodity needed for our survival - the very food we eat and feed to our kids. It's time to quit allowing the large corporations to run roughshod over government and the public, especially when their practices cause major public safety problems. It's way past time for the public to stand up and demand change.

It really is a life or death situation.

Now that may sound a bit dramatic, but then so is the problem that we are facing. The USDA is filled with industry people that are looking out for the industry alone and not for the public, and certainly not for the countries we sell our products to that actually seem to care a little more about the safety of their citizens and have enacted stronger regulations to ensure that. These are the kind of people that care more about the bottom line than anything else. Profits and production are more important than anything - they rule supreme. They trump public safety, worker safety, animal cruelty, environmental degradation, even exports and credibility, and anything else that might threaten what goes into their deep corporate pockets.

How much longer will the public just sit around and be treated this way? I would really like to know the answer to that question.

I got an email from Dave Louthan again. Seems he wants to make a 100 million person march on Washington to protest and wants to organize it from his website. Great idea Dave. I would be glad to help you do that, but I just don't see it happening. I'm sure that you will get some response, but from what I have seen, most of the public is just so apathetic and cowed down, feeling like they have no power that they just don't do anything. A good many of them actually believe the propaganda that is shoved in their faces. They also don't want to know because they would then have to make changes in their lifestyles that fall outside their comfort zone. They seem to be willing to play the Russian-roulette-style odds and just hope that they are one of the lucky ones.

Yeah well, I'm sure that is the same thing that the people that have already died from food-related illnesses like CJD and food poisoning told themselves, too.

Wake up America! Do you really think it is worth it to take that kind of chance with your life and the lives of your kids? Apparently, blanket testing for BSE will only add about 4 cents to a pound of meat. And most people are in favor of it - they would pay the difference if it was offered in the store as an option. The people are demanding it in enough large numbers, though, and the industry isn't to happy about the idea. So, the only conclusion that can possibly be drawn from all of this is that the USDA -and most important, the industry - doesn't want to find another BSE case. It would hurt their profits too much. And, after all, that is the most important thing, isn't it?

Yeah, tell that to the mother that has to watch her child slowly die in a horribly agonizing way. I wonder what will actually be cheaper in the end - not finding it or having to shell out enormous sums of money for all the lawsuits they are certainly eventually going to face once the larger numbers of people begin dying in such horrible ways. But, then of course, seeing as how it can take decades for that to happen, most of the people currently making these decisions will be nowhere around by that time. They will have made their money and retired, living large and comfortable off their ill-gained profits.

That is, unless they get it themselves. Now wouldn't that be ironic and just?
Posted by: # Virgil / 8:38 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Good News! Two Happy Stories! 

Yep - good news to report today! I am happy and grinning from ear to ear! Two good stories came into my inbox today that I just had to take the time to share with all of you this morning. I hope that they bring just as big a smile (okay a big ol' sh*t-eating grin!) to your face as they have to mine. :)

First off, I learned that the Better Business Bureau has ruled that the egg industry can't lie to you and the rest of the public anymore. You may have read about this issue here before, but if you are new to this blog and unaware of this controversy, I'll summarize it for you.

You see, for some time now, the industry has labeled some of the eggs as "animal care certified," leading well-meaning consumers to pay more for what they believed were humanely-raised chicken eggs. But, of course, that was far, far from the truth, as I discussed before when I told of COK's expose that they featured in their newsletter and that was featured in this video and in several news reports that clearly showed that these birds were raised in anything but humane conditions. They were still being debeaked, starved, and kept in cages where they couldn't even flap their wings. Of the ones that were so-called "free range" they also exposed how little that really meant.

Anyway, now that you are up to speed, you can rejoice in the knowledge that the egg industry cannot deceive the public anymore by saying the eggs were produced from humanely-raised chickens when they clearly were not. I don't know how many well-meaning people I have had to explain this to that got really upset when they found out that they had been lied to like that.

Now, for the second piece of good news. (And, maybe the best I have heard in a while.)

Get ready to smile real big now.

The U.S. broiler chicken production is down for the first time in 30 years!

That's right! Less chickens have been killed this year for the first time in a long time!

You can read about this here and here.

I am going outside now to say a little thank you before I get started in my work today and visiting with family from out of town. Hey, I may even do a little happy dance. (Ooh. Did I just admit that to the world?) Oh, well, never mind - who cares?

I'M HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: # Virgil / 7:16 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Happy Mother's Day! 

This is just a quick little post this morning to show respect for all the mothers out there. I just wanted to give you a little recognition for all you do. Without mothers, of course, none of us would be here.

For all the mothers out there, I have a little card for you. Click here to pick it up. And have a good day. You deserve it.

And, to my own mother, a very special Happy Mother's Day to you.

I love you, Mom.
Posted by: # Virgil / 5:46 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Cover-up? You decide... 

Have you heard about the cow found at the Lone Star Beef plant in San Angelo, Texas that may have had BSE? We will apparently never know whether or not it did because they decided not to test the cow, even though it was showing symptoms of BSE, like displaying central nervous system problems of staggering and falling.

Yep, you read that right. They decided not to test it. Interesting, huh? Scary, too. Really makes you want to go chow down on a burger, huh? NOT!

According to this article, when the USDA was asked why the cow was not tested, they had this informative answer: "I don't know." Well, doesn't that make you feel all safe and secure? But, they were quick to make the point that it hadn't gone into the human food chain. Instead, it was sent for rendering. So, I guess it could be fed to your pets, anyway, although they say that they will feed it to pigs. Oh, well then, that makes me feel better. No harm done, except to their credibility, of course.

Of course, various groups were all over this, with people pointing out that it looked like the USDA didn't test it because they didn't want to find another case of BSE. That's pretty much what I believe, too. In my opinion, that's also a big part of why they wouldn't let Creekstone or Gateway do 100% testing. Well, that and the fact that the bigger producers would feel pressured to do the same or face the loss of confidence in the safety of their "product."

The vast majority of people have said that they are willing to pay as much as 10 cents a pound more for beef that has been tested. so, if the consumers are willing to pay, then why not do it? Because they don't want to find another case. That would be devastating to the industry.

And, this particular incident proves that theory pretty well, I think. I mean, this is exactly the type of high-risk cow that they are supposed to focus their testing on. The plant where it was observed by the inspectors to be showing the central nervous system problems rightly held it for between 90 minutes to 2 hours for testing, just as they are supposed to. But then, they were told by some yet unnamed individual higher up not to do it, so they did as they were told and sent it to the rendering facility. Of course, no one seems to know exactly who gave that order, and they are doing this big investigation to find out.

Yeah right. No one knows. I just find that hard to believe. What about you?

The most information we can get is that the decision was made by an APHIS inspector in Austin, Texas. But, admittedly, the rules were followed by the inspectors in the plant, as they did report it and hold it for testing until they were overruled by the higher-up inspector in Austin.

It makes me worry about how many more are out there that may have it that aren't being tested since they apparently don't want to find another case that would make the industry lose so much money. Meanwhile, the administration is still trying to convince other countries, like Japan, that our beef is safe and that we do enough testing to find BSE if it exists, which of course, they say it doesn't.

Well, I can imagine how much this incident will restore their confidence.

Can anyone say cover-up?
Posted by: # Virgil / 4:55 AM 0 comments Links to this post

Monday, May 03, 2004

The Web of Life 

Want to have a little example of how interconnected the web of life is? Well, I just finished reading an article on ants and the plants that depend on them. It's a little trade-off that benefits the plants and the ants. How, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

According to the article I read today, the plants depend on the ants to disperse their seeds for them. The ants pick up the tough-coated seeds and carry them back to their colonies. In return for their efforts there is a food reward for them. The article refers to it as an "ant snack, called an elaiosome." After the ants have eaten the food, they dispose of the seed in the rich soil of the colony's "trash bin." Then, the seed germinates and grows.

Now, the important part of this is that the farther away from the mother plant the seeds are taken, the better the chance for the seedlings to survive to adulthood. So, the plant depends on the big, strong native ants to do this.

The problem is that the native ants are facing invasive species of smaller ants that can not and do not carry the seeds so far away. They simply eat the food reward and sometimes even leave the seed laying there by the mother plant, exposed on the ground, where it can be eaten by other insects or rodents. Therefore, the chance for survival is greatly diminished.

Also according to the article, the researchers:

examined 57 ant species from 24 sites across six continents and found that just a small increase in body length meant the ant was much better at carrying seeds far from the mother plant.

The reason that I bring this up here is that this is a perfect example of the delicate balance that the whole web of life depends upon for survival of all species, including humans. This is what is so upsetting about the tendencies of humans to try to "play God" with Mother Nature and try to bend Her to their will. This is arrogant and wrong.

The fact is that there are still so many things that we do not know, yet we don't hesitate to do whatever we think will benefit us or make life more enjoyable or convenient, without any thought to the consequences. I am constantly reading of horrifying things being done, like tampering with genetic modifications of plants and animals and things like that. If we don't wake up to how interconnected all of life is, it may end up being too late for us. I read a very good post on embracing this sort of interconnectedness written by one of my favorite bloggers yesterday that you may enjoy. She has more than one blog, too, so check her out if you have the time. This one is the first one I read and that I read the most. She makes you think. I like that.

People need to quit thinking in the short term and quit making problems for our children and grandchildren that they may not be able to "fix." We need to rediscover the sanctity of all life and regain the ability to live in harmony with nature instead of trying to control it. We need to nurture a deep respect for all living creatures and quit thinking that we are somehow better or more important than any other species. There is a reason and purpose for all species, even if we don't understand yet how it all fits together. We must continue to try to protect the many species that are being threatened with extinction by our actions. We simply must do whatever we can to protect the fragile balance in nature that sustains all life.

This apparently even includes the ants.
Posted by: # Virgil / 4:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Special Announcement 

Since there have been so many of you that have corresponded with me by snail mail and passed that address to others, I see no other way but to post here about the change of address situation. I was informed a couple of days ago that, due to the new security situation, that they are doing away with P. O. boxes, and you have to have a physical address listed and/or go with the simple "general delivery." They told me that any mail sent using the P. O. box will be sent back, so I will not receive it. As I have no mailbox yet at all, and have used nothing but the P. O. box for all of my correspondence for years, I will have to go with the general delivery option, at least for the time being. I have put in a request for a mailbox at the post office, as there is currently no delivery on my section of the road (the reason I got the box in the first place), but that takes time to get approved. So, for any of you that have the P. O. box address and intend to send any sort of correspondence, just simply replace the P. O. box with the words "general delivery" and I should get it. If any of you want to be notified when I get a mailbox with a street address, just email me and let me know, and I will put you on the list of people that I will be notifying if and when that happens.

Thanks again everyone for all the cards, letters, packages, and contributions you have sent. Have a good day. :)
Posted by: # Virgil / 8:16 AM 0 comments Links to this post

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