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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, June 15, 2005
So, slaughterhouse workers everywhere, write and tell your stories if you want your lives and jobs to get better. There are far more people that care about you than you might think. And the improvements that the AR community is fighting for will majorly benefit YOU! Don't listen to the company you work for. Haven't they lied to you and treated you badly countless times before? I promise to you that I will keep fighting for you to make things better. But I need your help to do that. The more of you who take the time and have the courage to write, the faster we can make that happen. It's up to you how much longer you want to continue to endure what you are going through when we do have the ability to come together, tell our stories to the world, and have things change for the better. That may sound hard to believe, but it will happen. It is just a matter of time, and the more of you who come forward, the faster these improvements will be implemented.
Help me to help you!
The second email came at the end of last month, and while the person is still a bit worried about others figuring out who is writing these emails, they are ready for them to be posted, though they still wish to remain anonymous. Can you blame anyone for that fear after seeing what I went through (and am STILL going through!) after coming out, publicly talking, along with using my real name, and blowing the whistle on Tyson? This is not the first worker I have heard from, but only the second willing to have anything at all posted on this site, and both wished to remain anonymous. Perhaps the next person will not be so worried about anonymity. Either way, as long as people can read what you have to say, that is the most important thing. If you want someone to fight for you then you are going to have to help us to fight for you by talking. Forget the fear and intimidation your company instills in its workers. Talk! Get it out there!
Anyway, after this last communication the person indicated that they would agree to me going ahead and posting the information sent to me, as long as I was careful to protect their real identity. I am hoping that I have succeeded in doing so by the way these two emails were handled. I took the precaution of resending the original email to make sure that there were no details they wanted deleted or blanked out before posting - they meant what they said - use it, just don't identify me by name. I truly hope that I have lived up to that agreement in such a way that they do not feel the pain and weight of the repercussions I have had to endure. (Most of the editing that was done was simply cleaning up typos, deleting the name that would have identified this individual, and things like that. Otherwise this is what was written word for word.)
Here is most of the first one:
I've been reading your blog for the last couple of days with interest,
going through your archive.
I too work at a chicken plant, albeit a small one, here In Bunbury. Its
name is Finesse Foods, and it processes 9000 chickens a day. These are
mostly what we call Prime (broiler), but there are also plenty of meat
hens (I guess you'd call them 'spent hens' over there), fowl, and rooster.
am currently doing the job of "sitter" - putting the chickens on the
cones on one of the conveyor belts (we have two conveyor belts in the
'boning room'). It is quite simply the most boring job on earth - but at
least it isn't messy like on the kill floor.
I was quite shocked to read a lot of what you wrote, and even more
shocked to realise the similarities between our plant and Tyson's over
there. For one, the conditions seem quite similar ( though not quite as
dangerous here). We have quite a problem with red birds over here at
times - tho they're still placed on the line to be boned out (I had no
idea that these birds would be contaminated like you said - it never
occurred to me). We also regularly get "runts" which won't sit on the
cones properly to be boned, but they're still boned out for meat too.
After the meat has been removed from the carcasses, what is left
(including in many cases intestines full of crap which are sometimes
missed and not removed before going through) is fed into the "bee-hive".
It is the only machine that defies the rule "crap in, crap out" in that
the muck (some call it mince; I won't) coming out looks mored edible and
smells better than the shit they shove into it. It makes me sick to
think that somebody in Asia is eating the stuff. Did you have such a
machine in your plant?.
Oh, and our kill plant is probably worse than yours - it's an old beef
floor that has been converted for chicken slaughter and it is literally
falling apart at the seams. At one stage while I was there the power was
going out across the entire kill plant (it was separate from the boning
and packing operations about 30km away) several times a day due to the
plant's electrical systems not being able to cope with the load during
the summer. Luckily they are going to be building a new kill plant in
the very near future (and not before time!).
I also saw the live hang crew mistreat birds at times (mainly due to the birds shitting on their faces), and got badly bruised birds through the boning room which I had
to put on the cones. I couldn't help feel sorry for the poor birds in
those cases. Luckily, though I occasionally worked near the live hang
crew, I never partook in their kicking or otherwise mistreating chickens.
In fact, when I saw chickens that had managed to jump out of the small
plastic cages they came in, I often helped them "escape" from the live
hang area - pushing them off the gangway and onto the ground below where
their fate would at least be averted for a short time before they were
recaptured. (The live hang area was on the second story of the building
in the outdoors. Pallets of chicken crates were lifted up onto a
conveyor which delivered the chickens to the two hangers, who unloaded
the crates two-at-a-time by hand. I had the job of removing all the
chicken feet from the shackles ready for the live hang people .).
I'm sorry for the short and rather disjointed nature of this email, but
I just wanted to send a quick email this time to touch base with you and
let you know that, unfortunately, some of what you described happens
here too. Oh, and did I mention that our plant is also in the habit of
paying off the health inspectors?
I'll write more once I hear from you
And here is most of the second one:
It's ____ here - I wrote to you a while ago about my experiences in the chicken industry here in Western Australia. If you still have my e-mail from back then then you have my permission to use it - just please don't identify me by name. I'm still working at the chicken plant - but have cut my hours down to three days....only because I can't find another job. Until then, I can handle 3 days there. It's so funny (not really - but ironic perhaps) to read how the mistreatment is universal in the industry. I admit that we don't get treated THAT badly compared to some of the stories I've read on your site, but we still get heavy-handed by the management there, and the bosses are all pricks. I don't know - maybe the industry attracts that sort of person? No wonder I want out.
As I said in my earlier email our kill plant only processes 9000 chooks a day. The plant is tiny compared to the one you worked in. Only one short chain. The building it is in has a lot longer history - I believe it's been standing since the 1920's. It's falling apart.
On the chain there are two hangers who hang the chooks in the "back dock" (really only a metal gangway with a conveyor belt onto which pallets cages of chickens - sorry, "pre-processed product," are loaded to be hung. The hangers then grab the cages, move then to the line under the hooks, open the cages and hang the chickens by their legs. The chickens then go through the stunner and a blade cuts their necks, watched by a "mussie" (Muslim, these chickens are certified halal, and a lot of our product goes overseas). They then go through the scalder and featherer. At this stage, there are two metal bars which catch the heads as they whiz past and pull them off. Often they will fall off the line at this stage so there are two guys ("re-hangers") stationed there to re-hang the chickens that fall off. I've done re-hang - and we don't have the luxury of raincoats in there either. You can imagine how wet with chicken-blood you get in there ;-)
The chickens then have their feet cut off by a metal blade and fall into a chute to go into the gutting floor, where they first go through a machine that cuts the crop off, and then get gutted by two people in the room. A third person makes sure that no guts remain in the chicken and pulls the fat out of their arseholes (or what remains of them). They then go through a machine that blows air through the carcass to remove any traces of gut that the guys miss before falling off the chain into the "spin-chill" (or should that be "contamination chamber" *grin*) and are packed. It's been a while since I've worked in the kill plant, and I'm told some things have changed since I was there. There's also a new plant being built. I look forward to visiting it one day - just to see if things have improved or not with the new plant.
Anyway, I'll leave this e-mail at that for now and await your reply.
Feel free to use the info I have provided you on your website, but just don't identify me by name.
Come on workers! Fight the fear! Tell the world what you are put through every day! I know you are tough folks because I know all too well what it takes to stand on that line. So, come on and stand up for yourselves. You can do it. I know you can! Tell them! Tell them ALL about it! Every dirty detail.....
Again, help me to help you!