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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.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Yep. I got published yet again. Those of you coming here from reading this story might be interested in the previous post I wrote on this tape and what it involved for me to do the analysis that sparked the article you read. For those who have not seen The Agribusiness Examiner article yet, here it is in full, along with the previous story that sparked my letter to Al Krebs, who devotes his time and efforts to working for family farmers and rural areas against the major corporations that destroy their lives and communities. I consider him a great ally and a dedicated man. (Check out his site here). Expect to see it reprinted on other websites in the near future (I already have confirmation of one that will run it), and this entry will be updated with all links that run this story.
In the meantime, let's just jump right into it:
"BEST CHICKEN KILLER IN ARKANSAS"
TELLS OF TYSON FOODS' INHUMANE
SLAUGHTER OF POULTRY AND COVERUP
Special to THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER
July 29, 2005
I worked in Tyson Foods slaughter plants for over ten years, much of that time spent in the killing room. I was employee of the month on four different occasions and, for the last three years, trained the new killers. I was once even told by the plant manager that I was "the best killer in Arkansas."
I have obtained a copy of the PETA tape [See Reprint of PETA story --- Issue #408 --- below] and watched it over and over again, analyzing what exactly was captured on it. I even watched it in slow motion. It takes a trained eye to catch these things, and I certainly have one. There is no doubt at all in my mind that Tyson is the one at fault here, as their killing machine was acting up and severely mutilating those birds.
At one point on the tape, the supervisor even admits this. I saw this same problem many nights that I worked for Tyson through the years, so I find that the investigator and the tape to be entirely credible and that Tyson is simply lying to cover their own selves.
The way they are attacking the investigator is the same way they attacked me when I brought a bright spotlight into the dark corners of what goes on behind the scenes of those houses of horror and outright torture, coming forward and swearing out a formal statement.
They can't refute the message, as they know it to be true, so they attack the messenger. It is an old tactic and the only one to resort to when you are caught the way they have been. They even support Consumer Freedom, who freely admits the use of such tactics.
It was not uncommon at all for me to spend two to three weeks training a new-hire to kill. I find the fact that they put an untrained person in there to do that job without any training to be a serious concern and a very bad judgment call. There's no doubt in my mind that the investigator probably missed many more chickens than even he realized and that were subsequently scalded alive.
If you listen to the tape closely, you can even hear the baby chicks (because, let's face it --- that's what they are, no matter how the industry has manipulated them to gain the size they are at slaughter) peeping as they are lowered into the scalding tanks.
It's not just the uncut birds that you have to watch for. It takes a trained eye to watch for the miscuts. Those are the ones that are the hardest to spot. In order for the chicken to bleed to death before she hits the scalding tank, both the carotid arteries and the jugular vein must be severed completely.
Otherwise, what happens is that you see a lot of surface blood, but it isn't enough for the chicken to die before she reaches the scalding tanks. Even if the chicken is cut right, if she has been partially smothered on the belt, then she still will not bleed out in time. And she will still be scalded while conscious and feeling, completely sentient and fully aware of what is happening.
When Tyson claims that the investigator should have stopped the line and sounded an alarm when a chicken was about to be scalded, I actually laughed out loud. That man would have been fired for doing something like that, or at the very least have been written up and severely reprimanded and reminded of the cost of pulling such a stunt for one chicken.
The very fact that the supervisor admits that Tyson allows up to 40 birds to be scalded alive every day and that they accept the fact that it is impossible for the killer to get them all nullifies that lame argument anyway. When you add on top of that the fact that an untrained and inexperienced killer is put in there who can't even spot the ones who are still alive, then the problem is even worse.
I don't know the exact speed of the line that he was working on, but I have worked on lines ranging in speed from 142-186 birds per minute, depending on the plant. That in itself should explain the difficulty of the job. Nobody that has ever worked the killing room will ever tell you that you will catch every one, no matter how hard you try.
That fact is also admitted on the tape by the supervisor when he explains that
the plant had allowed for 40 birds to be scalded alive per day and that figure had been increased from 15.
I find it hard to believe that an untrained killer was able to keep to that number, and although that may be mere speculation on my part, my experience gives me the ability and the knowledge to make such statements with certainty.
As for the decapitation part of it. Well, on that video I clearly saw the knives that the killers are supposed to use to kill the birds with that miss the killing machine or are miscut laying on the edge of the blood trough.
I only saw a knife used once during that video because the person was too busy using the hose to wash off the blood trough to be actually killing the missed birds. At all of the plants that I worked at, it was considered the killer's job to keep the blood trough washed down. It was also his responsibility to keep the killing machine washed down. And it was also considered his responsibility to keep his knife sharpened, all while he was supposed to be killing. Now, you tell me how someone is supposed to do all of that and NOT miss birds? Can anyone? I know that I couldn't, even if I was "the best killer in Arkansas."
The whole time I worked for Tyson, I had never even heard of an "animal welfare policy." I certainly never was asked to sign such a document or attend any training whatsoever.
In fact, the timing of the announcement from Tyson that they were going to implement such a policy happened when they found out that I was going to speak out about these kinds of things publicly when a reporter called them about writing a story about this problem. And I did.
The Los Angeles Times wrote a story about it all. (Although they no longer have it up on their site, it is still up on many other sites, including Common Dreams here:)
As far as the papers being signed, when you are hired, you are given a stack of papers to sign without being given the time to read what you are signing, so if the investigator in fact signed such a document that he received such animal welfare training, it would not surprise me. What would surprise me was if he actually did receive it.
I believe that Tyson's accusations against the PETA inspector are ludicrous and a lame attempt to cover their own selves. Every single thing I saw on that video was common industry practice during all of the years that I worked for Tyson.
I am fighting for the workers, the small family farmers, the environment, and the rural communities like the one I live in (Pine Ridge, Arkansas, pop. 18) just as much as I am for the plight of the poor chickens being daily tortured inside the hellholes of places like Tyson slaughter plants.
They are all victims of the factory farming industry, and they certainly need all the help they can get.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In an e-mail to THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Butler adds: "You have my full permission to take this story and use it in any way you see fit, including publishing. Same for anything you find on my blog site (listed below), where the early archives tell the most graphic stories that really upset Tyson and interested the LA Times and, eventually, the world.
"I have been targeted by not only Tyson, but the corrupt law enforcement officers that act as their lackeys ever since. But I will not stop speaking any more than you will as long as the injustice continues."
Founder of Activists Against Factory Farming
TYSON FOODS SAYS IT WILL
OF INHUMANE TREATMENT
DURING CHICKEN SLAUGHTER
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Tyson Foods Inc. said Wednesday it will investigate allegations of inhumane chicken slaughter, but contended that an undercover animal-rights photographer apparently violated company policies by videotaping "what he should have been preventing."
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, distributed videotapes and launched a Web site accusing Tyson of mutilating birds and scalding thousands while they were conscious in an Alabama slaughterhouse. The group also said its videotape shows workers tearing heads off live chickens.
Tyson, the world's largest poultry processor, said a veterinarian from its Office of Animal Well-Being will look into the allegations.
Tyson also raised the possibility of evidence manipulation by PETA's undercover agent, who was employed at the Heflin, Alabama, facility for several weeks.
It said the man had signed a document confirming he had completed the company's animal-welfare training "and was responsible for ensuring that no birds remained alive. His job gave him the responsibility to process any live birds, stop the line or sound an alarm if there was a problem.
"Instead, it appears PETA's agent violated Tyson's animal-welfare policy by allowing some conscious birds to go into the scald tank for the sole purpose of videotaping what he should have been preventing.
"We also take issue with PETA claims of manual decapitation of live birds," Tyson said in a statement. "We believe the carefully edited video is showing birds that have already been cut by an automatic knife and are either dead or have been rendered unconscious."
Responding to the company's statement, PETA said its investigator had been "taught to rip the animals' heads off by a plant supervisor, for when there are too many who miss the neck slicer."
The group also said the man tried to slow the processing line but quit because the plant's policy allowed a certain number of birds to be scalded while conscious.
Tyson said it continues to research the use of a procedure that PETA has urged the industry to adopt. It uses an inert gas to stun the chickens before they are killed. "Experts are divided over whether it is more humane," the company said.
Last year, PETA brought charges of animal abuse against Pilgrim's Pride Corp., which subsequently fired several chicken slaughterhouse workers caught on videotape. West Virginia officials decided not to bring criminal charges.
PETA has an ongoing campaign seeking to convince the KFC unit of Yum Brands Inc. to insist its suppliers use controlled-atmosphere slaughter procedures.
In afternoon trading, shares of Tyson slipped 23 cents to $18.77 on the New York Stock Exchange. [ May 25, 2005 ]
Thank you, Al, for your caring and dedicated work. I have used the Agribusiness Examiner as a news source for quite a while now in posting articles to my groups, and it really felt good to be able to give something back.
This is a perfect example of part of the work I am trying to do on top of my actions in defense of animals and the environment. I aim to try to reach out and unite other social justice groups, find common ground, and work together to fight back against the greedy corporations destroying many, many lives, and especially those in rural communities. They care nothing about the people, the communities, the environment, and certainly not the animals. They are unethical and motivated strictly by short-term profits to please investors. And they LIE. They LIE all the time to do this, hiring many highly-paid spokespersons to do so. Readers who have been with me from the beginning will remember the string of lies Ed Nicholson, one of Tyson's spokesmen told about me way back when the LA Times story broke and how it came back to bite him in the ass when he was proved to be the liar he was. In one post way back then, I even compared him to Al-Sahaf saying, "There are no abused chickens here! It's all AR infidel propaganda!" that was written in a post I published way back on 11/26/03 entitled "Setting Things Straight on 'Inspections.'"
Check out the early archives to see why he and Tyson were so angry when the story first broke. Tyson had no idea I had been writing this blog for months until that reporter called them and told them she was doing a story and that I had started this site. Boy, were they upset! They went out of their way to tear me apart. Ed even went so far as to infiltrate my group, as did a few others, including the Grannis Chief of Police, Larry Harmon, posting as jeffe401. At least Ed had the nerve to admit who he was, while Larry did not. It only took Laura two days to track down who he really was because he was so sloppy as he went all over the Net trashing me with lies. She found out who he really was through his IP address linked up with his real name in a forum, and that IP address led straight to the Grannis police department, located conventiently directly across the street from the plant in Grannis in a building owned by Tyson. But then, that is his way, as he is one of the most corrupt cops around and is the biggest Tyson lackey there is down there. He has had a personal little "feud" going on with me and my family for years, even killing my cousin in cold blood, and this campaign against Tyson only intensified his efforts to destroy me. I expect to hear more from him (anonymously, of course - he won't face me in public, as he likes to shoot people in the back and beat defenseless people who are handcuffed and unable to defend themselves) unless this post catches the attention of someone with enough power and ethics to actually start to investigate the wholesale corruption that is going on now, and has for years, in Polk County, AR. So many innocent lives destroyed, not only by Tyson, but by this man and others of his ilk.
There have been many actions taken against me since, including property damage, death threats, harming one of the dogs here, repeated break-ins, planting drugs (which I burned as soon as I found them), stealing files off our computer, tapping our phones, watching us from the woods, and even jailing me on false, twisted, or non-existent charges. Some of them I have written about here and some I have only told others who are keeping extensive files on all of this should I ever meet the fate of someone as courageous and upsetting to a large corporation as Karen Silkwood.
I will include in this post a quote from Al Krebs that he left in an email to me as we finalized this story:
We may not succeed in changing the world, but we sure as hell will give it a good try.
Well, I believe we can and will succeed. It may just take a while. But I am not giving up any more than you are, Al. Any more than the many activists all over the globe fighting for just causes against the big multinationals that corrupt and taint everything they touch, including governments and even (and especially) our own. I continue to believe that most people are good people and would demand change if only they were educated. There are those in this area who hate Tyson, but are afraid to air their grievances publicly. I hope that one day I can reach more of them and tell their stories, even if only anonymously.
I want to use another quote that I like a lot and that is the signature quote of my friend, Bruce Friedrich at PETA, who I respect and greatly admire and who was also quite influential at helping me become the vegan activist I am today:
Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
Here are my signature quotes (at least the ones I use now):
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
--Edward Everett Hale
"Basically, every human individual carries responsibility for the benefit or welfare of humanity and for the planet itself, because this planet is our only home. We have no alternative refuge. Therefore, everyone has the responsibility to care not only for our fellow human beings but also for insects, plants, animals and this very planet."
--His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
After the last Tree has been cut down,
After the last River has been poisoned,
After the last fish has been caught,
Only then will you find
That money cannot be eaten.
And, last but not least, a quote from a brave little girl who also talked to the world, though she died doing so a long time ago. If any of the above quotes have not inspired you to take action yet, perhaps hers will:
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world."
Once again, I am not alone.