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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.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Half of that talk will be focused on that latest Tyson undercover tape that the brave investigator got in the Heflin, AL plant. In order to prepare myself for that talk, I had to watch that tape over and over again, sometimes in slow motion, sometimes pausing it to see exactly what was captured there. It was a hard job for me, and this is my attempt to explain to all of you just exactly what it is that goes on in my head when I analyze things like that. Needless to say, Laura was torn up and crying for days, hearing the peeping of the babies as they were lowered into the scalding tanks alive and fully conscious. Because she operated that remote for me as I recorded the exact times and what I saw when and all of that. Back and forth, back and forth, over and over, over and over....
I have talked about this with several of you in personal emails, but haven't quite gotten up what it took to put these intense and deeply personal feelings up on the Net for the world to see. But now I felt like it was time to do that so that you could try to understand a bit more about me and what it takes to do the job I have voluntarily taken it upon myself to do.
For most people, when they watch something like that or Meet Your Meat, or Compassion Over Killing's 45 Days, or even Peaceable Kingdom, they come away with new information that is upsetting, disturbing, maybe even life-changing. They may retain a few of those images they saw that spoke to them the most, but then they go on about their daily lives and either make the appropriate changes in lifestyle so as not to be complicit in such atrocities or they simply explain them away as so much propaganda that is probably only a few isolated cases of abuse and suffering, believing because they want to - they must - in order to keep going about their lives going about their business as usual, eating at KFC, McDonald's, shopping for meat in the store, and that sort of behavior that keeps things just as they are for billions of farmed animals every year.
For me, however, it is very much different than that.
That particular tape was the worst so far for me and has really had me upset for days. You see, when I had to watch that, I didn't just see and hear what was on it, it was more like being transported right back into the shoes of that killer standing there on that line. I was not only seeing what was on the tape, but smelling the smells, hearing the noises, seeing the blood, etc. I guess you could say that I actually relive it all when I do what I had to do to prepare for that talk. It's not only all of that kind of thing that had me actually going and puking until blood came up after Laura and I were through with it, but the sense of guilt and shame that comes with the knowledge that I actually did that for so long.
For far too long.
I have spoken before about that being one of my driving forces - the need to atone for all those innocent baby chickens I killed for all of those years. All of the ones I didn't kill and had to watch and hear get scalded alive in the tanks. Just like I have said that I don't know how much more it will take before I feel like I have done enough to make up for it. I have spoken with a few of you about this, and most of you tell me similar things.
That the moment I stopped and spoke out, changing and "seeing the light," that I was redeemed. Or that if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't be able to do what I do now to make things better by giving truthful information to the public that they wouldn't have otherwise known about. One person even went so far as to tell me that some of these investigations caught on video and making headlines everywhere and meatpacking officials upset and squirm and answer uncomfortable questions wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come forward and told them what was happening behind those closed doors of those hellholes. I even had a friend and fellow blogger tell me yesterday that I've "already saved many more chickens than [I] killed. We all have killed chickens in a way - in fact most of us paid someone to do it so we would be spared the sight - that's even worse."
Well, that's all fine and good, and you are every one of you right and correct, but is it enough? I truly don't feel like it is. Maybe it should be, but I just don't feel it. After all, it was really mostly shame that made me come forward in the first place. It was shame that made me threaten my co-workers never to talk about what happened down there in front of Laura when I still worked there, given her utter compassion and love for all animals, regardless of species. As long as she didn't know the specifics, I thought I could live with it and keep doing it because I needed a job and we needed to eat and I truly didn't know any other way.
Guess we were both ignorant in our own ways.
I will never forget that day that she actually saw where I worked - up inside the plant. The actual place where I stood and was responsible for the ending of so many lives of so many innocents. Those that have been reading this blog from the beginning might remember the day I had her write about that herself and how she felt. And how what she said made me feel on the long drive home.
Because a part of me had always known it was wrong. Part of me justified it by saying that if it wasn't me standing there, it would be someone else with less experience, less care to "do the job right" and make sure as many as possible never hit that scalder alive. Didn't suffer so much. Oh, the things we tell ourselves to keep going as we are without changing. But, even though I was once called, "the best killer in Arkansas" and received the employee of the month award four times for killing - what I was told was a record - I still knew what I was doing was wrong.
But that day when Laura actually saw where I worked and felt the energy of that place literally hit her in the face like a wall, describing it like that of a prison or hospital or somewhere else horrible where there is so much suffering, death, and no hope, and went on and on about it all the way home, tears streaming down her face, I felt a deep shame that has never gone away.
It doesn't matter how many posts I make here, how many talks I give, how many interviews, articles, and the like are done. I carry it with me always. I am still a killer. There is no changing that. There should be no excuses or justifications made for that.
Maybe I don't even deserve to feel better about it, even though I am doing all I can to stop it now. Some days that is the way I feel.
That is certainly the way that particular video made me feel. Just like I was right back there again. I couldn't stop thinking about it the rest of the day. Or the few days after that. It still bothers me. It bothers me badly. It still shames me. And the world now knows so much more about me than I ever wanted them to know. Especially that since I was "the best killer" of little innocent baby chicks that I was awarded for it. Not to mention many other dirty details about my life that I would rather have not been aired for the whlole world to see and read about.
There are those that still, even after all this time and effort, don't believe that a person like me can change. They truly believe that once a killer, always a killer and that I am out for nothing more than vengeance for being fired.
Really? Do you really think I would have put this much time and effort and personal sacrifice into something as petty as revenge for being fired from a terrible job that I hated anyway???? Some would still say yes. Their mindset won't allow any other answer. And that's just sad and pathetic. They can't fathom it.
To them I say, you step into those shoes. You do that job. Could you do it? A woman named Susan Rich is quoted as saying,
"If you held the knife, cut its throat, stilled its life, would it be on your plate or your conscience tonight?"
Well, I know which it is with me. And it is a heavy burden to bear. Very heavy. Unbelievably heavy.
Yet this is what pushes me on. That and the emails I receive from some of you that are so wonderful, telling me that what you have read here has opened your eyes and that you won't be a part of this anymore.
But, it is still so hard. So very hard.
To go through that tape and analyze it second by second, seeing, hearing, smelling, being there, doing it all over again in my mind. That's what you ask of me when you send me a tape like that and want my take on it. Not that I blame those who have done so. I asked for them. I viewed them willingly, helped out, gave my experienced expert opinion on what I saw freely and without personal gain.
No gain at all, just a bigger load of personal pain.
Yet, it drives me on. I won't stop. I can't stop. Not even if I wanted to now.
That's why I do this. And that's why I will be at AR2005 showing people what it is that happens in those killing rooms and proving that Tyson spokesman is the big fat liar that he is. Has he stood in those shoes? Has he even been into a killing room and had that blood splatter his expenseive suit and tie? I highly doubt it.
And this is why you should not support them or any other company like them if you care in the least about animals and whether or not they suffer.
Because they do. Oh, they most certainly do.
Just as do the people who stand there for you killing your supper so you don't have to. They suffer, too. All because of you.
I know I do.
And once again, I am not alone.