<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

My Story - For the Blogathon Folks 

I grew up on a homestead in the Ozarks on a small family farm. I worked in the poultry industry for years, starting out catching chickens for Val-Mac (later bought out by Tyson) when I was only 14 as the sole breadwinner of the household to help take care of my younger brothers and sister. I did this at night and still managed to graduate high school.

After a few years in the military, I returned back to my area to find no steady jobs but the poultry industry. So, I went to work in a slaughter plant. Back then it was a small family-owned plant named Lane Poultry that was also bought out (most people around here say "stolen) by Tyson. I worked there on and off through the years, for over a decade. I hated it from the first night. It went against everything I had been taught as a child in how you treat animals. But, I needed a job, and that was about all there was around, so I gritted my teeth and hung in there. I even became quite good at it, earning the award of employee of the month 4 times and being promoted to line leader with the extra task of "teaching" new-hires how to hang and kill chickens. I put "teaching" in quotes simply because the pace is so fast that there is no real time for any real teaching. What I really did was to simply take up the slack until they either caught on, quit, or were fired.

Then I met Laura. And my whole life changed. In the early archives (don't have time to search for the link now) there is a post written by her that describes what it was like for her to see where I worked. It definitely made a real impression on her. She was shocked. She, like most people, just never knew.

Being a lover of animals that had volunteered at a shelter, did a demo for PETA once, and taken in numerous rescues through the years, she just broke down and cried all the way home (which back then took about an hour). She ranted and raved as she cried, and all I could do was to hang my head in shame.

For the first time I realized how ashamed I was about what I did for a living. Oh, I always knew it was wrong, but I justified it by telling myself that I had to have job and that it would happen whether I was there or not, and the next guy might not be quite as careful as I was about making sure not so many chickens missed the blade and went through the scalder alive.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I started to complain and miss work. I even went so far as to download forms to report Tyson to OSHA for safety violations. But when I presented them to my co-workers to actually sign, they got too scared to put their names on them, and someone ratted me out. I was gone a short time later.

Laura informed me after I left Tyson that there were people in this world who cared about chickens. I was pretty skeptical at first, but I agreed to go along with what she said, not really believing anything would come of it. See, she told me about a group called PETA that we could tell about the terrible cruelty that happened down there and that they would indeed care. Boy, did they!

Anyway, a little over two years later, here I am. I don't eat meat anymore, don't do dairy and all of that kind of thing. Yep. Ex-killer turned activist - that's me. Now I get invited to speak, have articles written about me, do radio shows and documentaries, etc. And I am writing a book about this whole thing.

I have definitely come a long way, but I feel much better about the kind of person I am now. And I even got a bonus for my efforts - I am healthier than I ever have been. I hope that you will follow along and learn a bit more about the factory farming industry. For the brave souls out there, check out the early archives. That's where the really graphic stuff is. I have to keep things pretty tame for the 'thon. That was the agreement for me to be accepted.

Anyway, I hope that you will take the time to become an informed consumer and that you will maybe even make a few changes in your life to make the world a better place.
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