<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Latest News - Bad and Good 

I have more bad news to report, I am sorry to say. One of the roosters, affectionately called "the monsters," died yesterday. He died from a very common factory farming created syndrome that is commonly referred to as "flipover syndrome." On this page, Jim Mason's article quotes a poultry farmer:

In broiler operations, some birds suddenly jump into the air, give off a loud squawk and fall over dead. This 'flipover syndrome' is usually seen in the larger, faster-growing birds, yet poultry experts say its cause is not known. One southern broiler farmer told me that he had been losing several birds a day from this condition, which he called 'heart attack'. He told me that the problem is 'in the birds - they grow too fast these days'.

And on this industry site, written by a veterinarian, among the very long list of poultry diseases the factory farming system has caused, this syndrome gets a small note under the category of "Other."

Acute death syndrome ("flipover," "heart attack" birds) 1. Cause - unknown, thought to be related to rapid growth 2. Gross - none other than pulmonary edema 3. Micro - same as gross 4. Trans - none

So, despite the very best care we could give him, he died. To give you a better idea of just how big these birds get when they don't go to slaughter, we took another picture of the surviving rooster just yesterday. You can see how much he has grown since we got him. He is now grieving and wasn't the least bit aggressive towards us yesterday when we went in there to take these pictures. The first one was taken to show a bit of scale as to exactly how huge he really is now. Based on how heavy the one I buried was when I picked him up yesterday, I would say that they weigh close to 20 lbs.

The second one Laura took to show how we worked out the trough system so that when we aren't here, others can feed him without actually having to go into the pen since they are so afraid of what was "them" and is now, sadly, only "him." Now that it is getting cold, we are going to go out there today and cover the cracks in the boards and make the entry hole to the house smaller, as well as getting him some more fresh nesting material. We kept it the way it was through the warm weather specifically to prevent what occurred yesterday by having enough air circulating in there to keep them from getting too hot and having this happen. These poor birds are so badly genetically manipulated that few of them survive long after they reach the age of slaughter. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was that we had taken such good care of him. We can only hope that our continued good care will keep the remaining rooster alive.

We are now even more actively pursuing proper mates for him so that he will not be so lonely. We are afraid that the extra strain of grieving will prove to be too hard on him, and we don't want to lose him, too. The problem is that, since he is so big, regular "broiler" chickens and our other hens we have here cannot be put with him because he will hurt them. We have to find similarly large "layer" hens (the ones the industry uses to raise new birds with, not the ones used for unfertilized eggs), to put with him. Any of the others could not withstand the mounting and could sustain great injuries, even to the point of broken bones. So, if anyone knows of or has "spent" layer hens who have been rescued or knows of a chicken farmer that would be willing to let go of some, please contact me ASAP. It really could be a life or death matter for him, as he could literally grieve himself to death. His heart might not be able to withstand the loss of his only friend.

We also lost one of the hens rescued long before I met Laura the day before. Her name was Hester. Nothing really bad happened to her or anything; she was just old, as are several of the ones left here now. The only bright spot in this is that it frees up more room for more rescues, though that fact doesn't help much when you are holding a lifeless body of a friend you have known for years and are digging their grave to return them to Mother Earth. Doing rescue work is hard on the heart, even with the many joys it brings. I have certainly dug too many graves this year...

In other news, to bring you up to date on the bogus "theft" charges brought against Laura and me for trying to return that bag left in the shopping cart in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, the case is now over. We appeared in court to ask for a lawyer. That didn't happen. They were determined to try us that very day without representation and with the very real possibility of us both going to jail and paying huge fines. So, as many innocent, but unrepresented or underrepresented poor people around here, I went ahead and just made a plea deal to save Laura from the possibility of her going to jail for something she didn't do. Yes, I pleaded guilty to something I didn't do (not the first time I have done this, either) in order to spare her and me from being railroaded and probably facing more severe consequences than I received under the plea. As it stands, all I have to do is to pay a fine of $1100 by April. If I don't, then I go to jail. But at least Laura is safe and the charges against her dismissed, though we are both banned from Wal-Mart forever. As you all know, this was only about trying to paint me as "still a criminal" and not at all reformed in order to destroy my credibility. That, and to cost us money. It seems like that has been the latest tactic used against us lately since nothing else has worked to shut me up. They have worked tirelessly to cost us money and to keep me from being able to find even odd jobs in order to earn any money. I haven't reported everything here publicly that they have done, but others know and keep records on all of this should the worst ever happen to me. We don't use your donations for this, though. These types of costs come out of our own shallow pockets. Your money goes only for the support of the animals, unless otherwise specified.

The good news is that the dogs we are fostering are doing well and getting much better. Bill is coming slowly, but surely around, though he is still afraid of just the sight of me and will growl when he sees me. I am not pushing him, though I do call his name out and talk softly to him when I feed and water him each day. Laura and her sister are the ones who have been able to make great strides with him and start building trust. He is going to require a lot of love and patience, though. The sight of him being so afraid, trembling and growling just at the sight of me walking by his pen, makes me want to get my hands on the man who made him this way, though. What a low-down dirty coward to treat a sweet little dog that way!

Spaz has just made himself completely at home and now spends most of his time up at Laura's mother's, laying on one of the chairs on the porch, playing with the kids or other dogs, or lounging inside. Despite our best efforts, we just could not keep that dog in a pen. He always figured a way out no matter what I did. Since being in there was so distressing to him (and Bill didn't like him in there anyway), we finally just gave up and let him do as he pleased. He has stolen the heart of Laura's mother. He is one of those dogs who "grins" at you when he is happy, showing his front teeth as he exuberantly wags his tail. He really is a neat dog, as are they all.

Sophia's eyes are almost completely cleared up, and Jake is as happy as he can be. They play together every day, as do Dusty and Sugar Boy. I wish we could keep them all. But we go through 200 lbs. of food a week now just for them, not counting what we go through for the chickens. We can't do that forever without more help than what we currently are getting. And, even more important, as long as we don't get these dogs placed in homes, we don't have any more spots for more who badly need placement in a loving foster home so that they can return to good health, too. Needless to say, we have just been on an emotional roller coaster ride here lately.

This has been a very hard year for us, but we will soldier on because what we are doing is right and just. The animals need us and just keep coming, as do the questions from people wanting to know more about where their food comes from. This has pretty much become a full-time job for us, though one with no pay, but many heartwarming benefits, despite the heartbreak at the losses of life.

We really couldn't stop now even if we wanted to anyway. Being in the public eye is about the only protection we have. But I will tell all about all of it in the book. You can count on that. Speaking of which, I got a little mini-tape recorder for my birthday to make it easier for me to get the material for the book onto something that Laura can type it up from. Spending the time writing it all out or just trying to dictate it straight to her wasn't working out so well. So, hopefully with this wonderful new gadget, the book will become real a whole lot sooner.

Then, the rest of this long saga not yet reported here on the blog will be told...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Updating You 

Well, the job goes on just as always every day. But then you already know that. Our day-to-day care of rescued animals is routine most of the time. So, let's get on to what we recently did that was different now.

On Oct. 2 we had our little World Farmed Animals Day vigil right here in Pine Ridge and right on our very own road. This is the first time we have had any sort of public demonstration in our area, as we wish to keep being quiet and not create problems where we have to live for the rest of our lives. So, this was a big thing for us, despite the smallness of the way it looks. We didn't hand out any leaflets (we took them to the Walk to give out) or engage in any conversations (which we also did at the Walk), but only one guy flipped me the bird, so it wasn't too bad. At least our presence and feelings were known, just as they were with the Cindy Sheehan vigil.

I put up the newest photos of all of this on the photo page, as I always do, but here are the two pics of our little vigil:

Then ,later that week we headed for Nashville for the Walk for Farmed Animals, where I did a short talk and a long walk. The visit over there also included a wonderful treat - a visit to a pig sanctuary - Shepherd's Green, where they have over 200 pigs. It was amazing to see so many and sad at the same time to know that so many people had gotten them when they were little and cute, then abandoned them when they realized that they would get big and all. Again, the pics of all of this are on the photo page. I would put them here, but it makes it hard for people like me who only have dial-up to have to deal with a bunch of pictures in a post. You never get them all.

Anyway we had a great, if quite chilly Walk and got to see a pig sanctuary. All-in-all another great trip well-spent. Staying with local activists in their homes is a major plus. I want to thank Billye's mother publicly for sharing her home with us while we were there (say "hi" to Hound Dog and Teddy Bear from us, as well as the cats). And, thank you once again, Billye, for putting this thing together, having us out there, and once again having a great time while we did some great things. We raised over $3000 for Farm Sanctuary, about double what we raised last year! So, that was great.

We also had our first bits of information printed up for our own table for the first time. Laura's mother gave her a printer/copier/scanner/fax for her birthday, so now we can do more than we could before. Of course we have already used up two whole printer cartridges since we started, but we did get some stuff printed up and have designed our letterhead and business cards. All we could do in the time permitted was to print the cards up on regular paper and cut them out, but before long we seek to have them printed out on card stock like anyone else.

Our little organization and sanctuary is growing, and we am doing more and more, so we are doing our best to meet the demands being put upon us. It's like trying to run an entire organization with only 2 people, but many groups have started out with only a handful of ompassionate and dedicated people and succeeded. I think that what we are doing is important and makes a difference in the world - a positive one to make up for so much of the bad I did for so many years.

Thank everyone that sent me birthday e-cards and emails. I believe I answered you all individually, but in case I missed anyone, I thank you. Yet one ore year I survived, despite the obstacles. Definitely something to celebrate!

After you get finished checking out the rest of the photos and extra commentary, check out the page for the sanctuary we visited. They are doing great work there, and, like all sanctuaries, work really hard and barely get by. They are always in need of help, so if you live in the area and wish to help, check out their volunteer days. If not, perhaps you might throw them a little cash to help care for all of those animals, some of whom need lots of medical care.

If it is one thing I have learned it is that sanctuaries never pay (that's why the exppansion hasn't gotten anywhere yet+I have to get my chanisaw out of the shop to cut the poles) - you are always pulling money out of your own pockets to keep everyone cared for. When you decide where your donations go, don't forget the people who take in these animals. With people like us and them (as well as other already mentioned on this blog, like the one I did the Blogathon for), the money goes directly to the animals. You are literally saving lives here. Without the public's compassion and support, sanctuaries can only do so much to save so many. And then what? You turn down an animal needing help? Some have had to do just that.

I hope that never happens to us, but it is a worry of mine...
Posted by: # Virgil / 2:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Walk for Farm Animals '05 - Nashville, TN 

**Before I start this post, I wanted to point out to you a new section in the sidebar of some of the most popular posts I have written. If you peruse the archives and see one that you think should be included, by all means, let me know, and I will include it there.**

Yep, I am doing it again. I wanted to take the time to write a quick post to let you all know that if I don't answer your emails this weekend, this is why. And, if you live anywhere near Nashville, please come out and attend. There are plenty of extra T-shirts ordered from Farm Sanctuary for last-minute arrivals to purchase at the low price if only $10. So, if you want to be part of something fun and meaningful, come on out. We had a great turnout last year, though it doesn't look like as many people are going to show up this year. Please make this Walk if you possibly can so that we can show the people of Nashville that so many of us really do care about farmed animals.

Although I am not the main speaker this year, I will be giving another short little speech before we start the Walk. Things should also be a bit better coordinated this year (he crosses his fingers). I look forward to seeing old and new faces there! And now that Laura got a brand new printer/copier/scanner/fax for her birthday, we have printed up a few of my own writings to take with us, as well as some excerpts from the book, "Slaughterhouse," by Gail Eisnitx. We didn't realize how fast a printer cartridge runs out! Next time we will try and get them to a printer. It should be much cheaper and allow us to make more copies, as we were only able to make a dozen of four different printouts before we ran out of ink - two color on our new letterhead and two in black. Our next step is to design our own business cards and labels to be printed. Aren't we getting all professional and all?

We will be back early next week, probably to find overflowing inboxes. Oh well, such is my life. It's worth it. We have made some big differences this year. The temporary downer ban (click here to help make it permanent and include more species than just cows), the stop to the slaughtering of wild horses, the big win that COK managed to get over the use of the "Animal Care Certified" logo, ending the slaughter of wild horses, etc.

There is one more thing I want to point out before I sign off for the weekend. I received this in my inbox this morning and took action on it a while back. I hope you will, too. As we have seen in the past, when the public rises up in large numbers against something, they do in fact create change. We CAN stand up to these industries, protect those that are doing it right, and ensure that the premium price we are paying for organic truly means organic. If the industry can't do it right, then they don't deserve to make the extra profits. It's that simple. Anyway, here is what I received, and I hope that every single person that reads this not only sends an email, but also makes a call (which are more effective) and then sends it to everyone they know:

Over the past two weeks Organic Consumers Association (OCA) network members have bombarded the U.S. Congress with over 100,000 emails and 15,000 telephone calls. Our calls and letters have urged elected public officials to reject the now discredited Organic Trade Association's "Sneak Attack" rider to the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that would seriously undermine organic standards by removing traditional organic community control over organic standards and centralizing power in the hands of the White House-appointed US Department of Agriculture.

OCA's allies such as the Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety, the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, the National Coop Grocers Association, the National Organic Coalition, the Health Freedom network, and several hundred organic businesses have also generated thousands of emails and phone calls. Thank you for taking action. This massive grassroots outpouring prompted the U.S. Senate ten days ago to reject the industry Sneak Attack rider and propose a 90-day study to determine proper organic standards on synthetic substances, animal feed, and commercial availability of organic ingredients.

Unfortunately members of the joint House/Senate Conference Committee on Agricultural Appropriations still seem to be listening more closely to powerful industry lobbyists representing Kraft/Phillip Morris, Dean Foods/Horizon Organic/Whitewave, Dole, Smucker/Knudson's, General Mills/Small Planet, Danone/Stonyfield, Aurora Organic, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, and the Grocery Manufacturers of America (Wal-Mart and the supermarket chains), than they are to us. And because this is a last minute, back door Sneak Attack, most of the media, and even most organic consumers, are not yet aware of what's happening.

We have no choice but to move quickly and raise the volume of our protest, double the number of letters and phone calls pouring into Congress, and aggressively take our message to the media. In 1998, 2003, and 2004 OCA and the organic community successfully mobilized and beat back similar attempts to degrade organic standards. Unfortunately this Sneak Attack is an "inside job," organized and funded by powerful pseudo-organic food processors and supermarket chains who have seized control of the Organic Trade Association, hired powerful lobbyists who usually represent big Pharma, tobacco, supermarket chains, and liquor interests, and are moving in for the "big fix."

We need more letters, and we need money now, to lobby Congress and to take our message to the media. Please forward this Action Alert to everyone you know who is concerned about preserving strict organic standards and organic community control over these standards. If you haven't already, please click here to send a letter to your members of Congress http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm And please click here to send OCA a tax-deductible donation so we can continue to defend the integrity of organic standards. http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm

Time is running out. We must stop this Sneak Attack in Congress and beat back this unfriendly takeover of the organic industry. For the sake of the Earth and the health of the People, please Take Action Now!

Ronnie Cummins, Co-Founder and National Director, Organic Consumers Association





Please forward this publication to family and friends, place it on websites, print it, duplicate it and post it freely. Knowledge is power!

Help others learn about food safety, organics, and related topics. Place a link on YOUR website to http://OrganicConsumers.org Banners for your use - http://OrganicConsumers.org/logos.htm

6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, MN 55603
Phone: (218)-353-7454 Fax: (218) 353-7652


If I don't see you in Nashville, I will be back to talk more early next week. I have some interesting stories to tell, not all of them mine, but we have been just too busy getting ready for this trip and caring for all of these animals to post much of anything this week.

Take care, everyone.

Better yet, take action!
Posted by: # Virgil / 4:33 PM 0 comments Links to this post

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