<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

More Corroboration About Chicken Catching 

Some of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning may remember my discussions about catching chickens. I started doing this job at night when I was only 14 years old to help support my family, as I was the oldest, and we lived in extreme poverty in the Ozarks. Even so, I still got up each morning and went to school each day and graduated with good grades. From what I know and have spoken about this horrible job and the terrible abuse of the chickens, I can say with certainty that what you are about to read is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, this sort of thing happens every day and night. Some places use the new automated chicken catching machines, which are supposed to be more humane (Although they are harder on the workers at the slaughter plants because they suck up more dust, feces, and even the lime that is used to keep the smell down - we hated it when Tyson started using them in some of the houses, and some chickens are still broken and maimed in the process - there is simply no "humane" way to catch terrified baby chickens and stuff them in the cages on the trucks. Period.), but as you will see from the statements of two people hired on to do this job, nothing has really changed in all these years. Many houses are still caught by the same means that they were way back when I was a teenager. You may also remember that I spoke about the fact that the need for speed was important because we were paid per bird, not per hour, and we would not take breaks to eat or anything in order to be finished early and get through so that we could go home. Hence, the brutality and rushing around to get done. Even if you aren't a sadist, like the person who enjoys killing runts, you can't help but injure chickens when you are running and working as fast as you can. If they paid people by the hour instead of by the number of birds caught in a night, the process would no doubt be a little more humane.

There is a summary story about this here, but I will simply put the entire statements of these two shocked and upset individuals in full in this post. I believe that they speak for themselves without any further comments from me. I am just glad that more and more people are coming forwrd and speaking out against the absolute brutality of this horrible industry.

I continue to hope and wish that more people will follow my lead and continue to come forward with their stories. And, as I have said before, if you workers want to have your say, but are afraid of losing your jobs and want to remain anonymous, I will be glad to post your stories here without revealing who you are, letting you see and appriove any post before it is made public, just as I have done before with others. Believe it or not, most of us activists really do care about you (I certainly do!), and the things we are trying to change about this industry will definitely improve your lives and working conditions. My activism started with the idea of simply improving the working conditions at the plant I worked at. I still want to help you. But we need more of you to come forward, whether by name or anonymously. Just get your stories out to the public if you want your jobs to be less hellish.

For the rest of you, keep in mind that this and every horror story on this blog is what you support each and every time you risk your health and that of your kids by taking a bite of chicken. This is what your hard-earned dollars support, and therefore you are complicit in this suffering if you eat chicken. Hopefully, as more and more people find out the truth, they will turn to the alternatives like Laura and I (and many others) have and not eat them ever again.
Statement of Whistleblower Chad Haberstock
I, Chad Haberstock, took a job as a "chicken catcher" for Brian's Poultry in southern Ontario, Canada on May 12, 2003. It was a horrible experience for my girlfriend and me, but it was even worse for the chickens.

Upon entering each barn that night, we were hit with the overpowering stench of ammonia, clouds of dust, and dirty wood chips. At the first barn, which was kosher, we were told that catchers could only carry two chickens in each hand and that we were to hold each chicken by both legs to prevent the breaking of blood vessels. Holding the chickens by two legs (instead of using the standard one-leg rule)
caused much less damage and injury to the chickens, though it did require more care and time on the part of the workers-time that most farmers in other barns didn't want us to take.

On the other farms, we were required to carry eight chickens at a time-double the number that we carried in the kosher barn. I tried to handle these chickens with care, but I could still feel their bones crushing under their own weight as I held them. These were not very big chickens, and we held four-each by one leg-in each hand. I was trying to be gentle because my heart went out to these poor animals, but I could still feel the chickens' legs breaking in my hands. Carrying four chickens in each hand puts a lot of pressure on certain chickens, causing their legs to pop out of joint or their bodies to crush under the weight of the other chickens. The swinging motion that was used to lift the chickens up to the loaders caused the most damage because the pressure of the swing and the weight of the other chickens pushing down on the leg of the chicken on the end caused the leg to shatter or pop. The loaders applied even more pressure when they grabbed the chickens out of my hands, causing even greater damage and breakage. The loaders grabbed the chickens very forcefully, shoving them into the crates. A few times, my fingers were grabbed with the chickens' legs, and it was surprising to feel how much pressure the loaders applied.

Around the loading doors, there were a lot of injured chickens, lingering in pain on the ground. These chickens had either been dropped by the loaders or were left behind in the catching and loading frenzy. Many of these chickens couldn't walk properly and, therefore, could not move themselves out from under our feet, so they were injured and crushed. In all the barns, including the kosher barn, I witnessed chickens who wandered out into the open being kicked and stepped on by workers, then left to die with damaged legs and broken wings. I also heard numerous callous comments from the workers, such as: "They're not really animals," "I hate chickens," "I just want to kill them," "Just don't think about them," "Just don't worry about them," and "Just kick them out of the way."

The chickens were also mistreated in the process of trying to corral them. Large, plastic gates were used to contain groups of chickens in certain parts of the barn. I did not see a problem with this, until I saw the gates being put into place by some of the workers. They were dropped onto the chickens and forced down in a very aggressive manner, making the chickens move and crushing them if they didn't move fast enough. I witnessed a number of injuries that were caused by this method of gate placement. I also noticed a lot of injured chickens around the gates, many with broken wings.

Statement of Whistleblower Sally Mitchell

On the evening of Monday, May 12, 2003, my boyfriend, Chad Haberstock, and I accepted positions working as "chicken catchers" for Brian's Poultry Services (BriansPoultry.com), based in Mildmay, Ontario in Canada. We were hired almost immediately over the phone with no references and no questions asked. We had no idea what we were in for.

A company van picked us up at 6 p.m., and as we climbed inside with other employees who had been hired for the same position, it quickly became obvious that there would be no friends made here. No one was interested in learning our names, and if not for two boys who talked to us in the back of the van, we would not have understood what we would be doing as "catchers" that night. The boys told us that we would feel badly afterward and have trouble breathing but that we would "get used to it."

When we arrived at the first farm, I learned that the chickens are kept in total darkness. The lights in the barn were turned up when we entered so that we could see to put down the gates that are used to catch the chickens. When that had been done, the lights were very slowly turned down again. Walking through thousands of chickens as the lights dimmed and the sound of electricity faded away made me think of the fear and confusion of gas chambers. It was like a bad dream.

We were informed that the first barn was a "two-leg barn," meaning that we were allowed to carry only four birds at a time and that each one had to be carried by two legs. The heavy gates, which weighed approximately 10 pounds each, were thrown around the barn to trap the chickens so that they would be easier to catch. Even though this was supposed to be the barn where chickens were not hurt, the catchers threw the gates around without regard for the chickens' safety, crushing and trapping many of them beneath the gates. If the gates were not even with the ground, the catchers would lean all their weight on the gates and force them to the floor, crushing the live chickens who were caught below. Walking across the barn from the gates to the door was insane. It was impossible not to crush chickens underfoot. It took so long for me to cross because, with every step, I felt crushing and heard screaming. I carefully tried to move the chickens out of my way, but other employees just ran from side to side as if they didn't notice the sea of bodies under their feet.

When the doors of the barn were opened, the real horror began. A truck was backed up to the open doors, exposing these birds to the outside world for the first time. They panicked. There is no way to deny that those birds were terrified and confused. That was when I started feeling guilty. I looked at the birds and knew that it was the end for them-there was no escape. We began grabbing chickens and holding them upside-down by their legs, carrying two in each hand and giving them to "loaders" in the truck, who threw and slammed them into tiny transport crates. This process was brutal, and it's amazing that any of the chickens were alive at that point. There were 7,000 chickens inthe barn, and it took about an hour to load them into the truck. When we were finished, I couldn't breathe, but I knew that we had another farm to go to.

Little did I know that things were about to get much worse. We were split into two teams, and as we approached the next barns, one of the workers started yelling, "I get the runts! I get the runts!" When I asked him what he meant, he said that, in order to get a higher weight in the truck, they wanted to load only the big chickens and kill the smaller ones. He explained how he smashed the skulls of the "runts" until they were dead. He was assigned to the other barn, so I did not have to witness this.

The next barn was absolute hell. You wouldn't believe what it was like unless you were there. We had to wake 38,000 sleeping baby chickens and terrify and break them. In this barn, there were none of the restrictions of the first barn. We were told to pick up eight chickens at a time and to hold each one by one leg-four chickens in each hand. Chad told me that he could feel the chickens' legs snap and pop when he handed them up to the loader on the truck. The chickens tried to huddle in groups, but occasionally, one would stray into the middle of the floor and get stepped on and kicked around. It broke my heart. I only worked a little while in this barn before I had to sit down because of the combination of exhaustion and emotional strain. I made eye contact with some of the young chickens, who were so little that they weren't even clucking yet, just cheeping. It just killed me. They started huddling under me for safety when I knelt down. Some people think that chickens don't have feelings, but it was perfectly clear how scared these animals were. It was absolute hell-there are no better words to describe that graphic scene. It was death. It was screaming babies with no one to help them. Worse, I knew that I was only seeing a very small percentage of the billions of chickens who are killed every year in the industry. I couldn't do it anymore, so Chad and I both went and sat out for the last hour while the final truck was loaded.

I cried the whole way home. I only made it half of one night, but the biggest shock came when I realized that the catchers do this every day and have been doing it for years-some of them for their entire working lives. The brutality that these people inflicton animals shocked me. Ever since that day, my boyfriend and I have sworn off meat. Most people don't know what happens to animals in the meat industry, but now, you know that there is a fate worse then death for these chickens-their journey to slaughter.
Want to email Brian's Poultry with your comments? Here is their email address: sseitz@brianspoultry.on.ca
i caught poultry for 10 years through various companies the statements above are very true with a few innacuracies but who can blame these people having witnessed something close to an atrocity. but not all companies use the same practice and through organizations like peta and others treatment of the animals is observed. but the only reason birds are caught in this manner is to feed the consumption of the general public. but youre right it would be more humane if the workers were paid by the hour and not that silly peice rate method of pay.
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