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, January 18, 2005
Where Now Mad Cow?
Before I get into the rest of today's post, a reader wrote in and brought something to my attention that she thought some of the rest of you may enjoy participating in. Here is what she sent:
Activist/Activist Linda Blair made a one-of-a-kind teddy bear, to be auctioned on eBay from Jan. 17 through Jan. 21. 100% of the proceeds will go to Save the Children (an awesome organization that could definitely use the boost in light of recent world events). The auction for her bear lasts through Friday the 21st. Here is the link: http://www.1800flowers.com/celebrityteddybears
A great thing to do. I love to see celebrities doing something good with their fame and money. I have noticed quite a but lately the number of them that are starting to stand up and speak out for animals. This is a great thing.
Now, on to what I wanted to bring to your attention today.
Unless you have been under a rock or just really not paying much attention lately, you are probably aware that there have been more cases of BSE in Canadian cattle and that some of the cows from the same herd that ate the same feed were shipped to feedlots here in the U.S. You are probably even aware of the fact that our whole policy has now changed with regard to the finding of mad cow with regard to imports from a country still finding cases. Gary Little, a veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said
, "I think it's always been recognized that . . . there would be a small number of additional cases identified." And we have a new "minimal risk rule" that allows Canada top have up to 11 of them found positive, and we will still
reopen our border on March 7.
And, not only are there mad cows being found, but feed rules are apparently being routinely violated
north of the border. According to a letter that U.S. Representative Henry Waxman and Senator Kent Conrad wrote to the next secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michael Johanns, regulators have discovered animal material in Canadian feed over the last 15 months, issuing import alerts to block products from 17 companies. Recent inspections have revealed seven Canadian feed mills had "major non-compliance issues" and three were failing to prevent contamination of cattle feed.
I have been following all of this pretty closely and posting the articles in my Activists Against Factory Farming groups
, if you want to catch up on all of this. The Yahoo group is the more serious moderated newsletter-type group, with the one on Care2 being the one for discussion (though all the articles posted at Yahoo are also posted at Care2; some are excerpts only due to Care2 having a maximum-character length limit on posts). Some members join both, but you don't have to join either simply to read the posts there. The archives re open to the public.
But, I'm not here today to pitch the groups. What I am wanting to call your attention to is a new site I found today called Animal Voices
. They have some great talks there that you can download and listen to.
I thought I would mention, given the latest articles and controversy on the BSE cows in Canada and the high percentage of tainted feed samples found there, is an interview with Lester Friedlander. You may remember back when I gave my keynote speech at UPC this year and I wrote about meeting him and listening to him speak and enoying speaking with him privately. (There's a pic
with him and me at the Hilton on my photo page
, if you are like me and enjoy knowing what someone looks like when you hear them talk.) According to the website
, "Dr. Friedlander was a highly decorated Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer and meat inspector for the USDA at the largest cow slaughter plant and the largest hamburger producing plant in the United States, Taylor Packing Co., Inc. After 10 years of seeing millions of cattle being slaughtered, he was fired after speaking on national television about undercover investigations in meat packing plants."
His experience made our conversations and talks quite interesting, as we had both worked in the slaughter plants, but seen the exact same situations from different perspectives - him from the point of view of the USDA inspector and me from the point of view of a worker employed by the meat-packer. He is really interesting to listen to, although quite alarming when you realize how big the problem really is and how much of a cover-up is going on to keep consumers buying and consuming meat. I highly recommend checking out that particular talk if you really want to get a good grasp on the whole BSE and TSE situation ( and CWD, for that matter - all the animals seem to be getting "mad," even house cats!) from that point of view. He doesn't mince words, and he is able to talk about this in layman's terms that everyone can understand. All of these shows are free for downloading and well worth the time spent doing so and listening to them. I look forward to hearing more of them.
Lester's interview is in two parts: http://animalvoices.ca/audio/20050104_lester_friedlander_1.mp3
(3.3 MB) http://animalvoices.ca/audio/20050104_lester_friedlander_2.mp3
And if you want to go straight to the page that has all of the archived shows, click here
Another show I really enjoyed hearing was one of an interview with a vegan Marine in Iraq named Ravi Chand, who has successfully converted other Marines to vegetarianism, and one to veganism. He had some interesting things to say. It's in two parts
It's a neat site that I will be listening to more of. Check it out.
As our current administration is shamefully deciding that the torture of our fellow human beings is sometimes acceptable as long as the potential benefits to enough people are judged by them to be warranted, most of us shudder and hang our heads in collective shame. We rightly wonder how a country such as ours could stoop so low, become so fearful and so convinced of our own rightness, that we could come to the repulsive and immoral conclusion that torture can be justified. Some of us in this country even bring ourselves (somehow??) to agree with that view.
But the torture of those the administration labels as "terrorists" is not what this post is about, not directly anyway. It's about the torture of innocents (which, of course, a good number of those labeled as "terrorists" no doubt are as well). It's about the torture that the vast majority of us in this country have decided is okay, as long as the numbers are kept acceptably low, as long as we do not have to see it, hear it, even know about it if we can manage that. It's about the daily torture inflicted on innocent living beings who committed no crime, whose suffering brings us no real benefit, and who are suffering and dying right now as you read this.
It's the kind of torture that most red-blooded Americans gleefully participate in, knowingly or unknowingly, just about every day, sometimes several times a day, for all of their lives. The acceptance of it as being "the way things are" is taught to our children, and to theirs.
There is a video
of this torture, as there are of many others. They are out there in greater numbers that keep growing as more and more people become aware of them and decide to say "NO!" and then to do something about it.
I wrote about similar, and even worse, tortures right here on this site back in September of 2003
. There were so many that I did a whole series on the subject back then. Those of you who have read this journal of mine from the beginning probably remember them. I am referring, of course, to the Tyson Torture Tactics series
The reason I am going back to that now and bringing it up again is because of recent developments in the cruelty case in Moorefield, West Virginia at the Pilgrim's Pride plant there. See, the prosecutor there, Ginny Conley, has dropped the ball and caved in to the power of the industry by deciding to do absolutely nothing
about it. What is her reason she states
for turning her head to the terrible cruelties the world was so shocked by? While admitting the scenes were disturbing (an understatement if I ever heard one), they do not rise to the level of being disturbing enough to warrant criminal charges because, "these were chickens in a slaughterhouse."
Well then, that explains it. Workers are now free to do whatever they wish with these innocent birds simply because it is their fate to be KFC chicken nuggets.
They are now free (as if they weren't already) to legally kick, stomp, and slam chickens as much as they want without the fear of consequences. They can rip off their heads and write in their blood - all to their little hearts' content! The law will do nothing to them at all.
Of course, the same thing happened when I came forward with what happened at Tyson and when COK got their footage at Perdue
, but the authorities didn't come out and say so in such a blunt manner. Not Ginny Conley. Nope. Uh uh. No beating around the bush for her! She just came right out with the fact that she didn't care and wasn't going to lift one little finger to do anything at all about it!
one draw the line??????
If kicking, stomping, slamming, pulling the heads and beaks off and writing graffiti on the wall, spitting tobacco in their eyes and mouths, etc., is perfectly okay, then what about much more sadistic things, like the ones I reported and linked above? Things like blowing chickens up with dry ice bombs, the notorious "shit fights," whereby workers squeeze chickens with enough force to make them shit in another worker's face, or the many other of their little "games" I reported. One would assume that sort of behavior would also be excused, simply because it is occurring to "chickens in slaughterhouses" and not to your cat or dog (which would constitute a felony in most cases), although a chicken suffers just as much pain and fear as they would. Nor is it occurring to your child or anyone else that you know personally.
So, no big deal, right?
Well, it is to me. It is to anyone
who cares at all about animals and does not want to see them suffer. And I would suspect that it is a pretty big deal to most of us to not condone and support torture in our name. Even those of us in this society who continue to eat the flesh of our feathered friends do not want them to suffer any more than absolutely "necessary" (another word that is up for serious debate, but not now).
So, what is a caring person to do about it all?
Besides the most obvious and most effective course of action - not continuing to support such activities by directly funding and rewarding the perpetrators with your hard-earned cash by refusing to buy and consume their products - you can speak out.
If you would like to say, "NO!" to torture, you can. We may not be able to stop Gonzales from assuming his role in the BushCo. administration and condoning torture, but we can certainly
accomplish at least this much. And, really, it is relatively easy to do.
Even though you may think that you are but one small person, you still
have a voice and the freedom to use it as you see fit. You have the right, even the duty
, to speak up when you see injustice and do what is in your power to stop it. Because if you don't, you are just as guilty of torture
as Ginny Conley, and just as guilty as the person standing on that line committing the torturous acts in your name.
If you are not part of the solution, you truly are part of the problem.
I will make it simple for you.
Ginny Conley, Acting Executive Director
West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute
90 MacCorkle Ave. S.W., Ste. 202
South Charleston, WV 25303
*Note: I have been told that this number given out is not the right one for her and that the correct number is actually 304-424-1776, though the person who reported that had to leave a voice mail. As this information just came to my attention, I have not yet confirmed this with my own phone call, but my source is quite reliable. (Thanks, Billye)
**Note: Now I have just gotten an email address for her as well:
Tell her how just exactly
how upset you are with her decision and that she should reconsider and file felony cruelty-to-animals charges against all
those responsible for these tortures. This doesn't just mean the lowly line-worker, but also his superiors that looked the other way and even actively condone the behavior, in some cases. An excuse I heard from a shift superintendent at Tyson, Rollie Nunn, was that, "The only people you could get to work on back dock were people who enjoyed doing things like that." So, yes, higher-ups know, and yes, they don't care. They must be made
to care, even if it is only to protect their own butts from prosecution and not because they have an overwhelming love for chickens.
And, while you are at it, you can also contact the Governor and Governor-Elect to let them know your feelings and to urge them to ensure that a special prosecutor is appointed, as requested by the judge in the case.
Governor Bob Wise
Governor-Elect Joe Manchin
Office of the Governor
State Capitol Complex
1900 Kanawha Blvd.
E.Charleston, WV 25305
304-558-2000 (outside of West Virginia)
1-888-438-2731 (within West Virginia)
Would you like to see mine to the governor(s)? You may use it as a guide if you like, although it would definitely be best not to use any of my exact wording, much less to copy it, or it and yours will be taken as a form letter and not given the weight they deserve. You are more than welcome to use my experiences written about in the letter and in the posts in the Tyson torture Tactics series to use as examples of the kinds of things that this decision will lend acceptance to, though. As I figure very few people have their own firsthand experiences they can use, you are all welcome to use mine, as firsthand accounts will usually carry a bit more weight than simply the same repetitive facts off animal protection organizations' websites. (Not that anything is wrong with these facts and letters but when someone gets a bunch in that sound the same, they tend to lose their punch and not have the same effect, if you know what I mean.)
Here is my open letter to the Governor and Governor-Elect:
I was quite appalled and disappointed to read that Ginny Conley had refused to prosecute those responsible for torturing and cruelly abusing chickens in the Pilgrim's Pride plant in Moorefield. Her reasoning, citing that she refused simply because these were "chickens in a slaughterhouse" was an even worse travesty of justice and one that is sure to come back and haunt us with perhaps even worse images than were seen on the tapes that shocked the world.
I speak from experience, having worked in a chicken slaughterhouse for years, most recently for Tyson, here in Arkansas. There I saw even worse atrocities than were captured by the investigator that worked for a brief time for Pilgrims Pride. No one was ever held responsible for these cruelties, either, despite the fact that there was ironclad evidence to support the allegations I made. One of the workers involved was even willing to testify to what he had personally done, among other things, but no one ever even asked him.
I won't list every single atrocity that I witnessed, but to give you a brief idea of exactly how bad things can get in those places, we had people not just stomping chickens and throwing them against walls, into the belt, and even into fans to watch them splatter, but also going further into truly
sick actions like blowing them up with dry ice bombs, making a sort of "train" of them by sticking the head of one into the rectum of the one in front, until there was a whole line of them. They pulled off their heads and wrote in their blood, put their heads on their hands and made them "talk" like puppets There are far more of these that I could list, but I think you get the idea.
The problem with not prosecuting such actions is that those responsible get the idea that it is condoned and accepted activity. Therefore, they are not likely to quit and can take it as far as they wish to go. Just because these are "chickens in a slaughterhouse" is no reason to allow people to treat them however cruelly they wish, without any consequences at all.
I can tell you another thing, also from personal experience. People who do this kind of thing at work are more violent to humans once they leave that plant. Psychologists and psychiatrists, and even the FBI, have been saying this for years and consider it a warning sign when they see such behavior exhibited. Most serial killers got their start torturing animals before they moved on to do the same to people. This is not simply something that can
happen, it is something that does
happen, and I have seen that as well. Would you want these people living next door to you and your family?
Even though when I worked in a slaughterhouse as a killer I took great pains to avoid what I considered to be unnecessary cruelty, sometimes even going against orders, to humanely put a chicken out of its misery, rather than let her continue to suffer from a grievous wound and then go to the augur to be ground up alive, that sort of work still had an effect on my mind and the way I treated people. In short, I became more violent, as did the vast majority of people who did that job. A lot of the reason that happens is that you just become numb emotionally when you work in that kind of environment and you see or participate in violent cruelties like the ones depicted on the tape and the ones I have written about above.
I am writing to you in the hopes that you will appoint a special prosecutor to oversee an investigation into this case and to hold those responsible who participated in and/or condoned such behavior. This doesn't just mean the individual line-workers that did this, but also the supervisors and management that allowed it to go on without saying a word. Those higher-up are just as responsible for not stopping it and allowing that kind of an environment in the workplace where employees see nothing wrong with such maltreatment of the chickens.
If you would like to hear more from me about this topic, I would be more than glad to talk to you or anyone else about it. If we don't nip this in the bud, and do it immediately, I can just about guarantee that this won't be the last video splashed on the TV and the Net for the world to see. What is there to stop it, after all?
Thank you for taking the time to read this and giving it the serious consideration that it deserves.
Thanks to everyone who has already written in about this. We need every letter, fax, and phone call we can get to make sure that this type of behavior does not continue. And for those of you with enough courage to actually read through what I wrote on my site about what happened down at the plant I worked at, my hat's off to you. Many don't have the guts to do so.
For the animals...
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
Be the change you want to see in the world.