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, July 30, 2005
I'm doing the Blogathon!
Yep, I am going to stay up and blog for a very needy charity every 30 minutes for 24 hours straight! I have just received confirmation that I will be granted a Hot Spot that will be put up on the site by this evening that gives me much better exposure and a little description of what I'm doing. It will also feature the "Superchicken" icon I use - don't you just love him? Could I have found a better one to represent what I blog about?
All I can say is LOTS of coffee will be drunk that night. But we will do this. Hey, it's for the animals, folks! Isn't it the least we can do as animal lovers to stay up and blog for them? Or, if you just want to snuggle up and sleep, you can just make a pledge and do so. We won't hold it against you. We need you, too. As long as we each in some way make a difference, who cares how it happens? Some of us have the money to give to help, and some of us make the time to do the work to attract the money that helps the animals. I fall in the latter group, as does pattrice and many others just like her across this country. Either way, we help animals, so it's a good thing! Helping animals can't be considered a bad thing anyway, huh?
Any fellow bloggers who want to participate can do so and blog for any charity you want. They had a list of suggested charities to blog for, but those folks have plenty of money, while smaller operations that affect so many individuals animals on such low budgets - directly helping animals - go unfunded properly. I chose Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center because they are a small sanctuary just like me that is always needing money so badly and are so neglected in expense of the bigger, more well-known charities. (I say they are small like me, but they are actually a bit bigger at around 200 birds, but they started like me, with one chicken who fell off the back of a truck off the side of the road and I am afraid that before it is over I will be like them, with many more birds - hey, that's why I am building the sanctuary, because I sure can't keep building new yards when they come, and I want them to be able to roam free like they will do in the new facilities once we get the funding and the time to get all of that finished.) There are a lot of small sanctuaries that need help desperately, and I considered carefully who I would pick as the one I wanted to help, and there was no question about it. Eastern Shore.
You see, I also feel a certain kind of kinship with pattrice jones as a personal friend who works under similar conditions in that she lives right in the heart of chicken country (with me it's Tyson, with her Perdue, but the same things happen), so she understands the culture a bit more than activists who live in the cities and is able to see the bigger picture of why this kind of horror happens in our society, and she understands that this industry makes victims out of the workers and growers just like they do the chickens. A lot of people in this movement view these workers as "monsters." Like I have said before, while there are a rare few that are just sadistic, the vast majority are just desperate for a job and a way to feed their family. They don't enjoy what they are doing. Ask them if you ever meet someone who works in one of those places if they actually like it. Go ahead. Ask a hanger or a killer how he feels about his job. Many of them are smuggled into this country to work illegally, so they are really taken advantage of. Who will they tell? I like also that she is able to see the parallels in our society that allow the average American to turn the other way and not want to know this stuff, not do anything about it, just as they do about other societal ills.
I have had people ask me what it mattered that I saved a couple of roosters or just one hen or something like that when so many - thousands every day just in my area alone - are carted off to slaughterhouses. Some of you can probably guess what I always say in return. "Well, it may only be one or two chickens I saved, but you go ask them if it didn't mean the world to them." They invariable shake their heads and have to agree with me that yes, in fact, those chickens are much better off with me than lying dead on the side of the road or on someone's plate.
Ask Viktor here how he feels about it. According to their website,
Found in a ditch and named after a concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl is the true founder of the Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary.
So, you probably want to know what I will be writing about on the 'thon?
The Blogathon effort will be a mixed bag of whatever I can come up with (yes, I have some things in mind, but I'm not going to spoil it for you! he he!), accompanied by some guest editorials that pattrice wrote. In that way you can get to learn a little more about who she is, what she believes in, and what her life's work is accomplishing to make the world a better place. I hope you agree that it is worthwhile and worth rewarding with some help.
If you send me emails (hey, I may even try to resume the comments for this one - we'll see how it goes because I don't like flamers, and that's what happened last time, as some of you remember), I will answer any questions you may have about the industry, even emotional ones about how it felt to be a killer, although I wrote a whole post on that already. The thing is, the more you all participate and ask quetions, the easier it will be for me to not only stay awake, but also provide you with what you want to know.
A lot of why the factory farming industry gets away with what they do is because of the propaganda and social conditioning we all received as kids. It takes a while before ideas that deeply settled change. But mostly it's because the public is simply ignorant of what actually goes on behind those closed doors. Most don't want to know. Well, if you stay with me, you will find out. You will find out whatever you want to know. Because I tell the truth. I have no real agenda. I am not a card-carrying member of any AR organization, though I am trying to start my own non-profit grup and sanctuary - Activists Against Factory Farming. And, although the vast majority of the members of thegroups are veggies, there are meat-eaters, too. You don't have to shun meat to realize that factory farming is wrong.
Plus you will get heartwarming stories insterspersed as well. You didn't think I was going to keep the whole thing grim and awful, did you? No, we will mix it up, and according to the feedback I get, I will be dealing with that, too. We will be flexible, but hey, we will be working hard. Help us make this a success!
Laura will be right here with me. Well, you know she has to be. She has to do the typing for me. She will probably have the hardest job of all. That's why I was so glad to see her role in all of this acknowledged so heartily at AR2005. She worked hard to stay in the background and refused credit for a lot that she did for a long time, but I couldn't do this without her, and now finally more people know that. So, here we will both be, on the banks of the Ouachita River in the heart of the woods in Pine Ridge, AR (pop. 18) in a 28' travel trailer, straight from "Tyson country," blogging nonstop every thirty minutes for 24 hours to make a difference in the world and help out a needy charity.
Hopefully with all of that you will be motivated to help out a bit. Really, every small bit helps. I can't tell you how many times just $10 coming in the mail made the difference of whether I was able to buy food for the animals or not that week. At her charity you can even adopt a chicken for as litle as $5 a month. So, even small amounts matter. Things get lean at small sanctuaries and many of them are neglected and starved for funding (hey! Look at me!) and you use quite a bit of your own money doing this. You sure don't do it to get rich.
So, anyway, I hope that you will stay up with me and the rest of us making a difference on August 6th.
I hope you all enjoy it. We will work hard to make sure you do.
I know it has been awhile since I updated this blog. I successfully completed my job and have been back to work here on the place, taking care of things. But that's not what I want to write about today. What I want to tell you all about today is what happened to Laura and me during an innocent shopping trip yesterday as we attempted to do a good deed.
You see, Laura and I were both arrested yesterday for doing this good deed. The reason this happened will become clearer as you continue to read. But I would like to get one fact in before I begin. the officer who arrested us knew me by sight before ever asking for ID. He treated us rudely, never listened to our side of things that would have proved our innocence, constantly telling us to shut up.
Now, on with the details:
This time we simply went to Wal-Mart for sandwich makings and gas. Laura always pushes a shopping cart inside the store, usually one found where someone has left one in a parking spot or something, thus helping out the poor, overworked guys who have the job of returning carts, and partially because it takes the weight off her bad shoulder that she had surgery on and which still has a rod in it running from her shoulder to her elbow.
This time, however, we didn't see any carts left in parking spots, so headed for one of the corrals to get one. Well, we found one alright, but someone had left their bag in it, and there were others standing around trying to figure out what to do and who had already left the store and were heading to their vehicles with their purchases. So, we decided that we would do the right thing and take the bag in and turn it in, but first we wanted to see if there was any ID in it, showing who it belonged to. So, in front of witnesses, we began looking for such ID. Once we found a Medicaid card with a name on it, we headed inside the store to turn it in.
As we were heading in, though, we began to notice that there were several different names in there, so which was the rightful owner? As Laura had run into the same problem before and lost her purse and all of the cash in it by having it claimed by the wrong person, we wanted to make sure that the right person claimed it, so we did a little more digging. We moved out of the main traffic area to do this so that we wouldn't get in the way of other shoppers. In hindsight, this was probably not a good idea, but at the time, we never thought anything of it, as we knew that we were only looking out for the person's best interest in making sure that whoever retrieved the bad was indeed the rightful owner. We also knew that we were in full view of security cameras that could see that we were not stealing anything out of the bag and putting everything back in it that we pulled out.
Well, all of a sudden some strange woman came up and grabbed the bag from our cart, implied that we were trying to steal from it (yeah, right under a security camera that we knew was there - are we that dumb?!), took it out of the cart and said that she would turn it in.
Well, we then went straight to the customer service area to find out if indeed she had turned it in or simply stolen it herself, maybe being in the group that formed outside as we all decided what to do with the bag, following us through the store, and waiting on the opportunity to snatch it. Anyway, after giving a description of the woman and filing a report with the people at customer service, describing the bag and all of what happened, we went on our merry way and finished our shopping.
Well, just as we pulled into the line to checkout, there was the above cop - officer Lawler, a brutal man who we have been told has even attacked patients in the hospital. The woman was standing in back and to the side of him pointing us out as the "criminals" who tried to "steal" this bag. Note that there was not one single thing missing from that bag and that we even put the money we found back in it (which should also be on the security tape) So, we got hauled to the back of the store and rudely treated. Laura asked the cop repeatedly to go and check with the customer service people and see that we had indeed reported all of this and had not tried to steal it - that we were trying to prevent a theft, for goodness sake! He just kept refusing.
Well, he just called us liars, handcuffed us, arrested us, and took us in. Meanwhile in the station they took my watch (who knows why?) and some of Laura's medicine that she keeps in a separate bottle that she uses every day to keep up with her doses. Never mind that she had each and every bottle with her name, doctor, and pharmacy (all matching) on the bottles in her fanny pack (which they also made a big deal out of, accusing her of using different doctors and pharmacies, when every single bottle showed the same doctor and pharmacy) - they took every single pill out of the daily dose bottle in her purse that helps her keep up with how many she has taken each day so that she keeps on schedule and doesn't take too little or too much every day. So now she is missing a half a day's worth of medicine that she must make up before her next appointment, which means that she won't be able to take the proper amount of medicine each day that she is prescribed. So, word of warning - if you ever go traveling, don't use a bottle to keep up with your daily doses. Keep all your medicines in their original bottles.
Also, while in the jail, one of the cops that transported us - they called in backup, as if they needed it with us all handcuffed and not putting up a fight or anything, told me "We do not tolerate animal rights terrorists like you and your old lady in Polk county, and we are going to do our best to get rid of you." - can't read the name, but his badge # is 513, first initial T. (we later learned that the arresting officer is named Wolf), the rest illegible. I got the message that none of this would have happened if we hadn't been who we were and doing what we are doing. The jailer didn't even understand why we were arrested. We had no evidence on us, no stolen merchandise or belongings, none of that. Luckily she was really nice. She even brought Laura one of her Valiums to calm her down because she was so upset at being arrested for theft when we were simply trying to prevent one. The jailer said that most people, even if guilty, wouldn't have been arrested, just given a ticket, as it is a misdemeanor, and a small one at that, no worse than a traffic ticket.
Anyway, Laura called her mom from the jail and there was already a bondsman there, so we didn't spend even one minute in a cell. But it cost her mom $300 to get us out on an $1105 bond each (yes, that's extremely excessive, and we intend to fight it all the way). Plus, even as we are standing there being bonded out, the asshole cop had our truck towed away down to Potter - another 80+ charge - that he did completely out of meanness. Mom saw it leaving just as she was pulling up to pay the bond! Even the guy who worked there didn't understand why it was towed. When Laura asked the cop why he did it and accused him of only doing it to cost us more money, he simply said that "it was a liability." Even the guy who towed it didn't understand why it had been towed, saying that it not normal practice, but that he was called and just doing his job.
Before getting in the truck and taking off, just to be sure that things were okay and nothing had been planted on us (it had), I noticed that my prescription was missing out of the truck and that all of a sudden the taillights and blinkers didn't work. More sabotage. And there were cops waiting to pull us over for that sitting in driveways on the side of the road as we left. We were just really careful not to use either so that they couldn't see that they didn't work. I got one blinker working by replacing a fuse, but nothing else works like it did before we left, so obviously someone messed with the wiring or something to get them not to work, hoping to pull us over all over again and probably tow the truck right back to where we had just retrieved it from. Because you know they can do that if they want, just like they can just write you a ticket. It's totally up to the officer. I will just let you guess which scenario would have happened to us.
Well, immediately after getting out of jail and retrieving our truck, we went straight back to Wal-Mart, hoping desperately that the same people were working the customer service desk that were there when we came to report the bag and all and also hoping that the note that they wrote about it was still there (nope, it was gone). No such luck - different people working. All I was able to find out was that the girl that was there before was named Paula.
They referred me to the girl that worked the tape room that colluded with the cop in getting us arrested. She said that she would look over the tapes and be able to see whether or not we actually did what we said we did and went to the customer service desk. So, that will back us up, assuming the dirty cop doesn't destroy the tapes or something. Hopefully Wal-Mart keeps a backup copy.
They are obviously determined to make our lives as unpleasant as possible and cost us as much as they possibly can, with the ultimate aim of making us move or locking us up for good. At the very least, they intend to make our lives miserable. Also, I truly think they are trying to get me to commit a violent act against someone so that they can throw the bitch (slang for the habitual criminal act, for those not familiar with Arkansas law - 3 strikes and you are out, and one more violent act will get me sent away for 40-life, without the possibility of parole - at my age, a death sentence and a damn good way of shutting me up!) on me and have me sent away forever. Luckily I have better control than that and am a changed man. I won't do that and give them the satisfaction, no matter how good it may feel at the time and how much that cop deserved it.
I and Laura both have open sores on our hands from the handcuffs being put on too tightly. Lawler put them on, then came back and tightened them as far as they would go. Then, when it came time to get me out of the car, the other officer who actually transported us (Wolf) jerked me by the arm and banged my head on the car. Still, I will NOT commit a violent act and went peacefully, just as Laura did, even though we both knew we were being wronged in the worst way and for the wrong reasons - because of our unpopular beliefs about animals. So, now we are broke, Laura's mother is broke, our truck can't hit the road without being fixed so that it is legal, my head and neck are hurt (as well as the open sores on my hands), Laura's shoulder is hurting from having it cuffed behind her (in addition to the open sores on her hands), and we both had medication stolen by the cops. All for trying to do a good deed.
Will I give up? HELL NO! I take this as evidence that my work is working and hurting the industry. Every injustice visited upon me is further evidence of that. I figure this was about that last column I wrote that slammed Tyson so badly. though it could also be because of the letter-writing campaign that started when all this first started and I came forward. Who knows? All I know is that I MUST be having an effect - and a big one - or they wouldn't fight me so hard and come after me and now Laura. This is the first time they involved her. But that last column written mentioned the fact that she was the one who exposed the Grannis Chief of Police, Larry Harmon. So, I guess they have decided that she is fair game now, too.
Well, she won't give up, either. No matter what they do to us. We will keep fighting. Just watch. It will only get more intense from here on. Yet it will all stay legal. I will not break any laws because it isn't necessary to do so to expose the industry for what it is - CRUEL.
Keep tuned in for more exciting news on my next effort. I will be blogging about that hopefully tomorrow. I have been setting things up for the past two days. This action will be one that you can all take part in and that will be a lot of fun.
A very special thanks to all of you who contributed to help make that trip a reality. I made it there, gave my talks, learned a whole lot (and will, therefore become an even more effective activist than I have been thus far), saw friends I knew, met others face to face who I had only had an email relationship before (people never look like you expect them to, do they?), and just generally had a great networking experience that is invaluable in the efforts I strive to achieve.
Sorry I am just now getting around to writing this, but I have just been so busy. And, hey, after all, we did get the pictures up on the photo page the other day.
We have family in again this weekend - lots of them! Moving up here! The family commune that we have always expected would happen is again and gaining ground. The self-named "River Rats" are back together again (minus one who just couldn't cut it - hey, it takes toughness to survive in this area. Don't believe me? Just ask some of the people here, especially the old ones. Hey! That's a good deed too if you do it by going to visit people in nursing homes who rarely get the attention of very many people, especially young ones. Of course, I defy you to find one place in this country that some segment of the population has it bad - REALLY bad. Why do we as a society allow that to be? Kids on the streets? Homeless veterans?! Come on. We can do better than that. But I stray...
There is so much I could say about this conference. But, really the best way to grasp the whole thing is to actually go to their website and see what all was offered. Then you won't even have to ask me how busy we were. Some of the more astute of you who know me well might erven be able to pick out which of the competing workshops I attended. A couple of you might pick out the time I carved for myself to do my last-minute going over my plenary talk and missing workshops completely - I'll send you a copy of the tape if you guess all of it right(which got standing ovations - thank you very much!) And then gave one to Laura for her role in all of this. Thank you doubly! Most people don't realize the extent of a role she plays in typing everything up for me since I can't really type. Going through the many links of new reports to decide what is newsworty and needing posting in the Activists Against Factory Farming groups. (Thank you, Billye and others, for helping take on a share of that load. Really. I couldn't do it without you. And it seems that I get busier all the time.)
I will, however, say one thing that must be emphasized at that conference.
Oh my goodness, does that chef know how to make some GREAT vegan food! Laura and I thanked him personally and told him that when we happened to see him in the restaurant, but then he was also honored and thanked formally by the entire group of gathered at the talks the night of the banquet (the night I gave my plenary and the awards were also handed out). I just cannot rave loud and long enough about how great that food was. I mean, really. It was so good that even Laura, who normally doesn't eat a wide range of veggies, ate some of everything served and loved it! Yep, even picky eaters will love what this guy does to food. And all vegan! None of those awkward questions or anything, If it was on our vegan buffet bar it was vegan. If only we had places like that in Arkansas, and better yet allow me to live that long to see it! We got a long way to go folks. A long way...
There were other people that I talked to that I never got a picture with. Shame, but we were all of us busy and running here to there. Controlled, highly focused energy channeled into what would have been chaos had everyone else not been in the same situation. Intense, fun, mind-ehancing and opening, bonding, etc. But also draining. You get very tired from stayeing so pumped all the time.
Anyway, once we got back, then we found out about even more things requiring our attention here and someone else wanting consultation here and yet someone else wanting my help with a few other projects. Sorry folks. Just gonna have to wait a bit longer, most of you. And right now I am too busy to go into a long explanation of why. Just take it from me that it's important.
I will probably be out of touch for another few days at least. Lots going on.
Tell ya more later. Until then. Keep on fighting! It really doesn't take much to do something nice every day, even if it is is just one thing. Keep up the good deeds. Hey, I even gave you a freebie idea that could be debated was two.
"BEST CHICKEN KILLER IN ARKANSAS" in Agribusiness Examiner
UPDATE: This article is also now up on Organic Consumers Association website, too!
Yep. I got published yet again. Those of you coming here from reading this story might be interested in the previous post I wrote on this tape and what it involved for me to do the analysis that sparked the article you read. For those who have not seen The Agribusiness Examiner article yet, here it is in full, along with the previous story that sparked my letter to Al Krebs, who devotes his time and efforts to working for family farmers and rural areas against the major corporations that destroy their lives and communities. I consider him a great ally and a dedicated man. (Check out his site here). Expect to see it reprinted on other websites in the near future (I already have confirmation of one that will run it), and this entry will be updated with all links that run this story.
In the meantime, let's just jump right into it:
EXCLUSIVE: "BEST CHICKEN KILLER IN ARKANSAS" TELLS OF TYSON FOODS' INHUMANE SLAUGHTER OF POULTRY AND COVERUP
VIRGIL BUTLER Special to THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER July 29, 2005
I worked in Tyson Foods slaughter plants for over ten years, much of that time spent in the killing room. I was employee of the month on four different occasions and, for the last three years, trained the new killers. I was once even told by the plant manager that I was "the best killer in Arkansas."
I have obtained a copy of the PETA tape [See Reprint of PETA story --- Issue #408 --- below] and watched it over and over again, analyzing what exactly was captured on it. I even watched it in slow motion. It takes a trained eye to catch these things, and I certainly have one. There is no doubt at all in my mind that Tyson is the one at fault here, as their killing machine was acting up and severely mutilating those birds.
At one point on the tape, the supervisor even admits this. I saw this same problem many nights that I worked for Tyson through the years, so I find that the investigator and the tape to be entirely credible and that Tyson is simply lying to cover their own selves.
The way they are attacking the investigator is the same way they attacked me when I brought a bright spotlight into the dark corners of what goes on behind the scenes of those houses of horror and outright torture, coming forward and swearing out a formal statement.
They can't refute the message, as they know it to be true, so they attack the messenger. It is an old tactic and the only one to resort to when you are caught the way they have been. They even support Consumer Freedom, who freely admits the use of such tactics.
It was not uncommon at all for me to spend two to three weeks training a new-hire to kill. I find the fact that they put an untrained person in there to do that job without any training to be a serious concern and a very bad judgment call. There's no doubt in my mind that the investigator probably missed many more chickens than even he realized and that were subsequently scalded alive.
If you listen to the tape closely, you can even hear the baby chicks (because, let's face it --- that's what they are, no matter how the industry has manipulated them to gain the size they are at slaughter) peeping as they are lowered into the scalding tanks.
It's not just the uncut birds that you have to watch for. It takes a trained eye to watch for the miscuts. Those are the ones that are the hardest to spot. In order for the chicken to bleed to death before she hits the scalding tank, both the carotid arteries and the jugular vein must be severed completely.
Otherwise, what happens is that you see a lot of surface blood, but it isn't enough for the chicken to die before she reaches the scalding tanks. Even if the chicken is cut right, if she has been partially smothered on the belt, then she still will not bleed out in time. And she will still be scalded while conscious and feeling, completely sentient and fully aware of what is happening.
When Tyson claims that the investigator should have stopped the line and sounded an alarm when a chicken was about to be scalded, I actually laughed out loud. That man would have been fired for doing something like that, or at the very least have been written up and severely reprimanded and reminded of the cost of pulling such a stunt for one chicken.
The very fact that the supervisor admits that Tyson allows up to 40 birds to be scalded alive every day and that they accept the fact that it is impossible for the killer to get them all nullifies that lame argument anyway. When you add on top of that the fact that an untrained and inexperienced killer is put in there who can't even spot the ones who are still alive, then the problem is even worse.
I don't know the exact speed of the line that he was working on, but I have worked on lines ranging in speed from 142-186 birds per minute, depending on the plant. That in itself should explain the difficulty of the job. Nobody that has ever worked the killing room will ever tell you that you will catch every one, no matter how hard you try.
That fact is also admitted on the tape by the supervisor when he explains that the plant had allowed for 40 birds to be scalded alive per day and that figure had been increased from 15.
I find it hard to believe that an untrained killer was able to keep to that number, and although that may be mere speculation on my part, my experience gives me the ability and the knowledge to make such statements with certainty.
As for the decapitation part of it. Well, on that video I clearly saw the knives that the killers are supposed to use to kill the birds with that miss the killing machine or are miscut laying on the edge of the blood trough.
I only saw a knife used once during that video because the person was too busy using the hose to wash off the blood trough to be actually killing the missed birds. At all of the plants that I worked at, it was considered the killer's job to keep the blood trough washed down. It was also his responsibility to keep the killing machine washed down. And it was also considered his responsibility to keep his knife sharpened, all while he was supposed to be killing. Now, you tell me how someone is supposed to do all of that and NOT miss birds? Can anyone? I know that I couldn't, even if I was "the best killer in Arkansas."
The whole time I worked for Tyson, I had never even heard of an "animal welfare policy." I certainly never was asked to sign such a document or attend any training whatsoever.
In fact, the timing of the announcement from Tyson that they were going to implement such a policy happened when they found out that I was going to speak out about these kinds of things publicly when a reporter called them about writing a story about this problem. And I did.
As far as the papers being signed, when you are hired, you are given a stack of papers to sign without being given the time to read what you are signing, so if the investigator in fact signed such a document that he received such animal welfare training, it would not surprise me. What would surprise me was if he actually did receive it.
I believe that Tyson's accusations against the PETA inspector are ludicrous and a lame attempt to cover their own selves. Every single thing I saw on that video was common industry practice during all of the years that I worked for Tyson.
I am fighting for the workers, the small family farmers, the environment, and the rural communities like the one I live in (Pine Ridge, Arkansas, pop. 18) just as much as I am for the plight of the poor chickens being daily tortured inside the hellholes of places like Tyson slaughter plants.
They are all victims of the factory farming industry, and they certainly need all the help they can get.
EDITOR'S NOTE: In an e-mail to THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Butler adds: "You have my full permission to take this story and use it in any way you see fit, including publishing. Same for anything you find on my blog site (listed below), where the early archives tell the most graphic stories that really upset Tyson and interested the LA Times and, eventually, the world.
"I have been targeted by not only Tyson, but the corrupt law enforcement officers that act as their lackeys ever since. But I will not stop speaking any more than you will as long as the injustice continues."
TYSON FOODS SAYS IT WILL INVESTIGATE ALLEGATIONS OF INHUMANE TREATMENT DURING CHICKEN SLAUGHTER
ASSOCIATED PRESS: Tyson Foods Inc. said Wednesday it will investigate allegations of inhumane chicken slaughter, but contended that an undercover animal-rights photographer apparently violated company policies by videotaping "what he should have been preventing."
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, distributed videotapes and launched a Web site accusing Tyson of mutilating birds and scalding thousands while they were conscious in an Alabama slaughterhouse. The group also said its videotape shows workers tearing heads off live chickens.
Tyson, the world's largest poultry processor, said a veterinarian from its Office of Animal Well-Being will look into the allegations.
Tyson also raised the possibility of evidence manipulation by PETA's undercover agent, who was employed at the Heflin, Alabama, facility for several weeks.
It said the man had signed a document confirming he had completed the company's animal-welfare training "and was responsible for ensuring that no birds remained alive. His job gave him the responsibility to process any live birds, stop the line or sound an alarm if there was a problem.
"Instead, it appears PETA's agent violated Tyson's animal-welfare policy by allowing some conscious birds to go into the scald tank for the sole purpose of videotaping what he should have been preventing.
"We also take issue with PETA claims of manual decapitation of live birds," Tyson said in a statement. "We believe the carefully edited video is showing birds that have already been cut by an automatic knife and are either dead or have been rendered unconscious."
Responding to the company's statement, PETA said its investigator had been "taught to rip the animals' heads off by a plant supervisor, for when there are too many who miss the neck slicer."
The group also said the man tried to slow the processing line but quit because the plant's policy allowed a certain number of birds to be scalded while conscious.
Tyson said it continues to research the use of a procedure that PETA has urged the industry to adopt. It uses an inert gas to stun the chickens before they are killed. "Experts are divided over whether it is more humane," the company said.
Last year, PETA brought charges of animal abuse against Pilgrim's Pride Corp., which subsequently fired several chicken slaughterhouse workers caught on videotape. West Virginia officials decided not to bring criminal charges.
PETA has an ongoing campaign seeking to convince the KFC unit of Yum Brands Inc. to insist its suppliers use controlled-atmosphere slaughter procedures.
In afternoon trading, shares of Tyson slipped 23 cents to $18.77 on the New York Stock Exchange. [ May 25, 2005 ] ---------------------------------------- Thank you, Al, for your caring and dedicated work. I have used the Agribusiness Examiner as a news source for quite a while now in posting articles to my groups, and it really felt good to be able to give something back.
This is a perfect example of part of the work I am trying to do on top of my actions in defense of animals and the environment. I aim to try to reach out and unite other social justice groups, find common ground, and work together to fight back against the greedy corporations destroying many, many lives, and especially those in rural communities. They care nothing about the people, the communities, the environment, and certainly not the animals. They are unethical and motivated strictly by short-term profits to please investors. And they LIE. They LIE all the time to do this, hiring many highly-paid spokespersons to do so. Readers who have been with me from the beginning will remember the string of lies Ed Nicholson, one of Tyson's spokesmen told about me way back when the LA Times story broke and how it came back to bite him in the ass when he was proved to be the liar he was. In one post way back then, I even compared him to Al-Sahaf saying, "There are no abused chickens here! It's all AR infidel propaganda!" that was written in a post I published way back on 11/26/03 entitled "Setting Things Straight on 'Inspections.'"
Check out the early archives to see why he and Tyson were so angry when the story first broke. Tyson had no idea I had been writing this blog for months until that reporter called them and told them she was doing a story and that I had started this site. Boy, were they upset! They went out of their way to tear me apart. Ed even went so far as to infiltrate my group, as did a few others, including the Grannis Chief of Police, Larry Harmon, posting as jeffe401. At least Ed had the nerve to admit who he was, while Larry did not. It only took Laura two days to track down who he really was because he was so sloppy as he went all over the Net trashing me with lies. She found out who he really was through his IP address linked up with his real name in a forum, and that IP address led straight to the Grannis police department, located conventiently directly across the street from the plant in Grannis in a building owned by Tyson. But then, that is his way, as he is one of the most corrupt cops around and is the biggest Tyson lackey there is down there. He has had a personal little "feud" going on with me and my family for years, even killing my cousin in cold blood, and this campaign against Tyson only intensified his efforts to destroy me. I expect to hear more from him (anonymously, of course - he won't face me in public, as he likes to shoot people in the back and beat defenseless people who are handcuffed and unable to defend themselves) unless this post catches the attention of someone with enough power and ethics to actually start to investigate the wholesale corruption that is going on now, and has for years, in Polk County, AR. So many innocent lives destroyed, not only by Tyson, but by this man and others of his ilk.
There have been many actions taken against me since, including property damage, death threats, harming one of the dogs here, repeated break-ins, planting drugs (which I burned as soon as I found them), stealing files off our computer, tapping our phones, watching us from the woods, and even jailing me on false, twisted, or non-existent charges. Some of them I have written about here and some I have only told others who are keeping extensive files on all of this should I ever meet the fate of someone as courageous and upsetting to a large corporation as Karen Silkwood.
I will include in this post a quote from Al Krebs that he left in an email to me as we finalized this story:
We may not succeed in changing the world, but we sure as hell will give it a good try.
Well, I believe we can and will succeed. It may just take a while. But I am not giving up any more than you are, Al. Any more than the many activists all over the globe fighting for just causes against the big multinationals that corrupt and taint everything they touch, including governments and even (and especially) our own. I continue to believe that most people are good people and would demand change if only they were educated. There are those in this area who hate Tyson, but are afraid to air their grievances publicly. I hope that one day I can reach more of them and tell their stories, even if only anonymously.
I want to use another quote that I like a lot and that is the signature quote of my friend, Bruce Friedrich at PETA, who I respect and greatly admire and who was also quite influential at helping me become the vegan activist I am today:
Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. -Elie Weisel
Here are my signature quotes (at least the ones I use now):
"Be the change you want to see in the world." --Gandhi
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
"Basically, every human individual carries responsibility for the benefit or welfare of humanity and for the planet itself, because this planet is our only home. We have no alternative refuge. Therefore, everyone has the responsibility to care not only for our fellow human beings but also for insects, plants, animals and this very planet." --His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
After the last Tree has been cut down, After the last River has been poisoned, After the last fish has been caught, Only then will you find That money cannot be eaten. --Cree Prophecy
And, last but not least, a quote from a brave little girl who also talked to the world, though she died doing so a long time ago. If any of the above quotes have not inspired you to take action yet, perhaps hers will:
"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world." --Anne Frank
I wanted to share with all of you, my constant and loyal readers, just exactly what has been going on during my getting ready to go out to LA for the conference in less than a week now. It has been eating away at me, and perhaps talking about it publicly will help me to not only deal with the intense emotions I have been feeling lately, but also to give you just an idea of exactly what goes on inside my head when I watch undercover tapes like the one I will be talking about at that conference during one of my talks on the Abuse of Animals for Food.
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.
This site is simply a group of just a few people - the account I read was that there were only 6 of them, that they had really no funding or backing by anyone, and that they simply were speaking out and trying to hold Bushco accountable for his lies that are killing our military and Iraqis alike. They simply started out as a group of three readers of Daily Kos (whom I have read before several times myself - great site, dude!) and published their own website for the explicit purpose of publishing and calling attention to the famous Downing Street memo.
According to the account I read in Al Krebs' Calamity Howler (also the writer of The Agribusiness Examiner and who I have much respect and admiration for, and who further deserves his own cyberactivist award), which was a reprint of an article in the Wall Street Journal written by Christopher Cooper,
According to its operators, Downingstreetmemo.com was created by a Silicon Valley Web-page designer, a Chicago college student and a Canadian citizen certain they had stumbled onto the smoking gun that could drag the Bush administration down.
They were joined later by three other Daily Kos readers, including Bob Fesmire, husband of the Silicon Valley Web designer. Mr. Fesmire, a marketing executive for an engineering business, said he returned from a business trip to find his wife, Gina, obsessed with the leaked British documents, so he read them. "I said, 'This is it -- this is what's going to crack this whole thing open,' " Mr. Fesmire recalled. He was equally struck by the lack of interest in the documents, even among liberals.
The idea to target news operations came from Michael Clark, a Pennsylvania professor of ancient history and occasional poster to Daily Kos who didn't know the Fesmires before joining the effort. Mr. Clark said he knew nothing about running such a campaign but decided to contact three media outlets a day, including the likes of C-Span, the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal.
On June 3, the group directed messages to NBC. On June 6, MSNBC did a segment on the Downing Street memo. On June 9, Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of NBC's evening newscast, posted a request for a truce on his Internet blog:
"One more note to those of you who are part of the mass email project on the so-called Downing Street Memo: That's enough, we get it...it's an important story...and all you're doing now is taking up computer space. We're well aware of the story, we've covered it, and likely will again."
Well, after some great success getting media attention, they are now turning their attention on Congress to try and force them to actually do something about this mess and hold Bushco responsible for this quagmire we are in over there in Iraq.
A lot of people are having a hard time believing that this website is simply the work of a few concerned and determined citizens, one of them - Mr. Clark - willing to sacrifice his orchard for spending so much time on this, with no big organization backing them.
Kinda like me, huh? Just one little guy talking to the world, spreading the ugly truth that most people would rather avoid so that they can go about their lives in ignorant bliss. Remember that quote everyone loved so much that came at the bottom of the LA Times article that was picked up and run by so many sites everywhere? The one where I said, "One person can make a difference if you just don't shut up. If you keep talking long enough, people will hear you."
Well, with me, it is one (Well, really two. You cannot discount Laura's efforts at all. Without her this blog would never have happened, I wouldn't have come forward, and you wouldn't be reading this now. I sure wouldn't be going to speak at a major conference in a week! We are a team, and a very dedicated and determined one at that!) person, whereas with them it is now six.
But, do you know what my favorite quote in the whole article is?
It is by the group's spokesman, Bob Fesmire. Oh, you are going to just love this.
"It really is just six people, and I don't even know the name[s] of two of them," he said. "People find it hard to believe it when I tell them that for a $20 Web-hosting fee, you too can get something like this going."
Don't just you love it?
Free speech at its finest! Citizens speaking out for truth!
My friends, you have more than earned an award for cyberactivism from me.
Hopefully you will help change history. You have my full support. Keep up the good work. And, I repeat myself here, you ARE the TRUE patriots!