<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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, August 31, 2003

Inside the mind of a killer 

An issue not even thought about
by most people, even many of those
in the fight for animal rights, is the
effects on the minds of those people
who do the actual slaughter of the
chickens. You see, the killing machine
can never slit the throat of every bird
that goes by, especially those that the
stunner does not stun properly. So,
you have what is known as a "killer"
whose job it is to catch those birds
so that they are not scalded alive in the
tank. (Of course he can't catch all of
them, but we'll get to that.)

(Keep in mind while you read this that
the plant I worked at was the smallest
Tyson had. They have some that are
much bigger that run hundreds of
thousands of birds a shift. Of course,
they have more than one killer, but only
one per line. They just run more than
one line.)

Picture this: You are told by your supervisor
that it is your night in the kill room. You
think, "Sh*t, it's gonna be a rough night
tonight." No matter what the weather is
like outside, this room is hot, between
90-100F. The scalders also keep the
humidity at about 100%. You can see
the steam in the air as a kind of haze.
You put on your plastic apron to cover
your whole body from the sprays of blood
and the hot water that keeps the killing
machine's blade clean and washes the floor.
You put on the steel glove and pick up the
knife. It's very sharp. It has to be.

You can hear the squawking from the
chickens being hung in the next room
as well as the metal shackles rattling.
You can hear the motors that drive the
chickens down the line. It is so loud you
could scream and not hear yourself. (I've
done it just to see.) You have to
communicate with hand signals to anyone
who might come in. Although, no one
wants to. They only come in if they have
to. And they certainly donj't want to startle
you.Not with a sharp knife in your hand.
If you whirled around......

Here come the birds through the stunner
into the killing machine. It's time to get
busy. You can expect to have to catch
every 5th one or so, many that are not
stunned. Remember, they come at you
182-186 per minute. There is blood
everywhere, in the 3'x3'x20' trough
beneath the machine, on your face, your
neck, your arms, all down your apron.
You are covered in it. Sometimes you
have to wash off the clots of blood,
without taking your eyes off the line
lest one slip by, which they will....

You can't catch them all, but you try.
Every time you miss one you "hear" the
awful squawk it's making when you see
it flopping around in the scalder, beating
itself against the sides. Damn, another
"redibird." You know that for every one
you see suffer like this, there have been
as many as 10 you didn't see. You just
know it happens. You hope the machine
doesn't break down or falter. You just
want to get through the night and go home.
But, it will be a long 2 1/2 hours until break
time. More than two hours of killing nonstop.
At least a couple dozen chickens a minute
at best. At worst, a whole lot more.

The sheer amount of killing and blood
can really get to you after awhile, especially
if you can't just shut down all emotion
completely and turn into a robot zombie
of death. You feel like part of a big death
machine. Pretty much treated that way as
well. Sometimes weird thoughts will enter
your head. It's just you and the dying
chickens. The surreal feelings grow into
such a horror of the barbaric nature of
your behavior.

You are murdering helpless birds by
the thousands (75,000 to 90,000 a night).
You are a killer.

You can't really talk to anyone about
this. The guys at work will think you are
soft. Family and friends don't want to
know about this. It makes them
uncomfortable and unsure of what
to say or how to act. They can even
look at you a little weird. Some don't
want much else to do with you when they
know what you do for a living.
You are a killer.

Out of desperation you send your
mind elsewhere so that you don't end
up like those guys that lose it. Like the
guy that fell on his knees praying to God
for forgiveness. Or the guy they hauled
off to the mental hospital that kept having
nightmares that chickens were after him.
I've had those, too. (shudder) Very creepy.
You find something else to dwell on to try
to remove yourself from the situation.
To keep your mind from drowning in all
those hundreds of gallons of blood you
see. Most people who work this room and
work in the hanging cage use some sort
of stimulant to keep up the pace and some
sort of mellowing substance to escape reality.

You become more prone to violence.
When you get angry you become much
more likely to physically attack whatever
or whoever you are mad at. You are a lot
more likely to use a weapon than you were.
Especially a knife. A sharp one.
You are a killer.

You begin to feel a sense of disgust
at yoursef at what you have done and
continue to do. You are ashamed to
tell others what you do at night while
they are asleep in their beds.
You are a killer.

People tend to avoid you, even others
at the plant, whether from instinct or
because they know what you do and
can't understand how you can do it
night after night. There must be
something wrong with you. You have
the smell of death on you.
You are a killer. A mass murderer.

You shut down all emotions eventually.
You just can't care about anything.
Because if you care about something,
it opens the gate to all those bad feelings
that you can't afford to feel and still
do your job. You have bills to pay.
You have to eat. But, you don't want
chicken. You have to be really hungry
to eat that. You know what goes into e
very bite. All the horror and negativity.
All the brutality.

Concentrated into every bite.

Many people who do this commit violent
acts. They commit crimes. People who
already are criminals tend to gravitate
towards this job. You can't have a strong
conscience and kill living creatures night
after night.

You feel isolated from society, not a
part of it. Alone. You know you are
different from most people. They don't
have visions of horrible death in their heads.
They have not seen what you have seen.
And they don't want to. They don't even
want to hear about it.

If they did, how could they eat that next
piece of chicken?

Welcome to the nightmare I escaped.
I'm better now. I play well with others,
at least most of the time......

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Will the McDonalds policy cure cruelty to chickens? 

I recently read an article in the
San Francisco Chronicle written by a fellow
activist, Karen Davis at UPC
(United Roultry Concerns) www.upc-online.org.
She runs a wonderful chicken sanctuary
in Machipongo, Virginia. Her commentary
was entitled "Will the McDonalds policy
cure cruelty to chickens?" It brought
up some really good points.

I sent in my own response to the
editor, but I don't think they printed it.
At least, I never heard back from them.
So, I will post it here. This is something
to think about when you are eating that
next piece of chicken:

Subject: Will the McDonalds policy cure cruelty to chickens?

I don't believe so. I worked at Tyson
chicken slaughter plant in Grannis, AR
(a supplier for McDonalds, KFC, etc.)
for a number of years, as well as a few
others. I caught chickens from the
houses as a teenager before that. I am
intimately familiar with the poultry
business and the living conditions of
the chickens

I have seen the filth, death, and
disease that breed from these conditions
as well as the outright abuse the chickens
endure by the workers. What I have
seen is bad enough that my wife and
I no longer eat chicken, or any other
factory farmed animals.

I have seen the chickens blinded by
the ammonia fumes that build up in
the houses. I have had the ammonia
burns on my arms from handling the
chickens that were coated with it. My
exposure lasted only for a night's
work before I could wash it off. They
had to live that way.

I've seen chickens starve in the house
because their feet are stuck in the muck.
I've seen the catchers stomp, kick, and
slam chickens on the ground.I've seen them
"cull the runts" by pulling their heads off.

I've seen all the roosters of a breeder
house be killed by having their heads
bashed by a metal pipe, since they were
too big for our plant to hang, unlike the
spent hens. These, of course, don't go
to McDonalds directly, but this is a
by-product of the industry. These
chickens would be fed to other chickens
as well as to your pet dog.

What about all the chickens that don't
live long enough to make it to the
slaughter plant because they have
died of disease or killed by cruelty?
Technically McDonald's would be able
to say that their chickens didn't suffer
the cruelty that killed these. They are
wrong. Their chickens suffered the
same conditions and risks, but were
unfortunate enough to survive long
enough (a couple of months) to have
to suffer the final cruelty of all, the slaughter.

At the slaughter plant I've seen birds
scalded alive, pulled apart, and blown
up with dry ice bombs for laughs.
I've seen them run over by forklifts.
These issues have nothing to do with

These points don't list anywhere near
the routine cruelty I have seen through
the years, but they would not be
addressed by McDonalds in this new
policy. This new policy might ban
antibiotics used as growth-enhancers,
but as long as the farmers raise the
birds in the conditions they do, they
will have to give them antibiotics just
to keep them alive.

This is a good start McDonalds, but
it does not even scratch the surface
of what needs to be done to stop
the cruelty. If this was happening
to any other type of animal it would
be a criminal act. I think it should be.

You know, vegetarian chicken patties
taste real good, just like chicken. In
fact, that is what I had for supper
last night. We even had cream gravy
over rice to go with them. Yummmmm.....
Try them sometime. (Did I mention I've
been losing weight and getting healthier
since I started this guilt-free no-meat diet?)

Posted by: # Virgil / 7:09 AM 0 comments

Friday, August 29, 2003

Who Am I? 

I started this blog because so many
people were trying to find out who
I was. You see, I seem to have created
a bit of a stink when I went up against
the mighty Tyson. But then, stirring
things up is fun, especially when you are
in the right.

It all started one day in January,
2003 with a little email to PETA
(People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals). You see, when I worked
at Tyson conditions were so bad that
I felt it necessary to stand up and do s
omething about it. Nobody seemed to
be interested in the workers, so I
decided to see if anyone cared about
the chickens. Boy, did they!!!

My wife had worked with PETA before
years ago and knew that they would
indeed care, but we had no idea how
much. We are a big part of the campaign
against KFC to have them put pressure
on Tyson to change their ways. They
do indeed need changing.

Did you know that every time you
eat a bucket of "extra crispy" that
you are supporting torture and abuse?
My wife didn't know until the day we
wrote the first email. What I have
seen was horrible enough that we had
quit eating chicken. When we researched
a bit we found out that the poultry
business is no worse than any other part
of factory farming. Now we don't eat
any meat at all. We also spend a part
of each day in the fight against factory

We are healthier and happier. I'm also
able to compensate some for my
participation in this industry for so
many years. Through my actions I
believe I have done some good and
opened some eyes, but it has not been

I live in a small town in Arkansas.
Tyson is big business here. They are
a big part of the economy. I have many
friends and family who work there. I
started catching chickens myself when
I was just a teen-ager. After I got out
of the Army I went back to Tyson for
a job because, hey, there is not much
else around here that pays decently
and has benefits.

I worked in the part of the plant referred
to as back dock doing "live-hang." This
is where workers take the chickens off
a conveyor belt and hang the chickens
upside down with their legs in metal
shackles. They go from there to a killing
room where there is a machine that is
supposed to stun them, then on to
another that slits their throats, and on
down the line.

Doesn't sound TOO bad, BUT.....

1) These birds go by at 182 shackles
per minute.

2) Not all the birds get hung properly.
Some of them only get hung by one leg
(referred to as one-leggers). These
have to be pulled down, severing the leg
and leaving the bird to die a long,
painful death.

3) Not all of them get stunned properly.
Some of them get hit in the wrong place,
which usually causes point #4.

4) Not all of them get their throats
slit properly. When this happens they
go into the scalder alive. It is not pretty.

5) Many of the employees do absolutely
cruel things to the birds, especially when
they are having a hard day/night. One
guy even blew up chickens with dry ice bombs!

If you want to read the whole statement
that started all this go here.
Posted by: # Virgil / 4:09 PM 0 comments

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