Organic Consumers Association


Previous Page

Click here to print this page

Make a Donation!


Tyson Foods Under Fire for Inhumane Slaughter of Chickens &Cover-Up

July 5, 2005, Issue #412
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
From a Public Interest Perspective

E-MAIL: avkrebs at
TO RECEIVE: Send name and address


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

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

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
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

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 gong 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.

The Los Angeles Times wrote a story about it all. (Although they no longer
have it up on their site, it is still up on many other sites, including
Common Dreams here:)

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."

"The Cyberactivist"
Founder of Activists Against Factory Farming


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

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

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 ]