United Poultry Concerns April 3, 2003

Urge Prosecution of Tyson Chicken Slaughterhouse Workers

Based on a chilling eyewitness account of sadistic torture and routine cruelty at a Tyson chicken slaughterhouse in Grannis Arkansas, United Poultry Concerns is calling for prosecution of Tyson foods and five of its employees on charges of cruelty to animals.

On January 30, 2003, Virgil Butler, a Tyson slaughterhouse employee for more than 5 years, documented the nightly torture of chickens he observed between 1997 and 2002, including the deliberate scalding and suffocation of chickens, the deliberate breaking of the legs of larger chickens to fit the shackles instead of adjusting the shackles, blowing up chickens with dry-ice bombs, running over chickens with forklifts, and dismembering chickens for fun.
For Virgil Butler’s formal complaint:

The Polk County sheriff is currently investigating the matter and will be reporting his findings to the prosecuting attorney. Please contact the sheriff and the prosecuting attorney and POLITELY urge them to file cruelty-to-animals charges against all those responsible, as described in Mr. Butler’s testimony, at the Tyson facility in Grannis, Arkansas. Contact:

Sheriff Michael Oglesby
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
507 Church Street
Mena, AR 71953
Phone: 479-394-8163
Fax: 479-394-1975

The Honorable Tim Williamson
Prosecuting Attorney
Polk County Prosecutor’s Office
PO Drawer 109
600 Port Arthur Street
Mena, AR 71953
Phone: 479-394-6114
Fax: 479-394-6173

Below is UPC’s letter to the prosecuting attorney.

March 20, 2003

The Honorable Tim Williamson, Prosecuting Attorney
Polk County Prosecutor’s Office
P.O. Drawer 109
600 Port Arthur Street
Mena, AR 71953

Request for Prosecutorial Action for Cruelty to Animals at Tyson Foods, Inc. in Grannis, Arkansas

Dear Mr. Williamson:

United Poultry Concerns, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that addresses the treatment of domestic fowl in food production, science, education, and entertainment and promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. I am writing to you on behalf of our organization to request prosecutorial action for cruelty to animals at the Tyson Foods chicken slaughter plant located at 71S in Grannis, Arkansas. In making this request we are joining People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who provided us with the affidavit signed on January 30, 2003 by Virgil Butler, an employee at the plant for more than five years in the receiving department and on the kill floor, who described repetitive acts of extreme cruelty to chickens which he observed during that time.

Specifically, Mr. Butler described violations of Arkansas’ animal cruelty statute by Richard Frasier, a night shift superintendent; Ed Taylor, a supervisor; Troy Shepmann and Aron Harris, two kill-floor employees; and George Watson, a forklift operator at the plant. He described what he perceived as the intentional scalding of live chickens under the direction of Richard Frasier and Ed Taylor; the intentional suffocation of live chickens under the direction of Richard Frasier; the deliberate breaking of the legs of larger chickens to fit the shackles instead of adjusting the shackles under the direction of Richard Frasier; the building of dry ice bombs by Troy Shepmann, who placed these bombs on the belt with live chickens in order to rip apart their bodies, and who inserted dry ice into a live chicken’s rectum, plugged the chicken’s rectum with a wooden cork and blew up the chicken under the pressure of this exploding device. He described George Watson deliberately running over chickens with a forklift and laughing about it. According to Mr. Butler, “[t]hese kinds of incidents sometimes led to hours of suffering for chickens with broken legs and wings and were ongoing and repetitive – just a part of a regular night’s work.”

We respectfully urge you to prosecute Tyson Foods, Inc. and the aforementioned employees under the Arkansas Code which prohibits cruelty to animals defined as “every living creature.” The Code defines “cruelty” as “every act, omission, or neglect whereby unjustified physical pain, suffering, or death is caused or permitted,” and “owner” and “person” as “corporations as well as individuals.”

We urge that you hold Tyson Foods and the above-named employees criminally responsible for their cruel treatment of the chickens under the law. As People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stated in their letter to you of February 18, 2003, the evidence clearly indicates that each of the above-named individuals acted “knowingly” (in fact, intentionally, and with deliberate forethought) in perpetrating the acts of cruelty witnessed by Mr. Butler and thus are criminally liable for their actions.

Birds, including chickens, have the same neurophysiological composition as mammals. They have a complex nervous system including nociceptors, thermoreceptors, and mechanoreceptions (nerve endings sensitive to pain, temperature, and physical impacts). As summarized by Dr. Michael Gentle of the Agricultural Food Research Council Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research in Edinburgh, Scotland, “comparing pain in birds with mammals it is clear that, with regard to the anatomical, physiological, and behavioral parameters measured, there are no major differences and therefore the ethical considerations normally afforded to mammals should be extended to birds” (M. J. Gentle, Pain In Birds, Animal Welfare, 1992, 1: 235-247).

At your request I can provide you with numerous scientific documents describing the ability of chickens to experience excruciating pain, suffering, fear, and distress. I urge you to hold Tyson Foods, Inc. and the above-named Tyson employees criminally liable for cruelty to the chickens at the Grannis, Arkansas plant. Because birds are excluded from the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, it is all the more incumbent that the state anticruelty statute be invoked in cases of wanton cruelty to defenseless animals, as in this case. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me for additional information and help in this matter. I can be reached by phone at 757-678-7875 and by email at


Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.


United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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