"If you eat chicken from Tyson Foods, you may be unknowingly supporting some of the worst animal abuse, including birds bred to grow so fast they're in constant pain, extreme violence by desensitized workers, and gruesome deaths at the slaughterhouse," said the 30 Rock star Alec Baldwin this week.
He is right. Since 2003 when whistle-blower Virgil Butler at the Tyson's Grannis, Arkansas plant exposed birds regularly scalded alive through recent cruelty exposes by Mercy For Animals, the animal abuse at Tyson is brazen and undeterred by exposes.
But animal abuse is only part of Tyson's abusive track record. There is also worker and environmental abuse, abuse of consumers through risky products and charges of wrongdoing at the state and federal level.
During the Clinton administration, Tyson was charged with bribing Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy with gifts to influence legislation--leading to Espy's disgraced resignation. Tyson paid $6 million to settle the accusations and two convicted Tyson executives faced prison time but President Clinton pardoned them in 2000.
In 2001, Tyson was served with a federal indictment charging that it paid smugglers to transport illegal workers across the Rio Grande, procuring them phony Social Security cards and even brazenly paying them with corporate checks."This is a company with a bad history," the Rev. Jim Lewis, an Episcopal minister in Arkansas, told the New York Times. "They cheat these workers out of pay and benefits, and then try to keep them quiet by threatening to send them back to Mexico."
In 2003, Tyson pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act with effluvia from its Sedalia, Missouri facility and agreed to pay $7.5 million. But before its probation ended, Tyson was charged by the state of Oklahoma with polluting the Illinois River watershed .Who can say incorrigible? Poultry polluters eject as much phosphorous into the watershed as a city of ten million people, said State Attorney General Drew Edmondson in bringing the changes.
In 2004, an internal Tyson memo revealed that the wives of two veterinarians stationed at Tyson plants in Mexico had been receiving about $2,700, a month "for years," as apparent bribes . When Tyson executives discovered the pay-offs--the payments were switched to the veterinarians themselves! "Doctors will submit one invoice which will include the special payments formally [sic] being made to their spouses along with there [sic] normal consulting services fee," said a Tyson's audit department memo. (Apparently employees were absent the day both ethics and spelling were taught.)