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In Memoriam: Virgil Butler

Written by PETA | December 15, 2006

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Virgil Butler, the former slaughterhouse worker from Arkansas who dedicated his life to educating others about the horrors of factory farming, died last night in his sleep at the age of 41. Virgil spent 9 years working in Tyson slaughterhouses, killing as many as 80,000 birds a shift in extremely dangerous working conditions and for very little pay. But in 2002, Virgil contacted PETA to say that he had had enough of the human and animal suffering that he witnessed every day, and asked what he could do to help. Discussing his and his wife’s feelings at the time, he said,

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 farming.


For the next four years, Virgil played David to the poultry industry’s Goliath with courage, resourcefulness, and a limitless supply of patience and good humor. He gave news conferences about his experiences, spoke forcefully about animal and human rights issues on his blog, The Cyberactivist, and inspired thousands of people to make changes in their lives based on his own compassionate example. His legacy is one of kindness, hope, and perseverance, and his loss is very deeply felt.

Commenting is closed.
  • Yousef Shemisa says:

    The world has lost a great and courageous man. Virgil’s testimony and significant educational outreach efforts played a major part in my conversion to a Vegan diet. Thank you Virgil and may Peace be upon you and your family brother!

  • leo says:

    Gente como tu deberia haber mucha mas mientras la gente sigua siendo tan glotona y codiciosa seguira existiendo el Holocausto Animal.Un saludo .

  • annette brooks says:

    My 13 year old daughter has changed my whole view on the meat industry. I no longer eat beef and very little chicken. The more I learn about the treatment of animals the more appetizing meat becomes. I am very close to making complete transition to vegetarian. I was glad to read that one man cared enough to speak out. I have lived in Arkansas for 18 years and have seen the most horrible acts of animal cruelity known to man and whats sad is that to most people here it is no big deal! I would like to see more Arkansasns become involved in the animal rights movement. Perhaps find a way to get the word out to everyone especially in rural areas. Unfortinatly alot of people here chose to make their living buying selling and killing animals even for just a few dollars it is pathetic!!

  • Charlotte says:

    Hey I just found out today about Virgil. I’ve had his COK interview on my myspace page for months. He is such an inspiration this is horrible news. But he accomplished a lot and will continue to inspire others through his interviews videos and blog.

  • J.B. Suconiik says:

    The story of Virgil Butler provides a reminder for frustrated animal advocates Change is an eternal reality.

  • graham ayers says:

    I had never heard of him until I heard of his death but I wish I had known him because he sounds like he was someone really special and very brave. Did he become a vegan and is their any truth in the rumour that he took his own life.

  • Brenda says:

    God Bless you Virgilyou were a hero to many including me. It takes a tender heart to do what Virgil did and he can now rest in peace knowing that he made such a huge difference in so many animals lives and many people’s lives. Thanks so much Virgil.

  • pattrice jones says:

    What a loss! Besides being courageous and compassionate Virgil was soulful and generous. I’ll never forget the what he wrote about child abuse and masculinity when he was staying up all night participating in a blogathon for the Eatern Shore Sanctuary. His insights were hardwon and profound. I’m going to be thinking hard about how to honor his memory. I hope that others will too.

  • Jim B. says:

    Virgil Butler was a good man and his devotion reminds me of a wonderful verse “A hundred years from now it will not matter the sort of house I lived in what my bank account was or the car I drove….but the world may be different because I was important in the life of the animals and the creatures on this earth.” You helped to make a difference Virgil.

  • Bruce Friedrich says:

    Virgil was a great man with a heart of gold the world is short one of its most beautiful souls. Thanks Jack for your nice tribute.

  • Lidia says:

    It is so sad… Because of that brave man so many people found out about the unspeakable cruelty of factory farming. Thank you Jack for the post and Phyllis for so nice comment

  • Phyllis Bedford says:

    What a shock to learn that Virgil Butler has died. I had hoped to meet him one day just to shake his hand and to thank him for all that he had done for the animals. Speaking up for animals is never as easy as it should be but for a man in the south to speak up for chickens…that took amazing courage. On Earth Virgil was tormented by man’s inhumanity but now that he has crossed over I’m sure he has found peace and hopefully some feathered friends at the Rainbow Bridge.