11 Mar Toronto Pig Save Creates Glass Walls in Local Pig Slaughterhouses
When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to her who suffers, and try to help her.
–Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom (Thank you, Anita, for this most-inspiring quote.)
Imagine traveling many miles in a cramped trailer, your last meal several hours ago, your last drink of water a distant memory. The heat from the bodies surrounding you is stifling. Bodies covered in bruises, festering cuts, sores slow to heal from weakened immune systems literally dying for nutrition. You look to one of several small slats streaming light across your panicked, fatigued travel companions and you see a group of people calling to you. Their voices are not shrill, so different from the harshness that you have endured as a commodity, rather than a living soul.
You pause, panic filling your body, and your friends panic as well, wondering what is to come next. More pain? More sharp sticks poking your delicate skin? What have you done to deserve this? When will it end? And that is when you see them. Up close. These beings have gathered and their presence is calming. You stare at them, and they stare at you. Some are bold and whisper to you, sweet sounds that bring you peace through your wounds and fatigue. The heat seems more bearable as a delicate hand strokes your hot ear for a brief moment. The pain and panic that seemed endless has paused.
Movement begins again, and you are taken from these calming beings, toward the smell of death. You are intelligent enough to recognize it, as it has been scientifically proven that you are more intelligent than a dog, and you understand, and feel, fear. The endless cycle continues, but the sweet words are imprinted in your human-like memory.
For up to 7,000 pigs each day, this is their reality on their painful journey to the Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse (9,000 at Fearman’s slaughterhouse, in Burlington, Ontario) and processing plant in Toronto, Ontario. Pigs are led, via electric prod–exhausted and starved after being contained in overcrowded trucks for several hours–into plants where they are forced into carbon dioxide chambers. Once mostly unconscious, they are sent down a conveyor belt where their throats are slit, and they are thrown, still alive, into a scalding vat of water. See the arrival and process in the video here.
The plant worker featured in the video can be seen throwing pigs into the scalding water. He states simply, ‘Remember this the next time you eat bacon.’
This shameful suffering is no longer hidden behind concrete walls, thanks to founder Anita Krajnc, and the people at Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights organization founded in December of 2010. Anita was initially inspired to become a strong advocate for animals by a whippet-beagle mix named Mr. Bean, whom she had adopted for her mother Josey from Animal Alliance of Canada’s Project Jessie. The adoption brought Anita closer to the animals that would inspire her to form a movement for change, while on morning walks with Mr. Bean on Lake Shore Boulevard. It was there that she would witness many transport trucks passing, filled with the eyes of soul-weary pigs, powerless to end their suffering.
An avid reader, she was inspired by carefully-chosen authors. She states:
I’d see the pigs looking out with fear and sadness in their eyes, and with their little snouts poking through the air holes. At the time, I was reading biographies written by Romain Rolland, a vegetarian Nobel laureate, about Tolstoy, Gandhi, Ramakrishna and Vivikananda, and I was impressed at how each of them knew their priorities—when there was an injustice in their community they took action by engaging in community organizing.
Meetings began as monthly vegan potlucks. The mission was simple. ‘Make slaughterhouses have glass walls.’
In order to understand the process better, and before engaging in actual protest, the group needed time to collect slaughterhouse footage. In the meantime, artwork paying homage to the suffering of animals going through this barbaric process was displayed to promote further awareness. Artists included Sue Coe, Caitlin Black, Dirk Geisselmann, SauWai Tai, Twyla Francois, Olivier Berreville, and Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals, Julie O’Neill and Toronto Pig Save’s own in-house graphic designers, Louise Jorgensen and Joanne O’Keefe.
Less than a year later, in July of 2011, Toronto Pig Save began meeting three times weekly–what Krajnc humbly refers to as ‘bearing witness’ to the suffering of the pigs before they are transported to slaughter. The vigils include leafleting and occur even on holidays. The energy of the organizers is always encouraged to stay positive and kind, as this tends to create a calming, effective environment for organizers and observers. Vegan BLTs are given to passersby that feature a unique ingredient–coconut vegan ‘bacon’ thanks to Know Thy Food, a Toronto store operated by Kristen Bethel that puts emphasis on ethical eating. To learn more about Kristen’s kind approach to cooking, you can view her website, or visit her on Facebook.
As trucks arrive at what has been nicknamed ‘Pig Island’, the last stop light before the animals make their way into the slaughterhouse parking lot, people are able to peer deeply into the eyes of frightened, exhausted pigs, and murmur a few words, perhaps say a prayer, to give them a few moments of calm before their hellish journey continues to an abrupt, and violent, end.
When asked about Toronto Pig Save’s future goals, Anita shared the organization’s 2013 ‘New Year’s resolutions’. Several items top their list, including developing a ‘just transition strategy’ for slaughterhouse workers. It is important to note that workers’ eyes are also opened by Toronto Pig Save, and some may have a desire to lead a different life. Other resolutions include door-to-door leafleting to encourage the neighborhoods surrounding the slaughterhouse to become more involved, and make them feel more comfortable voicing their concerns. A fundraising campaign put firmly in place for farm sanctuaries, a desire to develop more artwork that narrates the struggle of animals in the food industry, continue to promote pig save organizations throughout Canada and beyond, and finally, in their mission to help change the ethical eating views of people from all walks of life–develop a vegan outreach/mentor program for communities and religious groups.
The most-important aspect of the group remains. Bearing witness at weekly vigils.
According to Anita, ‘I know for myself, my level of commitment skyrocketed once I bore witness and saw pigs in trucks on the way to slaughter firsthand.’
Learn more about Toronto Pig Save here, or on their Facebook page (watch Toronto Pig Savers summon smiles with their recent Harlem Shake video).
A rescued slaughterhouse-bound piglet named Jasmine inspired Noëlle to become more aware of human impact on the environment.
She has met wonderful people on her journey helping animals–most-recently Rich and family at The Pig Preserve in Jamestown, Tennessee, where Jasmine the piglet found a forever home. She is a supporter of the Preserve, as well as local dog rescues, and she has enjoyed being a foster dog parent. Noëlle has raised multiple clutches of orphaned European Starlings, and had the honor of seeing their joyful return the wild. She is currently a member of The Sierra Club, and looks forward to advocating for the health of the Earth and those without a voice.
When Noëlle isn’t brainstorming as a freelance designer or indulging in cruelty-free products, she is relaxing in Tennessee with her husband Dan, their three sweet pups, and a cat who runs the place.
Email Noelle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Credit: Anita Krajnc