It's very hard to take a photo with shaking hands and tear-filled eyes.
It's even harder to wipe the tears away, look straight into the eyes of innocent animals who are trapped in trucks and about to enter a slaughterhouse, and tell them that we love them and we are trying our best to save them. We must seem like liars to the animals who know that we are capable of opening the truck doors. What the animals don't understand is the legal system that considers them property and the people that consider them food.
I joined Toronto Pig Save at a 24 hour vigil and it took me eight months of emotionally returning to this set of images, only to be reminded each time that it's all still happening, at every second, all over the world, and it has been happening the whole time I wasn't thinking about it, too. Next time I will be stronger.
I can not count the number of trucks that we saw dropping pigs off to the death factory that morning. We were at ONE slaughterhouse, in ONE city, in ONE country and we saw so many pigs in just ONE morning. It was shocking to say the least.
We looked into their eyes. We heard their screams. We visualized the rest.
Our hearts were continually torn apart by what was happening around us. Giving water to the thirsty pigs was a therapeutic and necessary part of my own wellbeing throughout the morning. It felt productive and important. It made a small but meaningful difference within a life of confusion and fear to these pigs. Though I had only just met them, the people beside me became my favourite people, my partners in caring about these beautiful pigs and the future of peace in our world, and givers of much needed hugs.
As noon approached, my mind replayed visions of the pigs whose eyes I had looked into and who I knew were already murdered. If 10,000 die at Fearmans Pork Inc per day, then I had witnessed about 5,000 of them. I was very confused and disheartened to be a part of the species responsible for this horror.
We relocated to Maple Leaf Slaughterhouse in Toronto where we would spend the rest of the day. We started by walking a couple blocks away from the slaughterhouse to engage in community outreach on another busy intersection. With more signs and tons of resources to give away, we initiated conversations with people on the streets. My pain from the morning drove the most powerful conversations that I have ever had on the topic of animal cruelty. I wish I had that much pure and honest emotion flowing through my body to formulate and guide such impactful discussions on a daily basis.
In comparison to what we witnessed at Fearmans Pork Inc, we saw that the trucks at Maple Leaf Slaughterhouse arrived less often but with a lot more bodies per truck. The cages on these trucks were packed as full as possible with chickens and stacked many cages high by many cages long by many cages wide.
In between trucks, I joined Chalk Chick as she worked on an illustration of a chicken named Mercy, who had been rescued from this exact slaughterhouse at a previous event, and taken to live in peace at Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary (a wonderful place that I frequently visit). The artwork was being done right in front of two garage doors that opened into the slaughterhouse for trucks. I witnessed the cages full of animals being quickly thrown off the trucks and thousands of live chickens hanging upside down by their fragile feet and going around a conveyer belt that forced them through chemical baths and sharp blades to their death. I saw the dead bodies piled into big bins on the backs of trucks as pipes released pools of blood across a permanently red bloodstained floor.
Meanwhile, more trucks continued to arrive full of chickens who were taking their last breaths. I had never interacted with a chicken before that day, but upon locking eyes with these sad and beautiful little creatures, I knew there were a lot of someones staring back at me who were desperate for love. Out of impulse, I started petting some of the chickens on their heads, wings and beaks while sharing sobbing words of love and apology with them. This evidently soothed them for a moment. Someone beside me started playing the ukulele and singing to them and I was overcome with hope, sadness, love, hate, inspiration and a completely honest feeling of what it truly means to be human, genuine, peaceful, present and loving in this world. The people who stand with The Save Movement are truly angels.
So many lives are stolen each second from innocent, mysterious, loving, playful and curious beings all over the world, and for nothing more than a human meal. We do not need to eat animal protein, and in fact we are healthier without it. Convenience and taste win the battle for many people, yet any vegan will honestly admit that taste has not been sacrificed by switching to delicious plant-based foods, and convenience is rarely an issue as vegan options emerge on a large scale around the globe. Many people insist that their eating choices should be respected, but what about the animals? What about all of the beautiful pigs and chickens that I witnessed who are long gone and who didn't deserve the fate that was chosen for them? In the words of M. Edward King:
This choice you say is your right
that you can eat just as you like
and it's merely an opinion that I voice
But your choice, it kills so many
this opinion kills not any
and your victims, do you give them any choice?
My experience with The Save Movement was very emotionally draining, but it was even more important in growing to better understand myself, my knowledge and feelings about the world, and my place within it. As I prepare to join this movement again at an upcoming 24 hour vigil, I know that I will be stronger. I will be there, fully. I will raise awareness. I will love and I will mourn. I will document. I will speak up and I will speak louder. Please join me.