A pink snout touches my hand gently. I peek in the truck to see the pig's face and she's crying. "I love you and I am sorry," I whisper through tears. "It's going to be OK." But we both know it's not.
Photo: Activists giving water to thirsty pigs in truck outside slaughterhouse
It's almost 6 a.m. in Toronto as I approach the subway to take me downtown where I will meet my ride outside Maple Leaf Square. I arrive with a tall coffee and introduce myself to the four people I am traveling with to Burlington. We will be the voice for pigs and bear witness to their suffering in the final moments of their lives at a peaceful vigil. There are close to 100 pig slaughterhouses in Ontario. Perhaps you have witnessed the long trucks driving on the highway. When I was a kid and saw the trucks I thought the animals were going to a big field or barn to play. But now I know the truth. They are going to the worst hell on earth.
Today, over 100 other activists will be attending the vigil for pigs. We want to show the world that the societal norm of killing animals is not acceptable.
We are love-based activists. And we are here to stay.
The vigil today is being organized by Toronto Pig Save.
Pig Save is a grassroots animal rights organization whose mission is to put "glass walls" on slaughterhouses. We believe in bearing witness to animal suffering while showing love and compassion to animals being raised for food in the final hours of their sad miserable lives. Every day approximately 9,000 pigs are transported via truck to the slaughterhouse we are at where they will be gassed to death. Other forms of torture may include pigs being grabbed by their ears, inserting sharp metal spikes in their flesh and cutting off their tails, as this video shows from an undercover investigation in the U.S. Many pigs are not even six months old when shipped off to their death. Pig Save is dedicated to raising awareness of animal abuse through non-violence and follows the process set out by Mahatma Gandhi.
"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history". - Mahatma Gandhi
Co-founder of Pig Save, Anita Krajnc, explains, "We are a love based group. We return love for violence and that's how we change the world. Our goal is to help people adopt a non-violent vegan lifestyle."
(There are Cow Save Vigils too!)
The first pig vigil I attended was in Toronto. It was a chilly spring Sunday morning when I joined 20 other activists on "Pig Island" -- a concrete median where the slaughterhouse trucks stopped at red traffic lights.
That day I locked eyes with a pig in the truck. He stared at me helplessly. His eyes were begging, "Get me out of here." My legs were shaking and my tears didn't stop. All my love in the world could not stop the horror I was witnessing. But I was his witness. He was not alone. I whispered to the pig that I loved him. I told him I was sorry and that I was trying. We were all trying.
Other activists around me fed the pigs fruit and water but I couldn't move. I stood there crying until the truck drove off to the slaughterhouse where the pigs are dragged to the kill floor with electric prods and gassed or even boiled to death. Some of the pigs are conscious when they enter the scalding tank to remove their hair. 30 trucks carrying 6,000 pigs drove to the slaughterhouse daily. That house of death filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors forever in 2014 after almost 100 years of killing pigs.
But today I know what to expect as the first truck arrives. I get my water jug ready as it approaches a busy intersection in Burlington. The dirty gray truck stops at a red light and we race up to it. The pigs eagerly drink the water we offer them.
A pink snout touches my hand gently. I peek in the truck to see the pig's face and she's crying. "I love you and I am sorry", I whisper through tears. "It's going to be okay". But we both know it's not.
The Halton police show up to keep us humans safe. They are kind, friendly and helpful.
The law permits us to stop the trucks "within reason" so as each truck drives by we have a few minutes to offer comfort and bear witness so the pigs are not alone. This is the only love they will ever receive.
The pigs arrive sick, scared, screaming, confused, many covered in fecal matter with sores on various parts of their body. The pigs are completely aware of what is going on. It's been proven time and again that pigs have the intelligence of a three-year-old child. I am bearing witness to a massacre of the innocent.
The Globe and Mail reported that pigs are not the only animals suffering in transport. Furthermore, a recent undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals revealed horrific animal cruelty at one of the largest dairy producers in Canada.
These pigs are not killed humanely. "Humane meat" is not a real thing. The pigs are treated horribly. Their death, and the death of millions of other farmed animals are not justified.
An hour later our vigil moves just outside the slaughterhouse. A fellow activist, Jenny McQueen, explains, "It's all about bearing witness and showing solidarity with the animals". During my conversation with McQueen we hear pigs screaming from the other side of the barbed wire fence separating us from what resembles a maximum-security prison. CTV's W5 broadcast an undercover investigation with pigs in Canada revealing "disturbing and inhumane treatment of factory farm animals."
The smell of death is everywhere. I can't believe this goes on in the world.
Another activist, Karol Marocho, tells me, "I believe the pigs feel our love in the last minutes before they die and that matters".
Our love based vigil includes multiple tables of vegan food, chalk art, free pamphlets for anyone wanting more information, kids doing arts and crafts on blankets and music. Some activists bring dogs that offer comfort to us and are a constant reminder there is no difference between eating a pig and eating a dog.
When we approach life with compassion, love, and kindness we can stop this endless slaughter. It is time to end the torture.
"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated". - Mahatma Gandhi
Want to help?
Choose non-violence and compassion next time you eat a meal. Nobody needs to eat bacon, pork, ham or sausage. There are so many tasty and healthy alternatives instead of eating animals. Check out this list of delicious cruelty free vegan food substitutes and order a free vegan starter kit.
Come out to the next Pig Save vigil or start one in your hometown. It only takes one person to create change and stand up for what is wrong in the world.
We are love-based activists.
Our numbers are growing daily.
And we won't stop until every cage is empty.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world". - Mahatma Gandhi
All photos by Miriam Porter