During Toronto’s torturous heat wave this July, with temperatures soaring to some 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 110 degrees Farenheit), activists from Toronto Pig Save have mobilized to give water and watermelon to severely overheated pigs on their way to slaughter. The gesture is the last— and, likely, the first— act of kindness that the pigs will ever know. When the sweltering trucks transporting the animals to Quality Meat Packers pause at a stoplight just outside the slaughterhouse, volunteers slip watermelon through ventilation holes in the trucks, and pour water into the mouths of as many frantic pigs as they can reach. It’s not enough. It’s never enough.
But just being there is important to these activists. It’s part of the larger project of bearing witness that is at the heart of Toronto Pig Save. Says one volunteer, “It’s like attending someone’s funeral to honour them, even though it won’t bring them back.” It’s also a refusal to turn away from the needless violence and death inflicted on animals exploited for food. Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc invokes the author Leo Tolstoy, who wrote: “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee…on the contrary, Come closer, as close as you can to him who suffers, and try to help.”
Quality Meat Packers slaughters nearly 7,000 pigs a day, just a fraction of the more than 30 million pigs Canada kills every year. In the U.S., we currently slaughter nearly 400,000 pigs daily, with more than 113 million slaughtered in 2012. Like the pigs in the video, they are hauled through all temperature extremes, freezing to the sides of the trucks in winter, and dying of heat-stroke and suffocation in summer. Of the miserable animals Toronto Pig Save has witnessed during the latest heat wave, Krajnc says, “The pigs showed severe physical and mental stress, including panting, foaming at the mouth and terrible vocalizations of agony and moans.” (See the full photo gallery here.)
Footage of the pigs frantically scrambling for water, and of heart-broken volunteers telling the pigs, “I’m sorry,” has pushed the video into the viral mainstream.
“Now that the video has gone viral, we hope to encourage others to show compassion for these pigs and leave them off their plates,” says Krajnc, whom you won’t find advocating for “humane” slaughter or “locally raised meat.” She’s looked into the eyes of far too many individuals whose shared desire to go on existing is violated no matter how, or where, they are slaughtered. And that is the ultimate inhumanity— choosing to harm others not because we have to, but just because we can; taking life from other beings even when we know—and science tells us this—that it isn’t necessary to our survival. Killing others for profit and pleasure is a fundamental rejection of human decency and compassion. As Tolstoy also wrote, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
To learn more about the hidden cruelties that are routine practice even on small farms, please see our article, A Closer Look at What So-Called Humane Farming Means.
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