This moving and non-graphic video depicts the haunting experience of cows inside a truck about to be unloaded for slaughter. © Hannah Gregus for Sympathy at Slaughter.
A few weeks ago I had the honor and great privilege of spending time with someone I consider a personal hero: Anita Krajnc. Anita is the founder of The Save Movement, a global grassroots collective of individuals who gather outside of slaughterhouses to bear witness to farmed animals in transport trucks about to be unloaded for slaughter. I first learned of Anita’s work in an article about Toronto Pig Save, the group she started a few years ago after noticing the many transport trucks hauling pigs through her neighborhood daily. A few blocks away from her home loomed Quality Meat Packers, one of Toronto’s largest slaughterhouses, exterminating nearly 7,000 pigs every single day. Anita discovered that many of the trucks turning into the slaughterhouse had to spend several minutes stalled at a stoplight beside a public median just across from Quality Meat Packers; and thus the idea for Toronto Pig Save was born.
Krajnc, a Tolstoy scholar, credits the latter’s writings on love, non violent community activism, and bearing witness with the philosophy and approach of TPS and The Save Movement in general (which now encompasses Cow Saves, Chicken Saves, and countless other Farmed Animal Save groups around the globe). Krajnc frequently invokes Tolstoy’s exhortation never to turn away from the suffering of others: “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain…Come closer, as close as you can to him who suffers and try to help.”
Early Toronto Pig Save members mobilized around that median where idling death trucks waited for the light to change each day, christening it “Pig Island,” where, embedded in a constant flow of traffic, it became the perfect venue to confront the public with a powerful question: Why love some animals and needlessly hurt others?
It also became a place to comfort suffering animals in their last moments of life. Save volunteers approach the trucks and talk to individual cows, pigs, goats, sheep and chickens. They stroke their faces. They give them water on hot days. They look in their eyes and tell them, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry and I love you.” It is a way of saying to each of them, “Your life did matter— You were known. You were seen. And you were loved.”
This emotional footage of goats and sheep exiting the truck and trustingly heading toward their slaughter should leave no heart unmoved. © Kitty Munster
There is something very powerful about these acts of bearing witness. For one, they send an unignorable message to thousands of passersby that here is grave injustice happening right before our eyes, massive violence in which nearly all of us are complicit, but which we each have the power to change simply by making different choices. The photos and footage from these vigils are also incredibly affecting, allowing hundreds of thousands of individuals to bear witness through social media. This video of Pig Save members giving water to miserable pigs suffering from heatstroke last July reached nearly 75,000 views on youtube alone. Sometimes it’s videos like these, without any blood or overt violence, that are the most heartbreaking. It is a quickening thing to look into the eyes of another being who wants to live, knowing these are the last moments of his or her only life.
When I watch the faces of the cows, pigs, sheep and goats in these videos, I weep; and I wonder what others might feel, what meat-eaters might feel, looking into their eyes and bearing witness to their plight. The animals seem so confused, so frightened, so sad, and so weary of their wretched situation. What a wholly different life they must have longed for all along; how needlessly and completely this world betrayed them. Looking into their eyes, I think of lines from a poem I love, and I wish I could communicate the sentiment to them. It’s called “Poem Without Forgiveness.” And it ends—
Just because you’ve had enough
doesn’t mean you wanted too much.
To learn more about the suffering of animals raised for food, even on small and so-called humane farms, please see A Closer Look at What So-Called Humane Farming Means.
To learn more about participating in or starting a Save group in your community, please go here.
To learn more about living vegan, please see our Why Vegan? page.