Is this something you want to support?

It was just before 8am on Wed 5th October when I received the message ‘Truck flipped at Fearmans.’ As an animal rights activist with Toronto Pig Save I attend regular vigils outside Fearmans Pork slaughterhouse, usually on Thursday mornings. We hold signs to inform the public and wait for the trucks so we can bear witness to some of the 10,000 pigs who arrive daily for slaughter. 

Vigils are always traumatic. I see no difference that matters between a dog or a pig. If you imagine how you would feel bearing witness to a truck full of dogs arriving for slaughter, often dehydrated, always terrified, you might have an understanding of how difficult I and other activists find vigils. On the 45 minute drive to the slaughterhouse I tried to mentally prepare myself for what I would see as I do on every drive to Fearmans.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to witness. The second I opened my car door, screams filled the air. Relentless, prolonged, agonizing screams. I can hear them now, a week later. I rushed to the scene. I knew a truck had overturned, I knew there would be carnage. However I did not expect to find a battle. In hindsight it was obvious I would. But in that moment naively I was expecting to find people helping the pigs. Instead what I found were several cops and over a dozen Fearmans employees using cardboard panels in an attempt to shield the overturned truck from activists who were trying to document the scene. Screams still filled the air, blood covered the sidewalk. Firefighters were cutting through metal attempting to free the pigs, but not to take them to an animal hospital. Fearmans had cut a hole through the fence and were planning to, and eventually did, walk surviving pigs across the parking lot to the gas chamber. 

The tension was palpable, the scene chaotic. Protestors were remonstrating with police, dismayed at their handling of the situation; they were clearly helping Fearmans cover up the truth. They were prohibiting protesters from approaching the truck by putting up a yellow caution tape barrier, but allowing and enabling Fearmans employees past the barrier so they could hold up cardboard to shield the truth. Passers by were shouting ‘bacon’ from their cars. One member of the Press commented that the pigs would still make nice hot dogs. All the while the pigs screamed.

Toronto Pig Save co-founder, Anita Krajnc, arrived on the scene and together with a number of other protesters, myself included, crossed the caution tape to document the atrocity. Police ordered us back. Anita attempted to cross the line once more and was arrested. More police arrived. 

I decided to step away from the scene, concerned that I too might get arrested by the police who were becoming more and more frantic and lacking in diplomacy, roughly pushing people and shouting with reddened angry faces. Compassion, it would seem is offensive. 

I walked to the entrance of Fearmans where it was quiet, I wanted to reflect on the injustice I was witnessing, knowing there was little I could do to prevent it. 

There were three pigs by the entrance, all three I assume had managed to free themselves from the toppled truck prior to ‘help’ arriving. One of the pigs, the most distant, was basking and rooting in the mud close to the gas chamber, probably for the first time in her life. The other two were right up alongside the fence at the entrance. Both appeared injured, neither could walk. Neither were fit for ‘processing’. Both could be saved. Optimism flooded my veins despite the dichotomy of saving one pig whilst 10,000 others were killed. 

After a while the distant pig who was basking was ushered up and led to the gas chamber. She happily trotted off trusting the human who was about to betray her. Watching her disappear into the distance will haunt me. I brought my focus back to the two pigs we could save. Steve Jenkins, from Happily Ever Esther sanctuary had arrived on the scene and officially offered sanctuary to the two injured pigs. We were hopeful, very hopeful. There was no logical reason why these pigs couldn’t be saved.

Time passed, hour after hour. Truck after truck of pigs entered Fearmans whilst we waited. One of the pigs managed to get up and walk over to the other. He nuzzled her, trying to help. Sadness consumed me. The fact the pig was up and walking meant he could be ‘processed’. Sure enough this pig was soon led away. The one remaining pig, who protestors later named Bonnie, was far too injured to walk. She needed urgent medical attention. We were ready, willing and able to assist, to take her to the best veterinary care available. 

Despite numerous calls and requests to Fearmans and the CFIA, after over four hours had passed, a Fearmans employee shot Bonnie in the head. Other employees attempted to shield the execution with cardboard. Activists watched in disbelief. 

I’ve heard from a number of people who were there that day who are still deeply affected by what they witnessed. For me the worst part was the callous indifference to the pain and suffering of these animals. Having endured a terrifying crash, having being trapped in a truck or lying injured in the grass for hours, one might have expected or assumed these pigs would have been shown mercy. But no mercy was shown, not by Fearmans, not by the police who ensured the truth was curtailed.  Not even when the pigs could not be ‘processed’ and sanctuary was on offer. Not even then. 

If you are appalled at this injustice, if you have a heart full of sorrow and empathy for these pigs, I’d like to leave you with one inconvenient, unpleasant, yet undeniable fact; if you are not vegan, you are paying for this to happen. Without the demand, 10,000 pigs per day at Fearmans alone and billions of other land animals around the world would not be killed every year. I ask you to question your beliefs, question your conditioning and ask yourself is this really something you want to support?

By James O’Toole