Why the hell would I stand by the side of a road to look at pigs being transported to a slaughterhouse in Essex? They are going to die and I don’t have the land or means to rescue them. This time last year I was clutching a bacon sandwich, now I am here clutching a placard waiting for trucks to arrive at a slaughterhouse. So it’s a good question – why am I doing this?
By bearing witness, documenting and now writing about what was a painfully sobering morning, the hope is to explain what is happening right under all our noses, down countless country lanes at places like Cheale Meats in Essex. I feel the responsibility to show people that they are funding something that is not acceptable to them, something that does not fit their morals. Good and kind-hearted people are participating in bad actions without knowing, or at least realising the full extent of the suffering needed to produce animal-based products. Of all my friends there is not one who would find what I saw that morning acceptable – although most eat pork.
I wasn’t able to save these pigs, but I can choose to actively play a part in the change that is so desperately needed for this to stop and to also document and report breaches of welfare standards to the authorities.
Knowing your local friendly butcher, buying free-range, looking for the tractor mark – it’s simply not enough if you care about animals.
This unimaginable cruelty happens because people like me paid for it at the very end of the chain. When I used to buy meat I had no idea how bad living and dying was for the animals. I wish someone had showed me the truth. I didn’t stop to think that from conception to slaughter there is suffering on a scale that rocks me to the core. Being here am taking myself to another part of the “food” chain. I am stepping back to the part that the supermarkets, marketing geniuses, farmers, butchers and politicians and my former conscience didn’t want to see, to when the flesh was living.
As I looked at the pigs – some silently collapsed, some panicking, biting and in full fight-or-flight mode, some vomiting, some foaming at the mouth through dehydration – I wondered just when this became acceptable. As the trucks rolled in, the enormity of the suffering hit. So many pigs, hundreds and hundreds, just kept rolling in. In the moments between deliveries of yet more pigs, the screams from the slaughterhouse ripped though the air, cutting conversations dead. But it’s not about us, it’s about the pigs.
In this depth of sadness there was suddenly a chance to save a pig. He was badly injured – a gaping large and infected wound clearly visible – and unfit to enter the food chain. An agreement was made that if a sanctuary could be found, a holding number provided and the necessary vet and paperwork obtained for transport, he could be saved. The organisers of Essex Pig Save sprang into action, calmly and effectively making calls. Not long after a place was found (Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary was able to take him in) and transport all arranged. At 3pm he could be collected and rescued. With a vet in tow, he had a chance – we could save a life.
Then the news filtered through via the police in attendance that the slaughterhouse had killed him anyway. He was so close to knowing what freedom is. It’s very easy to see why people get angry.
In the UK we like to see ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, but it would be really something if everyone who professed to loving animals started acting like it and stopped eating them.
Knowing your local friendly butcher, buying free-range, looking for that tractor mark (a meaningless ‘stamp’ of welfare approval) – it’s simply not enough if you care about justice and respect life. That animal has suffered great injustice to end up on a plate – whether truly free-range or factory farmed, they would have died a terrible death and just as likely had as bad a life. 90% of all British pigs are factory farmed and 6000 are killed at this one slaughterhouse alone each week.
When we eat meat, we are eating fear, terror and abuse. The filthy conditions animals are kept and transported in, the drugs they are pumped full of, and their feed and waste that has massive environmental and social impact are all very disturbing realities of our food. Sows repeatedly impregnated, trapped in cages so tight they can’t turn around, only to then have their young snatched away. When you face it, if you are willing to face it, it all suddenly tastes very unpleasant and I have yet to hear any reasoning to justify consuming it, yet vegans are asked repeatedly to justify their choice not to partake in animal cruelty.
People ask me if I miss bacon and sausages. If they could only see what I see when I hear the word bacon. It’s not a sizzling, tempting breakfast, more a desperately sad piece of a broken abused body. No animal deserves this life and death. In the UK we like to see ourselves as a nation of animal lovers, but it would be really something if everyone who professed to loving animals started acting like it and stopped eating them. In our society there are so many alternatives to meat and dairy for every budget.