The first Pig Save vigil I attended was in Toronto many years ago outside the now closed down Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse. I had been putting it off for a long time since I figured I am already a vegan animal rights activist, I don’t need to see animals being shipped off to slaughter to know it’s wrong and I will never eat them. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rescue them off those metal death transport trucks so what was the point in attending? But what I learned that day on “Pig Island” in Toronto as it was referred to because we stood on a median in the road, and the vigils I attended at Fearmans Pork Inc meat processing facility in Burlington is that it is important to attend Save vigils regardless of where you are on your vegan journey.
All the vigils I attended left a lasting impression on me but one that I will never forget was with People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) president Ingrid Newkirk in 2016. Newkirk was in town to support Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Kranjc in court where she was on trial for giving water to thirsty pigs. Kranjc was later found not guilty of criminal mischief. Newkirk has witnessed animal abuse around the world for decades and she is unstoppable in her passion to speak out for the voiceless and create positive change for all beings. Many animal warriors like Newkirk and Kranjc attend vigils even though they are already vegan activists. Perhaps you have your own personal reasons for joining a Save vigil, but if not keep reading to learn about some of the benefits of attending.
1. It is crucial to bear witness
When you bear witness you share the experience with others and ensure these stories are heard. Many people bear witness in silence because the experience is so moving there are truly no words. Others comfort each other and do whatever they can to peacefully intervene. Bearing witness to animals on the way to slaughter is about being present in a time of total injustice and doing whatever is within your power to help. When you bear witness to the suffering of pigs, chickens, cows or other farmed animals you witness their suffering and share it with others. Furthermore, when you bear witness as a group it’s empowering to unite with others through the injustice you are witnessing. For me that first time bearing witness in Toronto I put a face to the nameless numbers and locked eyes with so many scared pigs. I was able to connect with them before their untimely death and witness their suffering first hand. It was a life-changing experience.
2. It’s an act of love and kindness
Animals on the way to slaughter have likely never experienced love in their entire lives. During hot summer months, activists give water to thirsty pigs as they pant and suffer in crowded filthy conditions while the trucks are stopped at red traffic lights. I stroked several pink snouts sticking out from the slats in the truck and poured water into their open mouths. The grunting and panting pigs readily accepted the refreshing water and some were lucky enough to nibble on bits of watermelon we offered them. They squealed back in delight as we connected with them. I truly believe they felt our love. We told them that they matter and acknowledged their existence. It has been proven that pigs are just as smart as toddlers and of course they feel pain. Anita Krajnc sums it up so well, "We are a love based group. We return love for violence and that's how we change the world.”
3. Document your experience and share on social media
You never know who is going to view the photos or videos you post to social media. After each vigil I attend I post photos and write about the experience from a personal perspective. Although I am sure some people unfollow me because of this, I have received many emails and notes over the years that my pig photo was the final thing someone needed to start them on their path to a kinder vegan world. Several animal activists have told me they received similar messages from people that have started their vegan journey after seeing their Save vigil photos. Social media is a powerful tool and by documenting your experience and sharing it afterwards you will help raise awareness and have the potential to reach a huge audience. The ultimate goal is to help people adopt a non-violent vegan lifestyle and by sharing photos and videos on social media you are making a difference and not being silent.
4. Meet fellow activists
It’s always great to connect with animal activists with similar views of the world. There is strength in numbers and I have found it comforting to meet other vegans. It can be especially helpful to connect with activists if you are just starting to transition to veganism. Speak with others that have dealt with controversial situations at work or home where it was challenging to be the only vegan, and get tips on how you can make it easier and be prepared for the next board meeting or family holiday. The atmosphere at vigils is that of love and you will not be judged for where you are on your journey. Rather you will be welcomed for showing up and making a difference. Together you can give out vegan leaflets and information sheets to others as they walk by or offer them to people in stopped cars. You may be surprised at how many people accept them and want to know more about what you are doing, including police offers and truck drivers that will roll down their windows to say hi. Finally, arrange to have a vegan potluck after you bear witness and brainstorm other positive ways you can make a difference for animals moving forward. Together we can close down every slaughterhouse and animal farm in the world.
5. Bring non-vegan friends or family members with you
The next time someone says they just can’t give up meat because it tastes “so good” or mocks you with “mmm bacon”, why not politely invite them to attend an animal Save vigil with you? We have an obligation to know where our food comes from and many people are completely disconnected from this. Invite people to see that their meal had a face, a personality, and an entire life worth living. I have hung out with many activists that brought their mother, friend, cousin or neighbor to a vigil so they can experience first hand what happens to their “food” before it arrives at the supermarket. If you have friends or family visiting from out of town there is even more reason to bring them. Perhaps attending a vigil will leave such a lasting impression on them, that when they return home they will start an Animal Save group in their own community. After all, the mission is to hold animal vigils in every town with a slaughterhouse, live market or animal auction house and along transport routes used by slaughter trucks. The more Save chapters there are around the world the more positive changes for animals we will create.
If you share our vision for a compassionate vegan world, join your local Animal Save Movement chapter today.
Author: Miriam Porter