Friday, July 22, 2011

Mobilizing to Help the Pigs: In Praise of Toronto Pig Rescue

Across North America, livestock are being transported to killing factories in sweltering heat. It is bad enough that they are being slaughtered in such huge numbers, but to have to be squeezed into truck trailers by the dozens and dozens, with barely enough room to move, while the heat pounds down on them, is unthinkable.

Yesterday alone, here in southwestern Ontario, temperatures hit 38 Celsius (about 101 Fahrenheit). Factor in what they call the Humidex - an index used by Canadian meteorologists to figure out what the temperature really feels like to people once humidity is factored in - and you reach temperatures that feel like about 43 Celsius/110 Fahrenheit.

A few days ago, I blogged about Quality Meat Packers, a killing factory in Toronto where up to 6,000 pigs are processed every day.

What I failed to say is that small numbers of Torontonians are mobilizing. People in the region have formed a group called Toronto Pig Save. So far, they've launched letter writing campaigns to public officials and key political figures, picketed at various slaughterhouses, taken videos and photographs of distressed pigs, and attempted to speak to workers at these facilities in an effort to start a dialogue about what's going on. Their efforts have drawn media attention to the suffering of the animals.

Most of these activists are committed vegans who understand that winning new converts takes time and lots of hard work.

Yet when you begin to think of the suffering that so many animals are enduring on a daily basis, in what essentially amounts to assembly line murder, you get that sick sense of restlessness, that stabbing feeling that maybe small pockets of sane, reasonable, rational human beings aren't sufficient to counteract disturbing patterns of human destructiveness.

But the wonderful folks at Toronto Pig Save (see their fantastic Website here) are trying. They're part of a larger vegan and animal rights community in the city - and indeed, the region - working to open people's eyes to the suffering. That community has grown over the years. New people are waking up all the time. They are opening their eyes. They're starting to realize that reclaiming our humanity involves embracing nonviolence and compassion, and veganism is the ultimate expression of those values.

Those poor pigs are still out there in the sweltering sun, suffering, with no sweat glands, no means to cool down, knowing nothing but agony in their final days. But like the abolitionists of the 19th Century, who faced overwhelming odds in their efforts to undermine slavery, decent committed people are not giving up on them.

Postscript: To speak out against this madness, I wrote the following letter to The Globe and Mail, Canada's version of The New York Times. I don't know if they'll print it. If it doesn't appear shortly, I'll give The National Post a try.

Dear Editor,

Right now, as most of us struggle to stay cool, a tragedy is unfolding in our midst. Each day in this sweltering heat, truckloads pigs are left outside in the sun next to Quality Meat Packers Limited on Tecumseh Street in Toronto. The pigs squeal in agony, packed into nightmarish, oven-like conditions. Dazed, overheated, their snouts bleed from pressing against the walls of the truck trailers. They have no sweat glands, so their internal body temperature spikes. All the while, the heat blazes down on them relentlessly, making the final moments of their short lives unbearable. Efforts by concerned citizens to bring relief to the pigs are met with resistance by plant managers.

Six thousand pigs a day are processed at Quality Meat Packers. They know nothing but misery before their lives are cut short to fill our plates with meat we do not need to consume in order to survive. Sadly, Quality Meat Packers is not unique. This deplorable treatment is standard operating procedure for pork producers. “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Ask yourself if this is the kind of Canada you want.

Andrew Hunt

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