If you’re not familiar with the Save movement, the concept is simple. A group of activists wait outside a slaughterhouse, and when a truck arrives, they approach it. Then they show love and compassion to the animals, bearing witness to their last moments. The movement started with Toronto Pig Save in 2010.
On November 10th, Bristol Animal Save held their first ever vigil. I’d been wanting to go to one for a long time and was glad to find one in my area. The vigil was held outside the Tulip Foods slaughterhouse in Westerleigh, the largest in the area. It slaughters 2,500 pigs every day.
It was a very chilly morning, even with my hat and gloves on. The slaughterhouse agreed to stop five trucks for us, but we had to wait about an hour between each one. We held signs with peaceful vegan messages and talked among ourselves.
A truck went by just after I arrived, but it went straight through the gates. Even so, it was a shock to the system to see the terrified creatures being carted to their deaths. The truck smelled foul – the pigs were dirty, and forced to stand in their own excrement.
A truck was eventually stopped, allowing us to approach and say our goodbyes. Some people talked softly to the pigs, others simply looked into their eyes. When the truck drove off, some were moved to tears at the thought of what awaited the animals. I felt oddly numb, as if my brain was trying to protect me from the horror.
Many of us took photos and videos throughout the morning. There was one pig I particularly connected with, shown at the end of this clip.
The animals were so inquisitive and friendly – pigs are a lot like dogs, and are as intelligent as three-year-old children. They’re only six months old when they’re sent to slaughter, babies bred to grow unnaturally fast.
Between trucks, we were able to talk to the guards and to two workers. They told us the pigs were gassed in CO2 chambers, an excruciating process which effectively means they burn from the inside out. In undercover footage of this process, pigs can be heard screaming in pain. But the workers continually emphasised that everything they did was to ‘care for animals’.
They also told us that some trucks come from as far away as Italy – confirmed by the Italian writing on some of the trucks we saw. It was awful to think what a long, uncomfortable, terrifying experience the pigs had undergone, especially considering that animals being transported to slaughter usually aren’t given any food or water.
I think everyone should experience an event like this, especially those who eat meat. One man who attended the vigil was a meat-eater, and was very affected. By the end, he was thinking about going vegan. Most of us are just so disconnected from what we eat, but when we see animals going to their deaths, all we want to do is stop it. It’s the same reason we all root for the animals in movies like Chicken Run, even those of us who eat meat.
Would you go to an event like this? And do you think it’s important to bear witness to these animals? Let me know your thoughts.