Recently, I attended my second vigil with Bristol Animal Save (read about my first here). If you’re not aware, a vigil involves standing outside a slaughterhouse and bearing witness to the animals who are going to be killed. The idea is to show them love in their last moments, as well as documenting what they go through.
I believe that everyone, regardless of their diet, should attend a vigil at least once. In this post, I’ll explain why, as well as giving some idea of what to expect for those who are apprehensive.
It was still dark when I left the house to go to the vigil. I caught a bus to Bath and got a lift with another activist from there, as the slaughterhouse was located just outside Bristol. For obvious reasons, abattoirs tend to be in out-of-the-way locations, so you often need a car to get there.
As we approached the slaughterhouse, we saw smoke billowing out of the chimneys on top. It was an extremely sinister spectacle – we wondered what exactly was producing it. Disturbingly, a truck full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse loomed large on the road behind us.
We made it to the slaughterhouse gates just in time to catch the truck. The activists stopped it, requesting a few minutes to say goodbye to the pigs.
The truck stopped and we all approached it. The pigs inside were standing in their own filth, and the whole truck reeked of it.
An emotional experience
Pigs have strikingly human-like eyes. As you look into them, it’s hard not to be moved by their plight. Pigs are said to be as intelligent as three-year-old human children, and when you observe their friendly inquisitiveness, this isn’t hard to believe. Even after six months of suffering at the hands of humans, they still trusted us.
We talked softly to the pigs, stroking them through the gaps in the side of the truck. Our three minutes were up far too quickly.
Watching the trucks trundle through the gates is always a heartbreaking experience – many people are moved to tears by the tragedy of these beautiful creatures going to their deaths. This particular slaughterhouse kills pigs by gassing them, which is often said to be the most ‘humane’ method of slaughter. However, it is excruciatingly painful, effectively burning the animals from the inside out. Undercover footage (as below) shows pigs writhing and squealing in pain as they slowly suffocate.
Of course, what many people find even more upsetting is watching the empty trucks leave the slaughterhouse afterwards.
Documenting the vigil
Taking photos and videos of the animals is an important part of the vigil. These can be shared on social media to raise awareness of what they go through.
This pig broke our hearts the most – he or she was missing an eye. The brown patch you can see is probably a speck of faeces, not the pupil. I found it pretty horrifying that people were going to eat this poor creature’s flesh with no idea of the suffering he or she endured.
The following is a short collection of clips I took.
Why everyone should attend a vigil
As a vegan, going to a vigil is a powerful experience which can reignite your passion for animal rights. You can’t help but feel moved to do something about the plight of the animals.
But if you’re a non-vegan, it’s arguably even more important. We all have a duty to know where our food comes from, but most of us have become thoroughly disconnected from it. Going to a vigil forces us to acknowledge the harm caused by eating animals. We must do this to be able to make informed decisions about what we eat. The atmosphere at a vigil is always one of love, despite the sadness of the situation. Everyone is welcome, and there’s no judgement. When I went, the organisers had brought hot drinks to keep the cold at bay (always wrap up warm if you’re going to a vigil in winter! You’ll be doing a lot of standing around between trucks). It’s nice to chat to the other activists, and everyone supports those who are upset by the experience.
Have you ever been to a vigil, or would you like to? Let me know below.