I decided to write about an organisation called Toronto Pig Save because, well to be honest I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since I saw one of their videos on YouTube. You can view it here.
I’m helpless towards cute pig pictures, normally involving bright green grass, sunshine, and the pigs looking adorably happy. Toronto Pig Save, however, shows pigs in a very different light; they show the harsh reality that the vast majority of pigs are living in today. This couldn’t be further from our fairytale vision of pigs – the green grass has been replaced with a dirty, grey truck containing sometimes hundreds of terrified pigs that are cramped together with little space to move. The sunshine has been replaced with darkness inside the truck, with small holes of light coming through. The happiness has been replaced with sheer terror, as they make their final journey to slaughterhouses which can kill up to 10,000 pigs a day.
So what do Toronto Pig Save actually do? Well, they go to the destinations that the trucks containing the pigs will be passing through, and when the truck stops they provide the pigs with water and watermelon to keep them hydrated, some in heat waves up to 45 degrees celsius outside the truck, inside obviously much hotter. The conditions that the pigs are forced to endure are unbearable, with pigs showing common signs of heat stroke; heavy panting, lack of co-ordination, weakness, vomiting and even unconsciousness. But what they actually do, is so much more.
Toronto Pig Save bear witness – they look into the eyes of the pigs inside the trucks. There are so many stories of people that have attended vigils who have had a life changing experience, by having eye contact with a pig as they make their way to slaughter. These terrified pigs who have been viewed as simply a commodity throughout their entire lives are looked upon as living beings with feelings and emotions, for the first time. They feel love and compassion from those taking part in the vigil, and bearing witness to their final struggle. At this stage, this is really all anyone can do for these animals, and to just work towards a world where future generations of them won’t have to go through the same thing.
As well as this, they document what is a daily operation for these trucks destined for the slaughterhouse. Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian,” which implies that if people really knew the truth about the meat industry, they would refrain from paying towards it. This is what Toronto Pig Save does. It shows the pigs bred for meat in the final part of their horrific lives, that the industry has tried so hard to hide. The YouTube video that I mentioned earlier alone has had almost 100,000 views, which goes to show that people really aren’t okay with what is happening to these animals being hidden. In 2002, PETA released the documentary ‘Meet Your Meat’ which so many people have regarded as responsible for their transition to a vegan diet. Toronto Pig Save takes it from watching the footage, to actually seeing these animals, face to face. For this reason, I think Toronto Pig Save has the power to encourage people to make the connection between the food we eat, and the animals that we are so used to seeing in pretty pictures, and in turn to adopt a vegan lifestyle that doesn’t condone and pay for this treatment of animals.
Toronto Pig Save holds frequent vigils throughout the year which anybody can join, including some lasting for 24 hours. I was able to speak to animal activist and vegan lifestyle blogger for her own educational website and YouTube Channel, Emily Moran Barwick, also known as Bite Size Vegan. Emily will be bearing witness with Toronto Pig Save for the first time on 24th September at an all day pig, cow and chicken save. Here’s what she had to say about it:
How did you find out about Toronto Pig Save?
I’d heard the name here and there but then James from Toronto Pig Save reached out to me about potentially featuring them on my channel about some of the vigils they were doing, and I thought that it was incredibly valuable. I had seen the video of their’s online where they were giving water to pigs on their way to slaughter. That might have been my first actual exposure to them, and it was heartbreaking and incredibly important.
Will the vigil you’re attending on September 24th be your first ever one?
It will be my first one with Toronto Pig Save, and my first one of this nature. I’ve been around animal agriculture and these places of death, but never in an organised manner…if that makes any sense!
Obviously bearing witness to these pigs as they make their journey to slaughter will be highly emotional, how do you plan on getting through it?
Well I always say in my head, because watching these things is horrific and difficult but for me, I try to look at what the animals are going through. My own discomfort is nothing compared to what they’re going through. This is what I think of with graphic footage as well – if they have to live through that, and die by that, the very least I can do is watch and bear witness to what they’re going through, and try to bring an iota of comfort to them. It’s not about me, it’s not about us and how sad it makes us; it’s about them. They’re the ones who are having to go through this, and they’re the ones that are going to die at the end of the day, so my emotional comfort is really of little relevance.
Do you think that organisations such as Toronto Pig Save have the power to encourage people to go vegan?
I think they can. I think any action that draws attention to what the animals are going through has great value. I don’t know exactly how people are grabbed or engaged by it, but I think it’s an important action.
Finally, what inspired you personally to go vegan?
I don’t know, because I was four when I started to refuse meat. I think its always been inherently within me, its just never made sense to me to hurt, consume or do any of that to animals. Honestly, I never understood why other people seemed to go through life as if nothing was wrong. Even as a child I sensed that something was horribly, horribly wrong with the way that we live and I was just baffled that everyone just went about their day when we’re living in a horror movie. So at the core of it, the animals were always my reason.
Keep up to date with Toronto Pig Save, who also work with sister organisations in Ontario Toronto Cow Save and Toronto Chicken Save, on Facebook and Twitter on all the amazing work they’re doing. Let’s hope that important vigils such as these will take place all over the world so more people can bear witness to these animals on their final journey.