Bearing Witness with Essex Pig Save – Why Being Vegan Isn’t Enough

In 2016, I took the step from vegan to vegan activist. It was a new year’s resolution of mine to become more involved in animal rights. I would watch videos of undercover investigations in factory farms, and I knew that my money was not paying for any of this cruelty…but this still didn’t make me feel any better. No fair! I did the research, watched the footage, I made the leap from vegetarian to vegan, surely I should feel at peace knowing that my money isn’t paying anybody to torture and kill animals?! Unfortunately, for many people like me, this isn’t enough. New investigations keep cropping up all the time, new disturbing pictures, and although you might not be contributing to it, are you doing enough to change this course of history? Or will you be burdened with the fear of future generations looking back and saying, ‘why didn’t they do more?’

My answer? Activism. Last summer, I joined Toronto Pig Save in a series of vigils in a short space of time, bearing witness to cows, pigs, lambs and chickens. I talked to Anita Krajnc about how her passion lead to her facing the possibility of going to prison for what she believed in (read more about Anita’s trial here). I talked to other activists, and eventually found that a lot of people felt the same as me. Since then I have attended regular save vigils, taking time out of my own little life to think about the suffering of others, and actually being there for them, instead of turning a blind eye. The quote that best sums up what I’m talking about here is:

‘Activism is my rent for living on the planet.’ – Alice Walker

Yesterday I joined other activists to say goodbye to innocent pigs about to enter Cheale Meats in Essex. This is one of the ‘nicer’ locations for a slaughterhouse, as strange as that is to say. The surrounding area here is very deceiving –  a beautiful countryside with birds singing and typical rural surroundings. The thing that ruins all this though? The screams of helpless pigs inside Cheale Meats, and today those screams were extra loud.

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We were able to bear witness to some of the pigs entering Cheale Meats. They were cramped, frightened, agitated and seemed to have an idea about where they were headed. Well, they are one of the world’s most intelligent animals (cleverer than dogs) let’s give them some credit, right? Take a moment to think about how you would feel if you were in this very same situation…

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We had two precious minutes with these animals. For two minutes, they were shown compassion. For two minutes, they were viewed as living beings instead of simply commodities. For two minutes, time spent with them was time we wanted to give, not because we were ‘doing our job’ to cause them pain and suffering. For us it was just two minutes, for them it was some of their last moments on earth.

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As the trucks pulled off into the gloom of Cheale Meats, we spent an extra two minutes remembering these animals silently. As the human race, we have let them down. But as individuals, there’s still a lot more we can do.

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In many situations in life, you can do something or you can do nothing. As sad as it is to say, the animals I met today were going to die regardless. We can either be there for them, and share their story, or we can let them suffer in silence. At the end of 2016, I wrote about some of my proudest moments of the year (check this out here)- it wasn’t losing weight, it wasn’t stopping biting my nails, it wasn’t spending less money on clothes – it was getting active for animals. Feeling overwhelmed and angry about a factory farming video you’ve just watched? Good! Use it. Use it to share their story, attend animal rights events, go to vigils and look into the eyes of animals bound for slaughter. Because this is happening whether you turn a blind eye or not. But I guarantee you will feel stronger and prouder as you find yourself part of some amazing milestones that will be happening for animals. Just this weekend, Ringling Brother’s Circus announced they will (finally) be closing this year, and no more animals will be suffering for our entertainment in their hands (read about this here). Imagine how awesome it feels to be a part of that? To have protested for a cause you felt so passionate about, and the world listened. It can happen, and it is happening! Make 2017 the year you actually did something about what you care about. And speak up! Because the world is listening, and things are changing, but please don’t forget those that won’t get to see this change.

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RIP to all the pigs I met today.

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The Save Movement

An excellent way to get active for animals is by attending Save vigils. These are now cropping up all over the place, so the chances are there will be one not too far from you. And if there isn’t? Start your own! I bet there will be plenty of other people in your area that want to get active for animals too. Check out the following links for more information:

List of Save Groups

Essex Pig Save

Toronto Pig Save

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Vegan Life Live – Alexandra Palace, London

So this weekend saw the first event by hugely popular magazine ‘Vegan Life’. Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of Vegan Life magazine – I’ve had a few of my articles about sanctuary visits published here, plus have had the opportunity to meet some of the people involved who have attended Essex Pig Save Vigils (read about my most recent experience at Essex Pig Save here). So I knew I was going to be in safe hands attending this event. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. Alexandra Palace was heaving with people eager to sample some tasty vegan food and maybe learn a thing or two. Here are a few of my highlights from Saturday 7th January.

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The Food Court

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Baking Bad

Baking Bad was my first stop earlier on in the day. I’d heard great things about their cupcakes (and also thought they had a pretty cool name). I was a little upset that my go-to cupcake favourite ‘Ms Cupcake’, based in Brixton (check out my blog about Ms Cupcake here) were not making an appearance, but this was something I thought made the event as a whole a little different to VegFest. There were a lot of new companies that VegFest regulars may not have visited before, so the awesome chance to check out a whole new range of vegan companies. The cupcakes from Baking Bad were beautifully decorated and incredibly tasty.

 Mex It Up

This was another newbie for me. With so much choice in the food court, options from all over the world, and firm favourites like ‘What the Pitta’ with a never-ending queue, I decided to try the vegan world’s answer to Mexican street food – ‘Mex It Up’. Thoroughly recommended! The loaded nachos were great, accompanied by jackfruit and some vegan nacho cheese – what’s not to love?! I also had the New York Cheesecake, a vegan version of the world renowned desert – amazing!

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Vita Coco Kitchen

There seemed to be lots of interesting stuff going on here. I watched ‘Quick and Easy Weekday Dinners’ by Chef Day Radley where she made an interesting combination of butter bean mash and tempeh. You can find the recipe for this and a whole host of other quick, healthy vegan recipes on her website here.

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Palace Suite

Another special mention has to go to Toni Shephard – Executive Director at Animal Equality – who spoke about the realities for animals living on factory farms. Animal Equality are one of my favourite organisations and I really admire the work they are doing. Essex Pig Save teamed up with Animal Equality’s iAnimal campaign – showing people virtual reality footage inside factory farms – earlier this year (read about it here).

Cruelty-Free Shopping

  1. Love Libby X Necklace – I love this brand! I already have a few of their necklaces and bracelets, each one hand-made and unique. Check out their website here.
  2. Wear Your Voice ‘Vegan Power’ Vest – As designed by vegan marathon runner and all round superhero for animals Fiona Oakes (read about when I met Fiona and the animals at Tower Hill sanctuary here). £5.00 from the sale of every vest goes directly to the Fiona Oakes Foundation. Wear Your Voice also have a whole host of different animal rights clothing – check out their website here.

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3. Create & Case ‘Kiss of a Panda’ Clutch Bag – This was another brand new vegan company for me, and I’m so glad I found them! This 100% PETA approved clutch bag is one of many unique and ultra-cool vegan bags and purses. This design was one of my favourites, you can buy one for yourself here.

Overall, I think most people will agree that the first Vegan Life Live event was a great success, and the perfect way to kick off 2017! Taking their own spin on vegan exhibitions that we have grown to love such as Vegfest, I was really impressed with how the event was organised. I’m so pleased that more events like this seem to be popping up all over the place, showing that the demand for vegan products is higher than ever!  I hope to see this event back in London next year.

If you aren’t already familiar with Vegan Life magazine, be sure to check out their website here.

2016 – Animal Activism Year in Review

In the world of animal rights, 2016 has definitely seen some positive changes worldwide. More people are vegan than ever before, and also many vegans have turned to activism to use their voices for animals. It has been my first full year of animal activism, and taking action for animals has became a huge part of my life. Here are some of my proudest achievements from 2016…

Essex Pig Save’s First Vigil

Read about it here.

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This was my first ever save vigil of any kind, and it was in my home county! I have always been a huge supporter of Toronto Pig Save, and was so happy that the Save Movement was expanding to the UK. This was the first of many vigils which went on to occur every month, with a growing team of activists. Our numbers have pretty much doubled since this very first vigil. We were able to bear witness to pigs entering Cheale Meats in Brentwood, Essex, and offer them comfort in any way we could. The next Essex Pig Save vigil will be held on 16th January 2017 – check out the Essex Pig Save Facebook page here for more information.

I Stand with Anita

Read about it here and here.

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This year I got to spend some time with Anita Krajnc and the rest of Toronto Pig Save as I attended a series of vigils in Canada. I also got to cover Anita’s court case, where she was put on trial for feeding water to a pig dying of dehydration. People around the world were horrified that Anita had been charged for simply an act of kindness. The trial talked about a lot more than this one incident, and ended up putting animal agriculture as a whole on trial. The case will be continuing in March 2017. Working with Anita has been a great honour this year, and I look forward to doing a lot more in 2017 to show the world that compassion is not a crime.

Japan – The World is Watching You

Read about it here.

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At the start of this year I took part in the London Against Taiji Dolphin Massacre March. We marched through the streets of London to the Japanese Embassy, using our voices to stand against this barbaric tradition that happens every year in Taiji. Documentaries like Blackfish and The Cove have meant a huge fall in profit for companies such as Seaworld. It’s so important that people know that every time they buy a ticket to a marine park that uses animals for entertainment, or partake in swim with dolphin programmes, they are actively paying for this yearly dolphin slaughter. The workers seek out the ‘Flipper’-like dolphins that have become so popular, while the rest are trapped in the cove to be slaughtered the following morning, and sold as dolphin meat. Many people in Japan don’t even know this is happening. Please don’t be part of it. Boycott Seaworld, marine parks and all swim with dolphin programmes.

Fearman’s ‘Pork’ Show No Mercy

Read about it here.

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Not long after returning from Canada myself, I watched this heartbreaking event live, as it happened, outside Fearman’s ‘Pork’, where I had protested earlier this year. Although the events of that day were completely incomprehensible, the stories of the pigs who died will never be forgotten. The incident gained worldwide media coverage, and people began to question whether eating meat can ever really be humane. A special thanks to all the activists who were at Fearman’s that day, and later organised a candle-lit memorial for all those who suffered such cruelty, all because of human greed.

Vegfest London 2016

Read about it here and on The Vegfest Express.

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In the build up to this year’s Vegfest London, I interviewed some of the speakers appearing at the Vegan Activists Summit – including Kate Strong, Rebecca Fox and Marta Zaraska. I’m so pleased that Vegfest is just getting bigger and better every year. I thought the speakers this year were particularly inspirational, and it was great to listen to such heroes as David Smith MBE talk about how a plant-based diet has changed their lives.

Ink Activism

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This year I also got my first ever tattoos which have been great conversation starters, and have also enabled me to visit some of the best vegan tattoo studios! My first was the animal liberation symbol, which I had done at Fifth Dimension in London. My second was the word ‘compassion’ which I had done at James Spooner’s Monocle Tattoo studio in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I do have the tattoo bug now and have heard of some other great vegan tattoo studios which I plan to check out in 2017!

Protesting with Emily from Bite Size Vegan

Read about it here.

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I attended an Essex Pig Save vigil with popular American YouTuber and blogger – Emily from Bite Size Vegan this summer. This was a very hard day as we said goodbye to truck-loads of pigs entering Cheale Meats to be slaughtered. But later on, I went to London to watch Emily’s speech, and my dedication and hope for animals was truly restored. Emily talked about the importance of bearing witness, and not turning away from what is happening to animals, but instead doing all we can to change it. I’m a huge fan of all the work Emily is doing.

Fiona Oakes – For The Animals

Read about it here.

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Also at the start of this year, I got to meet champion marathon runner and all round superhero for animals – Fiona Oakes, along with all the animals at Tower Hill Sanctuary. It was great to hear Fiona’s story and how she has managed to achieve so much for animals. Tower Hill looks after over 400 rescued animals, which is no easy task! She also uses her extreme marathon running (she has run a marathon on every continent, and the North Pole) to promote the vegan lifestyle… destroying the stereotypical view of vegans as ‘weak’.

Other mentionable animal activism achievements this year include attending the first East London Chicken Save vigil, meeting Renee and all the friendly folk at Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, Texas, and volunteering at Piebird Farm Sanctuary in Canada. Overall, I’m really pleased with what I have accomplished this year, the world is definitely beginning to wake up to the realities that so many animals are forced to endure at the hands of humans. The Save Movement has grown rapidly in 2016, there are now 24 groups in the UK alone! It seems that ignorance is no longer bliss. I am looking forward to achieving much more for animals in 2017.

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Essex Pig Save Vigil – Bearing Witness to Pigs – 7/11/16

Yesterday we had another vigil at Cheale Meats in Essex, to say goodbye to some beautiful pigs arriving for slaughter.

It’s always a surreal feeling, that the vigil is considered a success if we are able to see some trucks of pigs. Obviously we don’t want the trucks to be there at all, and in an ideal world they wouldn’t be, but while intelligent animals are still needlessly being killed for food, it is our aim to comfort as many as possible.

So yesterday we managed to see a few trucks, most of which had their shutters up so it was difficult to see the animals inside. But later on, we were able to get a closer look. The pigs were scared, cramped and almost looking to us for some kind of explanation. All we could do was comfort them in any way possible, and document their important journey.

The Save Movement now has over 20 groups in the UK that all have regular vigils, with new groups starting all the time. Slaughterhouses that have been hidden for so long are being exposed, and people are beginning to make the connection, and realise that they don’t want to be paying for these cruel practices. There is a great injustice going on every day, every hour, every minute. Most people would claim to be animal lovers, but this means loving all animals, not just those we share our homes with. I found the following words from Essex Pig Save, which I think beautifully sum up what The Save Movement is doing, so I will leave you with this.

Hide me in the shadows, kill me in the darkness,

and all will be forgotten…

But shine a light upon my death, and I will be everywhere,

and justice will be my name.

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Take Action!

Essex Pig Save

Toronto Pig Save

The Save Movement

Vegfest London 2016 Round Up!

There’s been so much hype surrounding this year’s Vegfest London. I’ve been lucky enough to talk to some of the inspirational speakers and athletes including Kate Strong, Rebecca Fox, Marta Zaraska and Fiona Oakes. All in all, I had pretty high expectations for the event which I wrote about last year and the year before. It turns out, this year’s Vegfest completely excelled my expectations, and was bigger and better than any of the previous years!

This was partly due to space – this year the whole of London Olympia was hired out to accommodate around 13,500 visitors and a whole host of vegan businesses. This meant a lot more space throughout, and each talk had it’s own conference room, which really did make a huge difference.

The stalls were great, and I was introduced to so many vegan businesses I didn’t know about before. Some of my favourite purchases from new (well new to me, at least!) businesses came from Veggie Pets (for my newly converted vegan cats and dog), Love Libby X, Ananda Foods and Ethics & Antics. Plus I couldn’t resist a few buys from some of my old favourites – Ms Cupcake, Viva La Vegan and Hillside Animal Sanctuary! There really was something for everyone, and it was great to see so many unique, high quality products from 100% vegan businesses.

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Adorable necklace from Love Libby X.
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Ananda Foods Orang E-Tang.
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Vegfest isn’t complete without a visit to Ms Cupcake!

But the thing that made Vegfest extra special for me this year was the amazing speakers. It’s easy to get carried away with the awesome vegan food and shopping downstairs to forget about the talks, but I really would recommend catching a couple. I managed to listen to Christine ‘Peanut’ Vardaros give excellent advice for thriving on a vegan diet to fuel regular exercise and Tim Shieff give an interesting talk about water, something I hadn’t thought too much about before. But one person whose talk I’m always going to remember is David Smith MBE. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after David shared his incredible story of battling illness and how veganism changed his life. I felt so moved by his story; it really hit home how precious every day is, and it was a real privilege to listen to him share this important journey.

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Overall, I’m sure everybody attending will agree Vegfest London was a huge success! It’s so great to see so many new businesses and more people attending every year, which just goes to prove how much the movement is growing. I’m already looking forward to seeing what next year has in store. 🙂

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Athletes Summit – Kate Strong

When gazing at her list of achievements, you may wonder if there’s anything Kate Strong hasn’t done – World Champion triathlete, multiple-award winning entrepreneur, multi-linguist, globe-trotter, philanthropist, author, engineer and of course vegan! I caught up with Kate this week to find out what we can expect from her at Vegfest London.

What are you most looking forward to about speaking at VegFest London?

I am looking forward to meeting 14,000 other positive individuals who are all committed to making a positive change in the world! I want to meet as many people as possible from the business owners, the cooks, chefs, vegans and people interested in this movement!

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When and why did you choose a vegan lifestyle?

I’ve been vegan for over 2 years. Initially, the choice was motivated through me ‘feeling better’ when I was eating fruit and vegetables and eliminating dairy and animal products, yet after having researched and read more about the impact on other species, the environment and other communities, I am 100% committed to whole-food plant-based diet as I see it as the answer to saving the world.

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You’ve had some pretty amazing achievements! What would you say has been your biggest challenge in your athletic career?

Thank you :). My biggest challenge in my athletic career occurred last year when I started hanging around quite a few successful athletes, yet their attitude was one of ‘Have to achieve’ and comparing results to others. I started to do the same, which led me to loosing my passion for the sport and the reason why I started in the first place: because I love it!
Breaking free from this group and investing time into rekindling my passion to strive for excellence without any ego attached meant I’m back on track and raring to go!

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What’s next for you?

At VegFest, we are arranging for me to attempt to break a World Record on a static bicycle, so for the next month or so, I am gearing up for this. Afterwards… who knows! I want to help more and more people transition into a more positive and conscious state of living and working, so there will be courses, books, seminars and events rolling out under my brand very soon so watch this space!

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An exciting time indeed! You can find out more about Kate and her incredible achievements here.

Don’t forget to catch Kate’s talk on Saturday 22nd October – Vegan Athletes Summit – 4pm – Vegfest London.

Essex Pig Save Vigil with Emily from Bite Size Vegan

Yesterday I attended another Essex Pig Save vigil at Cheale Meats, Brentwood, to bear witness to pigs on their way to slaughter. We were joined by Bite Size Vegan, Vegan Revolution and The Vegan Activist, along with a whole host of dedicated animal activists who came to offer compassion to the pigs who were being transported today.

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It was a boiling hot day, and after standing outside for a while, the heat made everyone pretty uncomfortable. This would have been nothing compared to what the pigs felt.

Hot, cramped and dehydrated pigs on the last part of their final journey. We tried to offer as much comfort to the pigs as we could by feeding them water and looking into their eyes, viewing them as the intelligent, gentle and sentient beings they are.

Click here to see video of dehydrated pigs as witnessed by Essex Pig Save.

After getting up close to one pig in particular, I was taken aback by just how beautiful these animals are. I was faced with these incredible blue eyes looking back at me. This pig was scared and, like most of his friends, seemed to know what was coming next.

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This image has stuck with me since yesterday, and so has something else. A lot of people that attend the vigils comment how seeing an empty truck come out of the slaughterhouse has such an eerie feeling about it, and I completely agree. The employee driving one particular truck slowed down as he reached us, having just transported a group of pigs to their deaths. He spat out his words, angrily shouting at us to move out the way with a vulgar threat involving throwing pig body parts at us. I felt completely bewildered by this moment, but one thing became really clear to me. This was the sheer contrast between the peaceful, gentle and innocent animals that we had just witnessed in the back of the truck, compared to the behaviour of the human driving them to their deaths. And the most unfathomable thing of all – not only is this legal, but it is actually paid for by the vast majority of the population.

Since writing about Toronto Pig Save last year (view here) and then attending the first Essex Pig Save (view here), followed by several more in Toronto, I am learning how to use all the sadness, anger and frustration I feel about how the world has treated such beautiful animals, and turn this into motivation to do as much as I can to change it. This is the power of bearing witness.

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R.I.P

Yesterday evening, I also went to see Emily from Bite Size Vegan’s talk about veganism and animal activism. Listening to her really cemented for me something that I had thought about earlier. As vegans, we can often possess the same quality as non-vegans in that we still turn away from what these animals are going through. The least we can do is recognise their struggle. I have never believed in the huge importance of bearing witness more than after everything that I had experienced today.

Short clip of Emily from Bite Size Vegan’s speech here!

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FIND OUT MORE!

Check out the following links to find more information about save vigils in England. Not one in your area? Contact Manchester Pig Save to find out how you can start your own!

Essex Pig Save

Manchester Pig Save

Farnborough Animal Save

Hertfordshire Chicken Save

Also be sure to check out more from Bite Size Vegan on her YouTube channel here!