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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Fearmans ‘Pork’ Show No Mercy for Pigs – Tragedy in Canada

Yesterday in Burlington, Canada, a terrible tragedy occurred when a truck transporting pigs to slaughter at Fearmans ‘Pork’ overturned. What happened next has left people around the world completely heartbroken.

Activists from Toronto Pig Save rushed to the scene where the truck was, just outside Fearmans slaughterhouse. From live video streams on social media, the employees of the slaughterhouse can be seen trying to cover up what was happening with sheets of cardboard. But it was clear to see that there were dead and injured pigs from this completely traumatising event. Fearmans ‘Pork’ slaughters 10,000 pigs every single day, so you would think they would spare the lives of these innocent victims, right?

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Unfortunately, this proved not to be the case. Fearmans employees actually rounded up the survivors of the attack and took them into the slaughterhouse, where they would be killed in a gas chamber. In the Fearmans car park, the employees can be seen using the sheets of cardboard to herd the pigs into the slaughterhouse…you can’t make this stuff up! For the survivors, this would have been the first time in their lives that they felt the sunshine on their backs or the grass on their feet. Having survived such a traumatising accident where some of their friends had died, the innocent animals seemed to have no idea of the hellhole they were about to enter.

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There were also pigs that were unable to walk and collapsed outside, near the truck. Along with the activists, Steve Jenkins, father of Esther the Wonder Pig, was present and was eager to take the pigs to his sanctuary. These pigs that can no longer walk are what the industry call ‘downed’ animals, and no profit can be made from them by selling their bodies as meat. So what is it to them if a sanctuary takes a couple of downed animals that would be no use to them anyway? Activists begged for the slaughterhouse to show mercy to these poor pigs, but Fearmans showed absolutely none and killed them on the spot. The photograph below shows one pig comforting his downed companion, before being marched to his own death.

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Anita Krajnc, Co-Founder of Toronto Pig Save, who is currently on trial for ‘criminal mischief’ after feeding water to a dehydrated pig (read all about it here) was arrested at the scene. Understandably, emotions were running high and people were trying to document this completely surreal and heartbreaking event. Police dragged Anita from the scene and into a police car. After her release, she organised an all-night vigil at Fearmans, to pay respect to the animals who were involved in this terrible tragedy, and to the animals that continue to suffer unbearable cruelty every single day, all for human greed.

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Having visited this exact location in the summer where I got to bear witness to pigs heading for slaughter, I found watching this live, as it happened, completely unfathomable. And to think that the bodies of these poor souls are now on their way to Canada supermarkets to be sold and eaten. I urge you to watch the videos on Toronto Pig Save’s Facebook Page and consider this – is this the sort of industry you want to support? Animals are being killed for food every second of the day, but establishments such as Fearmans ‘Pork’ do all they can to keep it hidden. With incidents such as this, they can’t hide what they’re doing.

Now you know the truth – what will you do about it?

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Get Informed:

Toronto Pig Save Facebook Page

Toronto Sun coverage

CTV News coverage

CBC coverage

Global News coverage

Vegan, Cruelty-Free Hair Dye That’s GOOD for Your Hair?!

…does such a thing exist?! Well it turns out, yes it does!

Continuing my journey into the world of vegan and cruelty-free beauty, it has definitely been a learning curve so far. Almost exactly a year ago, I posted my first blog about cruelty-free cosmetics (check out ‘The World of Cruelty-Free Cosmetics’) and since then I’ve talked about some of favourite brands, including Superdrug’s B Range and Kat Von D Beauty (just arrived for sale in the UK!). But one thing I’ve never talked about before, is vegan hair-dye.

Now granted, this was mostly because I was pretty skeptical that such a thing even existed. So I put off dying my hair for so long, but when I felt like it needed a little bit of a lift, I did some research, and this was the brand I went for…

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Tints of Nature…ever heard of them? Me neither! But the good news is they are available online at a price pretty similar to all those hair dyes you would find on the high street. Check out their website here.

Now, the thing that’s extra great about Tints of Nature is not only is it completely vegan and cruelty-free, all the ingredients are completely organic. With no ammonia and a non GMO formula that promises not to damage your hair like all the harsh chemicals you would normally find in hair dye. Too good to be true? I thought it might be, so I opted for a semi-permanent colour just to be safe.

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This Medium Chestnut Brown (Semi-Permanent) colour even comes ready mixed so there’s even less to do than with the usual high street hair dyes! It also didn’t smell of…well strong chemicals really! The whole dying process was a lot less messy. I was also surprised that it covered the leftover bleach at the end of my hair from when I had ombre highlights put in ages ago. Here’s the finished result…

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Tints of Nature gets a thumbs up from me, how nice is it to know that the production of your hair dye has not harmed any beautiful animals? Next time I might go a little braver and try a dark red!

Vegfest London Countdown – Vegan Activists Summit – Rebecca Fox

Rebecca Fox is another speaker that will be appearing at VegFest London’s Vegan Activists Summit on Saturday 22nd October. Rebecca is part of the team behind the blog Reasonable Vegan (www.rvgn.org) – ‘Promoting skeptical inquiry in vegan spaces, confronting irrationality everywhere.’ I caught up with Rebecca this week, and here’s what she had to say about VegFest (and vegan cheese!).

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

I’ve been attending Vegfest for a few years now and have always thought of it as a place to try out new foods and products, (I have in the past threatened to bring my own extra-long cocktail stick to reach through the crowds to the vegan cheese tasters!) but also as a place to be exposed to new ideas and reinvigorate my commitment to veganism.

So, I am looking forward to presenting ideas that are new to many in the vegan community but will support and inspire people to be better advocates. 

When I’ve spoken to groups of vegans about critical thinking skills in the past I’ve found them to be receptive and thoughtful (which is probably why they became vegan) so I also look forward to meeting and connecting with compassionate people and discussing how we approach the world as reasonable vegans.

…and what do you hope to achieve from it?

I’m hoping that my talk at Vegfest will give me the opportunity to share my passion for veganism and give the audience the opportunity to learn some of the critical thinking skills that I find useful and important. I want to empower vegans to use reason and evidence to support their message of compassion and make our movement stronger.

I’m also hoping to try some new brands of vegan cheese!

When and why did you become vegan?

When I was ten years old I realised that meat was made from animals, well, I kind of knew that before but at age ten I think I began to understand what that really meant. And so I became a vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian until in my mid twenties I was introduced to scientific skepticism, which is basically a method for understanding the world built on the principles of reason and evidence. I realised that a lot of things that I believed about the world and myself were ‘unreasonable’ (not based on reason and evidence). So I started thinking about my beliefs one by one and changing or discarding the unreasonable ones.

Then I came to my vegetarianism… and I realised that the reason I was vegetarian was because I didn’t want to cause unnecessary harm to animals… but there was plenty of evidence that the dairy, eggs and other animal products I consumed did cause unnecessary harm.

So I had to give them up, and I became vegan.

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be even though at the time I was living in Australia and had to negotiate many a barbecue somewhat awkwardly. As a vegan I’ve travelled through many different countries and I’m finding it’s getting easier with every day as I learn more about food and as more and more people learn about veganism.

Recently I was at a vegan braai in Cape Town and couldn’t help reflecting on how far I’d come from those first awkward barbies where I often found myself drinking too much on an empty stomach!

What are your future plans for ‘Reasonable Vegan’?

RVGN started as a blog, my partner a few skeptical friends and I dreamed up as a place to host articles by and for reasonable vegans. We’ve published a lot of interesting articles and interviews over the last few years and met a lot of fellow reasonable vegans. 

We’ve been discussing what we think the vegan community needs and what we can do to spread the vegan message. We have decided that we want to focus on giving vegans the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills in order to make them better advocates and presenting a solid evidence backed resource to help convince non-vegans to go vegan!

So our new project is building a site and maybe an app that will help vegans become more reasonable and reasonable people become vegan. It’s in the very early stages of development (in fact you are among the first to know) but you can keep up with our progress by following us on twitter.

So there you have it, a VegFest exclusive about the future plans for Reasonable Vegan! If you’d like to find out more, be sure to catch Rebecca at the Vegan Activists Summit at 3pm on Saturday 22nd October! Can’t wait till then? Be sure to check out www.rvgn.org

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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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!