The Crime of Indifference
This has been a terrible day. It began with the news this morning that a tractor trailer carrying about 160 pigs overturned near Fearman’s slaughterhouse. After the initial feeling of horror, my first immediate thought was “I wonder if any of the pigs escaped?” And I hoped against hope. I knew that many activists I know would be on their way to the site — Toronto Pig Save holds vigils there several times a week. As challenging as the vigils are to attend, what the activists saw there today will likely haunt them forever. (As an aside, let me clarify that loaded word, activist: they are not “extreme”, they are not kooks. They are ordinary people who at some point saw what our society does to animals and found it so unconscionable that they couldn’t stand by in silence. That’s all. They’re just people who see an injustice and have to speak up, and they are deserving of respect, not the derision they too often receive.)
At least 40 pigs — piglets, really; they were only a few months old — died in or as a result of the accident. I confess I have not watched any of the videos that were shot this morning; the photos are bad enough, but the sound of animals in distress tears at my heart like nothing else can. The activists were there for hours. They saw dead pigs in the overturned truck, dead pigs on the road, live pigs who were bruised and cut, trying to run…pigs who were more seriously injured terrified and screaming in pain.
Steve Jenkins, co-founder of Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary, lives not far from where the accident happened and he was there too, as was Anita Krajnc, the woman who is currently on trial for giving water to dehydrated pigs on a hot summer day (she was arrested again today, for crossing police tape). When an animal arrives at a slaughterhouse injured, they cannot by law be “processed” and enter the food chain. People were pleading with Fearman’s (yes, that’s actually the name) employees to release at least some of the injured pigs so they could be tended by a veterinarian and live out their lives at a sanctuary. Steve Jenkins had himself offered sanctuary to the injured pigs. With breathtaking heartlessness, the activists’ pleas were ignored. Even though Fearman’s employees could have turned the pigs over, they instead chose to shoot them with a captive bolt gun and bulldoze them into a dumpster. If that’s not spite, I don’t know what is. They didn’t show a shred of compassion, of common decency, of humanity. Steve Jenkins wrote earlier today “In the four years I have known Esther, I have never heard the noises I heard coming from those pigs today. It was sheer terror, and I will never forget it. But the hardest part was witnessing first-hand the total indifference shown for their suffering, by those responsible for their care.” It’s callous, and utterly heartbreaking. Every single one of those poor piglets was someone. They are Esther, Julia, Mouse, Marge and BooBoo…they all had their own personalities and feelings, whether they were shy or curious or passive or mischievous.
The reality of their lives was bad enough. The accident today was bad enough, with the added fear and suffering it wrought. But when those slaughterhouse workers chose to kill injured piglets rather than let them go to sanctuary, it broke something in the spirit of every animal-lover I know. How could they?
This is why I spend so much time advocating for animals. They need it, urgently. They are *someone*, just like our cats and dogs. You can be anything…why not be kind?