Yikes – it’s been nearly three months since I’ve written a blog post. There’s been no good reason for it, although I did start a new job two weeks ago so my schedule has changed quite a bit. Mainly my lack of writing has been a combination of procrastination and feeling overwhelmed. One thing I am never far from as a vegan is the awareness of animal suffering. It’s everywhere – in ads, in movies, in conversation, and yet their suffering is made invisible through euphemisms (e.g., “pork” and “beef”) or conveniently ignoring animals as the original victim despite humans often claiming to know how it feels to suffer as they do (e.g., “we were treated like animals”). Sometimes I go through bouts of not being able to process any of it at all, feeling completely incapacitated by the sheer scale of the issues surrounding animals and their current place of value and low priority in our world.
In a lengthy email exchange I had with a friend in August concerning Anita Krajnc’s ongoing trial here in Ontario, I admitted to her that sometimes I resent the responsibility of having to defend the reason for my veganism to idiots. For those who may not know, Anita Krajnc is an activist (and founder of Toronto Pig Save) who is currently facing charges of mischief under $5,000 for giving water to pigs on a slaughterhouse truck back on a hot day in June of 2015 (her trial continues tomorrow in Burlington). As ridiculous as the charges are (the issue wouldn’t even be up for discussion were they dogs on that truck), the charges and subsequent trial are being welcomed by activists because it’s an opportunity to put what animal protections we do have to the test in a court of law. As much as we would like to believe all animals are legally protected in Ontario – and there is a wealth of recommendations and policies that certainly implies we care on paper – the only real way to challenge the strength of those ideals is within a court of law. So, yes: activists and vegans alike are eager for Anita’s case to go as far as it can go in order to reveal the true status of farm animals in this province.
But not everyone sees it this way. Many see it as threatening the livelihood of the workers, such as the truck drivers who transport these doomed animals. Others, like the Canadian government, see it as causing “economic harm” since anyone interfering with commerce or a legal industry (such as animal agriculture), is a threat to the economy. And all of these would be valid points if the cargo being transported weren’t living and breathing, and very much capable of experiencing dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke (believe me, fine wines and spirits receive more attention to temperature control and length of transport than cows, pigs and chickens do in this country). One person my friend encountered on social media claimed that Anita’s case was about enforcing the law and her actions were “endangering public health” somehow (I guess they missed the memo on how bad processed animal flesh is on our health to begin with). As an avid rule-follower myself (I have never missed a tax return and I rarely even jaywalk), laws that perpetuate the suffering and oppression of others, even if they’re “creating jobs”, should always be challenged. Killing animals for survival is an entirely separate reason from killing animals because someone gets a paycheque for it. I think we can all agree that as a collective society we could certainly aim to create better jobs for people if it meant inflicting less pain and death on defenseless animals.
But most people don’t see it this way because once we’re past childhood, we’re not encouraged to see the animals we eat as anything besides food. It’s all very distant – their lives, their deaths, their pain – and we would rather not think about it because it would mean we would have to face our role in it and change the eating habits we’ve grown oh-so accustomed to. My take on people’s nonsensical reaction to Anita’s case is not because they’re actually upset about a woman giving water to a thirsty animal. They’re upset because they know they eat that animal and they don’t want to accept that with every purchase and every mouthful, they are part of the problem.
It’s difficult to look in that mirror. I’ve done it myself and I continue to see my old self in the comments and posts of ignorant people who would just prefer if vegans and animal rights activists were as unseen and out of mind as the factory farms and slaughterhouses are. But change does not occur through wishing and hoping. Justice doesn’t automatically happen because a country or province simply put it in writing. Animals do not avoid suffering just because we’d like to believe they aren’t really capable of it or worse, deserving of any other consideration besides exploitation and death. Change happens only through action, be it eliminating animals from our plates or giving water to a thirsty pig on a hot day. When compassion becomes a crime and animals become objects, it’s safe to say we have taken a very wrong turn somewhere and we need to rethink our ethics as individuals and as a community of humans who are more than capable of making better choices.
The pigs on that truck from June 22, 2015 are long dead, consumed and forgotten, their miserable lives brought to a violent and bloody end in the slaughterhouse. They would have been stunned with a bolt gun or electrocuted first, then strung up by their hind legs, some still conscious and squealing as their throats and abdomen were slashed open so they would bleed out as quickly as possible. Because the disassembly line moves so fast, and the workers are under such pressure to keep it moving, some pigs would have still been conscious as they were dropped in the scalding tank that burned off all their body hair. Their bodies would have then been eviscerated by machines, and their individual parts dropped onto Styrofoam trays, then wrapped in plastic and shipped to grocery stores where they were purchased by consumers who only saw them as the end product, some who would later have the nerve to post their ignorant beliefs and comments about animal rights on social media because they see activists as a threat to their precious status quo and because they don’t want to give up bacon.
Believe me, Anita Krajnc is not the one who should be on trial here. And until people choose to see all animals as living beings and not property, their anger and petulance at vegans and activists will never be justified or even reasonable.