Category Archives: Around Town

Making Animals Visible Again

I’ve been out of a job for nearly three weeks now and the upside of that is it’s allowed me the chance to do more activism.  I had a job interview on Monday and though I’m still actively looking for work, I’ve welcomed this time to get out there and do some of the things I couldn’t do when I was working full-time. One of those things was attending slaughterhouse vigils with Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights group here in Toronto.

I don’t want to assume everyone knows what vigils are so here it is: vigils consist of standing outside slaughterhouses, on public property, and watching the animals marked for slaughter come in on trucks. The purpose is to document what is happening to them with photos and videos, and to also raise awareness by holding informative signs visible to the public driving or walking by. Inspired by the writings of Leo Tolstoy, “bearing witness” to the suffering of another living being is a powerful act: it is upsetting, yes, but when you see it with your own eyes, and happening in your own city, it does push you to do more. The pain you feel from seeing suffering up close also becomes the force that drives you to keep going. A double-edged sword, to be sure, but one I feel honoured to carry. Continue reading

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“What Difference Does It Make?”

The title of this blog is in quotes because those are the words that someone yelled at us last week at a vigil in front of Maple Leaf Foods, a chicken slaughterhouse here in Toronto. Actually, his precise words were, What FUCKING difference does it make? but I decided to edit that part out since it doesn’t make for as strong a title. The man who yelled at us was an employee and it was after two truckloads of chickens – about 7,000 birds per truck – had been driven onto the property and were being held in an area prior to slaughter.

This is only the second vigil with Toronto Pig Save that I’ve been to.  The first was in 2015 when I joined in one held at Maple Leaf Foods, St. Helen’s Meat Packers and Ryding Regency Meat Packers, all three which are located very close-by to one another (both St. Helen’s and Ryding slaughter cows, calves and lambs, Maple Leaf slaughters birds).  Although nothing can ever prepare you completely, I was more mentally ready this past week and had at least some idea of what I was going to see.  And smell.  Even just standing outside of a slaughterhouse on a chilly night in November, the smell of blood and feces and raw flesh hangs in the air. It’s an unmistakable stench and all the Styrofoam, refrigeration and plastic wrap in the world could never make me forget it.  Continue reading

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Willful Ignorance is the Real Crime

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. Continue reading

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Activism and the End Goal

I had the pleasure of attending Toronto’s Pride Parade this year and, for the third year in a row, marching with Mercy for Animals, one of the over 180 participants walking alongside so many other great organizations. For someone who hated parades even as a kid because of the crowds, it’s a testament not only to how much I believe in the work MFA is doing but to the genuine fun that is the Pride Parade. Obviously it was not always this way – Pride Week in Toronto evolved from the now-infamous 1981 Bathhouse Raids, where Toronto Police violently raided and arrested over 300 people from the LGBT community. It was only this year that the Toronto Police Chief issued a formal apology for those actions.

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Live vs. Alive

Language and our choice of words is something I’ve blogged about before, and I’ve slowly been trying to eradicate certain phrases from my vocabulary like filthy pig or stupid cow…phrases that I’ve used to complain about someone while also affixing those unflattering attributes to animals (don’t worry: “dumb jag” and “stupid wanker are still very much in my daily lexicon).

While a cow or pig doesn’t know I’m insulting them, that’s not the point.  By using these phrases, I perpetuate a language – and hence a stereotype – that certain animals are stupid, silly, dirty, etc., and it’s one of those subtleties that has seeped into our culture, shaping our view of animals probably more than we realize.  Some may view this as political correctness gone too far but I see it as reclaiming our language to include all.  Take gender roles for example: the word firefighter includes all genders whereas the word firemen only includes males. The word stewardess only implies women in the role but now flight attendant is much more inclusive to all who are in that profession.  It may seem small and insignificant or eye-rollingly petty to some, but change has to begin somewhere and language seems as good a place to start as any; I see no reason why animals cannot be included in the conversation around damaging and inaccurate assumptions and using different language to represent them properly.

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What is an Animal’s Life Worth?

I’m grateful to have other vegans in my life.  It might sound silly but you need support as a vegan. Knowing what animals endure at any given moment and not being able to talk about it with most people can make for some lonely days. Surrounded by constant reminders and references to animals mostly in their deceased form makes for a strange setting once you learn to see them as whole beings.  You need to be able to exhale once and awhile, and to be around others who understand the truth of how animals are treated.

Some animals, like dogs and cats, are beloved by their keepers, housed by loving owners who spend whatever they need to for their pets to be healthy, safe and happy.   Other dogs and cats are discarded if they don’t behave, or fail to meet an expectation they are likely not even aware has been placed upon them. Continue reading

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