On a sweltering June day, I offered water to a thirsty pig. Today, November 30, 2015, I head to court, facing criminal mischief charges for doing just that.
The path that led me to where I am today began five years ago, when I went on a walk through my neighborhood in Toronto with my dog. As we made our way down the street, I came upon an alarming sight: seven or eight transport trucks, every one packed with young pigs and headed to a downtown slaughterhouse. Peering in, I was met with the faces of sad and terrified animals, each one eerily similar to the dog standing by my side. The sight was haunting. I knew I couldn’t just forget.
Shortly thereafter, other concerned community members and I formed a group committed to bearing witness to the pigs and other farmed animals headed to the city’s four slaughterhouses. Sometimes, the trucks would stop at a traffic light for a few seconds or even several minutes and we would have the chance to actually interact with the animals inside. We began petting pigs, offering cows scratches, and – as the summer months blazed – pouring water into the mouths of increasingly dehydrated animals trapped in the scorching trucks. When we posted photos of these interactions online, we received an international response. Soon, groups in Canada, the United States, Australia, and Brazil started holding vigils at their own local slaughterhouses and together we’ve formed what we now call The Save Movement.
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This past summer, a group of us stood near Fearman’s Pork Inc. of Burlington, in the greater Toronto area. A truck pulled up and, inside, I saw pigs on the brink of death, panting and foaming at the mouth. They were overcome by intense dehydration. We came prepared. I extended my arm into the truck, pouring water into the mouths of the gasping animals inside. Suddenly, the truck driver emerged.
“Do not put water in there,” he shouted. “These are not humans, you dumb frickin’ broad!”
When I asked him to “have some compassion,” he threatened to call the police.
Two months later, I was greeted by a Toronto police officer at my front door. The owner of the pig farm had filed a police complaint against me and I was being charged with “criminal mischief” – defined as “interference with the use, enjoyment of and operation of property.” If convicted, I face up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Today, I go to court.
When giving water to the thirsty is seen as interfering with “property” – when animals are treated as mere objects under the law – our system betrays our true values. As children, most of us are raised to believe that we should not hurt animals, recognizing them as individuals with their own lives and needs. In the Farm Animal Save Movement, we seek to expose the rift between our values and our present reality. By bearing witness and observing first-hand the tragic plights of animals in transport trucks and local slaughterhouses, we offer an inside look into the guarded world of the lives and deaths of farmed animals. In doing so, people from across the world now can see what I saw during my fateful walk five years ago: There is no meaningful difference between the dogs we share our lives with, and the pigs and chickens and cows we call dinner. Together, we share a duty to be present and help shape a new reality – a just world for all animals.