These little piggies went to slaughter. As of now, they are no longer alive. I was able to touch their wet snouts this morning at a vigil at the corner of Harvester and Appleby Line in Burlington, Ontario outside Fearman's. They seemed so healthy albeit cold from being transported in a frigid truck without any heat. Pigs who are slaughtered are only months old. A brief touch and a kind word by strangers who show these animals much needed compassion is all they have in their final moments. As many as 10,000 pigs are killed at this pork processing plant every day. What did I see here today on this chilly street corner? I saw a stark contrast of the kind and the desensitized. The enlightened and those who still need to see the light. Truckers who drive the animals to slaughter honking in protest. Giving the finger to protesters. As if they are defiant and proud of their jobs.
I walked with two drivers and asked them how they do their job? Do they have a conscience? They joked and in so many words, told me to leave them alone as they were going for lunch. I would like to think I struck a chord with the word "conscience" as I could see guilt peeking out on their faces, against their will. Some truckers did not even look at the protesters. A sign in itself. I have been told that many workers were on drugs in order to desensitize themselves from the hideous job they are doing. Some of the workers walked by with smiles on their faces, completely unaffected. I can't help but think that those smiles are hiding a lot of secrets and inner turmoil. Many of those who are on the lines are immigrants and those in desperate need of jobs. As you can imagine, slaughterhouses have a high turnover rate and they are always hiring. I have heard stories of the mistreatment of these animals and sadly the inspectors who are paid to enforce quality standards and best practices are not around nearly enough. I tried to talk to one woman who was walking out of the plant on her way to Tim Horton's. She did not say a single word to me but on her way out of Tim's, she was on a phone call. I told her so you do have a voice. What is it like to kill pigs for a living? She kept walking. If I could only describe the look on that face. It was void of emotions and serial killer came to mind.
I have met some amazing people in this group and I truly admire them for trying to make a difference in the world. Anyone can follow the masses. It takes a truly strong individual to rise up against what is wrong and take a stand, fearless of consequences. And I was very fortunate that after numerous failed attempts, I succeeded in getting two contact names of workers from the plant as I am planning on writing an article. One was a young man who seemed receptive to talking. He, unlike the others, had kind eyes and I can see he was open so I capitalized on that. He told me that the plant is a good place to work and that they were treated well. I assumed he meant the workers and not the pigs. It disturbed me seeing this business running like a well oiled machine. That life seems to go on despite the best efforts of a small group of caring individuals on the street corner outside. Surely, now all they are considered is a nuisance. Some motorists honked their horns as a show of support and others as a sign of annoyance as they were impatient with the traffic slow down. Sad because these pigs were innocently sweet and unsuspecting of their fate. So close we can touch them and comfort them but so far because we are powerless to stop their demise. But this means the fight will continue. As it should.
If they only knew. These animals are raised on farms from when they are born. They are treated well. Fed and kept warm. The farmers that raise them then send them off to slaughter. About $200 a head. So, they go from being in a comfortable environment to a cruel slaughterhouse. It does not make sense to me how farmers take care of them so well just to send them to be killed. For money of course. It's a sad reality.
I believe because I have dealt with personal hardship that has changed my life and changed me as a person, I am enlightened more than many and see deeply beyond the surface of people and situations, down to their vulnerability and what has been hidden away, sometimes not wanting to see the light of day. And despite the challenges I have faced, my ability to feel and see deeply is something I am very proud of. I notice what others may not. I see light in darkness. Kindness in sad situations. Beauty in the struggle. Coming out triumphant in adversity. How a smile or the right words from the right person at the right moment can change everything. How stripped down, we are all the same, more than we might care to admit.
Here is an experience I'd like to share. I was at the Greyhound bus terminal in Buffalo, NY recently. While attempting to charge my phone on the east side of the terminal on the one available outlet, I was approached by a strange man who politely informed me there was a trick to it. He proceeded to wrap my phone chord around the outlet to hold it securely, otherwise it wouldn't charge. I never asked for his help. It turns out he was homeless and called this downtown bus terminal home, along with a group of 6 other homeless people. To the onlooker who cared to see this, it was a tight knit community of people helping people. They looked out for each other and apparently for strangers, like me. The homeless man had left the bus station to return a little while later with snacks he distributed to the other homeless people in his “family.” As he handed out the snacks, one of the men in the group turned to me and offered me some of his potato chips. I politely declined.
I seem to be quite approachable! He asked me if I was Italian. How did he know such a thing? Was it my artificial red mane? I answered yes. He began to preach about God. He had some definite beliefs and it was almost like he was in a trance when he rambled. He didn't seem to catch a breath. Was it just all consuming passion or did he have help in the form of drugs or alcohol? I will never know. I saw in front of me a lonely young man clinging to his religion as if it was the only thing he had left and I listened. I didn't want to. But I didn't have the heart to say buzz off. I actually felt sorry for him. I cannot remember a word he said. Only his enthusiasm and zest for life.
Later, a woman appeared and made an announcement to the homeless group. Her restaurant across the street had some pizza for them. They all did a mass exodus toward the restaurant. The same man who offered me the chips asked me if I wanted to go along for pizza. It was at that time that my bus had arrived.
The point is that it's ironic how there is so much humanity in these people yet so much inhumanity in those who judge them or walk past them or do not see them at all. They are struggling, like the rest of us. Even more so. I have found that those who have struggled most are the first to offer a helping hand. I will never see them again but the impact they made on me will last a lifetime. We definitely need more empathy and compassion for one another. Life is hard...
Patricia is an investigative journalist by trade and an outspoken advocate for animal rights, human compassion, special needs and female self-empowerment. A single mom, she lives in Burlington with her autistic son, 13-year-old Christian, where she finds joy in her relationships, fitness, the perfect eyeliner and the never-ending quest for pizza as good as her mama's.