This week I took part in my first vigil outside a slaughterhouse with Essex Pig Save. The Save Movement started in Toronto and there was a famous case where an activist was arrested for giving one of the pigs some water. There are now chapters all over the world and many in the UK. Essex Pig Save hold vigils outside Cheale Meats in West Horden monthly. Obviously animals are sent to slaughterhouses every weekday but with most of the activists working or studying full time most have limited free time in the week to attend these vigils.
I attended with my friend Charlie who I met through activism and she gave me the low down on what happens. Lauren, one of the organisers gave us newbies an introductions to the proceedings.
The slaughterhouse is on a country road so there is no pavement and we have to be very careful regarding traffic. The police are present with a couple of officers and a police liaison officer. They are given a schedule of when the trucks carrying the pigs are expected to arrive and ask the trucks to stop for two minutes so the activists can bear witness to the animals and collect footage. After each truck enters the slaughterhouse a two minutes silence is held along the border of the property. We also hold up signs so passing cars can see why we are there.
We saw around 11 trucks go in on this particular morning. Some pigs were in better condition than others, the worse having terrible skin with lots of scratches over their bodies. Some were larger and older and some were smaller and younger. Some were ghostly quiet whilst others were inquisitive coming up to the bars to see us.
Some pigs had rings in their noses. The nose of a pig is very sensitive and they use it to explore their surroundings, by putting a ring in it, which is not only painful when it is done, it means the pig is prevented from displaying natural behaviours.
When I decided to attend this vigil I wasn’t sure how it was going to affect me. Understandably many activists get upset when they see the pigs in the trucks or from the noises we hear them make when they are entering the facility. I was glad I didn’t feel too overwhelmed and I know I will be back. I think it helped having other activists I already knew there. Everybody is very welcoming and supportive of eachother.
If you are coming from the station you can message the Facebook event and someone will come and bring you back to the site.
I would encourage anybody to take part in a vigil if you are able to. It really strengthens your connection to the animals and your conviction in your activism. If you have any questions on the subject please ask in the comments below.