Bearing Witness
From Animal Rights Activism Articles Archive


Patricia Anne, The Peaceable Table
November 2017

What struck me most was the look in the pigs’ eyes, especially that of the first pig whom I approached to provide water. All the while she was sucking she was looking me right in the eye. I will never forget it. Ever.

save moment vigillers
Two vigillers at a Farmer John event, from The Corsair

Oct. 2 was Special World Day for Farmed Animals. I decided to participate by attending the Los Angeles Animal Save vigil for the pigs going to slaughter at Farmer Johns Slaughterhouse in Vernon, and by fasting. The pigs go through many hours, maybe days, without food or water on their way to their deaths; so I thought I (amongst many others) would fast in solidarity.

We were at the vigil for about two and a half hours, from nine-forty-five PM to a little after midnight. As more and more people showed up to the vigil, I could feel the vibration of the many caring people. Everyone was so considerate and welcoming to us as first-timers; I met a lot of terrific people. The vigil was well organized and thought out. We had two minutes of silence for the victims of the massacre in Las Vegas followed by two minutes of silence for the animals. There was a mixture of feelings, solemnity and compassion. Amy Jean Davis and Shaun Monson, the main organizers of the vigil (to my knowledge), brought lots of water and various water bottles and feeders in many sizes to share out, a whole truckload of them--water is heavy. Amy gave a brief introduction for newcomers about the expected decorum of respect, non-violence, not engaging with any negative outbursts, which, though unlikely to occur, could happen. The core message: we are here in love. She also explained how to approach the trucks filled with the pigs, and what she said came in very useful. We were not to startle them, nor try desperately to pet them (they are not accustomed to human interaction), and to confer love to them, but not fear and sadness. Also not to douse water on them, maybe a light spray. I was thankful for this briefing.

What I witnessed were five or six double-decker trucks filled to the max, very crowded with pigs. We had perhaps two to four minutes per truckload to provide water for them. At first, as the vigillers with water approached the truck, the animals backed away, suspicious of us. But soon those who could get through made it to the side of the truck to suck the water from our bottles. People were also using a special water dispenser to get to the pigs on the second floor of the truck. (You get a little wet!) What struck me most was the look in the pigs’ eyes, especially that of the first pig whom I approached to provide water. All the while she was sucking she was looking me right in the eye. I will never forget it. Ever. The look was actually just like the pictures I have seen online from the vigils: fear, deep distress; their movements showed panic. So the trucks went in with the pigs and then drove out empty. What a sock to my gut! Here today, gone in minutes. Really gone, killed because of who they are. It’s gruesome.

Farmer John slaughterhouse
Farmer John Slaughterhouse

There was a smokestack constantly, ominously spewing fumes from within the confines of the slaughterhouse, and the air was putrid with the smell of death. It sickened me. Meanwhile there are pictures on the outside walls of the slaughterhouse showing happy pigs grazing about in pastures! Oh...and in pretty pastel colors. Truly an Orwellian experience of doublethink. (As many readers know, English writer George Orwell wrote the novel 1984 as a warning to the Western world about the evils of totalitarianism. As used in 1984, the concept of “doublethink” is the ability to hold two completely contradictory thoughts simultaneously while believing both of them to be true. An example: War is Peace.)

A note on the fasting: I was so preoccupied by not eating all day; it was hard for me. This was only the second time in my life I have done fasting for a cause. I felt weak and a bit debilitated. Yes, this was just a measly twenty-eight hour fast, but I felt it. I surely am impressed by those who take on long-term fasts for a cause. It maybe gave me an inkling of what the pigs were going through. If nothing else it was symbolic solidarity.

In a nutshell, what did I feel? Overwhelmed with sadness, nauseated, angry, tearful. Leaving the vigil I literally reeked of death, on my skin and on my clothing. I almost felt like a woman who had just been raped; I couldn't wait to get home and shower. The minute I woke up I did a load of laundry, with hot water.

What am I going to do about it? After I get out my tears, I will continue to be an advocate for the animals via being a vegan ambassador. My commitment is strengthened. Ordinarily, I confess, I like to laze about and watch TV. Bad vegan! But my resolve to get off my derrière is reignited. All this brings to mind the words of Jean Donovan, a lay missionary who, with three other churchwomen, was brutally murdered by government forces in 1980 in El Salvador as the civil war there was heating up.

Jean Donovan

She especially helped the children who had lost limbs from bombs, by obtaining and helping get prosthetics to them. In the weeks before she died, Donovan wrote a friend:

The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme and they were right to leave. . . . Now I must assess my own position, because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and loneliness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.

I have never forgotten her words. I never want to become callous. I doubt my bravery will ever match that of Jean Donovan, but during a tribute to Tom Petty (rocker who passed over last month), I heard, and will heed, his song “I won't back down.” (See Won’t Back Down ). At the vigil Amy summarized Leo Tolstoy's famous quote for us: “When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to her who suffers, and try to help her.”

It is my greatest hope that by offering whatever we have to give, poetry, art, music, leafleting, vigiling, food prep and sharing, dancing, volunteering at animal rescues, you name it--we can bring this atrocity to light and ultimately bring it to an end. As one of the aerobic instructors I had at Bally Total Fitness a zillion years ago used to say as we were sweating it out..."Push yourselves!" All right. I will.

A HUGE word of thanks to Amy and Shaun and everyone who puts on and attends the vigils.

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