The Hertfordshire Save Movement
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Sarah Dunning, Catholic Concern for Animals
October 2019

The Save Movement’s ethos is one of peace, non-confrontation, non-violence, in fact the embodiment of Ahimsa.

Hertfordshire Chicken Save

The Save Movement’s ethos is one of peace, non-confrontation, non-violence, in fact the embodiment of Ahimsa. It all began in Toronto with Toronto Pig Save, now known internationally for the much-publicised court case of Anita Krajnc who stood trial for offering water to a thirsty pig on an animal transporter en route to the slaughterhouse. The verdict hung in the balance while the jury had to decide whether the pig was classed as ‘goods’ or as a ‘sentient being’; if the former, Anita would be found guilty of meddling with someone else’s cargo without permission, if the latter she would be innocent because she was showing compassion to a sentient being. The trial found her innocent. Numerous Save groups have been springing up all over the world, and their numbers continue to grow.

The objective of all Save groups is to mount vigils outside slaughterhouses to be there for, and bear witness to, the suffering of the animals who have been transported there. We also monitor closely the condition of those animals on arrival, and gather evidence. The drivers are asked to slow down, or stop completely depending on the location, so that we can be quietly with the animals...maybe speak gently...perhaps say a silent prayer...

Why are they called ‘Save’ groups?

Because on some occasions we do have the opportunity to save a few of the animals entering a slaughterhouse. As said earlier, our groups are totally non-violent, and I must stress here that we never snatch or steal the animals to rescue them. There are sometimes occasions when we are offered a few animals who have already been unloaded into the lairage area of the slaughterhouse, and who are then brought out again to us, and we will arrange life-long fostering for them. In that way we sometimes save a few lives, which is very good for those individual beings, but sadly most will go to their inevitable violent end.

It is just after 7.00 in the morning. Dawn is breaking on a cold late-winter’s day. We have parked in a small lay-by on a narrow lane in the midst of the countryside. At first sight it is beautiful, but on focusing in more closely one is aware of a high spiked steel fence behind the hedgerow and trees on the opposite side of the lane and, further down, sturdy gates. Beyond, some clever landscaping reveals no more than a gently rounded grassy hill, but the building obsc

Those present will know what to expect...they have read the literature and seen the video footage. But, by being there ourselves we have first-hand experience...and a very chilling experience it is too...which can be related as such to others who may not know how their food reaches their plate. This is a way of direct campaigning: speaking from our own experience and being able to show our own photos has much more impact. Whether friend or stranger, we can adjust how we recount our experience according to who we are speaking to. If seeds are planted in some minds that may prompt a change in lifestyle, it is worth it.

Someone calls out “Truck!”, and the first huge articulated lorry of the morning approaches. Stacked high and covered by tarpaulin curtains as scant protection from the cold wintry weather, the truck conveys up to 9,000 broiler birds [meat chickens], only 42 days old and crammed brutally into crates which are piled on top of each other prior to their journey to slaughter. Their wholesale ‘value’ is just 50 pence each. As we look at these pathetic bedraggled baby birds still cheeping like little chicks, too young yet to have adult chicken voices but selectively bred to have big top-heavy bodies, we notice...their feathers, filthy and soaked from lying in their own excrement for so long...the swollen legs...the bald patches...the raw open wounds and broken limbs from careless, heavy-handed catching and packing...

We also can’t help noticing the overwhelming stench. These birds will have been on the truck for many hours, in all weathers, sometimes parked up in a layby overnight. Some are crying out in distress or pain, and some have just given up and lie dying...or dead. We have a little time to gently show some compassion and do some filming. Then the truck pulls away through the slaughterhouse gates...

Hertfordshire Chicken Save

We gather as a group for two minutes’ silence in respect. During the morning three more trucks drive in, two with broiler birds and one carrying ‘end-of-lay’ hens. They, too, are bedraggled, in various degrees of baldness and give the appearance of having just given up hope. Their wholesale ‘value’ is a mere 20 pence each. The condition of the birds from truck to truck varies from bad to appalling. All in all, we see up to 36,000 birds brought to slaughter: 36,000 lives so undervalued and abused, each one a living sentient being.

Soon after the arrival of each truck, a succession of small white vans and a few refrigerated lorries drive through: the first customers. One by one the now empty trucks return having been heavily disinfected, and a strong ‘chemical’ smell pervades the air. Then the lorry full of ‘waste’ for rendering drives away...leaving a sickening stench in its wake.

Meanwhile, the morning sun shines on the yellow hazel catkins, magpies are chattering among the bare branches, and above in the cobalt blue sky red kites are wheeling...

The Beatles’ Free as a Bird comes to mind: such sharp contrast to the cargoes of hapless avians now in the lairage awaiting their end.

In one year 975,000,000 broiler birds are killed in the UK...

Hertfordshire Chicken Save

On another day, and at a different location, another group of animal advocates gathers outside a slaughterhouse for farmed mammals. This one, too, is out in the countryside in the middle of nowhere, and a considerable distance from the road up to its perimeter gates. There is a steady flow of various farmed animals in a diverse variety of vehicles. We see a farm trailer containing four heritage breed pigs. Although standing on a small amount of straw, the metal floor of the trailer is wet with excrement, and the pigs are slipping and sliding about. Pigs suffer badly from travel sickness, and at least one of them is repeatedly retching. A larger truck arrives with two decks of cattle, and with sheep on the very top deck. The noise of the cattle’s hooves on the bare metal floors is deafening as they too slip and slide about on the excrement-covered floor. Being a transporter with three decks, excrement has also fallen through the drainage holes in the floors above onto the animals underneath. The animals look stressed, frightened and dirty. Many are shedding tears; I had not realised before that cattle weep...

After stopping for a few minutes as we request, the lorry drives on into the slaughterhouse to unload its terrified cargo, only to return later with the sheep still on board. They are destined for another slaughterhouse...

On occasions Save groups may first visit a ‘livestock’ market and bear witness to the animals who are bought and sold, and then follow truckloads on to the slaughterhouse again bearing witness to the animals as they reach their final destination.

In conclusion, it is worth mentioning something that happened recently. Following a television programme featuring activists in the Save movement in action, articles appeared in the mainstream press. The journalism was of a poor standard with gross inaccuracies, along with ridiculous comments about activists administering ‘the last rites’! That the programme got into the mainstream press and so to a wider audience, good. But it is sad that the information was distorted, seemingly portraying members of the Save movement as if they are members of some weird religious sect.

For further information about the Save Movement, please visit their website.

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