“They are just the sweetest,” Denman Islander Cheryl Henkelman exclaimed, a few days after welcoming three new pot-bellied pigs to her Island Pacifica Animal Sanctuary. These particular animals are indeed lucky to have finally arrived somewhere safe. A domestic violence situation in another community had involved threats to their lives. And ironically, one of the pigs had been previously rescued from a farm where she survived a bear attack that others did not! Eventually, all three of these gentle characters will be introduced to Lincoln – another pot-bellied pig recently arrived at the sanctuary, in his case by way of the Comox Valley SPCA. Unlike Molly, the pet pig who was killed and eaten last year in Duncan only a month after she was adopted from the Cowichan branch (much to the horror of SPCA staff there), Lincoln and the other pigs at Island Pacifica will be afforded the opportunity to live out their natural life spans under the protection of a truly devoted caregiver.
Society at large seems to remain conflicted about which animals deserve to keep their lives, and which do not. Under Canadian law, animals are still considered mere property. It dictates that there is no difference between a pig bred to be sold as a pet, or one deliberately raised to be slaughtered for meat. As Animal Justice executive director Camille Labchuck explained to press at the time of the public outcry over Molly’s demise, “The law doesn’t protect animals from being killed, it doesn’t give them the right to their own lives. It just protects them from being tortured, harmed or from suffering.”
At least it’s supposed to. The undercover video surveillance showing pigs clearly suffering both alarming physical and mental distress at Abbotsford’s Excelsior Hog Farm recently has prompted an investigation by the BC SPCA. But without activist intervention how would the general public have learned what really goes on behind those barn doors? More revealing still is the fact that a veterinary inspector who visits this Abbotsford farm claims that the owners operate within the guidelines of industry standards. In fact, he has referred to them as “industry leaders.” But this is hardly surprising. Spokespeople for animal agribusiness routinely claim that violations documented by animal activists are rare, paint a biased picture of the industry and victimize good people. While exposing the worst abuses can force industry ‘review’ (criminal convictions for animal cruelty involving farmed animals are few and far between), the fact remains that here in Canada millions of mothers continue to suffer from ‘standard practices’ that are nothing short of depraved. Still held in cramped gestation and farrowing crates for extended periods, for example, sows are prevented
not only from tender engagement with their infants but from even turning around. It is for all of these reasons that within days of the undercover surveillance video from Excelsior going public, 200 peaceful demonstrators descended on the Abbotsford farm to commit the largest act of civil disobedience on behalf of animals in Canadian history. As one protest sign read: If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention.
Dressed appropriately in white hazmat suits, the activists wore black t-shirts on top with the name (and purpose) of their international group clearly visible – “Meat the Victims.” On the back of the shirts were words that can be credited to a letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr. from a Birmingham jail in 1963: “One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” King not only believed that it is normal and healthy to channel discontent through the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action, he knew that doing so risks being dismissed as ‘extremist.’ In that famous letter he also stated: “The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”
The 50-65 vegan activists who chose to break the law by entering the hog barn and staying put until their immediate demands were met, know what side of history they want to be counted on and are prepared to accept the consequences for their actions. Contrary to some news reports, they vacated on their own free will once mainstream media was allowed in to observe the operation first hand as requested – some six hours in to the occupation. According to numerous videos and heart-felt testimonials shared to social
media, the experience of spending that length of time in the facility – surrounded by the reality of what these highly intelligent and aware animals are forced to endure for the entirety of their short lives – was heart-breaking, literally gut-wrenching and life-changing for many of the action’s participants. Besides the protective clothing (including gloves, boots and hats to avoid introducing contaminants to the facility), care was taken not to touch the animals. How incredibly difficult that must have been.
Denman Islander Debbie Winkler reminded me recently just how deeply the desire to touch is connected to our human capacity for empathy. On a visit to Island Pacifica Animal Sanctuary she had a profound connection with a pot-bellied pig by the name of Tinkerbell. Reaching out to rest her hand on the animal’s body, she experienced Tink’s life force and instantly knew that she could never eat pork again. Shortly thereafter, she and her partner made the decision to embrace a vegan lifestyle. Tink passed away on the eve of the Chinese New Year of the Pig, but will be forever remembered. ❤
Transition Kitchen throwback:
Love pigs as much as I do? Here are a few more of my articles featuring these wonderful animals:
Yummy Vegan Mayo (a very short recipe for the month of May!)
If you love mayonnaise, you’ll be thrilled to find how easy it is to make your own healthy dairy and egg free version!
1/2 Cup of plan soy milk, unsweetened
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup organic sunflower oil
1 tsp. lemon juice
Chilling the wet ingredients in advance is a good idea. Place all, except oil & lemon juice in an immersion blender cup (or use a regular blender). Mix by slowly drizzling the oil in to create an emulsion. When the mixture begins to thicken, add your lemon juice. You can always add more oil if necessary. Enjoy!