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Open Your Eyes

As a society, we hide the realities of our food industry from view.  We shroud the process in secrecy, interact only with sterilized, aesthetically-pleasing packages.  We tell ourselves our food animals are treated nicely.  That they’re killed humanely.  And when faced with evidence to the contrary, we say, “it’s not like that here.” [tweet this]

I’m here to show you that it is like that here.  This video is for vegans and non-vegans alike.  If you’re non-vegan, being fully aware of what you’re purchasing and choosing to eat is of vital importance.  If you’re vegan, keeping that connection to why you’ve chosen this way of life is of equal importance.

Regardless of your lifestyle, the lives we will encounter here together have value, and turning a blind eye to their experiences is condemning them to an existence completely devoid of even a moment’s recognition.

[Please note: More than any of my videos, this one in particular is meant to be watched rather than read.  The weight of this piece is in the act of bearing witness.  I am providing the written post as a supporting element to, not replacement for the video itself.  Please watch the video for the full impact that my words cannot capture.]

Some of what I will be showing you today will be disturbing, heartbreaking, even infuriating.  You will want to close your eyes, but I’ll ask that you bear witness to this reality.  This is not sensationalized.  These are everyday sights, mundane tasks in the daily operations of the animal products industry.

If you aren’t vegan and feel the need to turn away, I’d ask you to think on the question, if it’s not good enough for your eyes, why is it good enough for your stomach? [tweet this]  This is the bare truth of where your food comes from. [tweet this]

If you are vegan, please find it within yourself to validate what these individuals have gone through. If they have to live through it and die by it, the very least we can do is bear witness to it. If you must look away, please continue to listen.

This is reality for trillions of individuals in our world.  This is not an isolated case.  This is not in some distant land. This is here and now, in your own backyard.

For this 24 hour vigil with the activist group Toronto Pig Save, we started off in the early morning at Fearman’s Pork, Incorporated in Burlington, Canada.  Before most people had even gotten out of bed, these pigs were around the corner from their deaths.

Pigs and other quote unquote livestock animals can travel for days without food and water, with the maximum allowable limit varying by country.  In Canada, it’s currently 36 hours for pigs and chickens and 48 hours for cows. Due to cramped and unhygienic conditions pigs attack and cannibalize one another and suffer from growths and infections. [tweet this]

Whether they come from factory farms or quiet humane family farms, they all end up here.  And today is their death day.

Our next stop was two cow slaughterhouses in Toronto, St. Helens and the Halal and Kosher Ryding-Regency.  Under Halal and Kosher standards, animals must be fully conscious when killed.

Ryding also slaughters spent dairy cows, mothers whose bodies are so exhausted from repeated pregnancies and milkings they they’ve given out or succumbed to disease.

According to Anita Krajnc, co-founder of Toronto Pig Save, “Ryding-Regency Meat Packers slaughterhouse kills 50 dairy cows a day. A kill floor worker told us this week that 60-70% are pregnant. The fetuses can be as small as 2 inches or as large as calves ready to be born the same day.

The heads and spinal cords of the mother dairy cows are labeled SRM or “Specified Risk Material.” Anyone over 30 months is prone to Mad Cow Disease. The mother heads are painted blue to designate them as Specified Risk Material. They are sent off to incineration rather than to a rendering plant for pet food or farmed animal feed.

I met with a kill-floor worker at Ryding-Regency Meat Packers slaughterhouse, who told me that he has born witness to cows being skinned while they are still conscious. This atrocity is unimaginable and anyone’s worst nightmare in wars, yet this happens everyday in Toronto. A scalper skins the faces while the cows are awake. It often happens particularly to the first 10 cows slaughtered each morning at 7 am because the owner doesn’t allow time for the first cows on the kill floor to be fully bled. There is pressure to start dismembering the cows right away and not lose money by slowing down the production line.

The skinning of heads while the cows are conscious was an atrocity reported in Gail Eisnitz's book Slaughterhouse.  It happens every day here because they kill kosher/halal. There is no stunning and if the cows are not bled enough, the scalper begins while the cows are still conscious.”

The owners of Ryding-Regency and St. Helens profess to be animal lovers, with St. Helens’ stating to one Toronto Pig Save activist “no one loves animals more than me.”

The cows’ skins are loaded into trucks and taken down the street to the tannery, leaving a trail of blood along the way.  The stench at the tannery is almost unbearable as workers run the skins through salt water to prevent putrefaction of the collagen.  Towering stacks of skins are moved around on a forklift.  This is your luxurious leather.

At all of the slaughterhouses, semis are pumped full of blood, which along with rejected body parts is carted off to rendering plants to be mixed into pet food and livestock feed.  We feed our food animals the blood and remains of those who went before them.

Our final stop for the night was Maple Leaf Poultry in Toronto, a chicken slaughterhouse that runs 24 hours a day during the week, slaughtering in excess of 60,000 chickens a day.  Each arriving truck carries between 5,000 and 10,000 chickens.

Some die slowly and painfully from disease, injury, or exhaustion before even reaching slaughter. While they appear to be full grown, they are only 36 to 42 days old on the day of their death.  As with all animals killed for food, they are but babies.

At the last 24 hour vigil, Martin, the plant manager at Maple Leaf surrendered a chicken to Toronto Pig Save activists.  Mercy now lives free at a local farm sanctuary.  Encouraged by this victory, activists asked to free one more.  One of thousands today, one of hundreds of thousands this week, one of millions this year at this slaughterhouse alone. Just one.  But they were denied, pushed aside, and detained.

Later on, a truck driver pushed into an activist with his semi.  This is not an uncommon occurrence.

The slaughterhouse workers themselves range from kind and helpful to outright hostile.  This is their livelihood, how they support their family. Many feel they have no other option, and many realistically have very few, as the hourly pay is higher than other industries.  And with good reason.

Toronto Pig Save is working on developing a transitional program to help slaughterhouse workers find alternative employment.  The industry is rife with human rights abuses and violations, worker injuries and even deaths.  With the priority on speed and quantity, safety falls by the wayside.

The security guard at St. Helens told us he has a wife and two kids to support.  He said has no problem with what we’re doing but with great agitation escorts us off the property, saying he has to do his job. He’s looked for security work elsewhere but no other business pays as high.  Of course other no business has so much to hide.  The animal products industry thrives in secrecy and dies with exposure.  We asked if he ever goes inside to watch what happens.  He screwed up his face in disgust and admits he’s stopped eating cows and pigs altogether.

One of the truck drivers who delivers the cows even admitted he’s gone vegan after seeing what actually happens to the cows he drops off.  But he continues his work because he can’t find anything to match his current pay.

Our food system is broken in more ways than one.  The industry relies on consumers not seeing the truth, and consumers are all too ready to comply.  Profit over safety, the bottom line over reason, corner-cutting over compassion.  We as consumers rely on having our food presented without the bother of thinking how it got there and what, or who, it was before being neatly packaged for our purchase.  Slaughterhouse workers rely on the plants higher-than-average income despite horrifying and often dangerous working conditions.  And the animals…well, the animals rely on us.

Their only hope for freedom comes from us, their tormentors.  We have the ability to change all of this.  And it starts with acknowledging that it is happening.  It starts with coming face to face with our choices and their real-life impact.  It starts with us bearing witness to the truth. It starts, when you open your eyes. [tweet this]

Please share this video to open eyes everywhere to the reality of our food system. Vegan or non-vegan, each and every person should experience this firsthand. You don’t have to be strong, you just have to be there. For more information, resources and to connect with Toronto Pig Save to attend a vigil yourself, please see the links below.

If you want to help support Bite Size Vegan in creating this educational video-based resource and Toronto Pig Save in bearing witness to these beings, please see the links below. Thank you for listening. Thank you for bearing witness. Thank you for opening your eyes.

See ya next nugget!

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Resources & More Information:
The Importance of Bearing Witness [interview with Toronto Pig Save Activist] This Speech Will Change How You See Everything
Is Eating Animals a Personal Choice?
What Vegans See (A Video for Non-Vegans)
The TRUE Number of Animals We Kill Every Year
Everything Wrong With Environmentalism in 11 Minutes or Less
Who is the Real Animal? (Graphic)
Vegan vs. Vegetarian [dairy/egg cruelty vs. meat]
Favoring One Species Over Another
The Truth About Free-Range & Cage-Free
Loving Dogs While Eating Cows/Pigs/Chickens
Condemning Hunting While Eating Animals
Do Animals Grieve?
What About: Wool, Honey, Silk, Fish
Cattle Rancher Turned Vegan
What If the World Went Vegan Tomorrow? [concerning animals overrunning]
What’s REALLY In Your Food
What’s REALLY In Pet Food
More About Milk
More About Eggs
More About Vegan Ethics
More About Environmental Impact
More About Health
More About Sociological Impact

Connect/Support
Toronto Pig Save
Support Toronto Pig Save
Support Bite Size Vegan

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4 Comments

  1. EconomicDemocracyORG on 09/30/15 at 6:36 am

    There. are. no. words. The sight of those heads, one after another, being dumped in, one, after another, after another.

    There are no words. And yet, words are needed. And videos combining them with images so powerful, as in this video, to help open hearts everywhere. For that, in the BSV videos but especially “What Vegans See” and this one “Open Your Eyes”, for that, much respect.

    After downloading and watching this video and some google, I found this tonight, “Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history”

    Don’t agree with everything in it, like the last sentence suggesting that we’ve ignored non-human animals in order to take after the needs of humans, in fact we’ve brutalized the former, in a way that actually hurts human health too…but for a mainstream piece, very good, and to have such a strong headline and adding “The fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time. Tens of billions of sentient beings, each with complex sensations and emotions, live and die on a production line” that is unusual for mainstream media.

    And how did we reach the point where such powerful articles and headlines reach the mainstream? Years of and decades of dedicated activism, many of us doing our best in our own small ways, some of us able to reach a large and growing audience, like BSV has through your work…Respect..LLAP

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 09/30/15 at 9:56 am

      I’m so glad to hear that this was impactful. Those two videos are I think two of my best. And thank you for the quote as well. Powerful and thought-provoking.

  2. Laura Beth Slitt on 11/30/15 at 1:17 pm

    I made myself watch as I knelt in homage to the animals and wept like a child. Now I’ve spent the last hour sharing the link on media FB pages and emailed it to the staff at NPR/NHPR.
    I appreciate and draw strength from knowing that there are those like you and others on the very front lines, doing this haunting work.
    The video was exceptionally well done.

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