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The Importance of Bearing Witness | Toronto Pig Save Interview

The animal agriculture industry is shrouded in secrecy. We don’t see where our food comes from or what the beings who become our meals go through to get to our plates. And frankly, we don’t want to. But there’s one group that wants to open our eyes and not look away. They instead go into the belly of the beast and attempt to give some solace, even if fleeting, to animal bound for slaughter. [tweet this]

Toronto Pig Save, and really all of the pig save organizations and other activists and organizations named or anonymous worldwide do the exact opposite of the vast majority of the population. They look. They literally look into the eyes of the victims of our food production because they believe that the very least we can do for the trillions of animals we kill every year, is look them in the face and let them know that we see them, we’re sorry, and we’re trying.

I had the honor of speaking with James of Toronto Pig Save, also known as Veganoso on twitter, about the importance of bearing witness. watch the video above for his full interview and footage of Toronto Pig Save and other animal liberation and undercover actions. Here are some choice nuggets:

On his vegan journey

“I moved to Toronto 8 or 9 years ago and there’s a slaughterhouse downtown Toronto. And so, me and my wife, girlfriend at the time, we’d often see these trucks. We’d see the Toronto Pig Save vigils Lakeshore when we were out walking our dog, and it just kind of evoked us to question the choices we’re making to eat animals. We went vegetarian for a couple of years, unfortunately. But mainly because we weren’t aware of the cruelty in the dairy industry. I think a lot of people go vegetarian, they think they’re doing the right thing, not really understanding the full story. that was it, we both went vegan the same day. After 2 or 3 years of being vegan we both felt that we needed to do more to get involved in activism for the animals.”

On Toronto Pig Save

“Toronto Pig Save–it’s a grassroots organization. It was started in 2010 by our founder Anita Krajnc and she’s a vegan. She was walking along Lakeshore which is a really busy road here in Toronto, and she saw several trucks go by full of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. and she decided to start a vigil to bear witness to these pigs in their final moments, and that’s kind of how the organization was born.”

On the importance of holding vigil [tweet this]

“We take photographs of the animals at the vigils, and we post them on our Instagram accounts or our Facebook account, and it just spreads the message. Lots of people get to see it and we have lots of conversations on the back of those photographs, and people become vegan as the result of that. And it’s also really important for the animals. They’re so scared. They’re in such pain and that they really feel a connection with us, like they know we’re there for them. They really appreciate it. I mean, you have to experience it to understand that I think.”

Toronto Chicken Save Chicken in Slaughterhouse Truck

Toronto Cow Save cow in slaughterhouse truck

Toronto Pig Save Pig in slaughterhouse truck

On His Vigil Experiences

“Every time you go it’s a fresh experience. Yesterday we had … an all day vigil from 7a.m. – 7p.m. and we saw maybe 30-40 trucks each carrying like 200 pigs. And I mean, this slaughterhouse can kill 10,000 pigs a day. And when they stop at the traffic lights, and you’re trying to give them water. there was this one pig and he was too scared to take water, or the watermelon that we were trying to give him, and I was just connecting with him. we’re looking into each other's eyes and it was just really really traumatic. [It's] a really difficult experience knowing that he was just going to go around the corner and get his throat slit.

“We were at a chicken vigil a couple of weeks ago and the chickens, I mean they cram like 5-10 thousand chickens into these trucks. And the chickens are so terrified when the workers just pull them out of cages, and they’re gripping onto their cages so tightly that their feet literally get ripped off. and when the empty trucks were leaving we saw 8 or 9 feet in the trucks, It’s just horrific.”

Toronto Chicken Save Chicken Feet Torn Off

On starting a vigil organization

“Since we started in 2010, [the] Save Movement has grown, it’s an international movement now. We have locations in the U.S., in Australia, Brazil. [We] hope to open one in the U.K. soon, and anybody can get involved. … [I]t’s a grassroots movement where we're always looking for new volunteers. We’ve got details on our website: www.torontopigsave.org about how people can get involved. We can offer logistics support, any help people need.”

On interacting with the truck workers and the public

“Like the vigil 2 days ago we had lots of people shouting ‘bacon’, that kind of thing. It’s very like being in a real life vegan sidekick comic. people just shout stuff out at you out the window of cars. And the slaughterhouse workers as well, when they come out, they kind of make fun, laugh at us. …

“At the vigils we have leaflets. We hand them out to causes to get passed. You know, we’re just trying to spread the vegan message. Just trying to bring awareness because the disconnect is so strong with people. People really don’t realize what they’re doing. We’ve being brainwashed since infancy to think that it’s normal and necessary to eat these products.”

On blocking trucks from going to the slaughterhouse

“Last year we had a day of action where we deliberately blocked the trucks from going into the slaughterhouse, and I think 6 people got arrested on that day. All the charges were eventually dropped, but yeah, we have done that, and civil disobedience. Maybe that’s something we’ll consider in the future as well.”

I hope you enjoyed hearing from James on the importance of bearing witness. You can connect with him via the links to his twitter and YouTube in the video description for more information along with the Toronto Pig Save site.

Exposing the hidden world of animal agriculture and showing what really goes on behind closed doors is a powerful and vital tool to animal liberation. [tweet this] And it gives a voice to the trillions suffering and dying in the shadows of our society, completely ignored and vehemently denied by the very people who pay for it to happen.

If we can’t look at the cruelty we are paying to have inflicted, then we have no business eating its ultimate “product.” [tweet this]

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Have you even been to a vigil? If you aren’t vegan, do you think watching what your food goes through would change your behaviors? If you are vegan, was this type of action a part of your decision to change? Let me know in the comments!

See ya next nugget!

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Videos Mentioned:
Know What You Are Choosing
See Some Happy Rescued Animals
The Insane Animal Activism Terrorist Laws of the US

James’ & Toronto Pig Save’s Links:
Toronto Pig Save Website
TPS Twitter
TPS YouTube
The Save Movement [parent organization]
James [Veganoso] On Twitter
James [Veganoso] On YouTube

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Finelli on 07/22/15 at 7:24 pm

    Emily, since you are surely vegan, I question your use of terms like “we” and “our” such as your usage of them in the initial sentence. While it may seem more inclusive, I think it’s better to be accurate, and to give readers the valid sense that not everyone consumes animals/animal products, and that a vegan lifestyle is very possible and is currently practiced by many (which is what Bite Size Vegan is all about).

    Thank you for your wonderful advocacy, and Toronto Pig Save et al. for their wonderful activism!

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 07/22/15 at 10:24 pm

      thanks Mary Finelli! the reason i do that is that people will usually listen more and not get “up in arms” as easily. when they hear “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t” or “you’re doing this or that wrong” they don’t want to be lectured and shut down. when i say “we” i’m speaking about humanity as a whole, but it allows people to listen more openly, and to me, at least at this point, i’ll take that over absolute accuracy. it’s clear that i’m vegan i think :) i’ll certainly think on this though- thank you!

      • Mary Finelli on 07/23/15 at 12:07 am

        I know what you mean, Emily, and I realize that Bite Size Vegan is more for nonvegans that vegans, though it is interesting and informative for vegans, too. I just find it annoying and a bit offensive to be lumped in that way, and I try to find other ways to connect with people. Thanks for considering it!

        • Sofia on 07/27/15 at 5:12 pm

          Mary fenilinliii that’s a really superficial thing of you to bitch about to Emily there are way more important things to be addressed.. Your kind of annoying me with your stupid comment so I wanted to respond.. Everyone has thier OWN way of activism.. Emily’s doing a great job if you don’t like the way she talks or words things.. Do something about it instead of bitching about stupid stuff start your own website go pamphlet or whatever.. Sorry if I misspelt anything please don’t bitch

  2. Emma on 07/24/15 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Emily!

    I cannot thank you enough for the work you do to educate and inspire people. You’ve certainly helped educate me so I can explain veganism with ease to people. However, I’ve been struggling to convince people that crustaceans…um, are animals. Too many “vegetarian” people tell me, “they’re too simple to feel pain,” which I know is untrue since extensive research has been done on the nervous and sensory systems of crustaceans. I always tell them about that research – and how lobsters and crabs even have sensory systems we lack – but very few people believe me, despite my background in biology. What should I do? I would love a nugget on the ethics of eating so-called “lesser animals” such as lobsters, crabs, fish, and perhaps even shellfish.

    Thank you, Emma

  3. cath ens-hurwood on 09/27/15 at 9:54 pm

    Hi Emily – although I have, in the past, attended demos with quite literally – 1000’s of people – the PigSave demo in Burlington the other day, was definitely something unique to me. My biggest thought is, ‘what do people that are walking or driving by think?’ Does it make them, at least for a moment, consider the animals – does it plant seeds, open minds and hearts?? I think it would. I was vegetarian for 17 years and for the next 19 years, vegan….but this event definitely affected me differently. It’s more than a demo, because at least for a moment, one is giving to these animals – in their final few moments they are receiving and in a way, I probably received something too.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on 09/30/15 at 10:50 am

      Thank you for this beautiful comment–and for being there. I agree that it’s a completely different type of event. I think everyone, no matter how “grizzled” in the world of activism needs to attend a vigil. That direct connection looking into the eyes of a being about to be killed is beyond anything once can imagine. Much love and thanks for being there.

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