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BLOG: My first ‘Animal Save’ – Hayley Foster Da Silva

I heard about ‘Pig Save’ through a friend who posted about it on social media. Intrigued, I wanted to know more. On the event I found on Facebook, it immediately drew me in. The idea was to go to slaughterhouses, hopefully stop the vans for a few minutes, provide comfort to the pigs either by giving water or/and a little love, but also to document what the reality really looks like by capturing them on film and photos which can then be shared widely to try to spread awareness.

I’ve been to protests many times but not any as direct as this one. Part of what made me want to take part was they described it as a ‘love based’ approach. So, instead of getting angry (although of course we are), instead just focusing on the pigs. Comfort and awareness are the main aims as I understand it.

I knew it would be quite upsetting to see, but I just knew that I had to do this. The movement originally started in Toronto in 2010. Anita Krajnc, the woman who started it was actually charged for ‘criminal mischief’ for giving water to pigs suffering during a summer heatwave and so the slogan ‘compassion is not a crime’ was created.

The movement started to grow and the first UK based Pig Save was in Manchester. Inspired by this, Essex Pig Save was born.

I didn’t make it to the first event but I was determined I would make it to the 2nd event despite it being a little further afield from me. I liked that on the event they encouraged people that would struggle to get there to post so that lifts could be organised. I posted to say I would need some help getting there and it didn’t take long for a kind soul to offer myself and a few others in a similar area a lift as long as we could get to Rayleigh train station.

On the day I had to get up very early as I needed to be at the station by 7.15am as the vigil started at 8am. (on a Monday morning). I got in the car with 3 other vegan ladies and we made our way to Cheale meats. It didn’t take long to spot the slaughterhouse, as just looking it as we went past it, it looked somewhat creepy and there was a horrible energy about it, and that was before we knew for sure! When we got there we weren’t sure where to park so we tried to park somewhere and a man came out shouting at us until we were told where we could go, just a little more up the road. As where it was, was pretty much near a main road. I had felt okay about it all, but as soon as I had got to Rayleigh I had begun feeling a bit queasy and when we got out of the car I felt really sick and nervous.

It eased my mind a bit when I saw there was quite a few of us (about 20 I think) and a few familiar faces. We stood with placards with an image of a dog and a pig saying ‘why eat one but love the other’. There were two police and the owner just outside of the slaughterhouse. As the events are public on Facebook, they know when we will come. At the first event there were a lot more police but since they saw the group was quite peaceful they obviously realised they didn’t need so many.

Then it was just a case of waiting for the trucks to arrive. I can’t remember how long it took for the first one to arrive, maybe about an hour. Annoyingly the slats were up so we couldn’t see the pigs. Clearly they had been instructed to do this. There was another one I think after that, again with the slats up. It was pretty frustrating. Then a much smaller van with only a few young pigs rolled in which we could have got to easily. We tried to get it to stop but there was no chance. We had a sign saying ‘Please stop for two minutes. we just want to see the pigs’ which someone would hold so the driver could see and some of us would go round the front to try and get the vans to stop.

With the next one, again the slats were up but a few of us were tall enough to get footage from the upper slat just about this time. I couldn’t see anything and did attempt to film but didn’t get any decent footage. We had been hearing pigs screaming now and again in the distance from the slaughterhouse but with this van just before it went in, we heard a blood curling scream come from the van. It sounded like pure pain. It was horrible. One of my friends I came with started to cry so I gave her a little comfort.

The very last one I saw before we went, finally didn’t have the slats up so I could finally see although I still didn’t manage to catch footage but others did. We only managed to stop it for about 10 seconds as people were stood in front of the truck. It was so brief, but it was just long enough to feel and see the pain. In the moment it all happens so quick so all I could do was shout ‘I’m sorry’ to the pigs as they were driven in to the slaughterhouse.

Our group then had to leave so I didn’t see if there were any more. I didn’t manage to get any footage but lots of others did which show one van where the pigs had so little space they were standing on top of each other and they were dirty, and covered in cuts.

You can view videos and images on the Facebook Page of Essex Pig Save.

I wrote a poem about my experience:

‘Moment’
Today I heard you scream
I saw the pain in your eyes
I smelt the fear
I tasted blood in the air
I felt your soul
if just for a moment…
it was heartbreaking
but I needed to see
I need to know
I wanted you to see a loving face
if just for a moment…
with no time to think it through
all I could say was “I’m sorry”
I couldn’t stop your fate
but I wanted you to know someone cares
if just for a moment..
maybe one day things will change
but for now all I can give you
is a moment….

I’ll be attending again as soon as I can. I don’t know who wouldn’t be affected even just hearing the screams. Please consider cutting meat from your diets. Ideally I’d love you all to go vegan but I know that won’t happen over night so at least take positive steps towards it, make yourself at least aware of what happens to begin with. Think about where your food comes from and how it’s been treated.