As I approached the entrance to the slaughterhouse I couldn’t help but notice the irony of the abattoir’s deceptively innocent logo of a sunrise, belying the horrors that take place behind their walls.
I was arriving to join my fellow animal rights activists on a vigil. These peaceful vigils take place outside slaughterhouses around the country and worldwide. The aim is to bear witness to the animals who are being taken to their brutal deaths. Many apologise to the animals they see on the trucks – for past carnivorous behaviour, as an apology for not being able to help those particular animals,and perhaps even to apologise on behalf of the whole human race for the atrocities we commit against the animal kingdom.
Photographs and videos are taken and shared on social media to enlighten any meat eater who might have fallen for the lies from the insidious meat industry, who might be under the impression that there is such a thing as humane slaughter, and to help them make the connection – that the meat they consume was once a living, breathing, feeling animal.
I was surprised this slaughterhouse wasn’t more off the beaten track. They are normally tucked well away, out of sight and out of mind, perhaps so we can’t smell the stench or hear the screams; perpetuating people’s disconnect between animals and flesh food.
It was about an hour before the first vehicle arrived – a local farmer driving a small trailer carrying two cows.
On hearing the alarm “truck!” from one alert member of our team, several more immediately ran to block the small road that led to the gates, holding signs saying “no hate for truck drivers” and “please allow us 3 minutes to say goodbye to the animals”.
The farmer obligingly stopped his vehicle and the rest of us rushed to side of the trailer. Inside were two of the most beautiful cows I have ever seen. Gently, we whispered to them, “I’m sorry”. I looked one of them straight in the eye and just for a few seconds he looked back. I told him that he was beautiful.
Both cows were clearly distressed. Both were foaming at the mouth. They were covered in their own excrement and the trailer was filthy, covered in their diarrhoea. They had both defecated through fear. One cow was desperately trying to get out of the trailer.
The few minutes we get with the animals, that we have to see through small gaps in the trailer or truck, are always so sad. We know what will happen to them, we know they are already terrified. We can just about touch them. But we can’t save them.
After a few minutes we cleared the road and the farmer drove on to take the cows we had just met to their gruesome end.
I was left emotional. I couldn’t help crying, thinking of the cow who had met my gaze, who I had had to allow to be killed.
We didn’t have to wait long for the next vehicle – much bigger this time, a big truck, packed with cows. We blocked the road again, but this time the driver was less obliging and he refused to stop, despite there being people in the road. We were forced to get out of the way for our own safety. Some drivers stop. Some don’t.
There were no more vehicles after that. The slaughterhouse workers spent all morning calling the police, but we are legally allowed to do what we do. The police were obligated to arrive, but left very soon afterwards when they realised we weren’t breaking any laws.
On this day there were only two vehicles. Often there is more. Vigils can be emotionally exhausting but it’s important that we keep this happening and that more people do this. I encourage anyone who is vegan, who cares about animals, who wants to see an end to the mindless and savage slaughter of animals, to attend a vigil near them. We mustn’t turn a blind eye to the egregious animal holocaust going on under our very noses every single day. Killing sentient animals for food is utterly unnecessary. We must show the workers, the government, everyone, that this is not ok.
I named the cow I met Rosie. Until someone pointed out that she was in fact he! So I renamed him Rossie.
Goodbye Rossie. I’m so sorry.