On Saturday 22 September 2018 we paid respect to the victims of the pig farming industry. The 14 piglets we had in our care were brought into the public space in Bourke St Mall, Melbourne, to show the public who the victims are when they purchase products they naively believe cause no harm. They were collected from just one piggery. They are the ‘lucky’ ones, and what a terribly sad thing to say about them when they died, some of them not even taking a breath of air, alive in the womb but born dead due to a prolonged and difficult birth.
HERE'S KARINA'S SPEECH FROM THE DAY.
A Baby's Story By Heather Leughmyer
I am born, just one second old,
My wriggly red body first feels the cold -
As I fall to the floor, there is no soft landing,
And the stench in the air, beyond my understanding-
My first moments on earth seem somehow all wrong…
Where’s mama’s nuzzle? What’s taking so long?
Finally my mouth finds the liquid I crave,
With no sign of a nuzzle, I try to be brave -
My tiny frame quivers, from fear and from cold
Until finally sleep saves me, this naïve one-day-old.
When my eyes finally open, and I see this awful place,
I will see my mama’s misery, the sadness in her face -
The reason she can’t touch me - rusted bars that enslave,
The waste on the floor of this huge sunless cave.
Soon I will feel the suffering that billions have to know -
Corporate greed surrounds me, as I begin to grow
A tribute to pigs
We are here today to pay tribute to the victims of the animal agriculture industry, but really they are the victims of the individual consumer’s choice, which is to eat animals, to consume their flesh after a life cut short, and to consume the products their bodies produce over an extensive period of confinement and exploitation. Their lives can only be described as a tortured life.
Today we pay respect to the victims of the pig farming industry, to those viewed as mere commodities rather than the sentient beings they are. We recognise them for who they are, not what can be gained from them to the detriment of their own happiness and safety. What the industry and consumers gain from them, is something that can only be taken by hurting them and causing them immense suffering, eventually rewarded by death.
You may ask, what is the point of us paying tribute like this? Why are we holding 14 dead piglets, all aged just under one week old, on display for you to see? The point is this, we want those of you who eat animals, to see what you support when you choose to purchase their body parts from supermarkets, butchers, markets, restaurants, fast food outlets and fundraising bbq stands. That those items you buy are not harmless bits of food, those items you buy were taken from someone who had to die for you. The piglets you see here today are just one link in a very long chain of confinement, cruelty, exploitation and brutal slaughter that is the pig farming industry. They are just one link in the production line to get their flesh onto the consumer’s plate.
We bring to you things that you were never meant to see if it was left up to the animal farming industry or yourselves. But why should their suffering be hidden away just so people can be left alone to feel comfortable buying into something that is so obviously and horrendously cruel? Why should we not challenge people and their previously unquestioned beliefs, habits and conditioning when it clearly hurts others? Why should we leave people to continue to differentiate between domesticated animals deemed to only be kept as much loved and adored companions, showered with affection and never to be harmed, such as dogs and cats, but yet believe it is ok to hurt other domesticated animals who are seen as only good enough to be eaten, such as pigs, but who feel every same emotion as those who have been elevated to a status deserving of protection?
It is ironic that we are labelled as extremists and militant vegans, when all we are doing is shining the light on things that happen to animals in the animal farming industry that others choose to ignore. We choose kindness and equity for all animals. We don’t pick and choose who is more deserving, we respect all life, we reject violence and cruelty to all, not just the human species. Who would think that to opt out of this violence, oppression and mass exploitation, to start viewing others as someone and not something, to thrive on a plant based diet, could be regarded as extreme? Do you honestly believe this is extreme? When did being kind to one’s full potential be viewed as extreme? The reason we talk about the suffering animals endure is because it is blatantly cruel, and it is wrong how they are treated. It is an injustice, a blight on the human species, and no kind person would support what goes on if they could just take the time to understand what happens to animals.
What is extreme is forcing animals by the billions into the world, only to be killed, and in addition to this, using extreme methods of manipulation to do so. In every aspect of the animals’ lives, humans manipulate and control them. What is extreme is saying it is ok to torture and kill animals, and leave these animals in the control of monsters who will do whatever it takes to get what they want out of them.
As we continue to educate people to the realities of what animals suffer, a line by Matthew Scully, from his book - Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, comes to mind:
“Sometimes tradition and habit are just that, comfortable excuses to leave things be, even when they are unjust and unworthy. Sometimes--not often, but sometimes--the cranks and radicals turn out to be right. Sometimes Everyone is wrong.”
Here we have 14 piglets who didn’t make it, they were collected from just one piggery. They are the ‘lucky’ ones, and what a terribly sad thing to say about them when they ended up dying, some of them not even taking a breath of air, alive in the womb but delivered dead due to a prolonged and difficult birth. To describe these piglets as ‘lucky’, because they did not have to face a life full of suffering as their fellow pigs who survived did, is a complete contradiction of what lucky is supposed to mean. Death is not ‘lucky’, not when just born and ready to explore the world, and the alternative of living in a piggery is not ‘lucky’ either, as these animals are alive, but their lives up until their eventual deaths can’t even be described as ‘living’, or they are given is an existence, and then they will be brutally killed anyway. So which of the two evils do you think would be preferable?
Instead of us being here with these dead piglets in our arms, calling them lucky to be dead, what would have been lucky is if we could have said that they got to have a wonderful life worth living. One where they were free to be themselves, no restraints placed on their existence, no reigning in of their natural behaviours, no stifling of their innate instincts and personalities. They would have gotten to live, be free, be happy, be surrounded by their family and friends, and be loved and protected. But no, instead they are here with us now, almost pleading with us to do whatever it takes to shake people out of their apathy, to make people care, to waken their hearts and to use their minds to reason - can they suffer, do they deserve to suffer, do they deserve to be treated as nothing more than a piece of meat? We are sure, if people got to meet these animals and be able to interact with them, they would see just what amazing and incredible animals they are, and no one would possibly then want to hurt them.
Let us now tell you their stories, the first link that begins the chain of horror that the exploitation of animals for use as ‘food’. It’s not a pleasant story, there is nothing humane about it, there is nothing natural about it. The story from the animals’ perspective is one of misery. Their lives are at the mercy of humans, one of unfettered control, not monitored by industry as they like to profess, and one laced with cruelty that is allowed by the industry and government bodies - those you have delegated your decision making to because they know most people cannot be bothered delving into the realities of their cruel practices and taking responsibility for their actions. They know people want to believe their marketing, their simple happy words used to describe the flesh of an animal who did not want to die for you and suffer the indignity of being reduced to a piece of meat to be eaten.
These 14 piglets you see before you were found in one piggery, already dead. Their bodies were gently retrieved so we could show you, the consumers of their bodies, what you are doing to them. If they weren’t here with us today, they would have been thrown into buckets piled on top of one other, and then thrown onto a dead pile with pigs at all stages of life, left to rot away. Their bodies are not even covered with straw but left exposed to the open air and eaten away by insects and maggots.
All but the two who died during labour, had died not long after being born, either within hours or days.
One piglet died still in the sac membrane he was born in and the umbilical cord attached. You can see how very tiny he is. Obviously he was the runt of the litter and he probably died in the womb due to the extended time it takes for the sow to give birth to large litters, and was last to be born. His mother would have been exhausted towards the end of labour if she was pregnant with 12 babies. If she had been a sow who had given birth a number of times already, and therefore confined for so long that it weakened her muscles and she has gotten fatter due to lack of exercise, these factors makes it even harder for her to go through an arduous labour. If this little one had survived the birth, there is no doubt the piggery workers would have killed him anyway, because as a baby so small ie a runt, he would not have been seen as viable and instead a liability that’s just too much bother for them to try to keep alive. So they would have gotten rid of him, they would have killed him by smashing him against the concrete floor. The industry views smashing babies on concrete floors as ‘best’ practice and the most humane way to kill them.
Do you think this is a kind thing to do? Would you think this would be ok to do if it was a runt puppy in the piglet’s place instead? We know what the majority of people’s answer would be, but there is no difference between the piglet and the puppy. Don’t you think that anyone who saw a completely vulnerable and helpless animal just like this little one, would naturally want to help them and keep them alive rather than destroy them? We think the answer is yes.
Two piglets died about a week after being born. How do we know this? Well they had been mutilated as part of the ‘husbandry’ process of the piggery, acts inflicted on all piglets within a day or so of their lives. You can see their tails had been cut off and pieces of their ears cut out. You can also smell the stench of the piggery on them. We don’t know what caused their deaths but with life in a piggery as young piglets, the reason could be one of many. The list of illnesses piglets’ face that could cause their death is a very long one.
Why do they do something as cruel as cutting their tails off and pieces of their ears out you ask? The reason is to inflict a painful physically cruel act to offset another cruelty that the pigs suffer mentally. Pigs need space, a lot of it, they need an enriched environment where they can act out their natural instincts, things such as exploring and grazing the paddocks, rooting the ground with their noses and having wallows to bathe in. Replace these needs with a barren environment that is completely artificial and boredom is what their whole days and nights consist of, and they will look for anything to do in order to relieve their intense boredom and frustration. All they have left is each others’ tails to bite at and chew on so the ‘obvious’ answer to the industry is to ‘cut off their tails!’. Don’t you think this so called ‘solution’ says a great deal about the pigs’ mental health and the horrible way they have to live in piggeries? The piggeries also have to identify the pigs held on their farms, and will do this using an international system of ear notching. Apparently it’s ok by them to cut chunks of ears out too, nevermind the pain and fear it causes the poor piglets.
Some of the piglets died shortly after birth, either within hours or a day or so of being born. How do we know this? For the piglets who died within hours, they still had a wet look from the membrane sac they were born in and have ‘slippers’ on their feet. These slippers are thought to protect the sow’s uterus and it shows they had not walked. They also do not have the stench of the piggery entrenched in their skin. The others who did walk, well it’s most certain they died from starvation, unable to feed properly from their mother, and having to fight their larger and stronger littermates to try to reach their mother’s teat. The industry says that starvation is the main cause of death of piglets.
Most of the piglets here with us today died due to being laid on by their mum and squashed to death. Four of these piglets were siblings found squashed underneath their mum and there were another 2 siblings lying dead nearby. Can you imagine being a mother and losing your babies like that, and there’s nothing you can do about it? And this brings us to explain why cages called farrowing crates are used to imprison the sows and completely restrict her movement, so much so that she can only step forwards and backwards. That is all she can do, she is restricted so much that she is not even allowed to turn around! The pig industry says that these cages are for the safety of the piglets so she doesn’t crush her babies, but obviously it doesn’t entirely prevent this from happening and the industry admits that at least 10% of litters will die by being crushed by their mum. The sows and piglets are forced to live on slippery flooring such as metal grates or concrete flooring, the sows find it very difficult to control their movements when getting up and down on these surfaces and so it’s any wonder they crush their babies if they are underneath her.
The last few piglets with us today died because their feet were stuck in the metal grates of the farrowing crate flooring. This is a common sight in piggeries. The pieces of metal are long strips about 1cm wide with spaces between them of about the same or a bit less. Of course newborn piglets are at risk of their feet getting stuck, especially the tiny ones. It’s another awful way for them to die, there is nothing they can do to help themselves, and their mothers are helpless to even comfort them when they can’t even turn around to reach them.
There is nothing normal or natural about what these piglets went through and how they came to exist in this world. There is nothing normal or natural about the way animals are bred, housed and fed in mass numbers just to be eaten. The industry pulls out all sorts of tricks to interfere with them, make them more viable, productive, and efficient. They manipulate animals to meet their desires and in turn the consumer’s desires. They are mass produced on a scale that is hard to comprehend, putting them in sheds, pens and cages and forcing them to live in squalor. Millions of dollars is spent on research projects trying to figure out how to squeeze that one more cent out of them, and millions of dollars is spent on medical research trying to figure out how to avoid diseases and illnesses that are unavoidable when breeding animals in vast numbers and confining them in housing you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Things are done to them under the guise of animal agriculture and husbandry practices, but if they had these pretences stripped away would be revealed exactly for what these practices are, animal abuse, animal cruelty, torture, exploitation, with cruel, perverse, violent and ignorant acts carried out on them. And they can’t cry out for help because they are at the whim of their abusers, the industry and the consumers who support it with their money.
Dignified death. What does this even mean when people speak of these words on behalf of animals they have no idea about? And how can people be so arrogant to speak so casually about taking the life of another being? Dignified and death are words that do not go together, unless you are a human who gets to make a choice about your own death. A dignified death cannot apply to animals who never agreed to being killed, and there certainly is no dignity in the way they are treated from when they are born to the day they die. There is nothing dignified about bringing animals into the world with the intent of murdering them.
These piglets today would have been just another loss in a statistical pool, reduced to mere numbers and an economic loss to the business. But they are not statistics, they are individuals, they exist, here they are for you to see. They are victims of our choices, and just because they are a different species to humans does not remove this fact. We are not here today for us, we are here for the piglets and all animals and we are asking you on their behalf, please, please stop eating them. Please stop hurting them.
If there is anything we hope you have gained today from passing the bodies of such young innocent animals, is that you ask yourself, do you think they deserve to be treated this way, and if your answer is no, what are you going to do about it to help them?
This poem I’m about to read out could have been titled ‘Is your body a graveyard?’, the name of our tribute today we hold on behalf of these piglets.
Within the Heart by Janet Riddle
Another day another meal
another life your actions steal
Living beings killed for meat
approvingly you sit down to eat
Already dead when in your clutch
a slice of carcass you easily touch
This murdered flesh you consume
you're a grave, another's tomb
You don't notice you are blind
consequences never come to mind
As long as you refuse to look
you can't see the lives you took
Cries uttered upon deaf's ear
this merciless death you don't hear
Acknowledgment can be hard
but ignorance leads to disregard
Neatly packaged, hidden gore
realizations easy to ignore
Awaken morals for a fresh start
change comes from within the heart
Images by Animal Liberation Photography