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Photo care of Susan Morris

Toronto Pig Save: Giving Slaughterhouses Windows

Care of Anita Kranjc

Nobel laureate John Coetzee has his protagonist in the self-titled novel, Elizabeth Costello, give a university lecture on “The Philosophers and the Animals.” She tells her audience:

“‘I was taken on a drive around Waltham this morning. It seems a pleasant enough town. I saw no horrors, no drug-testing laboratories, no factory farms, no abattoirs. Yet I am sure they are here. They must be. They simply do not advertise themselves. They are all around us as I speak, only we do not, in a certain sense, know about them.”

The slaughterhouses are here in Toronto, too – downtown and in the outskirts.

 

 
 Art by Sue Coe

 

Quality Meat Packers (QMP) is located in the downtown core, off King and Bathurst, at 2 Tecumseh. You get a good panoramic view of the colossal QMP industrial complex if you stand on the hills of Fort York and direct your gaze across the railway lines. Walking with my dog on Lakeshore, I usually spot several transport trucks at any given hour packed with scared and sad-looking pigs heading towards QMP, which has a capacity to kill up to 6,000 pigs a day. You can hear the pigs scream in terror and agony as the truck drivers poke the pigs with electric prods to unload them into the holding area at 677 Wellington Street West.

Besides QMP, there are four other federally registered slaughterhouses in Toronto: the huge St. Helen’s slaughterhouse on 1 Glen Scarlett Road, northwest of Weston Road and St. Clair Avenue, which slaughters cows, calves, sheep, lambs and goats, and other animals; across the street, at 70 Glen Scarlett Road, there is the Ryding-Regency Meat Packers, which also slaughters the same variety of animals; a few blocks further on 100 Ethel Avenue, there’s an enormous Maple Leaf Poultry slaughterhouse; and southwest of Lakeshore and Carlaw avenue, there’s Chai Kosher Poultry on 115 Saulter Street South. Take a physical or a virtual tour using Google maps, and it soon becomes evident that these slaughterhouses are abutted by a series of meat processing, refrigeration, and wholesale companies.

Outside of Toronto, there are hundreds of slaughterhouses of various sizes. For example, a pig slaughterhouse, even larger than QMP, is located at 821 Appleby Line in Burlington. For a list of provincially inspected slaughterhouses visit: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/meatinsp/licenced_operators_list.htm and for the federal database, see: http://active.inspection.gc.ca/scripts/meavia/reglist/reglist.asp?lang=e

Traveling Art Show

Toronto Pig Save formed to actuate Paul McCartney’s famous precept, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”

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Photo care of Jo-Anne McArthur

The group began by assembling mainly art and photos of pigs from local and international artists as one way to meet this challenge. Our aim i to, on the one hand, popularize highly relevant images and footage of factory farms, transport trucks, and slaughter and, at the same time, juxtapose pigs and other animals in farm sanctuaries, where they can live their lives fully in a safe, loving, and natural forever home. After posting these works on our website (www.torontopigsave.wordpress.com), we decided to launch a travelling art show.

Our first art show, entitled “Art to help save pigs,” was launched at Brock University’s ‘Thinking About Animals’ conference in late March. In June, we will be participating in TVA’s Compassion Café during Compassion Week, with artworks on display at T.A.N. Coffee on 37 Baldwin Street. We have also submitted applications to hold month-long exhibits in Toronto’s public libraries and plan to apply for arts grant in order to hold an art gallery exhibition next year.

Vegan Challenge for Earth Week

Beyond shining a spotlight on slaughterhouses, we decided to take a very proactive and constructive solutions-oriented approach by promoting the Vegan Challenge for Earth Week, in concert with the TVA and the media group rabble.ca. More than 400 people signed up on rabble.ca’s Facebook site: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=196812497019632&ref=ts

 

Following Oprah’s example in February 2011, when Oprah not only took the VC herself but invited her staff at Harpo and viewers to take the challenge along with her, we encouraged participants to organize a Vegan Challenge at their workplace. Nimisha Raja wrote about her pioneering experiences from 2010 (prior to Oprah!) on the rabble.ca blog: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/anita-krajnc/2011/04/taking-vegan-challenge-work and Marco Pagliarulo took the Vegan Challenge to his workplace at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Grassroots Art and Multimedia Training Project

Our future campaign brings us back to the idea of “Making slaughterhouses have windows”. We plan on developing a collective approach to bearing witness at Toronto’s slaughterhouses by holding vigils and ghost tours as well as taking footage of transport trucks and abattoir buildings.

We are looking for artists, photographers, videographers to do skills training for our volunteers. We’d like to use an approach where we have all our members mapping, documenting, and drawing a picture of the abattoirs in our midst. Everyone can play a role in erecting glass walls on slaughterhouses and sharing their pictures with their friends and communities. We are all artists and citizen journalists, refusing to be blind and deaf to the cries of farm animals slaughtered in and around Toronto.

Romain Rolland, another vegetarian, Nobel laureate, wrote in his novel Jean-Christophe:

“He could not bear to see the most ordinary sights that he had seen hundreds of times – a calf crying in a wicker pen, with its big protruding eyes, with their bluish whites and pink lids, and white lashes, its curly white tufts on its forehead, its purple snout, its knock-kneed legs: – a lamb being carried by a peasant with its four legs tied together, hanging head down, trying to hold its head up, moaning like a child, bleating and lolling its gray tongue: – fowls huddled together in a basket: the distant squeals of a pig being bled to death:- a fish being cleaned on the kitchen table …

The nameless tortures which men inflict on such innocent creatures made his heart ache. Grant animals a ray of reason, imagine what a frightful nightmare the world is to them: a dream of cold-blooded men, blind and deaf, cutting their throats, slitting them open, gutting them, cutting them into pieces, cooking them alive, sometimes laughing at them as they writhe in agony….If there exists a good God, then even the most humble of living things must be saved.”