The Toronto abbatoir, Quality Meat Packers (QMP), is no longer slaughtering. Toronto maybe known as Hogtown, but it seems that the city's preference for eating flesh is changing. Toronto has a strong vegeterian/vegan movement and activists are making news worldwide. One slaughter house is down and animal rights activists will continue advocating for animals. Toronto Pig Save (TPS) will carry on with the Save Movement even though they will no longer bear witness at the traffic island on Lake Shore and Strachan. People from around the world knew this corner as Pig Island. Many videos and pictures were taken during the brief time that exists between a red and a green traffic light. Pig Island changed the existence of so many humans that shed tears while seeing the innocent sentient beings on their way to be slaughtered and be transformed to bacon.
Anita Krajnc, co founder of TPS has agreed to answer a few questions for examiner.com. It seems that this will be her last interview on Quality Meat Packers.
Q: Anita, could you please share with us, when did the slaughterhouse close their doors?
Quality Meat Packers in Toronto stopped slaughtering on April 4th 2014 when it went into receivership. Quality Meat Packers purportedly went into creditor protection due to the 'price' of pigs going up as a result of the PED health crisis; the 'price' of pigs went from $160 to $280 and QMP stopped paying factory farms between March 31 and April 3 so they stopped delivering pigs. Quality Meat Packers were deemed bankrupt on May 6 and started selling off their assets.
Q: Since when has this slaughterhouse been operational? It must be unimaginable how many lives were tortured behind its walls.
David Schwartz, owner of Quality Meat Packers, bought the slaughterhouse in 1960, but the slaughterhouse itself existed since the 1800s and it used to slaughter cows as well. More than a million pigs were killed each year behind the walls of Quality Meat Packers in the most brutal fashion. We shot footage of the kill floor from the railway lines, when the windows to the pen area and kill floor were open (video 1 and video 2). We witnessed a Butina (Danish-made) carbon dioxide gas chamber, the brutal hitting of the pigs towards a narrow single-file chute and hard wired electric prods being used literally to race the pigs towards the CO2 gas chamber. The pigs were screaming at 90 decibels, a level at which one can get hearing loss. Above the gas chamber door, there is a diagram of a pig with a circle around their genital area saying: “Perineal area: No electric prodding.”
Q: You have seen many trucks pass by Pig Island. Which truck is it the one you remember the most and why?
I remember so many pigs and so many vigils; it’s hard to choose any one. Each and every individual pig and groups of pigs you witness profoundly affects you. There is an individual pig I remember well, who had the saddest and most pleading eyes. I posted a video of her/him (23 seconds into the video). Also, we shot a viral video “Water for pig angel victims during Toronto’s heat wave,” in which Karen Bowman connected with a pig and touched her brow, when she ran out of water. We did a vigil with photojournalist Jo-Anne McArthur, and the pigs were so talkative and communicated with us. All these pigs are special and we love them all and are so sorry for their unjust and unnecessary death at QMP’s killing facility and the supermarkets and unhealthy dinner plates they ended up at. Each of them is someone, not something, who wanted to live.
Q: Many activists say it makes no difference if only one slaughterhouse closes. Does it make a difference?
I think time will tell. Quality Meat Packers used to slaughter 35,000 pigs a week. Then last summer they stopped slaughtering on Fridays due to “reduced market demand.” At the beginning of this year, they were slaughtering 6,000 pigs a day Monday to Thursday for a total of 24,000 a week. With it closing in early April, the 24,000 pigs are going for slaughter to the US now, to Olymel in Quebec, to Great Lakes Specialty Meats in Mitchell (owned by the QMP owners), to Sofina Foods in Burlington, and Conestoga Meat Packers in Breslau, near Kitchener. Last week, we had a vigil at Conestoga and the organizers at Waterloo Wellington Animal Save discovered that they now have transport trucks there on the weekend. Also, WWAS will organize a vigil at QMP’s Mitchell plant soon. We will follow the pigs wherever they are and bear witness of their suffering and try to help them.
Q: Do you think if at least one pig would've had a chance to escape from one of the many trucks you saw passing by...would it have made some difference to that just one pig?
Yes, I heard of an instance a couple of years ago in which a pig escaped briefly on QMP and city property, but the city staff only helped corner the pig and send him/her to slaughter. We didn’t have a vigil at the time, but if we did…
Q: Do you think there has been a decline on consumption of the meat?
The Globe and Mail’s business reporter Eric Atkins did a story on QMP’s closing and focused on the price of pigs and the Not-In-My-Neighborhood (NIMBY) syndrome, completely neglecting Toronto Pig Save’s three year campaign involving intensive community organizing consisting of three vigils at week for almost 3 years. Oscar Wilde quipped in The Story of Dorian Gray; “Nowadays men know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” In QMP’s neighborhood, many people have told us they’ve gone vegan due to the slaughterhouse. Many people told us that our vigils and our photos and videos helped them go vegan and become activists. We pay tribute to all these individuals who bore witness and were affected by what they saw, heard, smelled, and touched or that witnessed the pigs suffering via our social media posts. Many residents and viewers went veg and many of them joined our ranks, including many started new Save groups around the world. There are more than 20 such groups today, including around Canada, the US, Australia, and recently Sao Paolo in Brazil. We are eternally grateful to everyone who acted in words and deeds.
Q: We saw an activist giving out vegan bacon sandwiches to cars passing next to Pig Island. Where can people go buy and try it?
Kristen Bethel of Know thy Food is an amazing vegan cook, activist and organizer who has been foundational to the growth of Toronto Pig Save. She invented an amazing recipe for vegan coconut bacon and we have often made sandwiches and distributed these to workers and the public. (Video: "Toronto Pig Save's Holiday Vegan BLT giveaway")
Q: What's next for TPS?
We will ratchet up our bearing witness campaigns at Toronto’s two cow slaughterhouses and one chicken slaughterhouse in the northwest of the city, where we already do weekly vigils. Secondly, we will organize carpools to vigils at pig slaughterhouses in surrounding towns outside Toronto. Thirdly, we will focus on building The Save Movement’s worldwide network.
Q: Should we expect more videos from TPS?
Yes, expect videos and more postings on our full range of social media: FB, twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, Vimeo and our website! Also, Michael Sizer is working on a documentary on Toronto Cow Save and the save groups and I'm working with a number of people on a documentary on Toronto Pig Save and the strategy of bearing witness and community organizing using a Tolstoyan and Gandhian love-based approach to social change.
Q: What link would u recommend for new vegans to visit?
I would recommend your local vegan groups. In Toronto, the very awesome Toronto Vegetarian Association has a vegan challenge. You can sign up for the one week Veggie challenge (click here) and receive tips on vegan recipes, restaurants, and shopping.
Visit Toronto Pig Save site by clicking here
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Please join the save movement and bear witness at our weekly Toronto Pig Save, Toronto Cow Save & Toronto Chicken Save vigils. If you live outside Toronto, please join another Save group or start a new Save group--and extend The Save Movement so that there are vigils at every slaughterhouse around the world and bear witness of every animal going to slaughter until all animals are free. For more information click here