On Wednesday 14 March I travelled to Watton to bear witness to the pigs on their last journey to Cranswick Country Foods, a local slaughterhouse.
Norfolk Animal Save group hold a monthly vigil there as part of a worldwide movement aiming to expose the cruelty behind the meat and dairy industry, whilst showing respect to its victims in their final hours of life.
This group have the cooperation of Cranswick Country Foods which means the trucks stop for a few minutes in order for the activists to take photos before the animals go in. Many of the pigs I saw had damaged ears; I was told by another protester that it is common practice for farmers to rip the identification tags out of the animal’s ear without anaesthetic. One truck that came past was packed with young pigs who had all been abused in this way. Most of them also had their tails cut off, another common mutilation often performed without pain relief. Some scrambled on top of each other, squealing with agitation while others sat still, their limp bodies being pushed in all directions by the surrounding distress whilst staring dully under drooped eyelids, as if they had already given in to their fate.
In the UK, pigs are only entitled to a metre squared of floor space each. This means that they can be crammed together for the duration of their life and their meat will still be quality assured by schemes such as the Red Tractor. This is misleading to consumers who, thanks to advertisements, picture happy pigs rolling in the mud — a stark contrast to the reality.
However, even pigs that have been treated well their whole lives still end up on a truck to the same slaughterhouses where they suffer the same injustice of an unnecessary, premature death. In general, the public is detached from the origin of their food, and The Save Movement wants to combat this detachment by presenting the world with photo evidence of the suffering that is otherwise ignored.
According to government statistics, 222,000 pigs were slaughtered in February 2018 in the UK alone. As the trucks drove in, I began to realise the scale of this violent industry, and yet I was surprised to hear people around me point out that there were fewer trucks than usual.
Although the study of pig psychology is behind that of other intelligent animals, the studies that have taken place have concluded that pigs have similar cognitive abilities and emotional behaviour traits to chimpanzees and dogs. I always ask myself why we draw such arbitrary lines between animal species, separating those that we love and those that we eat. The pigs I met, or at least those that were able to move, came up to us to have their snouts stroked and their heads patted; they just wanted affection, they did not want to die. The bars that encaged them cast dark shadowy lines across their faces, and they stared up at me, hopeless, tail-less, voiceless, and soon to be lifeless — but in their last moments, they were not friendless.
Anybody can completely eradicate their contribution to the exploitation and slaughter of animals by giving up animal products today. If you would like to support The Save Movement, please join your local group on Facebook and come to the events posted online.