“When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to her who suffers, and try to help her.”
There are close to 100 pig slaughterhouses in Ontario. The following are federally inspected pig slaughterhouses:
Quality Meat Packers, 2 Tecumseth, Toronto, (416) 703-7675
Fearman’s Pork (formerly Maple Leaf Pork), 821 Appleby Line, Burlington, (905) 637-2301
Arnold Mead Packers, 305 Arnold St., Kitchener, (519) 744-7182
Conestoga Meat Packers, 313 Menno St., Breslau, (519) 648-2506
Great Lakes Specialty Meats of Canada, 5921 Frank St., Mitchell, (519) 348-0099
FGO Organic Processing, 194338 19th Line, Ingersoll, (519) 425-8799
Cambridge Meat Packers, 1678 Morrison Rd., Cambridge, (519) 620-2800
Slaughters cows, calves, goats, sheep & lambs
St. Helens Meat Packers, 3 Scarlett Rd Glen, Toronto, [northwest of Weston Road and St. Clair Avenue], Tel: 416-769-1788
Maple Leaf, 100 Ethel, Toronto, Tel: 416-767-5151
Chai Kosher Poultry on 115 Saulter Street South [southwest of Lakeshore and Carlaw Avenue]
Slaughters cows, heifers, & calves
Ryding-Regency Meat Packers, 70 Glen Scarlett Road
J J Meat Distributing Inc, 331 Wolverleigh Blvd., Toronto, Plant #0154, (905) 859-1540
(cows slaughtered at 14600 10th Concession Toronto)
* There are many more slaughterhouses in and near Toronto. For a complete listing or to find a slaughterhouse near where you live, see the listing of provincially inspected slaughterhouses in Ontariohttp://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/food/inspection/meatinsp/licenced_operators_list.htm
Issues Relating to Slaughterhouses
1. Working conditions, workers’ rights, whistle-blowers
The United Food and Commercial Workers union represents slaughterhouse workers at Quality Meat Packers and addresses working conditions and worker rights. There needs to be a JUST TRANSITION strategy for workers to move from employment in animal exploitation industries to ethical, environmentally sound, and healthy alternatives which focus on vegan, organic, and local food production.
There is an excellent film called American Dream, which deals with the relationship between the exploitation of workers and the abuse of animals by large corporations which emphasize profit above all else.
*Mother Jones magazine did an expose, The Spam Factory’s Dirty Secret, covering the workplace injuries slaughterhouse workers typically suffer from like muscular disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome and other ailments which result in a loss of sensation and fine motor function. At the pig “head table” workers use mechanized jaw-pullers, circular saws, and pressurized air to cut, chisel or blow out every part of pigs’ heads, including brains. Brain machine operators suffer the worst health effects, such as spinal inflammation.”Schindler found that Garcia and another brain-machine operator were the most advanced cases. Besides Garcia and the six workers referred by Bower, Schindler had seen another five men and women with similar symptoms—all workers at QPP. Schindler believed they were suffering from something like the rare disorder Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP)—death of the peripheral nerves caused by damage to the fatty neural covering known as the myelin sheath.”Pig brains had triggered an autoimmune disorder because of the similarity between human and pig cells. One worker suffered “burning in his feet, his knees clicked when he walked, and his bowel and bladder problems persisted… a “suspicious spot” [was found] on a nerve at the base of Garcia’s brain and would eventually diagnose it as a nerve-sheath tumor…. Garcia had quit sweating in his extremities, a clear indication of nerve death—permanent damage.” The chilling quote below says much about how unjustly humans treat pigs – their genetically similar species:”SIX MONTHS EARLIER, when Matthew Garcia was sent back to the Mayo Clinic neurology department, Dr. P. James Dyck explained to him that there was an “epidemic of neuropathy” that was affecting QPP workers—a newly discovered form of demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy. Inhaling aerosolized brains had caused his body to produce antibodies, but because porcine and human neurological cells are so similar, the antibodies began destroying Garcia’s own nerves, as well.”
When slaughterhouse workers acts as whistle-blowers:
Virgil Butler lecture (1 hour on vimeo): “Inside Tyson’s Hell: Why I Got Out of the Chicken Slaughtering Business” Virgil Butler worked at a chicken slaughterhouse and blew the whistle on the treatment of animals and workers after he showed his wife where he worked and felt embarrassed about his job for the first time; Laura had earlier volunteered at an animals shelter and Virgil says had “a natural desire to act when she sees something wrong.” Compassion over killing talks with Virgil Butler in In Memorial of Virgil Butler. See also PETA’s article on Virgil.
Growing Activism: Labor/Community Strategy Centre focuses on social justice organizing, but mentions approaches and philosophy that apply to all injustice.
2. Animal suffering and abuse
Among the largest pig slaughterhouses in Ontario are Quality Meat Packers and Fearman’s Pork. Both these facilities use carbon dioxide gas chambers to “stun” the pigs before they are hung upside down on one leg and bled with “hollow knives” and sent to the scalding tank to remove their hair. Though the pigs are supposed to be unconscious at the bleeding and scalding tank steps, this is not always the case! Once the pigs start blinking around 1.5 minutes after being stunned they are fully conscious, thus some of them may be going through this horrific process fully conscious.
3. Environmental pollution from slaughterhouses
In its report called “Toxic Toronto,” Now Magazine (April 20-12, 2006) listed Quality Meat Packers as a major polluter of chemical pollutants into our air, land and water each year. According to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, QMP released 2.1 tons of ammonia into the air in 2009 and 0.6 tons of particulate matter (<= 10 Microns) and significant amounts historically as well. The health effects of absorption of fine particulates include bacterial infections and respiratory symptoms, aggravated asthma and cancer, with risks highest for the elderly and children.
A 2006 UN report found that the meat and dairy industries are responsible for about 1/5 of global greenhouse gas emissions. Going Vegan is one of the most effective things you can do to fight climate change. Kerry McCarthy, UK Member of Parliament, says in the film Making the Connection (Environment Films, 2010) that a vegan diet uses 1/3 of the land and 1/3 of the water compared to a meat-based diet. Trewin Restorick, CEO of Global Action Plan in London, says in the film that “as high as 18% of greenhouse emissions globally is caused by the meat and dairy sector.” PETA has a campaign linking climate change and diet. According to their website:
Global warming has been called humankind’s “greatest challenge” and the world’s most grave environmental threat. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although this helps, science shows that going vegan is one of the most effective ways to fight global warming.
For further information, see our Protect the Environment web-page.
4. Neighbourhood campaigns
Key issues to date are smell and noise pollution and concerns about animal welfare and protection, especially during the transport and unloading of pigs at 677 Wellington St. W.
A Toronto Star article “Toronto’s diverse neighbours live in harmony” by Katie Daubs (Aug. 2, 2010) interviews Ms. Karlie Cowie, who is not deaf and blind to the pig’s suffering. Karlie works on Niagara Street and says she became vegetarian after she started working in the neighbourhood:
“When you see the squealing pig trucks come in, and hear the low moan of the refrigerator trucks leaving, it’s all too real. It’s good you can see it, because it is so easy to be removed.”
For further information, see our Community Issues web-page.
5. Number of animals killed and methods used
At Quality Meat Packers, 7,000 pigs are killed each day; 35,000 pigs per week. Fearman’s Pork Inc.(formerly Maple Leafs Pork) is the largest pork-processing facility in Ontario, slaughtering upwards of 45,000 every week and primarily servicing Toronto and the Eastern United States.
There was no escaping the pungent odour around the Stanley Park area in downtown Toronto.
That unbearable smell of death, emanating from the Quality Meat Packers pig slaughterhouse on Wellington Street, spread through the air like a virus.
Steps away from residential streets, outdoor patio restaurants, luxury condominiums and a dog park.
“You’re probably smelling a lot of feces and dead flesh,” said Tracey Shepherd-Davis, who used to work at a slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario but now rescues and owns pet pigs.
“It’s hot. It smells horrible. You’re covered in feces and blood all day long. You just close your mind to what’s going on around you.”
Even now, the rancid smell coming from the empty pot-belly transport truck trailer as it left Quality Meat Packers on Monday brings back unpleasant memories for Shepherd-Davis.
“Those pigs would probably have travelled in there for an hour or two,” she said. “And they’re crammed in there, at least 200 to a truck.”
I have been holding a one-woman, Sunday vigil (begun on Dec. 13, 2009) for just over one year at what I call the Toronto Slaughter House. Its actual name is Toronto Abattoirs Ltd., with “Quality” Meat Packers Ltd. alongside it off Tecumseth St. The shockingly barbaric and primitive holding-compound (as apt a word as I can find) where the pigs are held overnight, is at the end of two driveways off Wellington St. It is at this latter location where I first began this project.
Let me just say that for me, the French word “abattoire”, does not do “justice” to what goes on there, because in my opinion, there is neither justice nor mercy where the animals are concerned. And the word “slaughter” suggests violent killing on a massive scale. Given there are one hundred and sixty-four, three-tiered transport trucks making weekly “deliveries” (taken from the Latin word “deliberare”, meaning ironically, to liberate, to set free), the name slaughter house, calls this very dark and heavily guarded place (with fifteen hundred employees) for what it truly is, a house of killing for which I believe we all are to whatever degree, responsible.
My vigil takes various forms but mostly it entails meeting the truckers as they arrive, witnessing the unloading of the females of the pig species, (called sows by some, who I call my soul friends and my tribe) and then seeing the truckers (who have no option but to pass right by me, my conscience and I hope and I know, in some cases, theirs) turn out of the driveway on route to wherever home is, to sometimes far-enough-away parts of Ontario.
Most of the time, I just stand there, in whatever kind of weather, for as long as I can last, sometimes three hours… more or less, with both hands over my heart. I used to only use one hand but Harold Brown (a former beef farmer and founder of Farmkind, and a subject of the documentary film ‘Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home’) suggested two hands would be more powerful…so that is what I do. I send as much love and compassion as I can muster, amidst the beatings of the sows and their subsequent screams, (which I never think can get worse but do),and the shouting of some of the truckers… as in: “Move, you stupid f’ing bitch(es)” (similar language with accompanying rage that at times gets sent my way as well), with only a fine, but critical legal line of fear of consequences, separating the treatment of the pigs and the treatment of me, a line that has all too often gotten blurred throughout human history, resulting in genocide and atrocities of one kind or another. That we seem to think we human animals are special in some way and will therefore be spared the brutality we have not spared others of our species and certainly not these remarkably intelligent, non-human animals is, in my opinion, a form of insanity.
And criminals, at least some, however hardened we judge them or ourselves to be, are sometimes offered, on the eve of their executions or we, in our final moments, last rites and perhaps even a special last meal; whereas these sows, representing the female principle of life, have never had any rights…first or last or in-between or maybe just the barest minimum of rights with no or next-to-no enforcement of those rights. They have been deprived of everything that might reflect on them as being the species they are, even to the point of their conception (“con” meaning “with”) achieved today through “artificial insemination” which without consent, is merely technical language for licensed rape.
But I have digressed.
I don’t always or only stand in the same place. I have had deeply meaningful, if not at times, intense interaction with the truckers, “super” visors, security, police, City of Toronto public workers (who share the same driveway), residents from the area, one of the care-takers of the numerous feral cats having sought refuge nearby, passers-by and even on one occasion, a waiter from a nearby restaurant. I’ve heard personal stories and extended hugs to someone who came across me and was moved to tears by what I was doing, but moreover through hearing the cries of pain and terror, of the animals themselves. I have had a slaughterhouse worker scream at me: “Who are you…some stupid, f’ing, psycho bitch?” only to very quietly say moments later: “I have nightmares you know…we all do”.
I have seen the inside of the holding area, the ugly red welts and deep gashes near sensitive parts of the animals’ bodies, their precious behinds fire-engine red and sore. I have seen the pile-up of bodies of those who didn’t survive transport, who I originally hoped might have found some modicum of comfort with each other until the realization set in that they were dead. I’ve run up one of the ladders attached to the holding compound and with my head stuck in a truck, screamed for leniency regarding the severity of the beatings. On at least a few occasions, I’ve lost my composure and done my own fair share of screaming, (I am no saint) raising my voice not in anger but as an appeal for humanity, theirs and mine.
I’ve planted a lot of seeds (maybe I, too, am becoming one such seed). As long as I continue to get feedback, sometimes only in the most elusive of ways, and sometimes directly in the form of overt rage or an unexpected kindness (that has told me there is some understanding on the part of a few, what my purpose for being there is), I am committed to showing up, opening my heart more fully, fine-tuning my responses, trusting that this kind of change I am aiming for, beginning with myself, then through example and conscious presence, affecting outside change, one person at a time, within one system of exploitation and fear at a time, perhaps saving one animal at a time, will take just that…time. The Berlin Wall, after all, finally did come down and when it did, it happened virtually overnight.
There is so much more I could say but I would like to finish with why I started this project in the first place. It is a critical piece of the whole. Please stay with me for just a little longer…if you can.
In 2005, I survived a plane crash. As I believed myself to be seconds away from death, my life flashed before me with waves of resultant feelings. I recalled the cruelty and violence and abuse of my childhood and how hard it was, the struggle to overcome its effects. I felt a deep sadness about this but I also felt enormous appreciation for the pinpoints of quality and light in my life that I had been able to experience and actively create, much of it through the gift of life-long therapy of one kind or another. But what I thought would be my last thoughts, were thoughts about the animals and feelings of profound loss that my life was ending without having done enough on their behalf. Compared to them I had had so much.
Some of what happened during my childhood, took place on a relative’s farm where there were domestic animals, farm animals and two long-houses filled with caged mink. The brutality I witnessed, perpetrated on all the animals and that was held over my head as a threat to remain silent about what was being done to me, left me in a state of devastation. I did what I could to try to speak for them at that time, but it was a lose/lose proposition, alone with no support or protection for myself as well.
Many years later the despair of my childhood inevitably came to a head. At forty years of age, suicide had been a long time coming, albeit unsuccessful. But at least I had been able to say, “Enough!” to the psychological pain that, despite my best efforts to assuage, had become unbearable. That afternoon on the plane, a decade later, at the age of fifty, I felt for all the animals, who were never able to say and still cannot say, “Enough”; who had no recourse then, and all these years later, continue to have no recourse whatsoever in ending their own suffering. Having survived also the plane crash, something tipped the scales. The terror of getting directly and deeply involved with anything that might touch upon that same degree of devastation and loss of faith in humanity and myself ever again, weighed in as less significant than my deepest longing for the urgent alleviation of animals’ suffering. Whereas before, my question had been, “Why me?” it became, “Why not me?” and then, “Who better than me?”
Thus began my journey with pigs and the beginning of my true sanity and the making of amends for the gift of life I have that billions of them have yet to know.
Gwen Dunlop is a raw vegan activist
found a link in an article to a website called Humane-itarian.org. It’s all about “happy meat.” They were asking people to write in and share what they know about pigs. This is what I sent them: Pigs are one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, only ranking behind whales, dolphins and great apes. Pigs form strong bonds with their herdmates, their babies, and their caretakers. It has been proven that they have a sense of “self” in that they recognize that a mirror image is just that. They can find a bowl of food utilizing a mirror. They are better at video games than primates. Most pigs love to wallow in mud to keep cool and keep biting flies away, some prefer not to get dirty. Given a choice, they will never soil where they sleep. They love bellyrubs. They form hierarchies, usually led by a mature female. They grieve. I was saying goodbye to a gorgeous, huge pig that we had. He had passed during the night and I was lying beside him, with my head on his shoulder, crying. Each one of our 6 other pigs took turns and slowly walked past us, stopping and looking sidelong at Harry, saying goodbye. I have seen them make their nest in the doorway of the barn and watch the sunset. I have seen them stand and watch a thousand fireflies, and when they got tired of standing, they made a hollow in the cool dirt and lay down to watch some more. I have seen them go nose to nose with each other, and have long conversations. I have seen them out grazing, and the matriarch suddenly froze and looked off in the distance. She saw something alarming, barked and ran for the barn, all the others in quick pursuit. I have seen them come up to us whenever we have the hose out, looking expectantly for us to “fill up their scoop.” They make a little scoop out of their lower lip, and let it fill before slurping it up. They are calm and benevolent friends to smaller creatures, our dogs, cats, chickens, even wild birds. I have seen them run and spin in pure bliss, for no other reason than they are happy to be alive. All of my pigs began life destined for the dinner table. None will ever end up there. They will live here in peace and happiness until they take their last breath, and then they will be buried with dignity. What I really want people to know is that they are no different than the animals that we call pets. It is only our perception and conditioning that allows us to see them as a food choice. I would also like people to know that their “happy meat” was killed in the same slaughterhouses, using the same methods as factory farmed animals. Maybe they had a happy life,(albeit un-naturally short, pigs are slaughtered while still babies, about 6 months old) until the confusing day when the human they trusted leads them onto the truck to the abbatoir. They most certainly did not have a happy death.
For three generations, Luo Hongxian’s family, from Taipei County’s city of Linkou, has made their living raising pigs and selling them off. However, the family completely stopped this business, which they now regard as inhumane. Raising his pigs as he would his own children, Luo is taking on odd jobs rather than selling them to slaughter. What prompted such a big change?
We visit Luo’s farm to find out.Luo Hongxian: “Pigs are my children!’Daddy is here!’”Treating these pigs as his own children, whenever Luo is feeling low, he comes to sit in this pigsty.” Look! He is smiling! You see, he is so adorable.”Luo had followed in his family’s business — raising pigs — for three years, but in April, 2009, his mindset was completely altered during a trade: ” One pig really shocked me. When I was pulling him, he didn’t scream, but the others beside kept screaming. He didn’t make any noise but just stared at me. I looked back; I felt like he was saying to me: where are you taking me? How can you so easily just give me away after one year? I felt so bad inside. I was really shaken to the core. I couldn’t sleep. It was 3am, and I drove my car to the slaughter house, trying to save him. I was planning on buying him back with twice the money. I didn’t want him to leave my side again. But when I got there, nothing was left. ”
Luo has never sold a pig since. Starting in May of 2009, he even became a vegan, and feeding his pigs his leftovers. The diet even cured a lame pig. ” That pig was dying. He was sick, and had a tumor. After eating vegetarian, the tumor disappeared, and he was no longer lame.”Raising pigs without selling them, Luo now takes on temp jobs rather than killing his “children”.Pig owner, Luo Hongxian : ” To the people that ask me to sell the pigs, I would respond: Would you let me take your children away? They are my kids, every single one of them. I even delivered the babies.”
Surrounded by children & grandchildren every life form has feelings. Sprouting from his compassion, Luo has not only earned himself a healthy body from a vegetarian diet, but also many blessings, for his children and many grandchildren to come.
On Friday, June 22, at 8:00 a.m., Hamilton Burlington Pig Save held their first vigil outside of Fearman’s Slaughterhouse.
Present were Brenda LaFleshe and Coleen Tew, and we had posters made with our website – from the creative genius of Louise Jorgensen and the generosity of Anita Kranjc (both of Toronto Pig Save, our sister org and our mentor).
After the gut wrenching experience of seeing the trucks enter the facility on Tuesday, we felt anxious but determined. We were there during rush hour traffic, so a great number of people saw us! I stood on the north corner, while Brenda stood on the south, next to Fearman’s. Brenda has a gift for approaching and engaging people; she handed out literature and spoke with them as they went by. Three people want to join as a result! How exciting is that?!
At one point, six people came out of the facility and approached Brenda. After they crossed the street, Brenda motioned me over and asked me to stay with her. They were workers and were mocking her, calling us crazy bitches. Funny thing is, when I joined her at the corner, they decided not to come back! Cowardly behaviour, but working at Fearman’s must be soul destroying, so we tried to feel as compassionate toward them as possible.
On an exciting note, one man on a bike told Brenda that he thought what we were doing was wonderful; not to be discouraged because for every hundred people that may scoff, there are several that will really think about the messages we are displaying. We were thrilled and grateful to hear such encouragement!
Last, but certainly not least- to our surprise (and relief) – no trucks came into the plant! For a slaughterhouse that has the capacity to kill 45,000 pigs a week, this is unusual to say the least. We will scope out different days to determine the best time to hold a vigil, so we can acknowledge their suffering.