It was a chilly Sunday morning, April 18th, when I made the journey out to Diamond Valley Pork (DVP) in Laverton to attend my first Melbourne Pig Save Vigil and my apprehension was palpable as I arrived.

As I reached the first part of the DVP building structure, I could hear rustling and scraping sounds, was it the sound of movement coming from behind the wall – was it the sound of scared pigs awaiting their turn for the most horrific death on earth? Truly, what awaits them in the slaughterhouse is something straight out of a horror film.

I was fortunate enough to know a few of the other vigil attendees from various Animal Rights events and Jess, the vigil organiser, made me feel very welcome amongst the gathering of around 30 volunteers. At 9am we were talked through a safety briefing and instructed that two trucks would be stopped for us for five minutes each and that sadly, despite requesting permission to, we were expressly forbidden from giving water to the pigs; DVP maintain that they do this to ensure that we don’t give these terrified, dehydrated animals water with “something in it”.

Image by John Karapaladis

Knowing that all you can offer these beautiful animals is five minutes of peace, calm and loving words is a hard pill to swallow and I really wasn’t sure what to expect when the first truck rolled around the corner.

Once the truck came to a stop and we were cleared to approach, I made my way to the front of the truck as it was closest to me, deciding at the last minute to throw my cane back onto the nature strip as it was only a few meters away and I really needed both hands to engage with the pigs properly.

Image by John Karapaladis

The terrified pigs were crammed inside the truck’s compartments so tightly that one poor pig had become trapped and was screaming out in pain – I tried to see where the screaming pig was, but there were just too many animals for me to be able to see clearly.

Standing leg-deep in their own excrement, a lot of the pigs were foaming at the mouth (a sign of dehydration and motion sickness) and most looked quite understandably terrified.

All of the pigs looked unwell, some more battered than others, but it was easy to spot the animals who had probably had the roughest time so far – a deep sadnesss in their eyes that had glazed over the spot where their sparkle should be.

Pigs are extremely intelligent and naturally clean animals; they have complex relationships, can communicate and even learn to recognise their name in their first few weeks of life. Sadly, the animal agriculture industry has no care for the sentience of these animals, nor for their capacity to suffer and feel pain.

Shortly after birth, all piglets are forced to endure a variety of bodily mutilations once they are born: such practices include teeth-cutting, tail-docking and testicle removal via scalpel – all of these are done without any anaesthesia.

Once born, piglets are isolated with their mother, confined to a farrowing crate, which prevents the mother pig from being able to turn around, they can only stand up or down.

Usually, due to their clean nature, pigs will not deficate anywhere near where they eat, but when they are confined to farrowing crates, these animals are unable to follow their natural instincts, meaning they must live in their own waste.

If a piglet becomes trapped under their mother, there is little she can do to help them and any piglet who is deemed “sickly” or “unlikely to grow to healthy slaughter weight” will be pounded against concrete (PACing), a practice also known as “thumping” in which blunt force trauma is used to kill the piglet.

We have been conditioned our entire lives to believe that there is some magical, harm-free process that turns piglets into products, but this has always been a lie.

After the pigs are forced into the slaughterhouse they are electrocuted, gassed, stabbed in the throat and then submerged in boiling water where automated arms will drag them under the water repeatedly until they either bleed out or drown – some pigs are still fully conscious when they go into the water due to the ineffectiveness of various “stunning” methods.

The cruelty of the animal agriculture industries truly know no bounds – in places like Argentina and Uraguay pregnant horses are taken to places known as “blood farms” where they will have their blood extracted to obtain the PMSG (Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin) contained within.

PMSG is used in Europe to stimulate and synchronise oestrus in pigs and other farm animals. PMSG can also be used to induce superovulation, which results in larger litter sizes, or to induce puberty in sows.

That’s right, blood-letting pregnant horses in order to increase the litter sizes of mother pigs – the fact that companies have the audacity to call these practices “humane” really should tell you all you need to know about their true intentions towards animals.

Going and standing face to snout with innocent individuals who are about to be tortured and dismembered for a five-minute meal isn’t an easy task, but I needed those individuals to know that they were seen, that someone cared and that not all humans are bad.

I wish I could have offered them more than love.

The only thing we need from animals is their forgiveness.

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