An early morning transport run to Fearmans Pork Inc. gave 37 of its 180 porcine passengers the first and only lucky break of their short, miserable lives by killing them just outside the slaughterhouse. When the truck, driven by an unnamed 25-year-old now charged with careless driving, flipped over and smashed into the pavement, the luckiest pigs died instantly. Others took longer, their high-pitched screams piercing the air as they flailed and gasped and struggled despite broken limbs and internal injuries to free themselves from the weight of scores of other pigs crushing them.
Steve Jenkins, director of Happily Ever Esther Sanctuary in nearby Campbellville, Ontario, declared that “In the four years I have known Esther, [his four-year-old, 600-pound house pig, rescued as a piglet] I have never heard the noises I heard coming from those pigs today. It was sheer terror, and I will never forget it.”
Some pigs fell off the downed truck and wandered, at first tentatively and then joyously as, for the first time in their lives, they felt the dew-dampened grass under their hooves and the warmth of the rising sun on their bristly backs. The grievously injured simply sank down, helpless. One mottled brownish pig, downed but still curious, raised her snout up to touch that of a pink pig who hovered beside her, nuzzling her.
“Bonnie,” as Toronto Pig Save witnesses named her, also inspired a slaughterhouse worker to commit the same crime of compassion – giving a drink of water to a doomed pig – that led to the charge of criminal mischief against Toronto Pig Save founder Anita Krajnc, whose trial is ongoing.
While Bonnie lay there, dozens of emergency responders worked to remove the pigs still imprisoned in the truck. Though the police reported that the process was performed “safely and humanely,” Animal Justice lawyers argue that videos of the tortuous process suggest otherwise. The bloodied and traumatized pigs were prodded with long paddles to step over and around downed and dead pigs and down a short ramp to the ground, and even those with visible injuries including rectal prolapses were swatted along into Fearmans slaughterhouse. A very few, revelling in the miracle of grass and sunshine, trotted innocently toward impending slaughter.
During the hours-long extraction from the truck and the death march that followed, downed pigs suffered unattended under the hot sun though animal advocates repeatedly urged that they be given veterinary care.
More egregiously, Fearmans rejected Steve Jenkins’ offers of sanctuary for Bonnie and other pigs deemed no longer “viable for processing.” Instead, slaughterhouse staff improvised cardboard barriers around the injured animals to thwart witnesses. One worker, accused of being heartless, exclaimed merrily, “That’s me! I don’t know how I can live with myself!” as she draped cardboard over a fence.
But the cardboard sagged and swayed, and protesting witnesses watched a man shoot a weapon later identified as a captive bolt gun into Bonnie’s head. He had more difficulty with another pig whose limbs jerked convulsively and who appeared to be suffering. Three other grounded pigs were shot and then shoveled into the bucket of a forklift and carted away for disposal at Fearmans.
Earlier, another drama had unfolded. Anita Krajnc had crossed a yellow police tape to investigate what was happening behind the cardboard but was ordered away. Desperate to observe how the pigs were being treated, she crossed the tape again. The police swung into action, cuffing her hands behind her back, nudging her into a police cruiser and charging her with obstructing police and breaching her bail conditions. Afterward, they released her and Krajnc resumed her mission of witnessing.
The suffering pigs died on October 5th, just a handful of the 10,000 Fearmans slaughters daily. But they left a legacy of more than pork loins and bacon. Animal Justice lawyer Anna Pippus has announced that her organization is calling for criminal animal cruelty charges to be filed against Fearmans. Citing Sections 445 (1) and 446(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code prohibiting causing unnecessary suffering to animals, and injury to animals through wilful neglect while they are being driven, Pippus argues that the pigs should have had veterinary treatment and, if needed, prompt euthanasia.
Pippus adds: “Twice now, police have laid criminal charges against the wrong person. Once again, animals lay suffering and dying without any medical attention, while police arrested the woman who came to their aid rather than those who caused the animals to suffer in the first place. Abusing and neglecting vulnerable animals is both morally wrong and a criminal offence. The only logical course of action is for police to drop the charges against Dr. Krajnc and to instead charge Fearmans Pork for animal cruelty.”
Spurred into action by the public outcry, the Ontario SPCA has now announced an investigation into how the pigs were handled after the truck accident. And, so that they will never be forgotten, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has proposed erecting a five foot high memorial tombstone at the crash scene, commemorating all the pigs killed at Fearmans. This time, witnessing and recording and photographing and videotaping has not been in vain.