Mercy for the Slaughtered
Every Sunday night a dedicated group of vegan activists gather outside a gaudily painted factory depicting fat, happy pigs rolling around in meadows while clown-like farmers wearing overalls trip over wheelbarrows and tractors trying to catch these naughty animals. Above these painted walls, ominous smoke billows from chimneys and a thick, feral smell lingers.
Clutching signs, water bottles, cameras, LED lights and iPhones, the activists greet each other with affection, though their faces show trepidation: it will be a long night ahead. Within minutes of their arrival, a Vernon PD car drives up and parks, lights on. Corporal Anthony Encinas exits his car, walks over to Amy Jean Davis, the head of the Los Angeles branch of the ‘Save’ movement. They exchange quick words with a smile. He then retreats to his car, leaning against the hood, and observing the activists silently.
It's estimated that between 3,000 and 5,000 pigs are trucked into Farmer John on a daily basis, and for the past year Los Angeles, Animal Save has vigilantly ‘held witness’ outside the gates of the slaughterhouse, stopping trucks in order to feed pigs who will shortly be killed, their last drop of water.
Amy Jean Davis, a former contestant on ‘American Idol’, explains why the activists continue to show up for the pigs week after week, sometimes staying outside the gates until 3 am. “The emotional toll is there, but it is totally outweighed by my sense of obligation to bear witness. To look in the eyes of someone you can’t save is sad, but the idea that no one ever showed up for them...the idea that slaughterhouses remain places where none of the humans that are there are for the animals...that thought is a far greater tragedy.”
The first truck arrives, and Corporal Encinas stirs. It’s his role tonight to ensure that some trucks stop and that no activists get crushed beneath the wheels of the three-tier metal vehicles. As the truck rolls to a stop, the activists rush forward and water the thirsty pigs, who receive no food or water on their journey to the slaughterhouse. No flash or strobes are permitted: they are deemed too distressing to the already disoriented animals. The animals are lit only by flashlights and the eerie glow of an iPhone screen.
The activists live-stream the vigil to their social media pages, hoping to alert more people to the horrors of the meat industry, and convince more people to adopt a vegan lifestyle. Davis believes “a vegan world will exist someday. And the stark majority will view unnecessary suffering as intolerable. The majority of humans will view sentient beings as having rights to their own safety and their own lives. The idea of hurting someone just for pleasure will be as horrific to everyone as it is for the vegans of today.”