On Friday, June 19, the life of one human was added to the horrific toll of the nearly 55,000 pigs who met a gory end in Canadian slaughterhouses that day. Regan Russell spent her final moments bearing witness to some of those animals’ suffering. A slightly built woman powerful in her convictions, Regan was volunteering for Pig Save in Hamilton, Ontario, when a pig transport truck slammed into her.
Pig Save is part of the international Animal Save Movement. In 70 countries, Animal Save activists gather peacefully outside slaughterhouses to keep watch over cows, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, who otherwise would never know a gentle voice or a loving touch. When and where possible, as Regan Russell did that day, they tend to those animals with water and kindness. Among the Core Values listed on the Animal Save Movement website is this statement: “We all have a moral duty to bear witness. Our aim is to change the societal norm so that everyone sees it as their duty to not look away but come as close as we can and try to help.”
Because the operator of a CAFO—a concentrated animal feeding operation, commonly called a factory farm–won’t net any additional money from the body of a chicken, cow, or pig who is fed and watered in the final day or two before slaughter, animals trucked to slaughterhouses rarely receive food or water once they leave the CAFO. They might be in transit for 48 hours or more, rumbling down highways in the unrelenting heat of summer or the chilling clasp of winter. Pigs or cows are squeezed in together so tightly that it’s not unusual for animals to slip, be crushed, or suffocate under the weight of their brethren. Chickens and turkeys ride smashed into stacked cages.
By the time they reach the slaughterhouse, animals are parched and hungry and often in pain from bone fractures or other injuries sustained in transport or from rough handling during the loading process. In the United States, where six times as many pigs are destroyed in the meat industry as in Canada—a staggering 228 per minute–the only federal law offering any protection for animals in transit to slaughter was passed in 1906. It refers only to transport by rail and thus provides no protection whatsoever to animals being hauled by trucks. Attempts to expand the rule’s reach have failed.
Regan Russell, killed two days before Father’s Day, left behind both parents, a sister, and her devoted partner of many years. A vegan and animal rights activist for decades, she embodied her values and beliefs. If you are touched by her story or by what happens to animals raised to be eaten, memorialize her—and them—not by turning away, but by conducting a life that honors your own values of kindness to animals and fairness to all. In doing so, you will be treating yourself with humanity as well.