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Animals Going To Slaughter Reduce Activists To Tears

Around thirty animal activists converged at two AFFCO meatworks in Whanganui on Sunday 21st and Monday 22nd to ‘bear witness’ to animals going to slaughter.

The concept of bearing witness is inspired by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, who wrote: “When the suffering of another creature causes you pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one. On the contrary, draw closer, as close as you can… and try to help”. The activists take photos and videos of the animals and share them on social media to raise awareness and bring about change.

At AFFCO Imlay on Sunday they were able to interact briefly with a truck of ‘ bobby calves’. Mainly male, bobbies are sent to slaughter from four days old because they can’t produce milk and are considered a ‘waste product’ of dairying. Around two million are slaughtered in New Zealand every year.

Tess Ford with bobby. Picture credit: Summer Aitken

Tess Ford, from Wellington, broke down when a calf she was patting began sucking her fingers. “The poor little soul was so hungry and frightened, and probably pining for his mother.” the mum-of-three said.

Summer Aitken, from New Plymouth, commented that the driver of the bobby calf truck was visibly angry. After swerving at activists who were standing to the side wearing hi-vis vests and holding peace signs, she started shunting the truck backwards and forwards in an attempt to frighten them and prevent them taking photos of the calves. Said Aitken: “This caused the poor newborn babies to fall over inside the truck, with some stumbling and crashing into each other, and others losing their footing completely. The driver showed no concern for the vulnerable young calves on board, who could easily have been hurt from such rough driving.”

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At AFFCO Castlecliff the activists bore witness to the arrival of cows and pigs. Vigil organiser Maya Cohen-Ronen said the pigs were sleeping when they arrived. “They were snuggled next to each other, sleeping peacefully, a violent contrast with their hysterical shrieks as the workers forced them off the truck. I will never forget it. It was absolutely heartbreaking.”

As darkness fell the activists lit candles for the animals, and sang songs. Six year old Charlie Eastall accompanies his parents Samantha and Steve to all their vigils. “Charlie understands that it is wrong to hurt animals” said Samantha,“ and that’s exactly what we do when we eat meat and dairy.”

At 7am on Monday around half the activists returned to AFFCO Castlecliff where they witnessed a cow being hosed down slip and fall heavily to the ground, and were shocked to see a sheep pelt in a bin at Tasman Tanning next door, with the head of the lamb still attached. More pigs arrived during the morning, some bleeding from scratches and other injuries. Whanganui resident and animal activist Sandra Kyle said: “Pigs are highly intelligent and aware animals. But the majority of New Zealand pigs lead lives of intense frustration, confined in small spaces with no enrichment or even proper bedding. Trapped on the slaughter truck, knowing they are in danger, their fear and frustration bubbles over and sometimes they turn on each other. It is the saddest thing to see.”

“We don’t need to eat meat and dairy products to be healthy” said Elin Arbez, Country Liaison for the worldwide Animal Save Movement. “There is ample evidence that animal protein is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer, and what’s more animal agriculture is the largest contributor to New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. There is no place for slaughterhouses in the 21st century, and their continued existence poses a threat to the planet. It is time to close them down for good.”

Rob McNeil, from Auckland, agreed: “We are definitely better than this” he said.

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