On a chilly Thursday morning in October 2015 in front of Maple Leaf’s chicken slaughterhouse in Toronto’s downtown west end, Toronto Chicken Save (TCS) protesters gathered for a 24-hour vigil for the chickens being brought to slaughter.
This is where Anita Krajnc, the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save (TPS), greets participants during one of the group’s routine vigils that take place here three times a week. The protesters gently pace along the sidewalk, with homemade posters in-hand next to a pitched canopy tent, with graphic images of distressed chickens and pigs taped to the posts. The traffic is light. With the street designated to 40 km per hour, commuters never fail to notice the demonstrators or the signs. Some honk their horns, some wave, while others unflinchingly glance at the images and continue to pass through.
Krajnc, wearing a Toronto Cow Save sweater with a matching t-shirt peeking underneath, gathers next to everyone. Krajnc is a vegan and has been an animal rights advocate since the early 90s. The inspiration that led to the launch of the TPS movement came from a family pet.
“When I started taking morning walks with Mr. Bean (a dog Anita adopted for her mom) it was only then I would see the transport trucks along Lakeshore and that’s what sparked the group,” she says, referring to the trucks filled with live animals headed for one of Toronto’s slaughterhouses.
Krajnc adds, at that time she was reading books on famous vegetarians who took action when they saw injustice in their communities and drew the parallels to the injustice she saw happening to the animals in her community. She wanted others to experience what she did in hopes people who bore witness would be persuaded to change their diets and their attitudes after witnessing the horrors these animals faced. Krajnc also wanted to encourage people to be present for the animals she says are crammed and cruelly confined inside the transport trucks as a gesture of support and comfort for the animals in letting them know that someone cared for them.
“There’s nothing like seeing it first hand. Seeing it, touching it smelling the animals, having them look you in the eyes, with their beautiful eyes looking scared. When any of us are in an hour of need we want our friends to be there, so we try to be their friend; witness their suffering; and try to help them. Be there. I believe if everyone bears witness the whole world would go vegan.”
TPS weekly vigils started more than four years ago, with two women. It’s now estimated that thousands have come to demonstrate their support. Pig Save branched out to other Save groups such as, Chicken Save and Cow Save to reflect the animals designated to slaughter in other areas of Toronto and around the world. One factor Krajnc credits in accounting for the growth of the Save movement is videos taken from the vigils displayed on social media for helping to establish over 45 Save groups around the world.
Krajnc says the response from the public and even slaughterhouse employees has been positive. “You get back what you give. Our approach is a love-based approach.”
When the slaughterhouse workers experienced a lockout, many of the workers stood outside the gates of the slaughterhouse next to TPS protesters and were offered vegan BLT sandwiches and snacks by TPS members. It’s this perpetual kindness and peaceful approach that has enabled the group to have healthy relations with the slaughterhouse employees and the communities.
“We want the animal rights movement to be like the civil rights movement, a grassroots movement where we use a community-based approach.”
Many local residents near the slaughterhouses have become more familiar with TPS and are open to collecting literature, having daily discussions with the groups and some are even attending the vigils.
For anyone who is interested in joining or attending a save group vigil please visit the Pig Save website for dates and times.
*This article was written in October 2015 and has since been updated to reflect organization growth.