Been a while since I posted what with being busy with so much. But on the 24th October Devon Animal Save held their first Slaughterhouse Vigil at West Dawn Meats near Okehampton.
Prior to attending, an email was sent to the slaughterhouse informing them that a vigil would be taking place within the next couple of weeks, that it would be peaceful, respectful and purely about the animals.
Here is the email sent.
To whom it may concern,
I am writing to you out of courtesy and to hopefully establish an arrangement. I am the founder of Devon Animal Save, a group affiliated with Toronto Pig Save in Canada and Manchester Pig Save in the UK as well as the other 19 Animal save groups throughout the UK. If you are not aware of us, we hold vigils at slaughterhouses to bear witness to the animals heading for slaughter. I am writing to respectfully ask for your cooperation on these vigils and so as not to surprise you when we arrive (our first vigil will be next week). We are a compassionate group with no intentions to cause harm or intimidation to you, your company or your workers. We merely wish to bear witness to the animals before they are slaughtered and pay our respects. Obviously, with vehicles and people in close proximity we don’t want to put anyone in harms way. Not our members nor your employees which is why I hope you will work with us by arranging to have your vehicles stop for three minutes outside the gates to allow us the opportunity to pay our respects to the animals, give them water and say goodbye to them. By stopping for 3 minutes it shouldn’t impact on your production and it will eliminate so far as is reasonably practicable any hazard and risk to your employees and our members. Looking at your location, you have a long drive way which would mean the vehicles could stop before entering your premises proper, away from the general traffic. The Save Movement is a growing movement throughout the UK, Europe and the World. Slaughterhouses in other locations have adopted the 3 minute wait to ensure the safety of all involved as well as a sign of respect for the animals. I respectfully ask you to do this for us.
I think that was open, honest and polite; but no reply was received.
On the morning of the Vigil, we all met in a local car park and walked down the drive way to the slaughterhouse right up to the gates and security booth. We were never questioned or apprehended which I was surprised at. I imagined there being some resistance or questioning from Security seeing nigh on 20 people with signs walking up their driveway.
It was a day where the weather reflected our moods. It was grey, dark and raining. The first truck pulled up about 20 minutes after we arrived, a 4×4 with a trailer carrying 2 beautiful cows who, the driver said “Are past their best”. We managed to stand in front of the vehicle with a sign and informing the driver we just wanted 3 minutes.
This was my first vigil and even after seeing the footage from other people’s and listening to their experiences, I was still hit so hard. Seeing the beautiful animal right in front of me. A look of fear and sadness in her eyes, and as she was driven off and we witnessed the two living, breathing, feeling, innocent beings walked to their death it hit me. I felt the tears fall as I was filming, I felt my breath catching in my throat and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and guilt at not being able to stop it. Hearing them crying out as they were walked into the slaughterhouse was haunting, beaten only by the silence that followed moments later. The stillness spread across all of us as we let what we saw sink in.
The slaughterhouse decided to move their vehicles around, pulling a tanker across the front of the unloading area to prevent us seeing them move the cows into the buildings from the vehicle.
The vehicles kept coming, some had the slats covered so we couldn’t witness the animals and some we couldn’t stop.
Vigils are hard. They are emotional. It can take restraint to remain calm when you see the people driving these incredible individuals to their death. When you can see the workers walking into the buildings about to kill the animals you just said goodbye to. It is emotional but it is necessary. To bear witness to the suffering of others gives us the experience to share with others to act as a catalyst for further activism.
(A poem inspired by my first Vigil, but words will never describe the sadness felt those who attended)
If you have been thinking about attending a vigil but have yet to do so, I would say please, please go. Please support your local save group and the members. Be there to support them and for them to support you. Be there to bear witness to the animals. If there isn’t a save group near you then please start your own. The support you will receive will be second to none and you will be surprised how many like minded people there are in your area. Be the one to stand up and make it happen. If you are worried about the legality of vigils, we had two police officers come to talk to us as we held ours. They asked questions about the save movement and what our intentions were. I explained how and where it started and the code of conduct we follow and they seemed happy. Saying they had no issues with what we were doing or where we were doing it but just to be careful of the vehicles as they drive in and out. I explained that we had emailed the slaughterhouse asking them to stop the vehicles for a few minutes to make it safer but had no reply, to which they said they would mention it to the management and walked into the slaughterhouse.
A massive thank you to all who attended from Torbay, South Hams, Exeter, St Austell and Tintagel. You are all incredible people and I am proud to have been able to stand beside you to bear witness.
Cornwall Animal Save will be holding their next Vigil on the 14th November, please check out their Facebook page here and support them in attending if you can. I am trying to get down there if I can arrange things with work.
Devon Animal Save are holding their next vigil on the 28th November. Please, if you are able to do so, come and stand with us as we bear witness.
An important thing to remember at any vigil is that it is about the animals, to bear witness. To keep safe and protect yourself. We were lucky at Okehampton in that the staff didnt interact with us. We had a few flip us the bird and point but there was no confrontation. Other save groups haven’t been as fortunate and have taken reasonable steps to protect themselves. At all times be aware of vehicles, staff and others who may be there to cause and incite trouble.
The Save Movement has the below code of conduct to follow.
Below is a video taken by one of the Devon Animal Save members (Lucy Fenn) showing the vigil and animals at the cattle market next door.
Thank you for reading.