Bearing witness to the last moments of pigs at Karro
I didn’t prepare myself for what I saw today. I actually actively did not think about what I would see at all, in the back of my mind I knew it would be horrid and knew I couldn’t possibly prepare myself. My strategy was to just turn up and be there because I knew being there was what I needed to do.
4,500 pigs are gassed to death every day at the Karro establishment in Cookstown, Northern Ireland. 4,500 individuals. It’s the biggest slaughterhouse in the UK, the second biggest in Europe. Tuesday, a beautiful soul and activist, had organised a peaceful arrangement with them allowing us to wait for the daily load of trucks arriving and, for a couple of minutes while the driver sorted his documents, to approach each truck and witness the last moments of the pigs locked inside, document the moment, and offer the pigs possibly the only moment of connection and empathy they would ever get.
The pigs would be killed by lowering into a chamber filled with concentrated CO2 and being gassed to death. They arrived exhausted, terrified, eyes bloodshot, covered in their own feces, some of them foaming at the mouth, a lot unable to hold their weight anymore, legs giving in, sliding on the slippery wet floor. Their eyes cried for help. I cried after the first truck came and disappeared inside the gates. My heart broke, the reality of it hit me so hard. They were gone. The overwhelm and power of the situation was so intense. It hurt so much to realise the beautiful, hurt souls inside were gone inside that place forever, to be processed like objects, to have their lives ripped from them to end up on someone’s plate.
The desperate horror of releasing this whenever you see the individuals inside as what they are- sentient, feeling, loving souls. Babies who have only grown to 6 miserable months of age when they should have at least 10 happy years of life. The empty trucks leave the gates after being offloaded and hosed down. And they stay inside. And it is so hard to believe they are gone.
Then the next truck comes, then another, then another. The overwhelm turns into something more like drowning, in a daze, as the emotions multiply and magnify and I see pair after pair of eyes calling out for help. I realise it’s not just truck after truck it’s day after day, after day, week after week, year after year, that this happens. And I can’t do anything about it and I want to help every single one of them.
I want to touch them, hug them, tell them it would all be fine, to take them home, save them, clean and feed them, to show them that the world isn’t the way they had seen it so far. But I can’t do any of those things and it fills me with frustration, sadness, despair. I see the world as the darkness that allows for this to be done to those intelligent individuals, in the same society that cares so much for dogs but won’t recognise the same need for love in the eyes of these pigs.
They look you in the eyes, they really do. That is, if they have enough strength. Some are stuck to the floor, unable to lift their heads. Some are crushed, their heads hidden from view under another’s body. Some use their ears to cover their eyes, terrified. Some still have hope left, a light in their eyes, an unfulfilled playfulness. Your eyes lock and they respond, try to move forward, to make contact. Looking for attention, affection, looking to be let out.
I want to take them home.
And the truck moves on.
They were in there, and they were hurting and afraid. And now they’re gone.
It’s good to be present to the reality of our world. It doesn’t mean surrendering to it, but only while present to it can we do something about it. Create a new world. We can’t ignore what we have done to the Earth anymore. Where we have gone in our disregard for life. We can’t pretend we don’t know anymore, we have to do something about it.
Are you still paying for this to happen?
You can find my guide with pointers on how to be vegan here.