Walkom: Slaughtering pigs, a never-ending horror
Published on Wednesday July 25, 2012
GABRIELA PANELA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom asks: Do humans have the moral right
to truck and slaughter pigs just so they can eat bacon for breakfast instead
By Walkom, Thomas
This is an old story. It is also a cruel story, which means it will continue.
The specific story is about pigs. The broader story is about humans and how, when it comes right down to it, we don�t care a lot.
Every day, along Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto, a parade of tractor-trailer trucks passes by carrying pigs to slaughter.
These particular trucks have become relatively famous in the world of the Internet. That�s because, at certain times of day, traffic moves slowly enough to let anyone standing on the sidewalk see � and videotape � what goes on inside.
What goes on inside isn�t pretty. The latest video, apparently taken on July 17 and posted on the website of an animal rights group called Toronto Pig Save, shows animals jostling against one another in a mash of their own vomit and excrement (contrary to popular mythology, pigs � if left to their own devices � try to keep themselves fastidiously clean.)
The temperature in Toronto had hit 36 degrees centigrade that day and pig transport trailers aren�t air-conditioned.
So let�s just say it wasn�t a comfortable trip. In fact, under Canada�s rarely enforced animal welfare laws � which require animals to be transported humanely � it may well have been an illegal trip.
But it was a typical trip and, I suppose that�s the point. We care about dogs locked in parked cars during sweltering heat waves. Those stories, when they happen, are front-page news.
We don�t care much about the pigs being trundled day in and day out through unbearable heat along Lake Shore.
Toronto Pig Save focuses on Quality Meat Packers, the abattoir to which the Lake Shore Blvd. animals were headed. It�s the second-largest hog slaughtering plant in Ontario.
Is Quality Meat worse than any other slaughterhouse? There�s no evidence I know of that it is. Indeed, as an economic enterprise, it is a Canadian success story. A family-owned business that has been operating in Toronto since 1923, it now exports pork products around the world.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper�s government is so impressed that it awarded Quality a $3-million loan in April to help it kill and process pigs more efficiently.
But economics is one thing and morality another. The question raised by the Lake Shore hog trailers is a moral one: Do humans have the moral right to truck and slaughter pigs just so they can eat bacon for breakfast instead of cereal?
I reckon most Canadians would answer yes to this � although I also think you�d get a different response, in this country at least, if the word �pigs� was replaced by �dogs.�
Pigs are notoriously smart animals. They also have an unsettling habit of looking you directly in the eye � as if to say: �I know what you have in mind for me and I�m disappointed by your lack of character.�
If more people looked pigs directly in the eye, there would be more vegetarians. But they don�t and there are not.
As a result, the tumbrels keep rolling along Lake Shore, transporting the condemned to their place of execution. Nothing much changes.
My colleague Catherine Porter wrote about the pig transports in May. I write about it this month. Maybe someone else will write next month.
If people wanted to end hog misery, they easily could � simply by not eating pork. But they do not.
As I type this, someone down the street is barbecuing ribs. They don�t smell as good as they once did.