Stolen from their mothers at just four weeks of age to have their ears mutilated for easy identification, tails and genitals sliced off with scissors and their teeth cut out, before being tossed into overcrowded cells where they will spend the remainder of their lives before having their throats cut or being boiled alive.
This is standard practice for pigs in the meat industry, and just one of many reasons why founder and president of Vegan Rising, Kristin Leigh, believed the protests she organised in Melbourne on April 8 – blocking off a major intersection and putting 11 tram lines to a halt – were necessary.
“It’s really easy for the everyday person to ignore the issue. We wanted to shock them,” Leigh said.
“As much as we don’t like having to do this, no one wants to be stuck in traffic or be late to work, but the reality is, if we’re going to make change in society, and it’s a desperate situation, we’re going to have to engage in these acts of civil disobedience.
“The question (we’re posing) is, do you want to be on the side that supports violence, cruelty, environmental destruction, murder, exploitation and torture; or do you want to be on the side that’s trying to make the planet sustainable for the future and where we respect all life and have as little negative impact as we can realistically?”
Despite facing a barrage of criticism, Leigh believed the action was an overwhelming success for Vegan Rising’s first major protest, as they achieved their objectives.
“The first objective was to draw attention to the film Dominion, which we certainly did,” Leigh said.
“The film got about 60,000 views in the following 24 hours since the action.”
Dominion is a 2018 Australian documentary exposing the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture.
Leigh said the second objective was to show society that vegans are “just everyday people who have had enough and want a big change both for the animals, for the planet, and for the benefit of humans as well”.
“That’s why we had people holding signs saying what their occupation was and how many years they’d been vegan to show that most of us weren’t raised as vegans; we were raised partaking in atrocities that we would never carry out ourselves,” Leigh said.
“We tried to connect to the average person, I think we did that quite well.”
According to a nationwide population study released by Roy Morgan in 2018, approximately 2.25 million Australians – 9.1% of the country – are following a strict vegan diet.
With a successful opening campaign for Vegan Rising, accompanied with their strong sense of urgency to force change, we can expect these confronting protests to continue as Leigh says planning has already begun on the group’s next movement titled The Ultimate Betrayal.
“Its (focus is) raising the awareness of the betrayal of animals,” Leigh said.
“We will focus on the segment of the industry that acknowledges the sentience of animals through misleading labels such as pasture-raised, paddock-to-plate, free-range, ethicurean, and so on.
“To recognise someone’s desire to live and to live well, then take that from them anyway is the ultimate betrayal.”
The Victorian Farmers Federation refused requests for an interview with president David Jochinke but provided his statements to date on the issue of the protests conducted.
“It is disturbing that people take the law into their own hands,” Jochinke said.
“(The protests) were completely unacceptable.
“We’ve got to get down to some facts here; that is that we have the world-leading practices in a lot of areas of agriculture, we don’t accept anybody who doesn’t aspire to the highest animal welfare standards that we do have.
“To target farmers and farming families especially is absolutely ludicrous and something that we won’t stand for.”
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, echoed Jochinke’s sentiments, labelling the vegan activists “un-Australian”.
Jochinke is particularly upset at the notion that Australian farmers don’t treat their animals with care, stating animal welfare is the VFF’s “number one concern”.
“To say that we don’t care about our animals is an absolute misnomer. We do,” he said.
“A happy animal, an animal that is healthy, is something that we strive for. In many cases, that is the pure purpose of what farmers and farming is about.
“To have this level of pressure put upon us is absolutely devastating.”
Leigh understands that farmers are feeling threatened by vegans and she does not want them to suffer in any way.
“The idea would be to help these people get out of these violent industries and transition them into more ethical and sustainable jobs,” Leigh said.
“(Animal agriculture) is so unsustainable, and it is so cruel … I understand that they’ve been working in the industry for a very long time, but there is a way that they can break out of this system that they’ve engaged in for so long.
“We would support any transition that would help these people into other industries because it doesn’t help anyone if they go broke or anything like that.”
Jochinke rejects the idea that we need to transition from the industries in place today and says vegan activists are being disrespectful.
“The protestors must show respect for the choices of others – people who enjoy chocolate for a treat, consume milk after exercise to assist with muscle recovery, through to those who start their day with scrambled eggs on toast and celebrate family events with a roast dinner or barbecue,” he said
“We value family and safety, we care for our animals be they pets or farm animals, and we pride ourselves in growing and consuming great food.”
With more people moving to veganism, and with emotions running high, many more protests from vegan activists seem inevitable.