It wasn’t a normal day. Animal rights activist Anita Kranjc was appearing in a small-town courthouse facing criminal charges for giving water to a thirsty pig en route to slaughter. The case is so outrageous that it has inspired international media attention; although the trial isn’t scheduled until this summer, even periodic pre-trial appearances have seen dozens of supporters making the trek to the courthouse with a message that compassion is not a crime.
A winter storm meant only a few supporters made it to the courthouse last Thursday. The morning was uneventful; mostly, they waited and chatted. Afterwards, the small group of activists–friends deeply bonded by their common burning dedication to creating a kinder world for animals–had lunch together. Over a shared vegan meal, activist and farm owner Anthea Larke casually mentioned that she had room to provide sanctuary to more animals, which is already home to rescued pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and horses.
With full bellies, Anita, along with activists Louise Jorgensen, Sylvia Fraser, and Jenny McQueen, decided to find a slaughterhouse so they could do what they usually do when they get together: protest cruelty to animals and hold vigil for those dead and dying. With the help of Google, they identified a small operation nearby and set out to find it.
Pulling up to the dilapidated L-shaped building, they could see noses peeking out from a sliding door that stood ajar. “It wasn’t the type of place one could do a vigil – far from the street, on a fairly deserted road,” Jenny recounts. Louise adds, “We sat in my car in the long driveway to this horrible place for some time, afraid to go any further.”
Finally, they went inside, bracing themselves against the horrors they knew they’d see and smell. Jenny asked a blood-splattered worker sporting a belt of knives if they could look around, and surprisingly, he said yes.
What they saw chilled them. Jenny describes:
A mob of lambs, sheep and goats, big and small, many different colours, all huddled together. We witnessed cows at the far end, huddled next to the wall. We videotaped a worker prodding a cow with what looked like an electric prod. The poor cow was circling, not wanting to leave his or her companions, and obviously trying to avoid going to the kill floor. They were no match for the prod, and one by one they disappeared.
Number 151, marked with paint for slaughter, came right up to them. Louise says, “Her whole body was trembling with fear. They could hear their friends being killed in the next room.”
Louise knew this goat was a “spent” mother from the goat dairy industry. Sylvia describes Louise frantically making space in the back of her hatchback, determined a goat would fit in there.
Thus began the negotiations. It took hours, but the slaughterhouse manager finally relented and agreed to release one animal to freedom. Anita asked him to give the goat a name. He was hesitant, unsure how to name an animal who was supposed to be food. “Lily,” he ventured, naming the goat, a fitting name in the days leading up to Easter–a celebration of spring life and renewal.
A special bonding moment between Jenny and Lily.
With Lily calmly standing in the back of the hatchback, a critical call was placed to Anthea, who began preparing a home for this lucky goat.
Sylvia explains why they did what they did:
The death of millions leaves us numbed. The rescue of one is something we can more easily understand, spreading awareness about those that die so needlessly. It awakens us to the knowledge that all of those we send to slaughter are individuals, like Easter Lily, who also wanted to live, to munch fresh hay, to gambol in the sunlight – to be someone, not something.
The women echo each others’ sentiments about the power of joining forces to help animals. As Louise puts it, “Incredible feats we can accomplish when we’re together, giving each other the strength and courage to stand up and do the right thing.” Anita agrees, saying, “We don’t have to accept this cruel world as it is.”
Lily is now settling into her new home, where she will never again lose a baby in the service of goat cheese or tremble in fear at the smells and sounds of the slaughterhouse.
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