The Pig Trial that Changed Nothing
Guest Essay by Jeff Perz
Anita Krajnc is the co-founder of Toronto Pig Save (TPG), a group that temporarily stops pigs in trucks on their way to slaughterhouses, bears witness to their plight and encourages veganism. Ms. Krajnc is currently on trial for giving water to a thirsty pig on the way to slaughter.
In the mid to late 90s, I was a regulationist vegan activist. I bared my naked chest in the winter air at an anti-fur protest, tried to form a human chain around a vivisection laboratory, attended anti-circus protests and so on. Along with myself and others, Ms. Krajnc was at many of these Single Issue Campaign (SIC) protests. I was an acquaintance of Ms. Krajnc. We were fellow regulationist activists, sharing the goal of abolition but using counter-productive means of achieving it. Thankfully, in 1999, I became an abolitionist vegan. I agree with Gary Francione’s abolitionist approach to animal rights, which rejects legal campaigns and other single issue campaigns (SICs) and instead advocates helping people go vegan.
It is striking how Ms. Krajnc’s current legal trial is enacting or playing out a debate between PETA president Ingrid Newkirk and Gary Francione that happened over 20 years ago. This debate is recounted in Francione’s book Rain Without Thunder.
Newkirk begins by arguing that animal activists are obligated to reduce the suffering of thirsty cows on their way to slaughter, by giving them water. In Rain Without Thunder, Francione responds by distinguishing between the micro level of social change and the macro level of social change.
At the micro level, Francione presents the scenario of a political prison. He argues that it is well and good for a prison guard, working at an unjust institution, to try to make the torture of prisoners more humane. For example, beatings could be made less severe or padding could be put on the water-boards. Similarly, at the micro level, it is commendable that Anita Krajnc gave a thirsty pig some water on the way to slaughter.
At the macro level, when the prison guard quits their unethical job and decides to join a human rights campaign, it becomes harmful for the larger human rights campaign to advocate for a law requiring all water-boards used in torture to be padded. As Francione points out, no human rights organisation has ever done that, and they have instead rightly campaigned for the complete closure of political prisons.
Looking at Ms. Krajnc’s summaries of the court proceedings, it appears as though her defence is built around the argument that the owner of the pigs failed to abide by animal-use regulations, and so Ms. Krajnc stepped in to implement those regulations herself. For example, the defence argued that animal-use regulations state that the number of pigs who can be put into one truck depends upon the temperature, and the temperature changes from the time the pigs are loaded to the time the pigs are mid-way through their journey to the slaughterhouse. The defence noted that some trucks are fitted with watering systems for pigs, whereas the truck Ms. Krajnc approached was not. The defence argued that, just before loading, regulations require that the pigs are to be hosed down with water on a hot day, whereas this may not have happened for the pigs whom Ms. Krajnc helped.
For sanitation reasons, the law stipulates that a pig who is already dead cannot be butchered at the slaughterhouse and sent to market. Therefore, animal exploiters have to calculate the economic cost of watering pigs on a hot day and compare that cost with potential lost revenue from too many pigs dying of heat stroke and dehydration before they can be sold. In short, the sole capacity of animal-use regulations is to minimise economic loss and maximise efficiency and profits.
So, when Ms. Krajnc gave water to the thirsty pig on the way to slaughter, she was reducing suffering on the micro level, which is the ethical and commendable thing to do.
On the other hand, on the macro level, when Ms. Krajnc’s lawyer argues that animal exploiters failed to minimise economic loss, he is further entrenching the status of the pigs as property, and making it even more likely that pigs will always be horrendously exploited — so long as no economic waste is involved. In short, Ms. Krajnc’s lawyer is harming pigs.
It confuses matters when Ms. Krajnc stands in front of the courthouse and states her genuinely and deeply held belief that pigs are not property. The TPS Facebook page says “Pig Trial. … Please join us in support of the right of pigs to be treated as individuals, not property.” In this case, the person who believes that pigs are not property is the same person who is, through her legal trial, further enmeshing pigs within the property paradigm. The fact that this is unintentional does not change the tragic result for pigs.
It confuses matters when animal activists say “I stand with Anita.” Of course we stand with her at the micro level of quenching the parched throats of individual pigs. In contrast, it is harmful to pigs to stand with Anita at the macro level of arguing in court that animal-use-efficiency regulations should be better adhered to. Ms. Krajnc’s legal defence confirms and further codifies the property status of pigs, ensuring they will be abhorrently exploited into the future. So, the blanket and generalised statement “I stand with Anita” obscures this campaign’s substantial harm to pigs.
It confuses matters when TPS states that veganism is the way to stop cruelty and express compassion, and when it breaks up veganism into different affiliated groups; Pig Save, Cow Save and Chicken Save. What about sheep save, fish save and the other animals? Being vegan is the way to stop all animal exploitation, not the varying degrees of cruelty that may or may not result from certain forms of animal use. Unfortunately, some people think they are preventing cruelty by consuming free-range torture. Veganism should never be construed as one of many ways of reducing cruelty. Cruelty is a symptom, not the root problem.
Furthermore, being vegan expresses the values of minimal respect and non-violence, not going ‘above and beyond’ with active efforts of compassion. Veganism is an encompassing rejection of all animal use. If we happen to be talking about pig exploitation, there should be no separation in our speech (and group names) between this and all other forms of animal exploitation.
It would be better to ignore this entire fiasco and instead concentrate on educational efforts to help as many people as possible go vegan. The media attention around this court case does not achieve this result because it, like most corporate media, highlights the potential breaches of animal-use-efficiency regulations. The non-vegan public hears the media coverage of the legal trial, is upset about the thirsty pig and is comforted that the farmer is now being held to account and animal welfare laws will be enforced.
To be effective, vegan education must happen separately from harmful SICs such as this. Helping just one person go vegan saves thousands of lives. We need to stop doing SICs and focus every second of our efforts on helping as many people as possible go vegan.