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Cranswick Foods Slaughter Parade

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Of all of the various tactics dreamt up by “animal rights” organisations, stopping wagons rammed with animals for 5 minutes outside their place of slaughter so that “advocates” can “[speak] kind words to the animals on their final journey,” has to be one of the most outlandish and useless i’ve ever heard.

The parade of death was coordinated by Norfolk Animal Save here in England and took place on earlier this month at the Watton slaughter plant. Let me say from that outset, I am not questioning the integrity of those involved in this event. Indeed, the fact I have to preface my comments on this with a disclaimer shows how very corrupt the mainstream “animal movement” is – we should be able to think critically about the efforts of those within a social justice movement without individuals taking personal offence. This isn’t about us. Unfortunately when it comes to animals, it doesn’t seem to matter how bizarre or counterproductive your actions are, as long as you’re “doing something” it’s all dandy. But that isn’t a social justice movement; it’s a narcissist’s party with all of your friends invited to pat them on the back. The animals deserve better.

Approximately 40 people turned up to the slaughterhouse to “bear witness” to four trucks of animals making the last few metres of their journey. Cameras and groping hands were thrust through metal bars as if the animals in these trucks needed an extra dose of confusion and terror in the final stages of their lives. Looking at the images and video footage in this Eastern Daily Press article, it’s hard to understand what these people actually thought they were doing. They certainly weren’t helping the animals – all of whom will have been dead within a few short hours – and if anything they merely added another stress to their symphony of misery in the form of flashing cameras and hysterical faces through the bars. No, this particular facet of the proceedings did nothing apart from make us humans feel better for “doing something.”

Protesters also stood around the slaughterhouse with pickets, some of which were particularly ambiguous and others that – while mentioning the word vegan – were out of context and open to interpretation too. This is an inherent problem with poster advocacy as a general matter; there’s no control over what an onlooker takes away from the few words you’re brandishing. Not that there were any onlookers in this case anyway apart from a few slaughterhouses workers in hi-vis jackets.

One of the protesters said “It is very easy nowadays to be disconnected when you see meat in the supermarkets. That is why it is important and why there are people like us here, because if we do not show people they are never going to know.” The problem isn’t that people are “disconnected” from the exploitation – people know what they are buying in the supermarket. The problem is that people just don’t think it’s a moral problem; they’ve bought into the welfarist notion that killing animals is okay so long as they’re killed “humanely.” Focusing once again on showcasing animal treatment does nothing but feed the idea that there is somehow a right way to exploit animals.

The animals don’t need us to “bear witness” to the final stretch of their road to slaughter, or torment them with photographs and groping hands moments before they are killed. They need us to advocate for veganism as a moral imperative, otherwise we simply ensure that the perpetual onslaught of trucks to the slaughterhouse never ceases.

Holding pickets outside a slaughterhouse, pointing cameras at frightened animals and having your picture taken may make you feel like you’re “doing something.” The reality is it does nothing but contribute to this faux-movement of self-congratulation where the animals may as well be stuffed toys in a high street window; the kids scream, shout and make a lot of noise but the teddy bears remain behind the glass. This Cranswick case is no different. Take the 40 people there, educate them about abolitionism and have them go out into the public talking about veganism as a moral obligation – that’s what we need to be doing if we wish to change the paradigm from animals as things to animals as moral persons. 

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  • Andrew Gough

    Hi Ben. Were you at the Norfolk vigil?

    • Ray

      Andrew, this is the kind of “journalism” where “going in the field” means watching Facebook videos and speculating on how best to illustrate that everyone who has ever been vegan was convinced by reading Francione. Contrary to the visceral experience of witnessing to doomed animals (because Mr. Frost would witness a con go to the electric chair with the same emotional passivity of reading it in a newspaper) we should change the world with cold, vulcan logic. I suppose Ben failed to do any background research into The Save Movement, Toronto Pig Save and the #pigTrial that has brought slaughterhouses to the public mind via national television and real newspapers. I haven’t the heart to tell him that Anita Krajnc continues to lead people to a Tolstoyian and Gandhian understanding of non-violent activism, and that while my whole family has been led to veganism through bearing witness I haven’t yet met an activist who heard of Francione before they went vegan. While we’re giving unsolicited critiques of methodology, I became aware of his name in context of “vegans who fight with vegans.” I don’t know if that reflects on the man’s intentions or just the keyboard jockeys who evoke his name.

      • Sarah

        “I haven’t yet met an activist who heard of Francione before they went vegan.” Yes, exactly.

      • Caiti Jayne

        This is very true.

      • Leo

        “I haven’t the heart to tell him that Anita Krajnc continues to lead people to a Tolstoyian and Gandhian understanding of non-violent activism”
        Tolstoy and Gandhi are both not exactly good role models. Tolstoy raped and abused his young wife, Gandhi was sexist and racist. I would hope we can do better, which to me is the point about so-called saves – I would not go to watch a con go to the electric chair, especially while calling it a save, because I would take it far too seriously to do that, doing that would require some level of emotional detachment. I would be even less inclined to go simply to watch an innocent being being sent to be killed – it’s obviously trivialising. It’s the worse when very nearly all humans are on some level complicit. The concept of a vigil means nothing to the victims here and does not change their situation, they do not get saved. I’d have more respect even for the use of violent direct action (which to be clear I’m not advocating), at least that would be treating it as more serious. It’s partly precisely because I don’t think rationality is sufficient that I don’t agree with the saves, because the emotional response doesn’t seem close to sufficient. How can you watch someone who is about to be unjustly killed (because of an oppressor class we still belong to even if we try not to perpetuate oppression) and merely whisper a few words intended as comforting that they will not understand, let alone purposefully set out to do so? A human victim so ‘comforted’ would have every right to regard it as patronising, at best.

        • Your disdain and charges of racism against the liberator of the Indian people are duly and ironically noted.

          Change is emotional. You can read wisdom in a (Gary Francione) book and think it makes sense, and maybe you will change your habits, based on logic alone. Good for you, but you would be an extremely rare breed. Chances are it was something that connected with you on a visceral level that made you change, where the author made you think of something from your personal experience, perhaps equating to something that happened to a pet dog or cat. Quite simply, attending an execution will give you a much stronger experience than reading about one in the newspaper. If you have given up beef yet have never met a cow in person then you have only rejected a product, not the injustice of a sentient being. Vegans like the nobility of living on high moral ground, but very few of us are born “without sin.” A vegan activist should have the moral fortitude to meet it when its an animal, and not yet a product, look it in the eye and consider the ones you have consumed in the past. If mankind apologizing to chickenkind is too woo woo for you, find a Save that is in a public place (Maple Leaf Poultry is adjacent to a well-frequented Metro grocery store). The patrons know what we are doing — seeing what they refuse to see, knowing that they can’t look at chicken-the-animal and then buy pieces of chicken-the-product. But many are building that connection, and maybe, just maybe, the visceral experience that will make them reconsider their shopping list.

          • Leo

            Having done a good thing doesn’t make someone perfect, and caring about one kind of oppression doesn’t necessarily mean someone cares about all kinds – don’t we vegans understand that better than most? Ghandi was racist towards black African people, using racial slurs and calling them ‘savages’, and promoting their segregation from Indian people. I think we can do better than that for role models, now.

            I do agree that emotional impact matters, precisely. As I said that’s part of why I don’t agree with ‘Saves’, I think the emotion shown is too mild and trivialises what’s happening. It was angry vegans who made the impact on me (near lifelong vegetarian as soon as parents gave me any choice).

          • As you have been baptized by angry vegans I’m sure you gravitate towards “no-nonsense” and direct education solutions. I don’t hear many people telling me that they can’t go to a vigil because it’s “too mild” — rather, they fear it will be too traumatic, as an animal lover and empathetic being. What better way to be empathetic with grown-for-food animals than look them in the eye on the way to slaughter? That’s REAL — too real for many people. Many say, it’s okay, I’m already vegan. I’m sure you’d agree that being vegan is not enough; you’ve got to rehabilitate this world in whatever small or large way you can. I have seen people become vegan at vigils but it’s far more reaching than that. I’ve seen a vegan go home and put their foot down, after four years, that she will not tolerate any non-vegan food in her kitchen. I’ve had people stop and ask what’s going on; more often than not they’ll respond to the answer with a feeble, “Well, I don’t eat much meat.” It’s truly a training ground for vegans to become activists, although we don’t advertise it as such. We don’t know what will happen when somebody looks a faeces-drenched broiler chicken in it’s 7-week-old eyes, or feels the hot breath of a healthy steer that will soon have that breath stolen from it for human profit, or feel the agile snout of a pig whose intelligence and ability to share an emotional connection with you isn’t going to save it from the gas chamber. There aren’t many people who walk away unaffected, and many resolves become like steel. The visceral feeling of every vigil is “this has to stop” — and isn’t that what abolition is all about?

  • I had almost the exact same reservations as you about the Save movement. What good would it do if they would be dead in a few minutes? What if the animals are stressed by the presence of people surrounding the trucks? Would it emotionally effect how I do future activism in a negative way? Does it just make vegans look crazy?

    I spoke with a few people who had been to the Suffolk Saves about my concerns and decided to attend one myself in order to make up my own mind.

    What I experienced there was an unforgettable sense of respect for these animals that would have otherwise been transported completely unnoticed to their deaths. There were no ‘groping’ hands, ‘flashing cameras’ or ‘hysterical faces’, just soothing voices of calm and compassionate people bearing witness and documenting what has largely remained out of sight for far too long. The pigs I saw were not ‘tormented’ by people’s presence. They were curious and playful after their long journeys with little comfort.

    This week in Hertfordshire, videos were taken of dozens of sick and dead chickens headed for slaughter. The more that are filmed, the more people are beginning to realise how common the abuse is even on their own doorsteps and the more they will realise how unnecessary all of it is. The Save movement is an abolition approach as the trucks come in from a mixture of free range and factory farms to highlight that no matter how an animal is kept or treated in advance, they all end up in the same place with a blade at their throat, Halal or otherwise.

    I believe that soon there will be hundreds of people at these Saves and every person that attends will no doubt be encouraged to do even more activism in other areas due to what they see outside the slaughterhouses first hand.

    • Sarah

      This is the usual shoddy journalism from Ben Frost. He refuses to engage with the people that he is so intent on misrepresenting, refuses to educate himself on the issues at hand and prefers to spend his time trying to earn brownie points with his almighty leader Prof. Francione.

  • Jenny

    At the top of the essay Ben Frost said “Let me say from that outset, I am not questioning the integrity of those involved in this event…” We assume that people who go to “bear witness” mean well, but realise this is of no more use to the victims than witnessing a public execution; the victims will be killed. But Abolitionists want to tackle the roots of the problem: currently, most people use animals and the products of their bodies every day, as if it were completely normal. The way to help bring animal use to an end is by being open about your veganism and prepared to talk with curious non-vegans at every opportunity …every day. Because the more people that go vegan, the less demand there is for animals to be forced into existence and used just for our pleasure.

    • Sarah

      Bearing witness is an essential part of any social justice movement. Until you experience the power of it for yourself then you simply cannot comment. We are all trying to “tackle the roots of the problem”, that is *precisely* the point of bearing witness. The author has managed to perversely twist the reality of attending a vigil, please do not base your opinion on this misinformed article, please experience it for yourself before commenting further.

      Prof. Francione himself advocates bearing witness.

  • Mark Towards Animal-Equality

    The article misses the strategic leverage of Bearing Witness and Vigils: the impact on friends of those attending; those who see the social media of it; the films. I didn’t get it at first, seemed a bit soft really and a bit daft, but I engaged before publically critising and learnt a lot. I took a 12 year old kid to an event this wkd, he got veganism in a way he’s never got it before; he’s trying to convert his family to the Liberation Pledge, and others to veganism; he’s shared footage with his mates; and he’s asked school for better vegan catering. One event made a vegan and an activist of him that 12 years of my advocacy hadn’t, now that’s Vegan Education!

    • No no no! You made him vegan WRONG. Sit the 12 year old down with a copy of “Animals, Property and the Law” by Gary L. Francione. None of this single issue campaign bull crap. We go vegan because of being smart, definitive and logical, not squishy feels.

  • lola465

    This is what I’ve always thought about “bearing witness” and “vigils”! It doesn’t help the animals one bit, it’s all about making the participants feel good about themselves.
    I’ve been told that the footage taken is useful in showing people what the animals go through and helps educate and persuade people to go vegan. Doubtful. If people aren’t moved by slaughterhouse footage then seeing a crowd of animals in a van isn’t going to stir their conscience.
    It isn’t effective animal activism, but it actively gives veganism a bad name.

    • Sarah

      What you “think” about vigils is irrelevant. If you want to form an educated opinion then please go to one for yourself, meet the people and learn about the movement. If you think that bearing witness “gives veganism a bad name” then you really do not understand the basic premise of what a social justice movement actually is.

      The reality is that many people are not brave enough to go, and that’s fine I felt the same, but please don’t get in the way of people who are changing the world because you are too scared to do it yourself.

    • Many people *are* moved by slaughterhouse footage, as the legacy of people who became vegan after watching Earthlings. A “crowd of animals in a van” is one thing; seeing 10,000 chickens in a truck, and seeing three or five trucks in an evening, and by the time you get home you can safely say that all of them are now dead is a much more visceral understanding of how wrong our human practices have become. If you think of “chicken” you think of the thing wrapped in cellophane that you don’t buy anymore from the supermarket. I think of a miserable 7-week-old whose shit-covered feathers didn’t grow fast enough to cover its antibiotic-bloated body, taking its final journey in a crate with the severed limbs not cleared out from the truck’s previous trip. You can tell a carnist dining on chicken that you don’t eat that anymore; I can tell them how that chicken looked the last time I saw it.

      My Facebook banner is a photo I took of a chicken whose wing was pinned beneath the crate above it, still alive after it’s 1-3 hour final journey. I will no longer be responsible for any such crucifixion, but I will bear witness for those who are.

  • Paul Dollimore

    Totally disagree. I saw a save video and for the first time, and felt empathy towards the poor pigs. It works. It is non-violent. People need to see it, to start to question for themselves, and to associate eating meat with eating animals.

  • AnonX

    This is just nonsense. How do you know that people that come to saves don’t do other activism? You do realise that the livestreams, videos and pictures get through to thousands of people and we’ve shut down slaughterhouses, workers have gone vegan etc.? We’ve accomplished a lot. Stop shaming activists for goodness sake, we’re trying so hard and we wouldn’t try so hard if we felt like our efforts were being misplaced.

  • felininho

    Your article made me unfollow Gary on Facebook. Congrats!

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