Sandra Kyle does weekly slaughterhouse vigils to ‘bear witness’ to animals going to slaughter, as part of the Worldwide Save Movement. For more information about how to start a Save group in your area, go to thesavemovement.org
If we truly had seeing eyes and an empathetic heart then we would know that animals too possess souls. We would know this because we would ‘feel’ their souls within them, in the same way that we feel the souls of other people.
A couple of years ago I spent Xmas Day driving around the King Country, looking at farm animals. If I spied horses, cows or sheep near to the fenceline, I stopped my car to say hi. What I most remember about that day was leaning over a paddock fence and chatting to a couple of large, brown horses. Initially cautious about me, after a while they let me pat them and lean my head on their neck. I could see them communicate between each other as well, although I understand little about horse behaviour. I could certainly feel the ‘being’ in them, just as I can feel the being in my companion animals and if you think about it, you probably can too. This is what I term their ‘soul’ – the ‘being’ within. If you have felt the being in your companion animals, then why do you think that farmed animals don’t possess it also? If you make such a distinction between your pets and farmed animals then you are guilty of idiotic speciesism.
It is because I can feel the souls of animals that my slaughterhouse vigils never get any easier. When I look through the sides of the truck at the frightened beings inside, or see them descending the ramp into the slaughterhouse holding pens, my throat always tightens. I can feel their fear, their confusion. I have been at slaughterhouse vigils when a farmer arrived with days-old shaky-legged calves behind him in a trailer. I have seen lambs transported in this way too. In the name of Heaven they are just babies! They have a will to live and a unique personality, yet they will soon have the light taken from their eyes because you want to eat their flesh or organs, or in the case of bobby calves, because you want to drink their mothers’ milk.
Today at my vigil a cow stopped at the top of the ramp and looked straight over at where I was standing, around fifteen metres from the truck. What was he thinking? A mixture of fear, curiosity perhaps, maybe even hope. He had travelled some distance in the hot slaughter truck, and maybe he was dehydrated and confused. I am sure that he and his companions will provide some comfort to each other as they huddle together, but tomorrow morning their slayers will stumble in to the first shift of the day, and their trembling hearts will be stopped forever.
We destroy ourselves and all that is most precious in us when we hurt others – Paul Stevenson
When I read or force myself to watch videos about what goes on in our treatment of other animals, I am beside myself. I am always in mourning. I mourn not only for the animals but for us too, for having the callousness to go on with our lives as if nothing evil is happening. I weep for our indifference, and also for our ignorance. As my poet friend Paul Stevenson puts it: ‘We destroy ourselves and all that is most precious in us when we hurt others’.