Baconalooza: Protesting For The 250
When Direct Action Everywhere, Island Animal Liberation, and The Critical Cat converged on Pig restaurant last November they came with a strong message that the flesh being served, that sat lifeless on patrons plates was not food it was a symbol of violence.
Now, The Critical Cat, IAL, and Direct Action Everywhere, Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory will converge on the Baconalooza festival to challenge the normative speciesist structures of indifference and violence towards other animals, specifically pigs, that are reinforced through this spectacle of excess and debauchery. We are not protesting to challenge the guests of Baconalooza, we are protesting to challenge the celebration of the lives killed for meaningless consumption. We will represent the individuals who spent their lives inside a machine of production that only accounts for their welfare insofar as it earns their owners better profit. We will represent the emotional distress of not being able to display normal behaviours for a lifetime, only to be executed with indifference despite harrowing pleas for mercy.
Baconalooza will be serving approx. one thousand kilograms of bacon at the event. At roughly 4.5kg of flesh taken from each pig; that equals about 250 lives born and killed just for the sake of the festival. Currently there are almost 400 people who have RSVP’d to the event, depending on how much bacon event goers can choke down. That could mean 1 out of every 2 attendees can hold themselves accountable for killing a pig that wanted to live. While many of the people who have been outspoken about eating bacon on Facebook in response to our protest will undoubtedly proclaim their indifference to this number, we question whether everyone will feel the same. We believe that every person at the event would prefer to be compassionate over violent towards an innocent animal; however, we also believe not everyone is aware of their accountability in this regard. If attendees had to kill 250 pigs on the Velox rugby fields we know that this would dissuade a great many people from going and would cause sponsors to turn away in disgust. However, because this bloody and inhumane process is hidden from view it is easy for everyone, guests and sponsors alike, to turn a blind eye.
Baconalooza’s organizer Chef Morgan Rennef Onda has been outspoken regarding his position on the lives of these individuals he is promoting as merely bacon. Onda has commented on how he realizes we, the protestors, and even himself like “piggies,” but that in his mind the fact that he still enjoys the taste of them trumps any further consideration of pigs as beings worthy of moral consideration. It is not okay for him to say he cares for their welfare and then hold a festival celebrating their murder and consumption. Onda does not like pigs, he likes to eat their flesh and promote violence against them by serving their dead bodies. He has gone so far as to invite us to protest Baconalooza on 2 occasions in the Times Colonist and we are happy to take him up on his offer in the interest of the 250 pigs that will die for his and event goers taste.
We contacted both Johnston’s in Chilliwack who are raising and killing the pigs, as well as Hertel’s in Port Alberni who will be processing the bodies about the cycle of confinement, exploitation, and violence that will bring these animals to Baconalooza. What they said was disturbing and yet mundane as it is the common way pigs are objectified and treated in this industry.
While Hertels no longer raises or kills pigs at their farm, they do still process them. The language they used to talk about the animals they would be receiving from Johnstons was telling though. When asked if they did any of the killing at their facility they said “they don’t hang or cut the animals.” This is referring to the process of hanging pigs up before killing them if they are stunned or once they are killed and are being bled out. They did mention that they “break” the pigs at their farm, this refers to the process of cutting up the pig into parts to be sold off as non-discript wholes. Their language speaks volumes about the way the animal is contextualized for them. It is “hung” lifeless and dripping of whatever blood animated their short life and they are “broken” to make them into the reconstructed consumable portions that people will consume. That each pig valued their life and wanted to be free is wasted on them. Clearly this instills no compassion in those who systematically end each life with indifference.
Johnston’s was less interested in talking about the treatment or methods of raising the pigs they kill. Most of the information we acquired was directly from their website. All you really need to do is watch the video on their main home page to get a feel for what life at Johnston’s must be like for the pigs. Absent. This video only briefly gives a glimpse into the life of the pigs, where we find piglets in cold lifeless containers with a few small stalls for feed. The floor beneath their feet is barren and slated providing no comfort or firm footing. How much time they will spend like this is unclear, as is when they are separated from their mothers, and what conditions they will have to endure once they outgrow their pen.
What we do know from the website is that the pigs will likely never see the light of day or feel the wind on their skin. Directly from the Johnston’s website “Our hogs are never allowed to ‘run around outside’ for their own well-being.” They report this is because they do not want them to get sick and that pigs fair terribly in hot or cold. Yet, one has to question how never being outside in a natural environment is healthy for them. Contrary to our position they state, “There is no good reason to raise hogs outside here in the Lower Mainland. Barns provide a safe place and plenty of space for them to run and play and do ‘pig things’!!” This frames the pigs more as things that do stuff that can be done anywhere, than as individuals who have their own interests that matter. Their farms house “200 pigs per pen” and yet when we queried about the farm or pen size they gave only vague generalization of them being “pretty big.” While they proudly proclaim that “happy animals = higher quality” there is no evidence anywhere that these pigs are happy and common sense tells us any animal confined to a pen its whole life would be denied even their most basic birthright of experiencing the coolness of the earth beneath their hooves or the sun on their face. In addition they would be unable to carry out their most basic instincts such as foraging, rolling in the mud or developing close familial bonds.
There are many other considerations that we could comment on regarding the environmental impact of meat and bacon or the health concerns, but honestly that is not why we will be protesting. These issues are all the symptoms of an abject and toxic industry that at its root is about exploiting, denying, and violating the interests of non-human animals. It is about making a living being into something less than a living being and when this process becomes embedded in us as a society it plagues all that it touches. For those reading who will be going into the event, remember that this is not about you. It is about the 250 lives lost that contribute to a sea of blood that continues to rise and churn for nothing more than self-interest. Your contribution to it is as insignificant as their deaths are to the whole. Yet, we will protest every one of their deaths because we will not turn away from a single scream that echoes in our ears and our minds.
See you all on the front lines.
The Critical Cat