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PETA's human meat tray protest at Toronto's Quality Meat Packers' pig slaughterhouse

by Anita Krajnc

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PETA's first "meat tray" demonstration in Canada was greeted by a media frenzy of reporters and photographers as two of its volunteers stripped down and put themselves inside human-size versions of meat packages.

On June 21, Peta and a couple dozen of animal rights supporters held a solemn and subdued protest outside Toronto's Quality Meat Packers' pig slaughterhouse at 2 Tecumseth.

The purpose of the street theatre demonstration of "humans in cellophane, instead of animals,... was to help people make the connection that all meat comes from a corpse," said Emily Lavender, a Peta campaigner based in Ottawa. "Meat comes from an animal that is made of flesh, bones, veins, we're all animals, we all feel pain and suffering, and we all want to live. We don't want to be dragged through a slaughterhouse and be dismembered and skinned alive."

Activists held signs and banners reading: "If slaughterhouses had glass walls... go vegan," "All animals have the same parts," and "Meat is murder."

Ian Purdy, an animal rights activist with the local group Toronto Pig Save - - said as he gestured towards the Quality Meat Packers (QMP) abattoir: "This is one of the quietest protests I've been to and - I think - that's completely appropriate considering what is happening in this building while we're outside paying our respects to the pigs."

The QMP pig slaughterhouse is situated in the downtown core, just southwest of King and Bathurst. Up to 6,000 pigs are killed each day at the site and dozens of transport trucks full of weary and fearful pigs can be seen on week days on Lakeshore and Strauchan just before they turn off towards 677 Wellington Street West, where you can hear the pigs screaming from the sidewalk as they are being unloaded from the trucks with electric prods.

Monika Aebischer, a mixed media fine artist, joined the Peta protest when she saw the styrofoam meat trays from her upper level studio across the street. As a vegetarian she faces a conflict: on the one hand the slaughterhouse enables the art studios to stay the threat of condo development in the neighbourhood, but at the same time she's witness disturbing images of corpses. She says the trucks arrive on "the other side [of the plant at 677 Wellington] "and on this side [2 Tecumseth] it is only the cooling trucks that actually leave with the packaged meat, so I don't see the animals arrive. However, twice there were open trucks with animal parts that were just driving down the street and I had this nice view to all these unrendered animal parts and... I was rather disturbed by that."

Asked how she felt wrapped in cellophane right outside the Toronto Abattoir, Peta activist Kate Steen, said: "I felt like a piece of meat! ...That was the whole point - to try and get people to make the connection that the meat that you're eating was once a live, living creature that doesn't want to die just so you could eat it." She said that Canada's transport laws are weak and ineffectual: "pigs can be on a transport truck for up to 72 hours without food or water."

Asked what she would see if there were glass walls at the Quality Meat Packers' slaughterhouse, Steen said "I think you would see your worst nightmare, your worst horror movie in real life because that's what it's like behind those walls. Just like Paul McCartney said, 'If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everybody would be a vegetarian.' As a human beings we're supposed to feel love and caring for other human beings but also for other animals and if people actually knew how meat got onto their plate, there's no way as a human being with a soul that you'd be able to eat those animals. It's not right and you shouldn't be able to do it."

Emily Lavender says Peta plans to take the "meat tray" protests across Canada to the west coast with the message that "whether it's a person, a cow, a pig or a chicken, flesh is flesh."

For more information on factory farming, transport trucks and slaughterhouses, see Peta's and to learn more about pigs or Quality Meat Packers, visit Pigs at Risk or Toronto Pig Save at

Anita Krajnc produces videos for rabbletv and is a member of The Media Coop. She is also a co-founder of Toronto Pig Save

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Topics: Food
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