Food and agriculture

Hong Kong Pig Save activists stage vigil at slaughterhouse to raise awareness of pigs’ plight

The vegan NGO is dedicated to raising awareness about the meat industry, and regularly visits Tsuen Wan slaughterhouse to give water to the pigs that arrive by truck from China, pet them and ‘bear witness’ in non-violent protests

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 6:46pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 3:19pm

The acrid odour of blood and faeces fills the air around Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse as activists from Hong Kong Pig Save stage a peaceful protest outside the abattoir. The group’s goal is to raise awareness about the meat industry as a whole, which they deem unethical and inhumane, while promoting a diet and lifestyle free from all products derived from animals.

Around 30 activists hold up signs and gather around trucks filled with pigs waiting to enter the facility. The organisation is the Hong Kong chapter of The Save Movement, a worldwide network comprised of members who gather to witness farm animals en route to slaughter in a show of non-violent resistance.

Hong Kong Pig Save has staged similar demonstrations, which it calls vigils, since being founded in February 2017. This time, they are joined by Joey Carbstrong, an Australian animal rights activist known for his outspoken advocacy of veganism, who is visiting Hong Kong for a week, during which he will join a number of demonstrations.

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Carbstrong climbs the slaughterhouse’s outer walls to film the animals in holding pens inside using his smartphone. The 31-year-old believes in converting others to an animal-free lifestyle. “In times of injustice, to be neutral is to be complicit,” he says.

Members of the group surround each truck to pet the pigs and give them water. “We’re here on the final Sunday of each month. Our main objective is to bear witness,” says organiser Ann Chan, 22. “That means we come and see the pigs going into the slaughterhouse and try to make a connection with them.

“In Hong Kong, there’s a disconnect between animals and food. We bring people here to look at real animals and not just see them as a pork chop on their plate.”

Some 40 pigs are packed into each truck, their bodies caked in excrement and with flies swarming around as the animals jostle for space. Some are unable even to lift their heads or lay down, and several are seen with blood-encrusted wounds.

As each truck is unloaded, slaughterhouse workers are observed hitting the animals with sticks and shouting to force them to leave the vehicle.

The sad lot of Hong Kong’s slaughterhouse animals

The slaughterhouse is one of three that supplies meat to Hong Kong – the others are in Sheung Shui and on Cheung Chau. Between them, they kill an average of 4,184 pigs, 48 cattle and nine goats each day, according to figures from the Hong Kong government’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.

The animals are brought across the border from farms in China and, once admitted to the slaughterhouse, they are kept in holding pens for several days before being inspected by a vet. They are then stunned to render them unconscious, then bled to death through a cut to the neck.

Hong Kong Pig Save was founded by Samantha Fung, who subsequently left Hong Kong to study abroad. Since then, Chan, along with Joyce Leung and Heather Cooper have organised activities more regularly and tried to recruit more members.

“A lot of people in Hong Kong who are vegetarian or vegan focus on their own diet and lifestyle and don’t speak up,” Chan says. “I want to bring them here to look into the pigs’ eyes, feel their pain and struggle, then go out there to speak for them.”

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Sunday marked vegan blogger Meg’s third vigil and, while she celebrated one of the largest attendances to date, she also remarked that the slaughterhouse had grown wise to Hong Kong Pig Save’s events.

“They usually have trucks coming in all day – one time there were 20 all lined up. It was just one after another. Now, they slow down the traffic once they know we’re here,” she said. As the factory’s heavy iron gates clanked shut behind her, she added: “They’re just trying to make us go away at this point.”

The organisers’ plan is to expand the group by hosting further events and continuing to spread photos and videos from each vigil via social media to influence others to cut meat from their diets.

“We want to nurture more activists,” Leung, 19, says. “In Hong Kong, people would often rather remain silent and ignore where their food comes from. We justify and normalise things, but we need to face up to the truth. We represent hope for a different future.”

Other Joey Carbstrong events this week: