In the early hours of the morning on Monday, Oct. 1, a small group of activists huddled together outside of the Rocana Meats processing facility near Salmon Arm, B.C. to protest what they claim to be unethical treatment of animals.
Amy Sorrano, a member of the activist group Okanagan Animal Save, which held the vigil, says the purpose of the protest was largely to draw attention to the ways animals are slaughtered, which they feel are inhumane.
“Animal agriculture relies on secrecy, but no reasonable person would want to continue supporting these industries if they knew the truths behind them,” Sorrano said.
Dave DeBoer, manager of the Rocana Meats plant, says this isn’t the first time the group has shown up at his facility.
“This is the third time they have been here, and they’ve been other places too, like Colonial Farms and D Dutchmen (Dairy),” DeBoer says.
The situation was defused quickly, he explains, as he chose to simply call the RCMP rather than engage in arguments with the activists.
“I came in and they are standing there blocking the driveway, and I say ‘get the heck out of here.’ I mean it’s not the first time; it would be different if it was the first time,” DeBoer said. “First of all they were trespassing; I told them to get off the property and I called the RCMP and they disappeared in about five minutes.”
The activists also shared a video of the vigil on social media, in which they claim viewers can hear the sounds of slaughter and screams of pigs.
Sorrano says “listening to the pigs’ blood-curdling cries for help as they were painfully gassed is unimaginably heartbreaking.”
However, DeBoer disputes the legitimacy of the video, particularly the claim that pigs could be heard from where the activists were standing. Sorrano said a re-edited version of the video features undercover footage from other slaughterhouses in Canada and the United States, not Rocana.
“I have seen the video, and it’s a false scenario,” says DeBoer. “They amplified this pig scream, the pigs are just sitting in the barn… There is no way if they were standing there they could hear that; it’s a fabricated situation. I was there, I am there every day.”
Sorrano clarifies the footage was added to that particular version of the video by a third party, and the video Okanagan Animal Save set out to produce only featured activists standing on the property as part of the vigil.
DeBoer notes that he respects the right to speak out on issues, though he questions how effective the group’s tactics are.
“Everyone is free to protest, I am not arguing that point. They have their own cause, you know you can stand there and talk until you are blue in the face. The more I ignore them maybe the better it is, but they were trespassing,” he says. “They should just hand out pamphlets in the mall or something to tell people this is what’s going on. But don’t stand in front of the slaughterhouse, you just make a mockery of things.”
DeBoer also notes that one of his employees refused to come back to work after the protest was held as they felt threatened and harassed by the protesters’ presence there.
Prior to the vigil held at Rocana Meats, the group was also protesting outside a chicken slaughterhouse in Armstrong, according to Sorrano. They are also the same organization that staged a protest against the dairy industry outside of the D Dutchmen farm in Sicamous in July.
Sorrano says “we frequent many establishments… because animal exploitation is everywhere.”
The activists claim the slaughtering process used for pigs and chickens is slow and painful, using carbon dioxide which “burns them from the inside out,” according to the group’s social media posts.
According to information available through the Humane Slaughter Association, carbon dioxide is used to render animals unconscious before slaughter and is used because it has a “direct anaesthetic effect.”
“We have an inspected place, we slaughter the pigs in the most humane way of all the plants in Canada,” DeBoer says. “You have electrocution where they kick and scream and all kinds of stuff, but we put them to sleep, we anaesthetize them like at a hospital. We use a mixture of CO2 and other gases and they are sound asleep when they come out, no screaming or kicking or anything.”
The Humane Slaughter Association’s website states that though studies have shown this method to significantly reduce the stress of chickens going to slaughter, there is still little consensus on its effectiveness with pigs, which require a much higher concentration of the gas to be incapacitated.