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John Bonnar is an independent journalist covering social justice events in and around Toronto through print, photo, audio, video and slideshows. You can connect with him on Facebook (John Bonnar) or on Twitter at @johnb98 or on YouTube at johnb98.

New Banksy installation illustrates horrors of factory farming, slaughterhouses

| November 2, 2013
Several people bear witness at a Toronto Pig Save vigil in July. Photo: John Bonnar

Banksy did it again. This time in New York City. 

The renowned street artist created Sirens of the Lambs, a slaughterhouse delivery truck that drove around New York filled with 60 stuffed animals, poking their heads out of the slits, along with screams and squeals playing in the background.

On October 10, the truck was spotted in Brooklyn before ending up in the Meatpacking District. 

All part of a month long visit by Banksy to New York during October. Every day, he produced a new art installation somewhere in the city.

“Banksy is brilliant,” said Anita Krajnc, co-organizer of Toronto Pig Save, Cow Save and Chicken Save. 

“It hits home. It's so needed in the slaughterhouse district to wake people up, strangely through puppets. Maybe they will look and hear the real animals more next time.”

Instead of letting the transport trucks pass by unnoticed.

“The Sirens of the Lambs shows people what we see and hear when we bear witness to the actual transport trucks,” said Mariia Dos Santos. 

“We hear those cries the average person in this society wouldn't hear otherwise.”

Since July 2011, Krajnc, Dos Santos and other activists have held weekly vigils to bear witness of pigs transported to Quality Meat Packers slaughterhouse in downtown Toronto. 

In late 2012, Toronto Cow Save started holding weekly vigils and this year Toronto Chicken Save began holding weekly vigils too. 

“We hold three vigils per week,” said Krajnc. “As our Save Movement grows, we hope to increase the number and duration of our vigils.”

Pig Save has grown into an international movement with pig save like-groups in Melbourne (Australia), Burlington, Hamilton, Guelph, Montreal, Brandon (Canada) and Indiana (USA).

“I find it interesting and disturbing that people seem to respond with horror and compassion to Banksy's truck full of stuffed, pretend animals and yet pay not much attention to the trucks full of living animals transported by the millions to slaughterhouses every day,” said Louise Jorgensen. 

“I think this may be because it's too difficult for most to face the reality of what we are doing unnecessarily to animals on such a grand scale, so the toys are easier to look at.”

The Save Movement would love to have Banksy bring his Silence of the Lambs installation to Toronto and join them on “Pig Island” at Lake Shore and Strachan where every weekday 30 trucks, containing 220 animals each, stop on their way to the Toronto slaughterhouse.

On “Chicken Island” at Steeles and Churchile road in Brampton, they bear witness to dozens of transport trucks each crammed with 10,000 chickens.

If Banksy can’t make it here, the group has considered renting a truck, mounting a big screen television set with a speaker system and driving around the streets of downtown Toronto.

“Just scenes of the hell these beautiful creatures have to live,” said Kate A. 

“But what I think was very powerful with Banksy's piece was that he was very smart in not using graphic imagery. He, instead, used the familiar plush toys we had as children and/or present to children for comfort.”

As opposed to simply showing scenes of what happens on the kill floor of slaughterhouses.

“I thought the art piece was a great way to get people thinking, but found it disturbing how many people were upset by the plight of stuffed animals, but don't bat an eye at the billions of real animals that are slaughtered every year,” said Mary Fantaske. 

For those who attend the vigils, the plight of the animals has been a very emotional experience, leaving many in tears. 

“We hear the screams of the pigs every week and witness stressed out bovines and porcines tossing their heads back and forth, or biting on the bars of their confinement systems,” said Fantaske.

“With the stuffed animals, there is obviously no emotion behind the plastic eyes, whereas we see an array of heartbreaking emotions behind the beautiful babies we bear witness to: fear, hopelessness, longing, pleading, etc… For me, looking into their eyes, watching them beg for help and compassion, is what makes bearing witness emotionally difficult, and at the same time so important.”

So difficult that some people avoid vigils altogether.

“My brother, who is a vegetarian, posted the Banksy thing for his friends on his FB wall, but he would never post an actual photo of animals in live transport,” said Paul York. 

“So it was useful as a reminder to people who avoid the real images that animals are suffering (during) live transport and slaughter. Something they prefer not to think about.”

Click here to learn more about the Toronto Pig Save, Cow Save and Chicken Save Movement or to get involved with their weekly vigils.

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