A U G U S T 1 6 – 1 9 , 2 0 1 9
F R I D A Y
Attended by compassionate souls from far and wide, Animal Liberation Toronto’s first conference made positive impact on individuals and the community. The four-day event was initiated in Victoria University’s Northop-Frye building. Opening ceremonies included reverent acknowledgement that our gathering takes place on unceded territory of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River peoples.
After a few introductions, we jumped into a series of informative talks and workshops called “breakout sessions”. Multiple sessions ran through each time block, allowing individuals to choose from a wide range of topics. Tales from Hell was the first session which my travel buddy and I decided on. We were stunned by the stories of official undercover investigator Kevin Lahey. For over 3 years, Kevin meticulously documented practices within slaughterhouses —under the guise of an unsuspecting employee— to later expose every detail. There is currently high demand for undercover investigators, for which very specific individuals are selected. Candidates must have discreet public profiles that do not indicate any affiliation with animal rights. Justin Reineke recounted oppression within the slaughterhouse industry as an ex-worker. Hearing details of “common-practice” sexual abuse towards non-human animals during artificial insemination was shocking. The same oppression against sentient beings is continuously witnessed worldwide during vigils by Save Movement organizer Nevenka Potoknic.
All-conference talks included Between Crisis-Phobia and Crisis-Philia: on the Ethics of Infighting by Aaron Yarmel, Mass Actions and Civil Disobedience by Amy Sorrano, and How Not To Go Extinct by Dr. Sailesh Rao (who is executive producer of documentaries like Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret, What the Health, and The Human Experiment). There was no shortage of thoughtful plans and perspectives for our next steps as activists.
That evening, Cube of Truth activism was held in Dundas Square. Between two- and three-hundred effective conversations about animal liberation were held between activists and the public. There were 6-8 Cubes in total— three of the most massive stood side by side. “The energy was crazy!” says activist VeganManKind.
S A T U R D A Y
Toronto saw 1000+ participants in the Official Animal Rights March 2019. This global, annual event was founded in the UK by Surge, an animal rights organization. Approximately 6 kilometers were traveled in 4 hours. The march was so intense that it was hard to imagine anything more epic… until hail began to downpour, and lightning shot through the cityscape horizon. Limitless compassion splashed onwards through the busy streets. Volunteers prioritized safety by guiding all away from stepping on streetcar tracks (no electrocution, please!). The police even pitched in by regulating traffic and blocking off countless intersections which were stopped in the name of sentience. The march came to a halt in front of Cumbrae’s Butcher Shop on Queen Street West, where some (hearty) food for thought was delivered via megaphone. Another halt occurred on Younge and University Street where 15-year-old Eliza Lestrange’s voice boomed against the surrounding high-rise buildings with another original speech. She had written and memorized it just days before.
Our route approached the Canadian National Exhibition which hosts Canada’s largest annual fair (with approximately 1.5 million visitors each year). Fun fact: activists in large marches don’t have to pay admission. As we entered through the gates, I thought, “This is a rather potent location for activism. The main purpose in attending a fair is to experience. We now demand an experience beyond simple entertainment: the exploration of morals and conscience”. Imagine gliding along the ski lift: it’s Saturday afternoon with a view. In the distance, you hear “ONE STRUGGLE, ONE FIGHT, HUMAN FREEDOM, ANIMAL RIGHTS!”. As the voices become more audible, you see hundreds of activists approaching. Their signs portray oppressed animals— brothers and sisters to those whose flesh roasts in smoky food trucks below. There is nowhere to turn but inwards, to some long-avoided self-reflection. It was inevitable that deep reflection was inspired in the public through this march, even way up in the sky above.
S U N D A Y
We traveled bright and early to a Burlington slaughterhouse: Fearman’s Pork Inc. The plan was to bear witness for pigs, who are shipped there daily in massive trucks. Upon arrival, it was soon realized that the desolate slaughterhouse was not accepting new victims that morning. Google search even revealed that Fearman’s was temporarily closed. Fearman’s did this for one reason: to avoid mass exposure of animal cruelty. The colossal facility takes the lives of 10,000 young pigs every 24 hours. We blocked off the neighbouring Burlington intersection with countless signs showing the victims’ faces. A “die-in” was held there for several minutes where all laid down in the intersection as a poignant speech was delivered. Police blocked off impatient cars. The sounds of screaming pigs being slaughtered screeched through a megaphone.
Shortly after the “die-in”, activists visited the owner of Sofina Foods (& Fearman’s Pork Inc.) Michael Latifi. His palatial-fortress-mansion was unsurprisingly a decent distance from the slaughterhouse he owns. Over 100 activists symbolically brought the ghosts of pigs, walking single file to line up along a *tiny* segment of his property. Rhythmic drums sounded as the protest approached the eerie mansion. Grim Reaper led the way. Signs were planted in the (city’s) grass to resemble a cemetary. Anita Krajnc spoke, who had been charged for criminal mischief in 2015 for giving water to the very pigs whose blood funds this other-worldly abode.
Fur Free Toronto disruptions were held in the evening at Toronto Eaton Centre, which resulted in lock-down of the mall due to protest. Some of the activists were trapped in a tunnel for half an hour with unfriendly police, who shut the large garage doors on either side. The tunnel had transparent walls, overlooking a busy street. Activists continued to display their signs even during this period confinement. For more details on the Fur Free Toronto protest, click here .
M O N D A Y
Minimal detail was given in advance about what would ensue on Monday morning. It was known that the imminent non-violent direct action would involve risk for arrest. The destination revealed to be Maple Leaf “Poultry” Chicken Slaughterhouse on Ethel Ave. This Toronto slaughterhouse takes the lives of an estimated 200,000 chickens each day. With a large box, chains, pails of cement, and water, animal liberationists entered the facility where concrete was immediately mixed onsite. The box of fresh concrete was placed underneath a garage door entrance where activists chained themselves on either side to prevent closing or removal. 4 chickens were freed from within by activists who used pipe cutters to open truck crates. The rescued sentient beings were taken to a compassionate forever home. To see high-quality footage documenting this direct action, click here. The more exposure of what is hidden behind the walls of these animal exploitation industries, the better. For more details about this direct action at Maple Leaf slaughterhouse, check out this article.
The first Animal Liberation Toronto Conference was a huge success, packed with community building, education, food, and non-violent direct action (which is the most effective method for creating compassionate change)! If you are still looking for more content, the conference was mentioned in the Toronto Star.
Special thanks to VeganManKind for providing links to the exterior sources mentioned, and for updating me on the events I was not able to participate in!
FIND MORE PICTURES FROM THE CONFERENCE HERE