At the southern gate of the Clougherty Packing Company meat processing plant, known as Farmer John Los Angeles, an altar with candles is set up every Wednesday and Sunday to acknowledge the thousands of hogs that are brought to this slaughterhouse each day.
When the trucks loaded with pigs scheduled for slaughter arrive at the plant, an activist shouts “Truck!” and then dozens of other activists stationed on Vernon Street quickly mobilize to temporarily block entry to the trucks. They hold up signs with messages such as “We don’t hate truck drivers. We’re here for the pigs” and “Let them live.”
While some of the activists block the passage of the trucks and make “Peace & Love” signs with their hands, others armed with liquid sprinklers and water bottles approach the thirsty animals and talk to them and touch them.
The activists’ “love and kindness” intervention lasts between two and five minutes, but they repeat the process over three hours on each of the two days in front of the slaughterhouse - where every day a dozen trucks arrive, some pulling two-level trailers that bring up to 7,000 pigs to be killed, according to the activists.
“This is their last stop. Once they pass through this entrance and enter the murder house, they will not come out again,” Ellen Dent, the Animal Alliance Network spokeswoman who is in charge of the so-called Southern California Vigil for the Pigs, told EFE on the verge of tears.
The activist group, along with LA Animal Save, began their “compassionate” activities against “animal abuse” in December 2016 as part of an international movement led by Save.
“We want people to see the truth behind what they might be eating,” Dent says, adding that many of the 400 activists who gather here every Sunday leave the slaughterhouse shocked.
She said that the pigs are brought in the trailers from distant farms “without eating or drinking water” for up to five days and some arrive already dead due to the combination of hunger, thirst, cold or extreme heat.
"(The activists) see them and they empathize with another being who is suffering (...) They see that (the pigs) are afraid and (the animals) know what’s going to happen to them,” Dent said.
“The most important thing is to give water to the pigs because they’re dying,” says Eder Lopez, a Hispanic spokesman for Animal Alliance Network who documents the vigils with images he shares later on social media.
“What we are trying to do here is to give them love, to speak to them with kindness, because they are 6-month-old pigs, they are afraid,” the Honduran-born activist says.
Despite the shouts (“I love bacon!”) and jokes of some drivers passing through the area, activists seek to raise awareness about the harmful effects of eating meat, which Lopez said is not only quite obviously bad for the animals but also for human beings since it contains “cholesterol, saturated fats, antibiotics, feces and urine from the animals.”
“Literally, we are ingesting diseases into our bodies,” he said.
Ana Valverde, an activist with LA Animal Save, told EFE that during her first vigil, two years ago, when she returned home she “felt like dying from sadness.”
“When I give them water I see their eyes, I feel bad and I think that if my heart doesn’t feel good, my stomach won’t either,” said the Costa Rican-born Valverde, who defines herself as a vegan.
“We have normalized violence so much that killing these animals doesn’t feel like violence,” he said.
According to data gathered by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization, every year in the US about “121 million pigs are killed for food” and more than 1 million pigs die en route from farms to slaughterhouses.
EFE tried without success to obtain a statement from Farmer John.
By Ivan Mejia.