By Jenny McQueen, Animal Rights Activist
One weekend in August, with the help of the Animal Liberation Conference in Toronto, organized by Liberation TO, I was part of a team that made media headlines for three straight days, with daring and impactful actions, and actual animal lives saved.
One journalist in the Toronto Star, Jessica Scott-Reid (she’s on our side!), summed up the events with this headline “If animal rights activists disturbed your weekend, they succeeded”. It’s a frustrating fact that we generally struggle to have our actions featured in mainstream media. Not this time though!
Another headline from BlogTO reads “Activists rescue chickens from Maple Leaf Foods”. Yet another: “Hundreds Of Anti-Fur Protestors Forced A Lockdown At A Toronto Mall”.
I’d like to shed a little light on the commitment and risk, and the adrenaline rush, that just one of these actions encompassed:
I volunteered to be on the red team, knowing that I was risking arrest, but also knowing that I wanted to be part of a historic action, a planned civil disobedience which would hopefully save lives. And we did!
We met at 6am, had one last briefing, then quickly walked to the Maple Leaf chicken slaughterhouse. We gathered our equipment and boldly walked inside their property. The staff were yelling at us, and tried to grab our ‘lockbox’ – but we were calm and focused.
I watched as our team members poured concrete inside out lockbox, then quickly ran to where I was to be locked down. I inserted my arm, it was a struggle to reach the post to lock to, but finally I was secure. For the next 6 hours I lay on a filthy, damp concrete ground, my view restricted, my lungs inhaling the smell of blood and death, which made me nauseous.
A small team was diverted to liberate chickens. They randomly chose a crate and recused four lucky individuals, whisking them quickly off to an undisclosed location where they’ll live in safety.
It’s impossible to take more animals than you can find homes for – we had the promise for four lucky individuals. These are ‘meat’ birds, who, through genetic manipulation grow too quickly for their bodies to cope. They need a restricted diet to have a decent quality of life as they age. In the agriculture industry, they’re slaughtered at just a few weeks old, already having endured ammonia filled sheds, violence in handling and transport in the extremes of Canadian weather.
Yes, being locked down was hell, but support of activists kept me going, and we know that the animals have it far worse.
In hindsight we should have stayed longer, till the authorities had to cut us free. We think that more mainstream media would have featured our struggle. Instead we opted for the deal our team negotiated – no criminal charges. Our demands though hadn’t been met – sparing the lives of more chickens, switching to plant-based protein, and halting the construction of the new slaughterhouse in London, Ontario.
We’ll continue our fight.
CNE Mass Trespass:
I was handcuffed at the CNE in 2018, and it made for a dramatic image and headline. I’d been with a group of about 40 activists. This year I was delighted to return there with hundreds of activists – we marched right to the door of the “FARM” building, where real farm animals are on display, in a false and bizarre setting, then to be slaughtered. We stood outside and heard inspiring and heartbreaking stories of animals.
The Official Animal Rights March Toronto:
The animal rights march met our expectations beautifully. There were inspirational speakers, performances, including this incredible spoken-word song that wowed the public. This is an international event founded by Surge Activism in the UK.
Fur Free Toronto Action:
When the security of the Eaton Centre decided to lock the public inside the building, and us out, they created the headlines for us. We ended up trapped in a skywalk over Queen Street, chanting “Set us Free”, “Set them Free”, and “We will not be silenced”. Amazingly the trapped public were clapping and chanting for us too! We live-streamed inspiring speeches, and displayed our huge “FUR BAN” sign to the drivers below. We were eventually let out after the police were called, but just as we were leaving, everything spiralled out of control, some of the police started pushing us, and one activist was arrested. Join our page: https://www.facebook.com/FurFree-Toronto-2692512367444104/?modal=admin_todo_tour