Ever wondered how pork gets to Hawaii? Me either. But if you knew, you’d probably start writing letters to the local papers, as I recently found myself doing. Laurelee Blanchard, who runs the Leilani Farm Sanctuary in Maui is a great friend of mine, so I was thrown into this topic recently as she fought hard with other animal rights activists for the plight of the pigs … and found huge success.
Hawaiians love their pork. It’s one of their favorite cultural meals. Next time you vacation in Hawaii, take notice how on Sundays the local parks are taken over by large families as the BBQs are fired up for a day of family fun. Perhaps the thing I like most about Hawaii is this strong focus on family and friendships. However, as the smell of BBQ pork starts wafting through the air over the pristine beaches, I can’t help but assume that most Hawaiians don’t know how their pork got to Hawaii either.
Until recently, most pork sold in the state of Hawaii came from live pigs. This sounds great – get your meat as fresh as possible and all – but we don’t often think about how our dinner is transported. According to Laurelee in an article recently published in the Maui News (October 8, 2011):
“A transported pig's journey begins with a nearly 24-hour-long truck ride from Iowa, Montana or South Dakota to a holding facility in Vacaville, Calif. Hundreds of pigs are kept at this facility for several hours before being transported, via truck, to the Port of Oakland.
The pigs are then crammed onto a vessel where they are provided neither straw nor other bedding to protect them from extreme temperatures or slippery flooring. There is only one livestock attendant onboard responsible for caring for as many as 920 pigs. For approximately five days, the animals are forced to live in their own feces, urine and vomit, and even amid the corpses of other pigs until the dead animals are thrown overboard by the livestock attendant.
Upon arriving in Honolulu, it is usually several hours before the pigs are unloaded from the ship. They are left suffering in the heat with minimal ventilation before they are transported, via truck, to the Hawaii Livestock Cooperative slaughterhouse, which has been cited numerous times by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the inhumane handling and slaughter of animals, where they are slaughtered and processed.
As if the extreme animal suffering weren't enough, scientists, as well as health and food safety officials, have noted that the stress of long-distance transport of live animals increases the animals' susceptibility to disease. This, in turn, increases the risk of food-borne illness and disease transmission to humans who consume meat from these animals.”
We don’t like to know about these things, because then we have to think about them. Yet, the plight of a pig’s journey is quite similar to most animals who end up in our meat supply. You can literally see chickens stuffed into cages with their heads poking out the sides of a huge transportation truck as it flies down the freeway at 60 mph. Cows also can endure very long trips that can last as long as 36 hours, forced to stand the entire way, often with no access to food, water or bedding. They might be driven like this through the 110° heat an Arizona summer or the -10° freeze of a Minnesota winter. These are conditions that we wouldn’t dream of putting a human through, so why would we do it to animals?
Fortunately, thousands of pigs have received a victory at the hands of Laurelee Blanchard and the other animal rights activists who spent so much time to save them from this suffering: Three of the main supermarkets on the islands now refuse to purchase pork that has been shipped live from the mainland. All of these supermarket chains have vowed to buy frozen pork instead. Interestingly, this may end up shutting down the only slaughterhouse on Oahu.
Yet, while this is a major victory for animal rights activists, it is, perhaps, a somewhat minor victory for the animals: Not only do the pigs live their entire lives in a concentration camp-like hell, they are still slaughtered at the end of it. And as I just pointed out, there are billions (no exaggeration here) of other animals like chickens and cows that also live a life of hell, only to be transported for hours in harsh conditions to their death at the end of the road.
So, this is one of the many reasons that I am vegan: To save other sentient beings from as much suffering as I possibly can. I’d like to live my life as a poem of compassion for others – humans and non-humans alike.
I think the biggest success about Laurelee’s efforts may be in how far she is spreading the word about compassion, and urging us all to reach deep inside to our sense of humanity … and decide not only to quit eating pork transferred alive for long distances, but to quit eating animals and their products altogether. My hat is off to you, Laurelee!