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A final vigil at Farmer John for pigs that never came



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Ellen Dent approached a microphone exterior the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon on Thursday night time with a shocked look on her face.

It was the final official week of enterprise for the enduring facility. Farmer John’s mum or dad firm, Smithfield Meals, maintained that the closure was necessary due to the supposedly escalating price of doing enterprise in California. Crowds had gathered since Sunday to have fun. They’d held up protest indicators as double-decker livestock trailers full of pigs rumbled into the plant. The famously vegan musician Moby spoke one night time. So did San Jose-area Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the one vegan within the California Legislature.

On this night time, the plant’s final, about 130 individuals stood round Dent, government director of the nonprofit Animal Alliance Community, which had helped to carry twice-a-week “pig vigils” nearly uninterrupted for the previous seven years. White rose petals embellished the asphalt. Above her, graphic slaughterhouse scenes had been projected upon a wall. Purple hazard lights flashed alongside the curbs.

Activists gather one last time outside Farmer John meat processing plant.

After years of weekly vigil’s, activists collect one final time exterior Farmer John meat processing plant the final day it was to take supply of pigs for slaughter.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Occasions)

Dozens had protested exterior Farmer John since that afternoon. Dent anticipated to remain till 3 within the morning, or each time the final 18-wheeler dropped off its cargo. Everybody assumed they’d get one final probability to see pigs led to their deaths. However no truck had handed by all day. Now, Dent informed these current, she knew why.

“Final night time was the final night time for the supply of pigs,” Dent stated with a relaxed voice and wide-open eyes. A employee inside had simply referred to as her with the information. “That is the closing-down occasion. You’re a part of this historical past. Let’s shut this place down with type.”

A quiet cheer went up. Mates and strangers swarmed her with hugs. Impartial journalists took photographs and livestreamed.

“It’s bittersweet, as a result of this manufacturing unit can be changed with one other one within the Midwest,” she informed me. “And we received’t be capable of get a crowd on the market. That’s what they’re doing. They’re working.”

It was an sudden finish to an unlikely relationship between a pork empire and animal rights activists.

For years, Smithfield Meals — the most important pork producer on this planet — allowed people to give the pigs water whereas truckers waited for the plant’s gates to open. This act of compassion earned worldwide protection. Celebrities like Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal stopped by. A number of the Vernon cops who stored watch even turned vegan.

 Thirsty pigs lap up water offered by people

Thirsty pigs lap up water supplied by individuals gathered exterior the Farmer John processing plant in 2019. Dozens of individuals collect right here twice every week, conducting what they name a vigil for the animals being trucked to the power for slaughter.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Occasions)

A pig laps up water through an opening of the cage.

A pig lap up water supplied by individuals gathered exterior the Farmer John processing plant in February, 2019.

(Los Angeles Occasions)

Like most different détentes between opposing teams over the previous couple of years, the goodwill didn’t final.

In 2020, 20 protesters had been arrested for blocking vans, whereas seven others had been cited for coming into the plant and trying to make off with a pig. Smithfield declared a complete ban on approaching the trailers, which carried to the current day. Jim Monroe, Smithfield vice chairman of company affairs, stated that “any interplay like [letting strangers give pigs water] can be thought of a violation of sound meals security and animal well being practices.”

The vigils continued. Members consider their continued presence is what led to the plant finally shutting down.

Earlier than Dent’s speech, Kassidy King and Shailee Prince, each of Solar Valley, sat in entrance of certainly one of Farmer John’s huge gates. King was a newcomer, Prince a daily.

“We made noise. We made them uncomfortable,” Prince stated as she flashed a peace signal at a honking van.

A block away, Jonathan Ohayon and different cooks served free meals — vegan, after all. Plant-based jerky. Cajun fries. Chili. Chocolate bars.

Ohayon, a French immigrant who lives in Redondo Seashore, frequently attended the vigils earlier than the pandemic.

“We made a promise to see this plant shut in the future,” he stated as he scraped off a griddle to make strawberry crepes. “And at this time is the day.”

If there was disappointment that no pigs had been coming, nobody confirmed it.

Distributors hawked hoodies and T-shirts. A volunteer carrying a neon inexperienced vest and holding a flashlight slowed down approaching vehicles. Police cruised round, generally parking to talk with leaders however in any other case letting people do their factor.

A Farmer John employee often popped his head over a wall. Above him, an enormous, twirling graphic that learn “Cease Killing Go Vegan” was projected onto a warehouse subsequent to a painted American flag.

Cesar Acebedo, the emcee for the night, walked round with a bundle of burning sage “due to the odor, but in addition the unfavorable power.” He informed the group, a few of whom carried pump sprayers and water bottles, that the everlasting shutdown “hasn’t actually sunk in but … It’s actually surreal. I hear somebody yell ‘Truck!’ and flinch after which get able to run to them. However that’s not going to occur anymore.”

Cesar Acebedo Animal Alliance Network

Cesar Asebedo, co-director of the Animal Alliance Community, stokes the flame on a bundle of sage as demonstrators collect exterior Farmer John meat processing plant to protest the slaughter of pigs.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Occasions)

It was onerous to listen to something as a consequence of site visitors and the drone of Farmer John’s air filtration system. An array of audio system — outdated, younger, Black, white, Latino — nonetheless recited poems, spoken phrase items, speeches written and improvised. They hailed veganism, decried manufacturing unit farming and urged tolerance towards meat eaters.

“I’ve been avoiding coming to those vigils selfishly as a result of I didn’t wish to make eye contact with a pig and know I couldn’t do something for the time being,” stated actress Justina Adorno, who flew in that day from New York.

Melissa Olivos and her daughter, Jayleen, additionally confirmed up for the primary time. She had introduced vegan carne asada tacos from her Inland Empire chain, Viva Vegan.

“Everybody in my household hated me coming to vacation events as a result of I used to be that annoying vegan,” Melissa stated, to figuring out laughs. “So I believed, ‘If I begin displaying them that the meals was bomb, then they’d hearken to me.’”

Her efforts had been so profitable that her mother, a former taquera, not eats meat. “Now she’s extra vegan than I’m. And I’m like, what?!”

“We could possibly be out partying. We could possibly be watching Netflix,” Olivos concluded. “However we’re out right here, making a distinction.”

The talks went on for thus lengthy that the purple hazard lights ran out of energy, and the handfuls of candles handed out to attendees round Hour 2 had melted into nubs by Hour 3. However few had left, and extra had been arriving by the point Acebedo requested for a second of silence whereas a Sanskrit mantra performed off a smartphone. It was 11:15 and getting chillier each minute.

The vigil concluded with a march to the nook of Vernon Avenue and Soto Road for a bunch photograph in entrance of Farmer John’s infamous murals — those that present lots of of completely satisfied pigs wallowing in mud or stress-free on grass alongside their ostensible proprietor. Afterward, attendees frolicked to catch up and spend just a bit extra time collectively. This was it.

Farmer John protest

The ultimate march in entrance of the Farmer John meatpacking plant in Vernon

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Occasions)

Minna Eisenhauer waved a green-and-blue flag with a white V. She had supplied her animal sanctuary in Orange as a house for the final pig delivered to Farmer John.

Monroe, the Smithfield vice chairman of company affairs, declined the request, stating, “It might be a disservice to those farmers and the time and sources they’ve invested to boost these meals animals to contemplate such a request.”

“They’d an opportunity to point out kindness and compassion — simply that one little factor,” Eisenhower stated. “They usually didn’t.”

Christin To and Sara Cruz stood close to anti-Farmer John slogans chalked onto the sidewalk.

“I used to be emotionally scared to come back, however this neighborhood is nice,” stated To, who’s from Thousand Oaks.

“Wow, you drove actually far to get right here!” remarked Cruz. Then, she contemplated the longer term.

“I hope this slaughterhouse could be became one thing compassionate,” the Glendale resident stated. “A museum, a gallery. Put in life and love, not a spot stuffed with demise.”