Louise’s initial investigation of St. Helen’s slaughterhouse was conducted via a ruse: the students asked if they could come in for a tour. What they witnessed was the whole process of the business of a slaughterhouse.
“One thing that really sticks out in my mind is they killed a cow in front of us. I remember them putting the cow into the kill box. And I don’t know if the cow recognized that we were there for him or that we weren’t bad people, but he leaped towards us. He was halfway out of the box and his face was a few feet from mine, and I remember the terror in his eyes.”
The slaughterhouse employee knew the students were upset by what they were witnessing, but he merely pushed the cow back into the kill box while laughing. He then proceeded to bolt the cow. What this means is using a device that stuns the animal prior to slaughter. As described in Wikipedia: The goal of captive bolt stunning is to inflict a forceful strike on the forehead with the bolt in order to induce unconsciousness.
“The cow slid down to another area where somebody tied a chain around the cow’s leg. He was then hoisted—it seemed like two stories up—and then was taken around the corner. And that’s the last time that we saw him,” reflects Louise.
That experience left its mark, but this was before social media so there wasn’t any way for these students to share this information. Instead, they went the route of the day and created a report to hand out to their fellow students.
“Years later, I’m back holding vigils at the same slaughterhouse, which is crazy. I feel it’s my destiny to help the cows.”
Louise wasn’t yet vegan when she began her activism. “We wanted to ease the suffering of animals, but we didn’t know how. The best way we could think to help was to go into a slaughterhouse and see what was happening.”
“I worked hard to master my photography skills so that I could send the best message out to people and have them see animals up close and see their eyes and make that connection with them.”
Louise organizes and attends the Toronto Cow Vigils every week. “The animals need us to be out there and be their voice. Once you bear witness to the animals in person, it changes you inside, whether you are a meat eater still or even if you’re vegan already. Lots of vegans come and they say that once they see the animals, they realize the urgency of the situation and they become much better advocates and spokespeople for the animals after they witness them in person and see what’s happening at the slaughterhouse.
“We also see a lot of things going on that are very gruesome, like body parts and skins and things that people don’t think about when they’re eating animals. Seeing what happens with your own eyes wakes people up.”