At 4 am one morning in October of final yr, animal rights activist Raven Deerbrook sat on a mattress in an affordable lodge in East Los Angeles, taking a look at a dwell video feed on her telephone. She’d barely slept that evening, waking each hour or two to examine that the feed was transmitting from three pinhole infrared cameras she’d hidden within the Farmer John meatpacking plant 20 miles away. The ability, situated within the LA suburb of Vernon, is owned by Smithfield Meals, the biggest pork producer on the planet. She waited, each anticipating and dreading what her cameras have been about to disclose.
A day earlier, Deerbrook had snuck into the slaughterhouse with a faux uniform and badge and climbed 26 toes underground right into a “beautiful chamber”—primarily a three-story-deep elevator shaft designed to be stuffed with carbon dioxide. Right here, pigs in cages are lowered into the shaft’s invisible swimming pool of suffocating, heavier-than-air CO2, the place the animals asphyxiate over a matter of minutes earlier than being dumped out of the chamber onto a conveyor belt, hung up, drained of blood, and butchered.
Deerbrook had hidden one digicam pointed at that chamber from the plant’s wall. She’d mounted two extra with microphones on the car-sized cages inside. When she’d tried to descend additional down the shaft’s ladder, a burning “air starvation” from residual CO2 within the chamber had compelled her to climb out once more, gasping for breath, unable to plant her remaining cameras.
Safely again in her lodge room throughout the town, Deerbrook hoped to report the slaughterhouse fuel chamber, inside and outside, for the primary time in a US meat plant. In doing so, she aimed to disprove claims from the pork business and the fuel chamber producer that this type of suffocation represents a humane—even “painless”—type of killing.
At 5:25 am, because the plant’s operations started for the morning, she noticed the primary half-dozen pigs herded into the chamber. Deerbrook’s first ideas have been a mixture of pleasure and sensible anxieties: Had been the digicam angles proper? Was the body fee excessive sufficient?
Then the sunshine within the video started to dim because the cage lowered into the carbon dioxide under. As Deerbrook watched, the pigs started to squeal and thrash violently round within the cage, struggling to flee and convulsing for almost a minute earlier than lastly laying nonetheless. “Pigs are very human-like of their screaming. And I wasn’t anticipating to see them endure for thus lengthy,” she says. “I knew it was going to be unhealthy. However I wasn’t actually ready for the screaming.”
Deerbrook, nonetheless in her pajamas, sat on the lodge mattress, observing her telephone display screen in horror. The pictures and audio that she recorded would hang-out her nightmares for months to return. “The one silver lining was the truth that I used to be in a position to obtain the footage,” she says. “As a result of as soon as I began getting these first video clips, I knew: A minimum of that is going to be documented.”
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