The star attraction at the edge of Cesar E. Chavez Plaza last Monday was undoubtedly the pig chained in a cage at the corner of 10th and J streets. Surrounded by a trio of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals activists handing out vegan hot chocolate and brochures about cruelty on factory farms, the pink porker took its place inside a small cage meant to illustrate the harsh conditions some unfortunate swine face before their transformation into pork products and bacon bits. Inside the pink costume—a loaner from PETA—was animal-rights activist Dawn Ward, a 31-year-old Sacramento City College student. As she suited up, she explained why she wanted to sit in a cage as the lunch crowd poured out of surrounding buildings.
Who are you, and what are you doing?
I’m Dawn Ward. I’m out here today to try and educate people on the current animal-factory-farming situation. It’s brutal and cruel to the animals, and we’re just trying to get public awareness and public action.
Well, we’re at 10th and J at lunch hour, trying to get most of the business people, most of whom wouldn’t already know about this. We’re trying to get new people who may not be familiar with the fact that pigs are raised in cages.
What does a pig go through?
A pig lives in a gestation cage. It doesn’t have much room to turn around or move. Often, pigs are indoors. They are unable to even see daylight, and they’re fed antibiotics and other things that we might not want to be eating. Pig slaughter is brutal and cruel. They’re supposed to be stunned before they’re killed, and often they aren’t.
Why should people who aren’t into animal rights worry about that?
Any time anyone goes to the grocery store, they’re basically paying someone to raise and brutally kill these animals, and they may not be aware of that. For a long time, I would eat any brand of meat and then I started researching the animal-rights movement. I realized that what the animals are going through was inappropriate, and it was unfair for me to spend my hard-earned money for these animals to go through suffering.
Why a pig suit?
We’re basically trying to get people to see that pigs live in a really small confinement. In most of Europe, it’s now illegal to have pig gestation cages. However, in the U.S., we’re one of the leading animal-industry farming countries. It’s not illegal yet.
What are you going to do with this cage here?
That’s a gestation cage. It’s similar to what the pigs live their entire lives in. I’m going to be in a pig suit and sit in the pig cage.
What is it you want to accomplish out here today?
Human awareness. To build hope in people that by purchasing vegetarian foods and not purchasing meat products, you’re not supporting this industry anymore. I want to make people realize that they don’t have to do anything extreme.
Do you do animal activism full time?
No, I don’t. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind. I didn’t take any action for a long time until recently when I started researching slaughterhouses for a report at school—Sacramento City College—and I decided it was irresponsible and careless for me to not participate and just watch this happen in my community and my world.
Where does this happen around here?
California is one of the leading states in the dairy industry, so we have a lot of manure fields. Not as many pigs, but we’re concerned with all of the animals. The cows, the chickens … dairy animals are treated very poorly, as well. Chickens are often put into boiling water before they are killed, to be feathered. When they go to the slaughterhouse, they’re partly frozen or their wings are broken. So, it’s all the different animals. The pig is just one of the symbols.
Are you vegetarian?
Yes, I am.
I don’t want to support cruelty to animals. I don’t believe everybody in the world should have to be a vegetarian. But, the way the industry is, I don’t think it’s fair to support it.