Former pork farmer Justin Reineke quit his job, went vegan, and adopted a pig.
In a new documentary short by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the now-animal advocate describes the cruelty of industrialized pig farming.
“I look back on it now and it scares me the way we thought about it,” says Reineke. “It’s not normal. A lot of the memories are not good ones.”
Reineke began working in the meat industry near Steinbach, Manitoba when he was almost 16 years old. The area is a heavy farming community—working in “horrific” factory farms is the only option for many local people.
“I feel like other workers in the industry aren’t speaking up,” explains Reineke. “Because of social pressures of family and friends.” He adds: “I think when I speak up, it helps make it easier for them to share their stories.”
According to Reineke, within their first two days of life, piglets’ teeth are clipped using electrical cutters. Then, with no veterinary training, workers remove the pigs’ tails using heated garden shears and castrate the males.
In the video, he explains that the farrowing or birthing area was where he first encountered “thumping;” the smashing of sickly piglets to the ground. Reineke says that across every facility he worked in, these “tasks” are standard practice in pig farming.
“These boars will be in that facility until the day they die,” explains Reineke. “Because they’re just money machines to the hog industry.”
“Younger pigs are so curious and happy,” says Reineke. “You get to build trust with them before they’re used for breeding and these different things.”
“You build that trust and then you just take it away,” he adds.
After working in the pig industry for years, Reineke was able to quit his job and now follows a vegan lifestyle, advocating for pigs and other animals. Reineke and his wife, Carolina Valenzuela, even adopted an American mini pig named Bubba.
“He’s curious about everything,” explains Reineke. “I think that’s one of the coolest things, to see the personality that they have. You never got to see a personality in the barn.”
“It’s fun to see them in a happy environment after seeing them in such a sad environment,” continues Reneke. “By explaining to the public what I went through it can really help people open their eyes up to some of the cruelties that are happening.”