Jul 27 , 2020
Tribute to Regan Russell, animal rights activist: 1955-2020
On the morning of June, 19, 2020 Regan Russell, animal rights activist and member of Toronto Pig Save group was struck and killed by a truck driver crammed full of pigs being taken to their slaughter.
Regan and six other activists were outside Fearmann’s slaughterhouse to oppose the Ontario ag gag Bill 156, which was passed on 17th June, 2020 and designed to cover up animal cruelty on farms and during transport. This bill allows animal cruelty in inhumane conditions to remain hidden and unchecked thus making it illegal for anyone including whistle-blowers, animal rights activists and even media to expose this cruelty.
On her last Facebook post, the day before her death, Regan posted: “Bill 156 has passed. Now, any time an animal is suffering on a farm in Ontario, no one, not even an employee, has the right to expose it. This decision is evil.”
At the time of her death she was providing water to the pigs on this truck, a small gesture to ease their suffering on a scorching hot day in Canada.
A regular at pig vigils, Regan had been an animal and social justice activist since 1979 and believed that all life was worth fighting for. She had been arrested on 11 occasions for “various acts of civil disobedience”. Unperturbed Regan spoke up for what she believed… “People say we’re breaking the law….How do you think woman got the right (to vote)? How do you think slavery was abolished?”. “People stood up and broke the laws – because they’re stupid laws”
Following her death, vigils have been held around the world to honour her life and her work, with notable activist including Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace and Academy Award winning actor Joaquin Phoenix who attended a vigil outside a Los Angeles slaughterhouse. He was photographed holding a sign that said "#SavePigs4Regan." He also issued a statement:
"Regan Russell spent the final moments of her life providing comfort to pigs who had never experienced the touch of a kind hand," he said. "While her tragic death has brought upon deep sorrow in the Animal Save community, we will honour her memory by vigorously confronting the cruelties she fought so hard to prevent by marching with Black Lives, protecting Indigenous rights, fighting for LGBTQ equality, and living a compassionate vegan life.
Regan has been described as larger than life and known for her confidence and raucous laughter. At nearly six feet tall, she had been a professional model for many years. Even competing in the 1984 Mrs. Of the World pageant as Mrs. Canada. She used this opportunity to promote animal rights.
Her friend, Anita Krajnc, founder of the Animal Save Movement described Regan as a “kind, elegant, strong and courageous person”, “She was a mentor to others, and she always did activism with kindness in her heart.”
Regan was well known and loved for her kindness and compassion. She loved her seven rescue cats who sadly continue to search for her. Those who knew Regan loved her for her generosity and kindness. Regan’s close friend; Anne Bokma recalls how Regan was the type of friend who would take homemade soup when her friend’s were sick.
Regan’s death has raised worldwide awareness of the injustice of the Ontario ag gag Bill 156 toward defenceless factory farmed animals. Her friend, Anne Bokma, said that Regan’s death has caused many to think about the ethics of what they eat and questioned their moral obligation to stop the suffering of animals, especially the factory-farmed animals who endure the worst kind of torture. Regan was a big fan of Paul McCartney, who famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”
Regan is survived by her parents and her partner of 19 years; Mark Powell who continues to fight against animal abuse.
A 28yr old male was charged with careless driving causing death.
For more information:
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to continue Regan’s work, repeal Bill 156 and assist the family.